Sunday, 7 December 2008

Torchwood 'Meat': Rating C

Meat Team Torchwood. They hunt aliens! They drop their weapons! They trip over their own feet! They’re the most famous secret organisation ever! Stay tuned for the exciting adventures of the Keystone Cops for the New Millennium!

Tonight on Torchwood: the most competent member of the team is a chubby, self-recruited haulage company owner and the writers try desperately to convince us that we should all love Gwen. And there’s something about vegetarianism or possibly bigotry; it’s hard to be sure.

It’s morning in that centre of mystical convergence known as Cardiff town and Rhys is on the road, rather adorably singing along to his company’s jingle on the radio. “You won’t be sorry with a Harwood’s Lorry,” he sings as the radio moves onto the news. His phone rings and we get “pretending there’s someone on the other end” acting as he tells “Ruth” that he wrote the last bit of the jingle. Ruth has more sobering news however and Rhys drives to the site of an accident involving one of his trucks.

He’s in shock as he talks to the copper in charge about the dead driver, who’s leaving behind a wife and baby, but recovers enough to ask if he can move the lorry. No, says Mr Police Officer (where’s Constable Cutie?) because apparently Torchwood want to have a look at the “suspicious meat” in the back of the van. Rhys protests that it’s “just meat” that was “on the way to the abattoir”. On the way to the abattoir? Shouldn’t meat be going from the abattoir, seeing as an abattoir is a “place where animals are slaughtered for food” and not “a place that receives the odd vanload of mysterious consignments of alien meat”? Note to Catherine Tregenna: a dictionary barely even counts as research.

So, in the Recapper Rewrite of this episode, the van was on the way to some sort of meat processing plant, such as the Caernarfon-based Cwmni Cig Arfon (internet, 3.5 minutes) when it crashed and some local police looked in the back and, being experts on meat [insert fellatio joke here], decided to call the most famous secret organisation ever to come have a look. And then my readers beat me to death for excessive pedantry and for actually using the word “fellatio”.

As the VOC pulls up slowly and silently (hey! I have a Corona here that’s getting warm people, what’s with the normal driving?), the gang get out and Rhys sees Gwen! OMG! “High” “drama” as the camera gives us a close-up on Gwen and then a close-up on Rhys’ shocked expression.

Flick flick flick...meanwhile over in Torchwood 1918, Harriet has mysteriously disappeared and while Tommy is off moping about his long-lost 21st century love and contemplating the transitory nature of human relationships, Gerald is having repressed 1918 flirting with a blood-sucking alien woman while trying not to think about his great loss and hoping the 1920s will roll round soon ‘cause they were rocking.

So, back in the van of smelly meat, Jack steps on it and says “no bones”. Now, if I were a total pedant, I mean, just theoretically if, if I was a pedant, I may take time out from this already-overwritten recap to note that since the meat has been, you know, cut up, it’s probably already been deboned. But I won’t. Anyway, Owen declares that it’s “like no flesh he’s ever seen”...while it’s still in its wrapping and he’s standing about 15 kilometres away...and the meat is wrapped up and sent back to Torchwood.

Outside, Rhys is keeping an eye on things just out of Gwen’s line of sight. Ianto mentions that the lorry belongs to Harwood’s and Gwen’s all like, “but that’s Rhys’ firm” and meaningful looks all round as the gang packs up. Rhys looks pensive and then tries to follow but is stopped by the police.

Back in the Hub, Owen “I’m just so bloody excited to have lines or am possibly on speed” Harper is running around the “autopsy bay of salmonella” frenetically confirming that this is indeed alien meat. Then he does an autopsy and performs an operation because there’s no point in wasting good bleach.

Gwen looks pensive and says the fact that it’s Rhys’ firm makes it all too close to home and Jack asks if she wants to stand down (yes, yes, please, yell members of the “Gwen must die” group, membership still 5 million in the UK alone) but Gwen says no. “I want to find out what’s going on,” she says, although I would have thought, “you need me because you’ve only got four members of staff and heaven forbid you should utilise the two scientists” would be more accurate.

Ianto hands Gwen a coffee (sip: I’ve just added ‘Ianto makes coffee’ to the drinking game) as the “Harwood’s Lorry” jingle is played from the internet. “Catchy,” says Ianto as everyone looks both embarrassed and amused at its glorious cheesiness. Umm cheese.

So, we’re in the plot stage of the story. Rhys involvement is the question of the day. Gwen says he couldn’t be. “He’s the most [stupid] man I know,” Gwen says. Tosh asks brightly if she has any more lines (oh, sorry, she asked if Gwen has “his direct line”. Understandable mistake).

Gwen gets the number, Jack looks pensive (dear God give me a synonym for pensive ‘cause before this episode is through I’m going to need it)...and over at Harwood’s Haulage the phone rings. A woman I’m assuming is Ruth tells Rhys it’s the police and Rhys looks... contemplative...before picking up the phone.

Much conversation ensues that I’m quite frankly too lazy to recap that establishes that (a) Rhys didn’t really know that much about what his driver was doing with his pickups, which makes it look like he’s involved and that (b) maybe I was slightly too harsh on the whole “abattoir” thing as it appears the Caernarfon-based Cwmni Cig Arfon call their operation an “abattoir and meat processing plant”. Because this is the most important part of tonight’s episode.

Hubwards, Ianto is looking through CCTV footage and finds the lorry as it drives past. Therefore (a) take a sip because they got what they wanted from CCTV and (b) note that they’ve even taken CCTV away from Tosh now. Bye bye Tosh. Nice knowing you.

Bizarre cut to the “autopsy room of Listeriosis” where Owen “I thought they were just aspirin” Harper eyes off the big hunk of meat [fellatio!] and then leaps back yelling “Jack! The scan shows it’s definitely alien meat!!!!

Jack looks...meditative...and asks where the meat could have come from. Tosh looks...thoughtful...and points out that if the meat was going to the processing plant (ok, mea culpa mea culpa) then it’s possibly in everything that contains processed meat and people have been eating it for months.

Owen “next time I need a pain killer remind me not to call my mother” Harper runs out of “the autopsy room of E.Coli 0157” and blah blah blah the meat is technically safe.

“Would you eat it?” asks Gwen, actually reminding me of a philosophical conversation I was having with someone just today about different culture’s “forbidden food” i.e. we eat pigs but would never eat horse, while some cultures might eat horse but would never touch shellfish. I was watching “Cooking in Dangerous Places” and the guy was eating a cat’s liver with rice, which is what triggered the conversation. It’s quite interesting, actually: someone should write a book.
And if you ever want proof of why you should never drink beer in a hot climate on an empty stomach just tender this recap. Where the hell was I?

So, as everyone contemplates the consumption of alien meat [fellatio!], Ianto chooses this moment to declare that the pizzas are here. Hopefully they retconned the staff from the pizza place about the whole dead delivery girl thing, otherwise alien meat in their pizza is probably the least of their problems. “What did you get me?” asks Owen and Ianto says, “usual, meat feast”. Then he blithely walks away leaving Owen contemplating his gastronomic fate.

Ok, hah! In the next scene, everyone is eating their pizza. Ianto, wearing a bib to protect his snazzy pinstripe suit (LOL), is delivering a briefing on the point of origin of the meat while Owen (ROFL) is pulling the meat off his pizza. Jack is once again speaking with his mouth full [no, I can’t, I just can’t, but the temptation is overwhelming] while he outlines the plan of action. As he’s blathering, Gwen gets a text that Rhys needs to see her and heads off home.


So, I'm back one week later and sans alcohol. Here goes... Gwen goes home to talk to Rhys. Their conversation goes like this:

GWEN: I’m pretending not to know about the lorry accident because I work for Torchwood and I’m still suffering under the delusion that this is “top secret”.
RHYS: I’m pretending not to know that you’re investigating the lorry accident.

Rhys follows Gwen to the Plas where she hooks up with Jack. She tells him Rhys doesn’t know anything about the meat. Gwen asks Jack if he’s ever eaten alien meat and what it was like. “He seemed to enjoy it,” answers Jack (Hey! That was my joke!) and they walk off laughing with Rhys watching suspiciously from the car.

So, meat processing plant, abattoir or possibly slaughterhouse: the gang are getting ready for their high-tech assault on the factory. Ianto and Owen are doing a perimeter check on the warehouse while Tosh is stuck once again back in the Hub. Anyway, they have blueprints of the warehouse but no intel whatsoever on how many people are inside. It’s called a stakeout, people. But I guess taking the time to find out what you’re doing would make for dull TV.

Rhys has followed Jack and Gwen out to the meat processing plant, abattoir or possibly slaughterhouse and has finally twigged that maybe Gwen is there for work purposes so he tries to phone her but she doesn’t pick up.

Jack outlines the plan: “You two take the sides, Gwen and I will go in the front. We don't want any casualties. We stun-gun whoever's in there and put a stop to what they're doing,” otherwise known as “bursting in blind and hoping it all works out alright in the end”.

And they burst into the warehouse and find it’s full of 20 fully-armed mercenaries who shoot them all dead. Hahahaha!

Rhys, currently engaged in what is often referred to as “an actual investigation”, gets out of the car, locks it, then walks toward the entrance of the factory.

“Let’s go,” says Jack and he and Gwen get out of the VOC, leaving the keys in the ignition and forgetting to lock it (and it’s hijacked by a couple of Welsh cannibals and they all get eaten hahahaha!), but quickly see Rhys standing in from of the building.

“What’s he doing?” asks Gwen.

Cut to front door of factory where Ianto says, “did you bring the alarm deactivator?” and Owen rather over-dramatically flourishes his gun and shoots the lock off. “Well, that’s one way of doing it,” says Ianto, forgetting to add where that was a lock, not the alarm, which is presumably going to go off as soon as they walk into the warehouse.

As a car pulls up in front of Rhys, Jack concludes he must be in on it. “Never, no,” says Gwen, “he’s too stupid to pull off something like this. I’m too insecure to be with someone who might be smarter than me. My belief in his stupidity is the only reason I’m interested in him.” Except she didn’t say that last bit. I made that up.

Jack tells Owen and Ianto to stand down as Gwen visits angstville about Rhys possibly being involved. She tries to run forward and Jack grabs her and swings her round and, oh god, I thought painful “up against a wall” scenes were consigned to Season 1. Also, still no sexual tension people. That was about as hot as a lukewarm cup of tea.

So, Rhys is taken inside the warehouse, which apparently has the same quality electrician as the Hub, where he successfully convinces the evil henchman’s 1 and 2 that his driver, Leighton, told him all about what was going on and that he wants in on the deal now Leighton is dead. They take him down the hallway of flickering lights to the warehouse ...of death...where some sort of gigantic alien sea cow (which I have now learnt is technically called a manatee so Torchwood has actually taught me something, go figure) is being held prisoner while they hack out its insides.

“What is it, boys?” asks Rhys and they say they don’t know but that it just keeps growing, no matter how much they cut it. Rhys promptly throws up and “evil henchman number 1” says he’ll get used to it.

Note to self: when you find something you don’t understand, chop it up and eat it. It’s the natural conclusion. One wonders how these guys worked out that (a) this thing’s insides were edible and that (b) it was self-sustaining. It seems all a bit random to me. But since someone from work complained yesterday that I “always need a reason for everything”, I should probably let it slide.

Rhys comes out shaking hands with “evil henchman number 1”, while Jack and Gwen watch from their usual successful hiding place of in plain view of everyone. Everyone leaves.
Back at their flat, Gwen and Rhys have a quite-well acted confrontation that nonetheless annoyed me because if this was a show where their genders were reversed the conversation would have gone like this:

RHYS: You lied to me!
GWEN: My work is classified, something you know very well, so if I’m in an ongoing investigation I can’t tell you anything about it.
RHYS: Good point, dear. What do you want for dinner?

Instead we get this long-winded thing about how their relationship can’t handle the lies and an accusation that she’s sleeping with Jack and a scarily-accurate query from Rhys about whether Gwen is just marrying him because he’s a habit she’s unable to break. Note to Rhys: der.

Oh and, what's so secret you can't even tell your own fiancé? As someone who works with confidential information (of an incredibly-boring nature but nonetheless) the answer to that question is pretty fucking obvious so why doesn’t she just say, “confidentiality agreement” instead of this bullshit about “protecting him” and blah blah blah. But oh no, in the world of Torchwood writers the idea that you can have some form of professional ethics and a uterus is impossible. Men star in shows where they have these secretive jobs all the time and their domestic lives are fine but apparently it’s only acceptable if you have a penis. If you’re a woman you must have domestic angst and it serves you right for not being barefoot and pregnant where you belong.

I really shouldn’t write these things sober. There’s a reason I invented the drinking game.

Anyway, Gwen then proceeds tells Rhys about the aliens and we have an absolutely hysterical conversation where Rhys is in shock and disbelief about the existence of aliens. So either he is as stupid as Gwen thinks he is, completely blind or insane. You know, like climate change sceptics.

“Aliens. In Cardiff??” says Rhys. Yes Rhys, aliens in Cardiff. You know like when there was that giant spaceship over London, and all those ghosts that turned out to be Cybermen, and the invasion of the Daleks and the flying replica of the Titanic that nearly hit Buckingham Palace and that Weevil you saw get chased through Roald Dahl Plas and...oh, you get the point.

Hubwards, the gang is having a conversation about Rhys finding out and how they’ll never be in that situation because they’re all single and Tosh is still moping over Owen, who is actually not so painful this season, and Jack is staring meaningfully at Ianto. How could they not know that Jack and Ianto are shagging? Apparently the power of observation is something lost on Torchwood as well as Rhys.

So, Gwen brings Rhys down into the bowels of the Hub and we actually see the pterodactyl for the first time this season. Rhys is all like “that looked so real” and Gwen is all like “because it is real” and Rhys is all like “but they’re extinct” once again proving my stupid, blind or insane theory. Introductions etc and then Rhys describes the alien in the warehouse. Gwen is doing some sort of bizarre proud parent routine, showing off her kid to the other adults.

Exposition, exposition, exposition: the creature lives in water, it came through the rift and beached itself, it was a lot smaller when they found it and keeps growing despite having chunks of meat cut out of it.

OWEN: So the protein chains regenerate despite the mutilation. So not only is it replenishing its own flesh but it's increasing it, giving them a brand-new meat supply.
GWEN: It will last them for years then.
TOSH: If we understood how it worked, we could feed the world.
IANTO: (brief pause) We could release a single.

Hahahahaha! Oh, how many times can we say that Ianto is the bright spot in a sea of darkness and confusion? What a cracker.

Jack brings them back down to Earth and reminds them they’re talking about the often-questionable quality of meat products in Cardiff. It’s good though that I can finally identify an ongoing theme in Torchwood episodes. Other shows might deal with morality, ethics, the nature of power and how we choose to wield it, epistemology and the construction of truth, the nature of reality, or the fragile nature of society and what we optimistically call civilisation. Torchwood’s main point is “don’t eat meat in Wales”. Maybe not profound, but probably good advice.

Then he blames Rhys for ruining their plans (Rhys, “I thought my fiancé was in danger.” Jack, “Well, Mr Caveman, she wasn't. She can handle herself.” Me, “it doesn’t matter how many times you say these things, Jack, it does not make it so”) despite the fact that he actually managed to infiltrate the organisation and is now in a position to gain proper intelligence about the operation that could potentially increase their chances of success. Rhys points this out to him in no uncertain terms finally ending up nose-to-nose with the Cap’n who declares the situation homo-erotic. (giggle). He calls a team meeting, Rhys included.

Planning in the BROFWWUMFE, domestic between Gwen and Rhys over his involvement (just repeat everything I said re previous conversation) and after much shouting they decide that Rhys is going to drive them in. Jack’s plan is to actually rescue the poor animal which, though logistically difficult, is a nice change from the highly-questionable morality he’s displayed since the show started. I’m surprised locking it in a cage and doing medical experiments on it isn’t on the cards.

“Tell me exactly how are we going to use it to arm ourselves against the future?” asks Tosh and I go, huh? Where the hell did that come from? When has that ever been the stated aim of Torchwood, apart from the opening credits? And how the hell do arm yourselves against an abstract concept of linear time? What’s going on?

Ianto says he’ll stock up on plankton and Owen notes that the creature will be difficult to house since it’s still growing. Jack says they’ll have to find a way to stop it mutating (mutating? Since when is growth mutation?) Ah, there’s that mob of readers come to beat me to death for excessive pedantry. Just a minute guys, just finishing off Act 3.

So there’s one of those painfully-contrived moments between Jack and Gwen where we’re once again exhorted to believe they have feelings for each other and we’re finally into the action.

Or not. Sorry, no action. No, instead we get yet another “I can’t handle intelligent women so have to completely undermine them” scene where Tosh, the brains and competence of the outfit contributes to this episode by looking longingly at Owen “plants really are my first love” Harper and making him a sandwich.

No really, what’s with Owen and his plants? He’s got like an entire hydroponics bay. Anyway, Tosh asks him if he wants a game of pool sometime and he says yes, mostly because he thinks she’s talking about the whole gang. She looks sad. I direct the writers to the last 40 years of feminism.

Speaking of feminism, scene with Rhys where he says he’s worried about Gwen’s dangerous job and she kisses him and then looks straight at Jack to see if he’s jealous. No comment.

Next day, Jack and Rhys are at Harwood’s Haulage where Ruth has made him a cup of tea and bought him a Danish. Serious flirting between Ruth and Jack that I really enjoyed. He can be so sweet and charming sometimes.

He should get his own show.

Having picked up the van, Jack and Rhys are driving to pick up the meat and having a conversation that goes something like this.

JACK: Gwen is great. Gwen is so competent. I love Gwen.
RHYS: I also love Gwen. Gwen is so great. She’s so competent. I’m slightly jealous that you also love Gwen but can’t really blame you.
JACK: No, after all, who wouldn’t love Gwen. Gwen is the best.
RHYS: The absolute best. If somebody doesn’t love Gwen they should.
JACK: Agreed.

Breaking news…

It may interest my readers to know that I have recently come upon documented evidence of a conversation that took place between Torchwood writers when they started preparing for Season 2. The following is a transcript:

Writer 1: So, Torchwood Season 2 huh? What’s the plan?
Writer 2: Well, we did have a slight problem with Season 1…
Writer 3: …because it sucked…
Writer 2: Yes, there was an alarming tendency for it to, as you so colourfully put it “suck”…
Writer 3: …and the storylines made no sense…
Writer 2: …and the storylines could perhaps have used a greater period of time in development; something that we’re determined to overcome in the…
Writer 1: …well, RTD said “if it was good enough for Buffy it’s good enough for us”. How was I supposed to know he didn’t mean me to take it entirely literally?
Writer 2: Yes, about the Buffy thing…
Writer 3: …and the characters you know, sucked…
Writer 2: …and spending some more time on characterisation may have lent a more coherent tone to the show, which, again, we will be putting significantly work into this seas…
Writer 3: …and we have to ditch Gwen.
Writer 2: Ditch Gwen? We can’t ditch Gwen!! She’s RTD’s favourite!
Writer 1: But everyone hates her…she's like Dawn in you know, Season 6, when she...
Writer 2: Enough with the Buffy!
Writer 3: Even I hate Gwen. I joined the “Gwen must die” groups on Facebook and MySpace. You know, we have 5 million members in the UK alone. Our line of "Gwen must die" t-shirts is selling really well to antipodean tourists passing through Cardiff on their way to anywhere else in Britain.
Writer 2: I’m sorry, but the word from our lord and master on this subject is crystal clear. Design whatever hideous fates we wish for the others, and Lord knows I’m considering killing off Tosh, but we have to keep Gwen. You know RTD’s policy on fans. If Whovians have to put up with the trash he served up for the Series 4 finale of Doctor Who, Torchwood fans can tolerate Gwen.
Writer 3: Well, I have to agree with you on Tosh. An intelligent woman? As if I can cope with that? I think we should just put her in tight shirts and have a lesbian....oh hang on, we already did that. So, Gwen huh? Well, if we can't ditch her, what do we do?
Writer 2: We force them to like her. RTD says all his fans are stupid anyway. If we repeatedly tell them she’s fantastic maybe they’ll start to believe it.
Writer 3: Tell 'em she's great enough times and they'll buy it? Maybe our fans are stupid but they're not that stupid. But if that's our only recourse? Ok, it's a plan.
Writer 2: I'll start writing a couple of intense interpersonal scenes where people inexplicably talk of their love for Gwen.
Writer 3: *sigh* I guess I'll start printing the "we love Gwen" t-shirts but I hope you realise we’ll have to pay people to wear them.
Writer 1: Does this mean I can’t just rewrite Buffy episodes anymore?
Writer 2: No!
Writer 2: However, I have recently recruited James Marsters...

Meanwhile over on Torchwood 1918, Harriet has been returned sans memories from her encounter with the mysterious aliens and while she officiously continues to reject Tommy’s attempts to take care of her and Gerald is off on one of his wild alien chases, she discovers a group of alien abductees who claim to recognise her from their own time in the aliens' ship...

...dun this dun is tense dun says the music, they’re dun going dun into danger dun. Rhys slooowly drives into the warehouse, where there’s now apparently a gate where no gate was before. “Tension” in the back as Jack gives out orders. Rhys, who in this episode has been by far the most competent member of the team, sends one of the guys on the loading docks off to get his boss’ signature and the other one off to get him a cup of tea so our “fearless heroes” can make their way into their warehouse...of death...

Gwen and Jack find their way into the heart of the warehouse...of death...where they stand blankly in front of a green screen trying to emote to a giant CGI lump of moaning flesh. And there’s still no plan for actually getting that thing out and moving it. I’m just saying.

We get some absolutely disgusting scenes of them hacking up the poor bloody creature alive, which is enough for me to declare vegetarianism before Jack, being reflected in a gigantic CGI eye that looks about as realistic as a Doctor Who special effect from 1974, says, “imprisoned, chained and drugged; welcome to planet Earth”, thereby making him this week’s recipient of the “Recapper Hypocrisy Award” taking it off perennial winner, Gwen.

The creature moans and opens its eyes and Tosh becomes this week’s winner of the “Recapper Stupidest Comment Award” for the line, “it heard you, it’s sentient” when all it demonstrated was acknowledgment of a sound in its audible range.

And then, and I’m not joking, having infiltrated the warehouse and found the creature but lacking any actual plan for getting it out, they run around a bit until someone sees them and captures Rhys and Ianto. No, that’s pretty well it. That’s the next 10 minutes of the show.

Then the bad guys lock them into the warehouse...of death...and come out with Rhys and Ianto tied up. “Mwahahaha,” says ‘evil henchman 1’. “But this is ethically questionable,” says ‘slightly-less evil henchman 2’. “You’ll never get away with this” says Rhys.

Oh what, you want the real dialogue? Really? But that’s pretty well the gist of it. Honestly. Ok, Dale reckons they want to grab the “Cash Cow” for themselves, Rhys says they’re out of their depth and Dale yells “show yourselves or I shoot the delivery boy”. And of course Gwen leaps out and claims they’ve got all of them now but ‘evil henchman number whatever’ sees Jack and Tosh and so the great and powerful Torchwood, the most famous secret organisation ever, has been captured by some two-bit money-grubbing losers with tranq guns. Well done guys, I think this was your most ineffectual foray ever. No, even more incompetent than Countrycide.

“It’s an alien,” says Jack and for some reason ‘slightly-less evil henchman 2’ is all like, “no, it can’t be!” as though hacking up a terrestrial organism while it’s still alive is acceptable but it’s not if it’s an alien???

Alien manatee moans and Ianto works at his bonds and Dale yells “It’s just meat, that’s all” (Tonight on Torchwood: eating alien meat is wrong so become a vegetarian but only if you live in Cardiff; otherwise it’s perfectly ok). Jack yells, “you’re carving up a sentient creature and you’re got to stop!”

And then I think Dale said “And then what have I got? I'm making money here! This is my business. For the first time in my life, I've actually got something for myself!” but I was ducking out of the way of an anvil at the time. You know what’s stupid? Blaming the corporations. If you don’t like the way your food is being treated before death, don’t buy it.

Gwen’s all “Dale, stop, you can still walk away from this” and Dale says, “no, you’re lying to me” and swings his gun around and Rhys yells “no” and steps in front of Gwen and takes the bullet instaed and...NO RHYS, NOOOOOOO!!! What are you doing? She nearly got a bullet for God’s sake!! Excuse me; I just need a moment alone. No not long; just a moment to cope with the crushing disappointment. How cruel to give us that momentary spark of fleeting hope and then to shatter it so heartlessly.

Someone else yells, “no” and Ianto grabs the gun and shots are fired and Ianto beats the crap out of Dale and...the manatee with no legs is escaping?? What? How did that happen?, Dale has the advantage over Ianto and yells, “die” but there’re no bullets left in the gun so Dale legs it out of the warehouse...of Jack yells to Owen to get a sedative because mixing things up at the last minute is Owen’s main job (at least in this episode it isn’t someone’s blood) and Gwen’s all “no Rhys, don’t die” and... get the point. There’s some really dumb line where “slightly-less evil henchman 2” runs in and tells Owen that sedatives won’t work on the alien dugong now it’s free, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever but hell, what ever does in this world, right? Thankfully Ianto electrocutes him. Then Ianto electrocutes a lot of people and I try desperately not to think it’s totally hot. *sigh* just me and 500,000 other women then, hey? It’s nice to be original.

Owen runs into the warehouse...of death... and OMG that CGI sea cow looks RIDICULOUS. I mean it’s wailing and moving its head around but it very obviously can’t move and unless the warehouse has only one door how precisely are they trapped? So Owen jabs it with a bit syringe filled with something and it’s dead. Poor dead fake alien manatee. Owen’s upset. Tosh comforts him. Creature closes its eyes.

"Autopsy room of Clostridium perfringens": an injured Rhys is lying on a table that recently had raw alien meat on it and hasn’t been cleaned yet. Can you say sepsis? Blah blah, Rhys in pain, bad guy’s retconned, creature incinerated, Gwen’s all happy he’s alive and blah blah blah. You screwed around on him, hon. You’re a liar and completely faithless and no one believes you.

I really meant it about the sober. Next time I promise to drink.

Scene the nearly final: Jack says Rhys needs to be retconned, Gwen takes the pill but can’t do it. And they actually have this conversation:

RHYS: Look around us. Nobody else knows what we've been through. Or what else is out there. The sky won't be the same to me anymore. I used to look up and think, “Ah, looks like rain, man.” But now, oh, now I'll... I'll look and I'll think of all the other worlds and the planets and stuff spinning around out there. Oh! And I got to be a part of it all! Fantastic! Which puts worrying about unsigned dockets into perspective, I can tell you.

RANDOM PASSERBY: Except for all those invasions over the last two years, mate. How stupid are you? Oh hi, Gwen. I read the article you wrote in Torchwood magazine. If I renew my subscription by the end of the month can I get my free Torchwood bottle opener?

Scene the final: Gwen tells Jack she’s not going to retcon Rhys. Jack says ok. The end.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

SciFi’s new SciFi show pale but enjoyable

Developed from 8 webisodes, Amanda Tapping’s new show, Sanctuary, has just started on the sci-fi channel in the US. Both the webisodes, and the new series, are distinguished by being almost completely green-screened. While the webisodes were filmed almost as a stream of consciousness narrative with each episode blending into the next, the concept has been refined into the more familiar 42-minute television episode and has both lost and gained from the experience.

Sanctuary’s appeal is in its familiarity but in that familiarity is its greatest flaw. From its “big bad” cabal to its “freak of the week” standalones, quite simply, we’ve seen all the elements of this show before. In the secret organisation locked in their underground base investigating monsters (the truth, as they say, is out there). In the brilliant, logical female scientist, the emotional and intuitive male sidekick, the post-pubescent leather-clad woman warrior and the geeky, wise-cracking tech we have characters, once original, that are now clichéd. If its characterisation is Buffy meets the X Files meets every show these icons have inspired, its look is surreal comic book; the X Men meets Dark City. Nothing is there for us to point and say, this is Sanctuary.

Personally, I found the show pale but coherent. Amanda Tapping is as appealing as ever, although that accent is truly dreadful and Magnus somewhat one-dimensional. I can understand her wanting to throw off the shackles of the more emotional Samantha Carter but for us to warm to Magnus she needs some depth. Ms Tapping should just accept that she is the best crier on television and play to her strengths. In the other main roles, Robin Dunne's Will Zimmerman is at present a poor man’s Daniel Jackson with none of that character’s ethical heart, and Emilie Ullerup is merely going through the motions of the ass-kicking Ashley.

However, this is not to suggest that the show or its characters is unappealing. On the contrary, there is something compelling about the format despite the predictability of the scenario. If it can cast off the shackles of its progenitors and forge its own identity, “Torchwood Vancouver” as it has been dubbed by Television Without Pity will be worth tuning into each week, even if it’s never going to break any moulds.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Torchwood 'To The Last Man': Rating B+

How long has it been since I recapped a Torchwood episode? Three months? I feel like it’s been for freakin’ ever. I can’t even quite remember what I last wrote. Dark City? A noble sacrifice for humanity? Torchwood running around achieving little but exposition in someone else’s story? Oh hang on, that’s this episode. The early episodes of the X-Files I’ve been watching as my “reward” for finishing up my assignment don’t help either, except as a constant reminder of a time when television shows were actually good. Damn you Mulder and Scully and your intelligent monologues and simmering UST. Damn your exceptional continuity, plot-driven drama, believable dialogue and sterling acting. Damn you all to HELL. Speaking of hell...Torchwood.

Previously on Torchwood, I decided to ignore the gaping plot holes covered with staples and plastic wrapping and concluded that the faux sci fi was not the point. Then came “To the Last Man” and I declared with arms raised to the sky in supplication that I had crested the peak of my forbearance and was tumbling down the mountainside of mercy toward the valley of intolerance. You know, metaphorically. There’s no literal mountain here. Darwin is quite flat. After the hideous Daleks in Manhattan followed by the even worse Evolution of the Daleks, Helen Raynor wrote this emotionally-searing portrayal of the valiant sacrifice of a brave young man we’ve never met before and couldn’t give a crap about. And I’m officially an alcoholic. With toothpicks in my eyes.

So: Torchwood, beyond the government, beyond the police, beyond credibility. It’s the 21st century and everything changes and Torchwood, all evidence to the contrary, is apparently ready.

We begin our tale of emotion over substance in a hospital in 1918 where “Gerald” and a young blonde woman, currently nameless, are tracking ghosts using a “tracking-ghosts-a-nomitor”. Hey, like Leonard of Quirm I may be a genius but not so much at the naming of stuff. Thus, I dub Gerald and co “Scully and Mulder” more out of familiarity than similarity. That means they’re S&M. Hee. Didn’t take me long to get back into the groove of this show, hey? I will now work the words “auto-erotic asphyxiation” into the recap. Just watch me go.

Hang on, I forgot to pour myself some fortification. So it’s 3:30 in the afternoon, what’s your point? Martinis: not just for breakfast anymore.

So Scully’s tracking spectres on the “tracking-ghosts-a-nomitor” and Mulder’s flirting with the nurses and asking about ghosts and I already like 1918 Torchwood way way better than two-thousand-and-we’re-not-sure-because-that-would-require-some-sense-of-continuity Torchwood. Torchwood 1918, set in London with a starched-shirt Gerald and a snarky emancipated scientific “blonde girl who does not yet have a name”? Now I would watch that show.

1918 nurse tells Mulder she’s seen three ghosts already that day and he declares her very brave. She simpers at his charm and Scully rolls her eyes and directs him back to the job at hand and...hang on, they are Scully and Mulder, albeit without the hotness. Just to confuse me even more, a date stamp comes on the screen to tell me this is St Teilo’s Military Hospital, 1918. S&M enter a ward filled with wounded soldiers and as the “tracking-ghosts-a-nomitor” crackles they discuss how the “poor chaps” in the ward will be sent straight back to the front as soon as they’re better. Field Marshall Haig has ordered them to hold every position “to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end,” which was on 11 April 1918 and hardly ranks as one of the most inspirational speeches in history but places this episode soon after.

The walls start shaking and the “tracking-ghosts-a-nomitor” goes wild. As S&M (tee hee) run from the room, a clean-cut young man in one of the beds looks up concerned. At the climax (tee hee) of the disturbance, Scully declares they’re “right on top if it” (tee...oh you get it) and a bright light flares up as she and Mulder fall into each other’s arms...dear God I feel like I’m writing shipper fan fiction...and Tosh appears in the room clutching onto the young man we’ve just seen in the ward.

“Hello?” yells Mulder in the “distorted voice of disturbances to the space-time continuum” and Tosh begs “Tommy” to tell S&M what to do but Tom is all shellshocked.

“You’re the only one who can stop this!” emotes Tosh in the worst case of over-acting I think I’ve ever seen from her, “íf you don’t it’ll be the end. The end! Of everything!! Everything, I tell you, everything!!! At this, Tommy leaps forward with some device in his hand, all dressed in his pyjamas with the top of his uniform on and a Satsuma in his pocket, and tells them to take the 1918 version of him in the ward so that he can be back from the future now. Or something. I still can’t get my time paradox tenses right.

Dun, dun, dun, says the Torchwood theme as S&M head straight back to the ward and bustle Tommy out of the room. “Who are you?” asks Tommy. Mulder looks smarmily back at Scully and declares, “We’re Torchwood”.

Flick flick that beginning. Can’t wait till Torchwood 1918 get their own show and Gerald gets exposed to these rubbings from an alien spacecraft and goes crazy and ends up screaming Harriet’s name in some mental hospital somewhere where he has an hallucination that mysteriously coincides with the last three seasons of the X-Files, otherwise known as “those seasons that never happened” and then she finally rescues him and they laugh about how strangely real his dreams were and how relieved he is that her “Jesus Christ or possibly Clark Kent” alien baby from a barren women’s barren womb and the super soldiers and Moronica “there’s no evidence but I just have a feeling” Reyes and his death, burial and resurrection made possible because for some reason his best friend and love of his life who’s a medical doctor and forensic pathologist never did a freakin’ autopsy, and that ridiculous prophecy about his “Alien but possibly still my baby, why didn’t his mother get a simple DNA test she’s supposed to be a Doctor for Christ’s sake”, never actually happened and he never abandoned her and her telekinetic baby to go on the lam for no particular reason and they defeat the alien invaders and explain the bees and the corn and the clones and the black oil and the multiple viruses and the medical experiments and have hot Special Agent lovin’ that we actually get to witness and...hold on, what am I supposed to be doing? Sorry, I’m back.

Back to the show at hand... in Tosh’s apartment, which has been radically refurbished (either that or she’s just moved), where she’s running around to "One Of These Mornings" by Moby (Tosh listens to Moby?) drinking coffee and eating toast right out of the toaster and carefully doing her makeup. She’s making herself up to impress somebody and gives an excited anticipatory look at the mirror before skipping out of the apartment. As she leaves, the camera pans down on a calendar with the date circled in red. Personally, I think Tosh is far more excited than I would be about the fact her period’s due but that’s just me.

So, it’s Friday 20th of something or other in that century known as the 21st and Gwen is holding up a photo of Tommy in full military regalia and asking Jack who he is. Because no one mentioned him before despite the fact that he’s such an important part of Tosh’s life and they presumably defrosted him last year. Hang on, Gwen the self-absorbed not noticing something like that? Ok, that I buy.

Jack exposits to the audience a.k.a “Gwen” that “Thomas Reginald Brockless” (“Tommy” interjects Ianto) is 24 years old (“Sort of” interjects Ianto) and can I just note how much confidence Ianto has now that he’s getting laid? That might explain the comfy belly he’s growing. Oh hell, I’m the last person to criticise someone for chubby. But at least all my fat gives my body somewhere to store my alcohol. Ok, re-reading that sentence, it’s kind of gross. Forget I said it. No, really.

So, Tommy is 24 or 114 because he was born in 1894 and he’s been cryogenically-frozen since 1918 (a technology that Torchwood never bothered to share apparently) and they have to wake him up every year to give him a medical check-up and considering the number of people frozen successfully in the Torchwood alien cryo chambers for much longer than that that makes no sense but what the hell and oops, spoiler. It’s taken me so long to write these recaps it’s possible I’ve already seen the entire season.

In the “autopsy” “room”, Owen is preparing to revive the PopsicleCutie and teasing Tosh because she’s wearing a dress (except it’s not a dress but just a long shirt), Ianto is taking photographs and everyone’s explaining that the annual medical check up is a transparent plot device to forge an emotional attachment between Tommy and one of the characters so that we supposedly care when...I mean, they have to “make sure he still works because they’re going to need him someday”. Then the writer totally undermines this premise by having Tommy go into cardiac arrest on being revived and having to be shot with adrenalin and hit with the Packer Whackers. If it’s that traumatic coming out of stasis and they really do “need him someday”, as if they’d take that kind of risk every 12 months for the last 90 years.

Still, he looks good with his shirt off, punches Owen and only calms down when he recognises Tosh so, hell, he’s my favourite character already. “I could murder a cup of tea,” says Tommy and, while Tosh is looking at him somewhat adoringly, everyone swivels round to look at Ianto whose face falls as he finally gets the hint and trudges off to the more domestic part of his duties.
In the Briefing Room of Watery Walls...or is it? I don’t know, it’s so hard to tell these days. Either the set designer’s getting bored and re-arranging things or the Hub really is built using Tardis technology, in which case for all we know they’re simultaneously sitting both in Wales and Raxacoricofallapatorius. No, they just must have turned the water feature off or something ‘cause I see the nicely-lined up glasses. You really don’t care, do you? You just want to see Tosh and Tommy getting it on, don’t you? Bloody Torchwood voyeurs. Fine.

So, Tommy is hooking into one of Ianto’s breakfast feasts and he actually takes the time to compliment Tosh on her dress (oh ok, so he’s sweet, fine, I’ll admit he’s sweet) but notes that she’s wearing her slacks underneath to which Ianto says, “that’s the fashion this year”. It is? What year? I think I remember doing that in like 1992 at a school dance. Not my school dance of course. My school was co-ed and it’s difficult to get excited about dancing with the geeks you take science with.

Anyway, 1960s and mini-skirts and a medical exam to “make sure he’s alright ‘cause one day we’re gonna need him” and Tosh tests his memory and all the time she has this adorable look on her face: the one you get when you really like someone and you so desperately want to interact with them and you’re trying so hard to make it seem like you’re not trying so hard. Why oh why is Naoko Mori condemned by these writers to do stories like this and Greeks Bearing Gifts. Urgh.

We cut to Jack’s office where he’s explaining to the audience a.k.a “Gwen” that at the hospital in 1918 “two slices of time were erupting into each other”, and at some point in time bits of 1918 are going to start appearing in the hospital but they don’t know when and unless they stop it when it happens time shifts will keep appearing and it will be dun dun dun the aforementioned end of everything. You know, even Buffy only battled one apocalypse a season. Why does Torchwood have to be so self-aggrandising all the time? The death of just one person can be powerful enough: constantly imperilling everyone is just poor writing.

Just to make this all the more convoluted, Torchwood 1918 have instructions in a temporally-locked box keyed, and I quote “to the Rift[mouth] frequencies at the hospital” and when the Rift[mouth] “nears completion” it will open and all will be revealed. This, despite having a conversation with Tommy who could have just said, “it’s 20 February 2009” or whatever. So, it’s not going to happen until that box opens whenever that might be. And the box never opens, and Tommy and Tosh have a lovely day out and then he gets frozen again. The End.

So, Tosh and Tommy are leaving on their date, good-natured banter banter banter. As they leave the Hub, Gwen makes what I think is supposed to be a joke about “whether there’s (sic) any more pretty boys in the freezer” and Jack once again directs Miss YoYo Knickers 2010 to the dictionary for a definition of the word “fidelity”. Seriously, someone who is engaged to one person and spent half of last year shagging someone else, while simultaneously eyeing off person number 3 should not make jokes like that. There is, however, a nice little moment between Owen and Tosh where Burn “criminally-underused actor number #2” Gorman manages to convey in only three words and downcast eyes both happiness in Tosh’s happiness, concern for her wellbeing, and a slight tinge of jealously.

So, they waltz out the door for their date and Gwen deadpans, “he’s a frozen soldier from 1918” and Jack, who’s being his old charming self in this episode, grins and says, “nobody’s perfect”.

First stop on Tommy’s one day a year is the statue of Captain Robert Scott who travelled to the Antarctic and promptly died. Tommy asks about the things Tosh said she would in the last year, like playing the piano and learning Spanish but she admits that all she does is work, work, work. “You talk about your life like you have no control over it,” and remarks that Tosh has a choice about working for Torchwood. Unlike Tommy, who has been a victim of other people’s agendas his entire life.

Back in the Hub, Ianto and Gwen are looking at old Torchwood photos of Mulder and Scully and remarking that he’s a bit of an alright but someone really needs to do something about her wardrobe. Ok, I made that last bit up. As Ianto remarks that Scully died a year after Tommy was taken at only 26 (of auto-erotic asphyxiation!), he picks up a different photo and looks a bit melancholy. From behind the shot, we can see this one has 5 people in it (like Torchwood today, see the parallels, they were so young when they died and can you see the parallels). I know we’re supposed to think Scully is like Gwen but from what we saw about Scully in the first scene she’s as much like Gwen as, well, Scully is. Confident, intelligent and forthright versus well, you know, Gwen. From here it looks like man number 3 on the bench is actually our own Jack. Was he working for Torchwood in 1918? I thought he took over Torchwood after Canary Wharf to recreate it in the Doctor’s image (which is why it’s so lean and slightly insane). And if he was working for them in 1918, why doesn’t he know what’ll happen to Tommy?

Anyway, Gwen decides that far too much attention has been paid to Tosh today and so she heads off to St Teilo’s to do some investigating, despite the fact the box hasn’t opened. She tells Ianto to cheer up and he sadly nods his assent, sadly. My boyfriend’s lived for like 200 years and will keep on living long after I’m gone. All this time talk is just a reminder.

Tommy and Tosh, the cutest awkward people this century, shoot pool, banter banter banter, quiet flirting. Oh alright, they do have a really nice dynamic even if he is a Longbottom. They establish they’re both single and he reminds us that war changed him.

At “that set we use every week” a.k.a. an abandoned St Teilo’s hospital, Gwen is poking around when she sees a man on crutches. Lights flicker, violins kick in, the music of mystical happenings stirs on the soundtrack and the man starts silently coming towards her. Gwen back away, seemingly terrified (Gwen, terrified, nah, I don’t believe it) before the man disappears. She runs down the corridor, presumably looking for a cupboard to cower in until some men can come and rescue her. Instead she finds yet another abandoned room with flickering lights and a bunch of construction workers. Seriously, that scene was creepy but the terrified whimpering backed up against a wall? Dear God give this woman a backbone, stat.

Anyway, she’s obviously called Jack because he’s in the hospital letting us know it’s being knocked down (Hi Jack, it’s Gwen, I just had a panic attack because an unarmed man with only one leg came toward me slowly and unthreateningly and then screamed because a construction worker spoke to me. Can you get down here, I’m terrified).

Gwen asks if knocking down the hospital could have triggered the time shift and Jack says that “the psychic trauma of the rift energy charges it up like a battery”. WHAT? See, now you get why my “I choose not to care because the fact that the story makes no sense is not the point” riff is just not working for me anymore. Honestly, week after week of explanations that basically boil down to “because”. Oh, and despite Gwen’s bloodcurdling little vision, the box hasn’t even opened yet so how do they know the time bleeding through thing has even started?

So anyway, the trauma of all that pointless death has passed down through time to affect us today (yes yes, we get it!). Tonight on Torchwood: war is bad. And by the way kids, don’t do drugs.

Jack calls Owen who says there was a Rift[mouth]spike but now everything seems fine. He says the whole Rift[mouth] monitoring thing is Tosh’s department but Jack says they should let her have her day, at least until they can be sure the time for Tommy to do whatever Tommy has to do has come.

Over in the dodgy pub, Tommy is ordering drinks and watching the Iraqi insurgency on TV. “Seems like there’s always a war somewhere,” says Tommy sadly. Word, Tommy. It never freakin’ ends. Tosh notes that it’s not exactly a war, which is technically correct, but Tommy basically says that people are dying anyway so what’s the difference.

“First year they woke me up, 1919, told me it was all over, we won, the war to end all wars they said. Then three weeks later you had the second World War. After all that,” he looks round disgustedly to pay for his drinks and Tosh looks pensive and a bit sad. “Do you ever wonder if we’re worth saving?” asks Tommy and Tosh doesn’t even hesitate before declaring humanity worth it, despite the wars. Tommy smiles. That’s it? We’re finally going to have a vaguely intelligent philosophical discussion about war and the nature of humanity and it’s already over?

Anyway, Tommy smiles and says that he would do anything for Tosh. “All you’d have to say is, ‘Tommy you’re my brave handsome hero and I need you’ and whatever it is, I’d do it”. Ok, I know I’m supposed to snark but both Tosh and I are melted on the floor right now. Dear God, that guy’s eyes are amazing; if only “soulful eyes” weren’t such a cliché because hon, he has the best example of them I think I’ve ever seen. I want a PopsicleCutie with deep brown eyes and a romantic streak. I think he should join the spinoff “Torchwood 1918” and he can vie with Mulder for Scully’s affections and she can be torn between Mulder’s intellectualism and raw sensuality and Tommy’s soulful romanticism and turn-of-the-century morality.

So, Tosh melted, me sliding off my chair and as Tommy gets some sort of “Rift[mouth] vision” we cut back to Gwen and Jack at the hospital where demolition has begun. Jack, hearing voices heads off down a corridor with a torch, where he sees the ghost of a soldier in a wheelchair singing while the nurse from the beginning pushes him down the hallway. Owen phones in that there’s Rift[mouth] activity and we cut to Gwen who’s walking into a darkened room in a haunted hospital by herself, despite the fact she recently had a nervous breakdown over nothing.

And one of the ghosts jumps up behind her and kills her and we all laugh and laugh and laugh.

Sorry, that was just my fantasy version of this episode. Actually, as Gwen looks down a hallway at a soldier waiting for his physical, “Nurse from the beginning” walks past Gwen and down another corridor and as Gwen looks away she peers back round the corner and chills up my spine. She walks toward Gwen as though she can see her and Gwen’s all WTF and then she says, “I see you!” and Gwen jumps about a mile, as do I. “Nurse from the beginning” starts yelling that she shouldn’t be there and Gwen starts backing away, trying to reassure her that they don’t want to harm her. “Nurse from the beginning’ disappears and man, that was creepy. Also, 1918 Nurse kicks way more butt than Gwen.

On a dock somewhere, Tommy and Tosh are engaging in urban “running through a field” flirting a la 14 years olds circa 1932. There’s some awkwardness, but incredibly cute awkwardness, where she notes that she’s older than him and he tells her she’s daft. They kiss and decide to go back to her place, (“I’d ask you back to mine but there’s only room for one and it’s bloody freezing” hah!). This guy is charm with a capital mmmm so hopefully we can now all forget the ludicrous lesbian episode last year.

As they head off, Tosh’s phone rings and they get called back to the Hub. Soulful looks of soulfulness abound. Poor Tosh, can’t she catch at least one break? Back in the “Briefing Room that previously had watery walls” Jack’s explaining that the demolition of the hospital causes the time shift and then he gives the standard explanation (“because”) with a screwed up piece of paper, blah blah, linear time blah blah. Someone wasn’t paying attention in physics. However annoying infantile wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey was, at least it more accurately represented the relativity of time instead of this rubbish. It’s the end, the end of everything!!! Or something.

Tommy uses those eyes again (fan me down) as he and Tosh silently communicate their extreme disappointment on not spending the afternoon in bed with champagne and chocolate icecream. It’s possible that particular fantasy came from me. So, the world is ending and Jack, in an unusually-insensitive moment, sends Tosh off to the hospital with Owen to plant Rift[mouth]-monitors (I thought they could monitor the Rift[mouth] from the Hub??). The bloody box is still not open.

At the hospital, Owen warns Tosh about the emotional danger of falling for someone who’s inevitably going to leave, forgetting the part where he’s a moron who’s jealous because he’s used to being the object of her attention. Oh, and pilot woman? Hardly compares. Gwen interrupts, sending Owen down to radiology after a clue she found in the field reports 1918 torchwood filed (They’re field reports? Why aren’t they in the box? Why the box at all? Why...oh, I give up). Anyway, the field reports mention a future “heroine of the empire” or something and Gwen believes that maybe this is proof that the time shift won’t happen for years. Owen finds an ad for car insurance with a woman in armour and they conclude the time shift is happening right now.

Rift[mouth] monitors go wild and back in the Hub the box opens and the “breath of God” a.k.a. the “time vortex” comes out. Is this Timelord technology or something? How did 1918 Torchwood have Timelord technology? Why, after two years and 16 episodes do I still insist on asking these questions? You’d think I’d have learnt my bloody lesson by now.

Jack grabs the box and pulls out a letter written on Torchwood stationery (ROFL once again: a top-secret organisation that puts in a monthly order for personalised stationery, hahahaha!) Jack reads. Ianto enters the room to deliver line number 3 of the entire episode (Instructions?) otherwise known as “being in the room so Jack can have someone to whom he can deliver his lines”. Instructions for Tommy and Toshiko.

In the newly-dubbed “Briefing Room of Formerly Watery Walls Used Mainly for Exposition” (BROFWWUMFE) Jack explains that, the next morning, two times are going to co-exist in the hospital and Tommy has to walk through back to 1918 and use a Rift[mouth] manipulator to stitch time back together and he hands over the Rift[mouth] manipulator key. (a? Rift[mouth] manipulator? I thought there was only one and it was like an entire big machine and what he just handed over was only a key to the Rift[mouth] manipulator and...what did I just say like two paragraphs ago?).

Anyhoo, Tommy will then be stuck in 1918. Jack takes Tosh aside and explains that when Tommy goes back he’s going to revert to his old shell-shocked self and be shot for cowardice. Why is he going to revert to his old self? You guessed it, “because”. Tosh says they can’t do it to him and Jack says she has to because she’s mentioned in the box as being there and that he believes she’s strong enough to get the job done.

BROFWWUMFE: Ianto gives Tommy the pyjamas and uniform he was wearing when he was taken. Tommy makes a joke about saving the world in his pyjamas. Are we supposed to make Doctor parallels here because I really don’t get it. The Time War maybe? What the hell. Tommy hot. Tosh sad. On with the show.

Tommy asks the gang what he should do until he goes “over the top” to fight “to the last man”, sorry I just had to get out of the way of a falling anvil. Long story short (too late!) Tosh declares she’s taking him back to her place. Go Tosh.

Jack looks sad. Tosh looks resolute. Owen looks jealous. Gwen looks as blank as ever.
Beautiful scene in Tosh’s sparse apartment as they say goodbye. He says he won’t even be able to write to her and she admits the irony that she always worried about him watching her grow old. The clock ticks forward toward the inevitable dawn as they fall into each other’s arms. Wow, for Torchwood that was positively tasteful. And *sigh*.

Back in the Hub, Jack is shuffling papers when Ianto comes in with the same pensive expression he’s been wearing all episode. “This time tomorrow he’ll be back in 1918,” says Jack and Ianto asks if Jack ever considered going back to his own time. Jack tries his usual flippant approach to defusing emotional situations, “would you miss me if I did?” he asks, flirtatiously, but Ianto isn’t drawn and simply says yes.

Jack takes the deep breath of “fine, serious it is” and says he left home a long time ago and never knew where he really belonged. Ianto asks if he ever gets lonely and that is such a mature question for Torchwood, particularly from someone to his lover. This and the scene before are what almost, almost, redeem this episode for me. Suddenly we’re dealing with adults, not pre-pubescents who giggle at bum jokes and spend their time obsessing about sex.

Jack tells Ianto he loves him, in almost as many words, and Ianto kisses him passionately. Wow, one thing I’ll say for John Barrowman, he gets all the best TV kisses. That was smokin’. Between vicarious Tommy and vicarious Ianto kisses, I may need a moment...excuse me...

I come back to Tosh and Tommy in the flat, unable to sleep at 2am. Tommy asks Tosh what will happen to him after he gets sent back and Tosh insinuates that he gets sent back to France and dies in the war. Tommy asks if they find his body and Tosh says yes but fails to explicate that’s because it’s his own side that kills him.

Morning in Cardiff and Torchwood deposits Tommy and Tosh in the hospital as Rift[mouth] monitors blare. Bing bing binga binga says the Torchwood theme as they walk through the hospital. Tommy sees kick-ass nurse from 1918 and follows her into what used to be the ward. He remembers Torchwood taking him in 1918 (were we ever told he’d lost his memory, where did that come from?) and runs off with Tosh and Jack after him.

He runs into the room we saw from the beginning of the episode and tells Tosh he won’t do it, that they’re going to send him back to the front and he won’t go. He throws down the Rift[mouth] manipulator key and asks, “Why me?” And the entire audience holds his breath in anticipation. Yes Jack, why him? Please Jack, let us know. Jack is silent (“because” he mutters in his own head). “You’re no better than the Generals,” spits Tommy, “sitting safely behind the lines, sending us over the top. Anyone of you lot could go but you’re not, are you, you’re sending me.” Jack says they belong in that time but Tommy doesn’t. And you know the only thing that would make that statement sensible? If it was Tommy being out of time that caused the time shift, otherwise this is just another way of saying “because”.

“I’ve been shoved from pillar to post all my life, by the Army, by Torchwood. All this time I’ve had, it means nothing.” Tommy slides down a wall onto the floor and as Jack tries to get him to stand up, Tosh tells him to bugger off. She picks up the Rift[mouth] manipulator key and takes it over to him. She tells him he’s a hero because he’s going to have the lives of everyone. She says, “Tommy you’re my brave handsome hero and I need you” except for some reason, she doesn’t. What? Surely this is the time. You spent so long setting us up for it. But she doesn’t say it. I don’t know why.

“I don’t want to be a hero,” says Tommy with tears in his eyes, “I want to stay here with you.” Tosh ponders that for a moment as the bright light of space-time discontinuum flares up around them and they intersect 1918. We’re in the scene from the beginning, this time from Tommy and Tosh’s perspective, watching Scully & Mulder in the past. Tosh once again explains that Tommy has to do this or it’s the end of everything but she obviously reshot her lines because this time it’s poignant and delivered perfectly.

Tommy takes one last look then leaps upon his feet and tells them to take him. The light flares up and...Tommy is still in the future? Wasn’t that the time shift? I’m so confused. Oh, emotion is more important than plot. Apparently. They kiss each other goodbye and she sends him off to his bed with the key. There’s a wind blowing and he’s back in 1918 in a storage room. Kick-ass nurse kicks him out and we...

...cut back to “two thousand and now” where Tosh tells Torchwood to RUN. Why? I don’t know. But they run anyway as we...

...cut back to 1918 where Torchwood has bustled Tommy1 out of bed while Tommy2 is escorted by kick-ass nurse. He gets back in his bed, turns the rift key and his noble sacrifice echoes down through the ages to the woman he loves, staring at a photo of him in the future and remembering the one perfect night they spent together.

Actually, that’s just what should have happened. Instead, we get this.

Tommy is back in bed but for some reason he seems confused. Hubwards, the gang are back and alarms tell them that the Rift[mouth] isn’t closed! It’s the end of everything! Time is erupting all over the place and Tosh theorises that Tommy hasn’t used the key because he’s gone back 90 years and is shellshocked.

And this is why this whole thing is ridiculous. If Tommy reverted back to 1918 Tommy, as though he had never been gone, then why take him at all? What did taking him achieve? He’s not the cause of the time shift; he doesn’t fix the time shift. Why not just walk into the ward in 1918, hand him the Key and go “turn this”. Hell, why not give the Key to any wounded soldier and go “turn this”. Hell, why not go back and turn it themselves? If the two times are colliding then what makes 1918 any more special than “two thousand and now”. Why can’t they stand on this side and turn the key? For that matter, Tommy just passed into 1918 without taking Tosh with him. Is that because he belonged in that time and she didn’t? If that’s the case, surely Torchwood can stand in the breach and turn the key now? Basically, I’ve just been told that everything I spent the last 45 minutes watching is meaningless.


This short interval is to allow the Recapper to bang her head up against a wall. One moment caller


“One of us will have to go back,” says Jack (see last paragraph for relevant rant) but Owen says he can’t ‘cause he’ll get stuck in 1918 (see last paragraph for relevant rant). There’s lots of running around and getting of blood samples that essentially boil down to the absolutely ridiculous plan for Owen to use Tommy’s blood to send a psychic vision of Tosh through the Rift[mouth] to tell Tommy to use the Key (1...2...3...just calming down as I don’t think my head can take more abuse from the wall...or from this episode come to think of it).

You know what I really miss in science fiction television? Writers who know anything about science. This is the most ludicrous plot contrivance; it makes your standard Deus ex machina seem credible. So, Owen hooks Tosh up to a bizarre metal helmet and tells her she’s only got one shot and they have minutes before the end and then he injects her with Tommy’s blood and this is the second time Helen Raynor has written a “DNA as magic” ending to her stories and this one is as unbelievable as the other (DNA transmitted through a lightning strike that made Daleks act like Timelords OMG!).

So, she’s miraculously appearing in Tommy’s head as a vision and telling him he has to use the Key and oh, here’s the brave handsome hero line. The music is swelling and this is supposed to be meaningful or something but we’ve been there and done that and this episode should be over. Blah blah I’m a coward, no you’re not. He uses the key and it kind of looks Timelord too. What’s with that?

The bright light of poor narrative shines over us and we’re back in the now and the world has been saved!! Saved, I tell you, saved! Tosh packs up Tommy’s things and Owen looks sad (“I never realised how much I liked her until some other man found her attractive,” he thinks). Jack walks in and says thank you.

Oh God, a Tosh and Owen scene. More Moby. Owen says Tosh saved the world. Tosh says it was Tommy. “Let’s hope we’re worth it,” she says and walks off crying. You know what would have made that ending work? Losing the last 5 minutes.

Next week: alien meat.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Torchwood 'Sleeper': Rating A

Recapping Torchwood takes a variety of skills and experience (ok, no skills and experience but the sentence had to start in some way) but the most important thing is a permanently-pickled liver, preserved for all eternity by the vast quantities of alcohol required to watch episode after episode of Jack's never-ending obliqueness, Gwen's omnipresent hypocrisy and Owen's indescribable cheek bones in slow motion for up to 8 hours.

Tonight, the alcoholism remains in potentia however as...I enjoyed this episode. Yes, there, I said it, you all heard me (or rather read it after I typed it, proofed it, re-read it, and then posted it on my blog, but you get the idea.). Not even Jack’s increasingly annoying pronunciation of ‘Touechewood’ at the beginning of each episode (hilariously spoofed by the Dead Ringers btw) can disguise the fact that I, gulp, enjoyed this episode.

We start our story in the middle of a Cardiff night. You’ll note I’ve left off the tautological adjectives this time because as far as this show is concerned, ‘Cardiff’ and ‘night’ are synonymous so ‘endless’, interminable, ‘infinite’, ‘incessant’, ‘perpetual’ and ‘possibly against the laws of physics’ are assumed from here on in.

It’s night, in Cardiff, and in suburban flat in suburban town; Mr and Mrs Nameless wake up to a noise. As Mr Nameless goes off to investigate, Mrs Nameless calls the police and I’m left pondering the absolute wonderfulness of British television, where people are married to people who look different and it’s considered so normal and ordinary as to be beyond comment unlike American shows where every time token black character is revealed to be married to token sassy black wife with token sassy daughter and angry, disenfranchised son, my family is forced to sedate me and I find myself banned from the living room.

Mr Nameless keeps a cricket bat by the bed, something that I’m reliably informed has never happened in the history of bedrooms anywhere ever except in the States where it’s actually a gun used for shooting family members in the middle of the night and if you don’t believe me, look up the stats. That’s two counts of Yank bashing in the first 500 words. Whoops.

As Mrs Nameless is on the phone, Mr Nameless (oh, I just rewound and it turns out his name is ‘Mike’, sorry Mike) is forced back into the bedroom by two men who are robbing the place. I’ll move on from how ridiculous it is to burgle an occupied house by bursting into a bedroom and holding the occupants at gunpoint and straight to Mike, who’s apparently been injured, and the strange sound these burglars can hear that I can’t. As the camera pans in on the phone that Mrs Mike has dropped on the floor and the dramatic strings of “something wicked this way comes” rasp across the soundtrack, the burglars scream and beg and...

Flick flick flick...Torchwood.

It’s night, in Cardiff, and the VOC is pulling into a crime scene (sip) while Tosh tells Jack that there’s one fatality and one serious injury after our burglar friends fell out of the flat’s window onto a police vehicle. Then Jack and Tosh get out of opposite sides of the car and move in different directions, neither speaking, while Tosh is apparently still explaining the crime. Go you continuity gurus.

It’s night, in Cardiff and Owen walks past Jennifer Connelly singing the blues and up to the one surviving burglar. “Bloody hell,” he says, without examining the patient in any way but giving the IV serious scrutiny. As Gwen looks up into the sky, trying to remember what role her character was supposed to play in this team anyway (I still don’t have any actual skills, she’s thinking, do you think Jack keeps me around in case he gets truly desperate one day?) Jack orders Owen to the hospital and asks Tosh to follow him into the building. Which apparently leaves Gwen looking at the sky. Go Gwen.

It’s night, in Cardiff, and in the room of dead burglars Tosh is scanning (sip), while a police officer states that the husband did it with the bat even though one of the burglars was apparently stabbed. This is a statement so incomprehensibly dumb that it was written, I suspect, just to make Torchwood seem smart by comparison. Jack makes an inexplicable sexual innuendo about hockey (sip) and oh alright, I am drinking. But it’s just a glass of wine and some brie, which is very civilised and what I often do on a Friday night. Oh, I think I just added something else to the list of ‘Top 100 reasons The Recapper is still single’ Damn.

Do you know, my team has started sending me emails with a virtual representation of themselves in a phalanx at the bottom? Dey’re my widdle soldiers. Just so long as no one says that this reveals my soul or something, we’ll all be fine...

...I wandered lonely as a God...

So, it’s night in Cardiff and Jack and Tosh declare themselves nonplussed because there’s a body but no weapon and neither Mr or Mrs Mike seem physically capable of this sort of damage. Meaningful looks all round as bald men in black cloaks float by the window.

In the hospital Mike and Mrs Mike are telling their story to Gwen, who obviously decided to go with Owen to the hospital. There’s some nice hubbie/wifie banter about the Doctor ordering Mr Mike not to talk for a week, which serves a double purpose both of making you go awww and of making you realise that she definitely did it but doesn’t realise it because we’ve all watched TV before.

In the hallway outside the hospital room, Owen tells Gwen there’s no blood on either of their hands but that he’s convinced the wife did it. Gwen is equally convinced it must have been the husband, which leads Owen to point out that it was quite a feat for him to murder someone, swallow the evidence and then knock himself out.

“To be continued,” says Owen before taking a call on his Bluetooth. It’s from the Cap’n who declares that one of the couple did it and that Owen is to stay with the injured burglar in the hospital all night. Owen then gets off the phone and pretends that Jack wanted Gwen to stay in the hospital all night. “Brilliant,” she says and asks him to grab her a coffee before he goes. He actually scrounges the cash for it off her and, as he does, the lights flicker and the words “foreshadowing” appear on the walls in big bright letters written in blood. Oh ok, not really.
I like Owen and Gwen’s dynamic in Season 2 btw: their so-called ‘affair’ in Season 1 was absolutely ridiculous and I’m relieved the writers are pretending it never happened. God knows I am.

In the hospital room of mangled burglars, Gwen is sitting by mangled burglar’s bed trying not to fall asleep when Mr Mangled Burglar wakes up and says, “the woman, the flat, keep her away from me,” before crashing. Wow, Mr Mangled Burglar is hot. Dead, but hot. Dead hot even.

Cut straight to the Hub, where Jack and Gwen have brought in Mrs Mike who, in traditional Torchwood style, still doesn’t have a name. “Tell me everything,” says Jack, but Mrs Mike is dazed and confused and not in a good way. They explain Torchwood’s oft-mentioned questionable legality and morality (we don’t need to charge you, you won’t get a phonecall, you won’t get a lawyer) and tell her she won’t be leaving the room until they get answers. Through a glass petition, we see Ianto’s shoulder and I realise this is the first we’ve seen of him in the episode so far.

Mrs Mike is protesting that she doesn’t know anything, as Gwen lays out the images of dead burglar and Jack tells her the second one just died in the hospital. As the questioning gets more intense, she yells “no!” and the lights go out. Gwen looks pensive (damn, she thinks, I was going for thoughtful) and, because we live in a world where the greatest psychoanalysts are apparently blowfish, she kicks Jack out of the room so she can play good cop a.k.a. “the carer”. And we just know Jack’s in the other room going, “I’m the bad cop, ooh yeah baby, the baaad baaad cop.”

While Jack explores the dynamics of being such a naughty naughty boy with Ianto in the other room (no sorry guys, not like that, but I’m sure you’ll get your Jack and Ianto action later), Gwen’s soft approach elicits only a further denial. Mrs Mike says all she knows about what happens to the burglars is that it wasn’t her.

Tosh is scanning (sip). This time it’s a body scan, the results of which are that Mrs Mike appears completely human but generates an electro-magnetic field that causes the lights to go out. They decide to do some tests.

There’s a scene that involves Gwen doing her “look how well I speak to the common man routine” (because she’s the CARER) with a rather hysterical line about how the Hub has no windows because of the “whole secrecy thing”, which begs the questions, “who is Torchwood still secret from?”, the answer being “that guy at Number 52 who’s blind, deaf and is anyway in a coma”. Then we’re on to the tests, which don’t last long because it turns out her skin is impenetrable.

“Ok Beth, you make light bulbs blow, we can’t break your skin, what planet are you from?” says Jack. Beth? She so doesn’t look like a Beth. Short for what, do you think? Bethany, Elizabeth, Bethesda. I think I’ll stick with Mrs Mike. “Earth,” stutters Mrs Mike and Jack yells at her to stop wasting their time because they know she’s an alien. “There’s no such thing as aliens,” says Beth and so they introduce her to Janet. You remember Janet: the sentient being they torture periodically and keep locked in the basement? Yep, these are the heroes alright. Mrs Mike breaks down about this point so she doesn’t take very well to the fact that Janet starts backing away from her, obviously terrified.

Aerial shot of Cardiff (sip) and OMG it’s daylight. Wow that puts paid to all my ‘Dark City’ snark doesn’t it? *Sigh*. Well, I did say this episode was a significant improvement. Proof of this is the fact that it is 12 minutes in and I truly don’t know what’s going to happen next (so, I didn’t see what the name of the episode was the first time through, ok. I can’t keep track of everything!) Well done James Moran.

In the Hub, the gang is doing their exposition of “things that have really really happened before but that we’ve never shown you because continuity is a bad bad thing” (naughty naughty continuity, says the Jackmeister, slipping a stopwatch into his pocket so he can time things in an office environment or something and musing on the fact that everything in Torchwood must inevitably explode when he’d just be happy with some general swelling).

Not the mind probe, Jack! This is Torchwood and her head will explode and what species built something called a “mind probe” that would kill any creature it tried to probe? What was that Mr Moran, it’s dangerous if you say it’s dangerous? Ok then. Not the mind probe, Jack!!

Ianto sits in the chair of the evil mind probe and pretends to be electrified because apparently this week he’s the “comic” “relief”, otherwise known as “that annoying prat”. My memories of him being my favourite character are receding quickly, possibly because Mr Chubby’s ever-expanding waistline appears to have had too many of the chips, eggs and beans that constitute a good English breakfast. Because I am that shallow. And because these recaps are apparently all about me.

So Torchwood prepares the mind probe, which I would make fun of but I’m distracted by Gwen’s rather bizarre statement that Jack has bad manners in bed. Ianto quickly agrees and then looks to this left where “logic”, “continuity” and the Torchwood producers’ last shred of dignity are swinging by a long rope called “humour, ark ark” in the centre of the Hub. You know what would have made the statement actually funny? If Gwen had ever slept with Jack. Just saying.

So the mind probing begins and I can’t snark at this scene because this woman kills me. She is in pain, screaming, begging them to stop, while Jack barks questions at her and demands that they dig deeper. The electromagnetic field begins to build up again, she’s screaming and Gwen is begging him to stop because Miss Hypocritical likes to criticise them while still standing there on their payroll. Oh sorry, it’s because she’s the CARER.

As the electromagnetic pulse goes “off the scale” (which scale is that, do you think?), Mrs Mike stops begging and just starts concentrating on staying conscious, and even Tosh and Owen ask Jack to stop. Mrs Mike finally passes out and her arms morphs into some sort of alien arm that bears a suspicious resemblance to a tree trunk with flashing lights.

Gwen breathes, “oh god”, and Tosh says that the alien consciousness was in a buried component of her mind and she wouldn’t have been aware of it. As Jack probes her (eww, not like that!), she keeps repeating something over and over, which I can only assume is her name, rank and serial number. Because she’s a Sleeper agent, and this episode is called “Sleeper”.

Hee, he asks whether she likes his shoes and before she gives her standard reply, she actually looks.

Jack reckons he knows who the Sleeper is and they turn off the mind probe, which “resets” Mrs Mike. She asks if they found anything, which results in meaningful looks all round and a sudden scene change to the Briefing room of watery walls, which has a nice selection of carafes and glasses in the forefront of the shot. Well, you try watching a show in slow motion.

“She’s a Sleeper agent,” says Jack, so I guess even he read the name of this episode. The writer takes a day off from “invention of complicated alien back story with names like the Hath, the Graske or the Slitheen” as Jack explains that since Sleepers rarely leave any survivors they don’t know much about their species. So Jack ‘it’s exposition time now and I’m a very earnest exposition man, oh yeah I’m giving that exposition a good flogging ‘cause it’s a bad bad, oh hang on’ Harkness tells the team that whoever these aliens are they send advance scouts with false memories to infiltrate planets and that poor Mrs Mike has absolutely no idea. Her real self took over and killed the burglars out of self-preservation. Her purpose is information gathering and by the time the aliens invade they’ll know everything about Earth. Exposition is boring.

So Tosh ‘a line, a line, my kingdom for a line’ Sato, gets up and starts moving the conference through the powerpoint presentation she did earlier. It shows the information gathered by the device in Mrs Mike’s arm, which was apparently designed to be hidden by a false image and a forcefield.

“They know more about this place than I do,” says Ianto ‘hopefully no one will notice Tosh and Owen are the only ones who do any work around here, but at least I’m pretty, oh yeah, I’m pretty’ Jones. “Nobody knows more than I do,” and it’s obvious that even Gareth David-Lloyd couldn’t take that line seriously, particularly since it’s practically only his second since “we don’t sniff the etheric beam locator or something (sub-etheric resonator?? resonating etherea??)”, which I didn’t even bother to recap at the time.

Gwen asks what they’re going to do and Jack says first things first they tell Mrs Mike. And thank you everyone for giving us Jack sombre in the last 10 minutes. This is a time for sombre, something that Season 1 regularly forgot. Contrary to some people’s opinions on this episode, a well-paced and thoughtful piece on the inevitable demise of an ordinarily good woman because of unfortunate circumstance is not the time for glib sexual innuendo.

Poor Mrs Mike. She’s in the Cells of Weevil, with the convenient breathing holes in the Perspex, being shown the video of her transformation by Gwen. Damn this woman is believable. Not Gwen, Mrs Mike. She manages to deliver the line, “and I’m a mass-murdering alien” without it sounding completely sci-fi and trite. Jack’s doing an astonishingly understated performance of “the man who knows what happens next” as he talks Mrs Mike round to the inevitable fate for an alien sleeper agent bent on world domination.

Mrs Mike starts talking through her life, her fake memories, declaring them and her love for Mike real. “I love Mike and he loves me,” with only a short falter before the last bit because she’s not entirely sure (are we ever?). “He does and you do,” says Gwen ‘but a blowfish told me I was a carer and they’re the best therapists in the Universe’ Cooper with a smile. Let me comfort you through to your death. This will make me feel better about myself.

She asks Mrs Mike if she feels human and when she says yes, tells her that makes her human. Jack’s face tells a bigger truth; what Mrs Mike wants or feels is irrelevant. Mrs Mike is far smarter than Gwen and she’s already worked it out. She says they can’t keep her locked up next to the Evil Weevil and what’s the use of all their technology if they can’t help her. She asks Jack if they can make her human and when he says no, she asks if they’re going to kill her.

No, says Gwen, quickly and Jack’s face says, yeah and I’m so not happy about it. “Have you killed other aliens?” asks Mrs Mike and Gwen tells her they only kill as a last resort. For some reason she doesn’t mention the illegal detention, torture, retconning and nearly destroying the world bits. Must have just slipped her mind.

Don’t let my facetiousness and severe dislike of Gwen disguise the fact that this scene is killing me. Mrs Mike is fantastic: yesterday my life was perfect and now it’s rocketed out of control and it is not my fault so why do I have to suffer for someone else’s manipulation? It’s never said, but behind every heartbreaking word is the implication, it’s just not FAIR.

Can she promise to be a good alien and go back to the normal life, which is all she wanted anyway? No, because the direction of her life is no longer under her control. Jack knows it and he tells her so, straight up. Gwen won’t admit it because she still wakes up every morning and deludes herself about who she really is and what she really does. Nothing can disguise the fact that at this point in time, the evil alien killing machine is the best person in the room.

Back in the Hub, Jack says they’re going to have to kill her and Tosh suggests cryogenically freezing her until they can work out a way to stop her memories from coming back. She can fry the implant’s transceiver using an electromagnetic pulse, which will stop it gathering intel without alerting Mrs Mike’s alien friends that they’re on to them. In this scene, Tosh is suspended above the Hub so she’s above Jack and Gwen, a position I’d have to agree with both literally and figuratively. But for some reason Owen is top right on one of the walkways...watering plants??

“What about her husband?” asks Owen ‘but I’ve always had an interest in horticulture’ Harper and Jack says Mrs Mike is just going to have to disappear.

Down in the bowels of the Hub, where so many people are frozen that half of them are forgotten, Mrs Mike is starting to have flashbacks of the evil alien murders and images of mushroom clouds. Jack pronounces the alien consciousness is a coming and they bundle her into the cryogenic chamber.

Mrs Mike tells Gwen it’s human or nothing and asks her to turn the machine off if there’s no cure. Gwen actually refuses to make this promise so either she’s an idiot or...oh, we all know she’s an idiot. Mrs Mike asks Jack instead and he gives his word without hesitation. I mean seriously, Gwen, if you can’t make her human then what’s the alternative? And she’s a good person so her one terror is hurting other people. You’ve just told her you can’t guarantee to stop her from doing that. Moron.

“It’s funny, I’ve always had this nagging feeling I didn’t fit in,” says Mrs Mike and then, with a perfect amount of understated irony, “just so desperate to have a more exciting life.” Tosh tells her she’s about to knock out the arm implant and notes that this will knock out the force field as well. Mrs Mike says, “do it” without hesitation because the last thing she wants is to be invincible. The deed is done and there’s a close up on the monitor where the implant is...doing something. Pulsating? Signalling? Shutting down?

We cut to suburban family home in Cardiff so I’m going with signalling because there’s only one thing that can happen in this scene and that’s the triggering of another Sleeper. Some nice man called ‘David’, having an afternoon drink with his wife, is activated. His arm goes alien and he promptly strangles the Missus. The chilling thing about this scene is that he obviously wasn’t going to and then at the last minute went oh, may as well.

On a street somewhere, a paramedic is giving a guy CPR when he activates. Oh, cliché-ville in Cardiff town, where a young mother looking remarkably like the woman from Blackpool who used to gamble away her pension each day with a baby in tow, gets activated and walks off as baby’s pram heads into ongoing traffic. Oh, the clichéd “horror” of it all.

Back in the Hub, Owen ‘my first love is plants'Harper pronounces Mrs Mike frozen and sends her down to the vault. And can I just say for the final time ever: it’s an autopsy room that in this episode was also used to give a medical examination. It needs to become a sterile environment. Build a wall or something. Done. For good. I swear.

As Ianto (oh, is Ianto in this episode, I didn’t know) stores her in a vault labelled 007 (a James Bond reference...I don’t get it), Gwen looks sad and Ianto gives her his arm in sad solidarity. I’m suddenly reminded of Lisa and, from the look on his face, so is he.

Less than a minute later, Mrs Mike wakes up and the Hub’s lights flicker. Considering they’re somehow on mains power and don’t apparently have a Generator, I’m not quite sure why Tosh and Gwen look so concerned. After all, they don’t have any admin staff and it’s possible they just forgot to pay the bill. Oh, an alarm’s going off and it’s because Mrs Mike has escaped. In doing so, she turned off the lights.

“What is it with her and light bulbs?” says Jack and I think, well, it’s funny you asked, Jack, but I do have a record of all those conversations detailing exactly what it is with her and light bulbs. Do you remember? You were there. I can email them to you. As you keep reminding us at the beginning of each episode, it’s the 21st century after all and email’s practically instantaneous.

Tosh is looking at a monitor containing a series of eerie blue (it’s very in, eerie blue; it’s the new black) boxes that are apparently informing her that Mrs Mike ‘escaped through the tunnels’, which if my knowledge of Hub geography is correct means that (a) she’s drowning in Cardiff Bay and (b) she hasn’t escaped because there are no tunnels. Unless they mean she’s gone through the Tourist Information Centre, in which case ‘waltzed out of the front door’ seems more applicable. Once again a big tick for Torchwood security. Performance review time must be a bitch for these people.

And in honour of the fact that I’ve managed to write more than 4000 words on the first 25 minutes of this episode, I bring you a Torchwood performance review:

Jack: How do you think your performance has been this year?
Gwen: Well, it’s difficult to say since I don’t actually have a job, but I think I’ve done pretty wonderfully. I think I bring a much-needed level of humanity to my work. I’m very caring, you know. I care about people. Of course, there was that time I stole retcon and used it on my boyfriend to cover up my affair with a co-worker and, oh yes, that time we nearly destroyed the whole world, but it should be noted that I nearly destroyed the world in a very caring way. I’m a caring person, you see. I’m the carer.
Jack: One day I’m going to be a gigantic telepathic head in a jar full of smoke.

So, as alarms blare and people shout and Owen repeats the line “she was definitely frozen” over and over and nobody realises that maybe a few armed guards and a decent security system would stop the inevitable “an alien has escaped” routine from every bleeding episode, the frenzied stream of exposition establishes that: Mrs Mike had all the information on Torchwood she needed to destroy them but didn’t; all her bio-readings must have been a fake image projected by the device to show Torchwood what they wanted to see and she was drawing power from the lights to help the illusion; and Mrs Mike can’t have activated because if she had they’d all be dead and she must have some other agenda.

Mrs Mike’s other agenda is seeing her husband and while this scene absolutely kills me I can’t help wondering several things: what happened to the determination to be human or die; why hasn’t Mrs Mike succumbed to the other personality with the rest of the Sleepers; and, the biggie, why are all the Sleepers in Wales?

Mrs Mike is at Mike’s bedside and as he wakes up, she tells him that she has to go away but just wanted to make sure that he loved her. She says she’s leaving because she doesn’t want to hurt him and he notes that she is just by going away. She says she has to set things straight and that she loves him too much to be anywhere near him. They lean in for a hug and even though I know she’s about to flip and murder him, the subtlety of the moment kills me (no pun intended). She hears a kind of squishy sound and Mike looks slightly stunned. As she pulls back, she sees her arm has turned into a weapon that looks kind of like a tree trunk with a sword stuck in it and that sword is stuck right through her husband’s stomach.

She starts screaming for help and pressing the emergency button and screaming for help, and he’s bleeding and dying and Torchwood gets there before a Doctor does. Gwen scans Mrs Mike’s arm and says “Clear!” The doctors and nurses run in and as we move out of the scene we just know that Mike is dead.

More death across town as a father is stabbed and stabbed and stabbed by ‘David’ as he’s about to sit down to dinner with his family. It’s really quite brutal.

More death across town as Mr Paramedic drives a semi, presumably filled with fuel, under an overpass and stops traffic. As the driver behind him discusses the evolution and prevalence of road rage in the modern world, Mr Paramedic detaches some sort of device from his arm and places it on the truck. It’s presumably an explosive and as Mr Road Rage pelts for safety I can vaguely hear him saying, “Bloody Torchwood”.

The Dummy’s Guide to Ironic Segue was obviously referenced for the next scene, where Jack and Gwen are leaving the hospital with Mrs Mike and manage to say, “we’ve got her, it’s all over,” before the hospital explodes. Oh, the irony. Of course, the greatest irony appears to be that in the pursuit of world domination, the vanguard of an alien invasion just murdered some man, blew up a truck and attacked a Cardiff hospital. And that’s all. Be afraid, be very afraid.

In the Hub, it’s panic and flashing lights and eerie blue boxes of information as the gang try and work out what’s going on. Tosh says the truck blew up some sort of fuel-supply line used by the military in times of emergency (oh, it was the petrol tanker explosion that for some reason blew out a wall in the hospital...oooo’kay).

Owen says that Patrick Grainger has been murdered and Ianto says he was some sort of Cardiff City Council Co-ordinator who had all the security protocols in case of an emergency. “How did you know all that?” says Owen. “I know everything,” says Ianto (pause), “and it says so on the bottom of the screen.”

Ok, bwa hahahahah. Now that is classic Ianto. Fantastic.

Still dragging Mrs Mike out of the hospital, Jack says, “they’re putting all the pieces in place,” obviously referring to the great alien invasion plan of conquering the Earth by disabling Cardiff City Council. This begs the obvious question: if aliens successfully conquered South Wales, would anyone else on Earth notice?

Oh, it’s white trash single Mum (is this what they call a ‘chav’?) and she’s blowing up...some other building. Must have been some sort of telecommunications hub because the phones go dead. I just rewound it and apparently the building was a “Telecommunications Switching Station and Mobile Switching Centre”.

Jack gives his weekly “statement of the bleeding obvious” just so we know that he’s caught up with what we’ve known for about the last 15 minutes. Oh, Mrs Mike isn’t the only Sleeper agent? And they’ve activated? You don’t say.

Jack yells at Mrs Mike to tell him how to stop it and Gwen tries the caring approach. Mrs Mike says she doesn’t know their plan but that she escaped from Torchwood because she’s able to control her arm implant. Except for that last scene where she couldn’t control her arm implant.

Anyway, she tracks the signal from her arm implant back to the cell and declares that there’s “one left”. Does that mean that Paramedic Man and Chav Girl died in their explosions? I thought they had a personal force shield and were invincible? Are you saying there really were only four Sleeper agents on Earth and they’re in Cardiff? I mean, seriously, CARDIFF.

Off screeches the VOC (sip) to track ‘David’. It’s been a long dry episode for my personal version of the Torchwood drinking game. Up screeches the VOC onto the footpath (sip) and Jack says he has an idea.

Back in the Hub, Owen is waving his mobile around, apparently demanding that Tosh hook something up to make the phones work. “The entire telephone network is down,” declares Tosh. “What about the mobile network?” says Owen. “ is...down,” says Tosh, providing Ianto with the perfect opportunity to make fun of Owen because you know, who wouldn’t? And while everyone’s personalities seemed to have been magically reset at the beginning of this season, I am reminded of Owen and Ianto’s run ins last season.

So, as Ianto practically dances to the lines, “mobiles, landlines, tin cans with bits of string, everything, absolutely everything, no phones, phones all broken,” (mimes putting a phone handset to his ear) “hello, anyone there? no, because the phones aren’t working,” I’m simultaneously punching the air, laughing at Ianto’s delivery, and wondering if his character’s entire purpose in Season 2 is going to be walking in, delivering sarcasm, and walking back out. Because that’s almost as much of a waste as Toshiko ’10 seconds of technobabble per episode but at least I’m wearing a nice skirt’ Sato.

Back to the VOC where Jack declares he’s going to contact the Hub using a CB radio. Back to the Hub where the Dummy’s Guide to Ironic Segues has been pulled out again to give us Tosh declaring that there is no way to contact Jack followed by...Jack’s voice on the resident Torchwood CB radio. Jack explains the situation and asks Tosh to find out whether there’s anything important where ‘David’ is going, which is apparently some farmland outside of Cardiff.

Shots of ‘David’ in car playing with the pretty lights on his alien arm. Shots of confusion in the Hub. Shots of confusion in the VOC. Shots of ‘David’ crashing through a pretty lightweight barrier with the words ‘Danger’ out the front. Shots of Tosh hacking into the military’s mainframe in the Hub, (“it’s almost obscene what you do to security systems”: Ianto) and the conclusion that the military uses the site for the storage of 10 nuclear warheads.

So, just to recap, that being my job, the military stores nuclear warheads in an old cave mine outside of Cardiff without a single guard on the gate? Now I know why the aliens didn’t go to London, Russia, the United States, China or India to take over the world: they might have been guarding their nuclear weapons.

Worry in the Hub as the gang asks Jack to save them please and John Barrowman delivers a great line about being a dashing hero who’s going to save the day, while his face says, “oh crap”. “He is dashing, you have to give him that,” says Ianto, but in a subdued way. Owen wants to know what happens if Jack and Gwen can’t stop it and Ianto says it’s all over.

“Let’s all have sex,” says Owen and Ianto doesn’t even pause before saying, “and I thought the end of the world couldn’t get any worse.” Hee hee. Oh and Ianto. Word.

Aerial shot of the VOC (sip!) racing to save the world. Or at least a small part of Britain.
Oh ok, ‘David’ has pulled his car up at the real entrance to the storage facility and it is guarded: by a grand total of three soldiers, which is all one needs to protect a small nuclear arsenal these days. The soldiers plug ‘David’ full of holes but his personal forcefield is protecting him. The VOC screeches (sip) down the road after him to the facility as ‘David’ using his extensive arm knowledge to key in the correct security code.

The VOC screeches (sip) up to ‘David’ and mows him down. Jack leaps out of the car, tackles ‘David’ and asks “how they can stop it”. Stop what? The plan was to get the warheads. They’ve just stopped him. What is he talking about? ‘David’s’ arm morphs and he stabs Jack through the chest. Gwen takes the scanner thing and she’s scanning away. Oh, it must be a magical “turn the transceiver off” device because she declares that ‘David’ can no longer use his implant and his personal force shield is apparently gone.

‘David’ says that they know all about Torchwood (well, who doesn’t?) and that they will be “factored into their plans”. How to factor Torchwood into your plans? Um, try a city other than Cardiff? Just saying. Jack asks when the “others” will be coming and ‘David’ says they’re already here. Ooh, it’s the dum dum dum of dramatic music. It’s dramatic. Jack, Gwen and Mrs Mike run for safety as ‘David’ blows himself up.

Back in the Hub, the gang are preparing to freeze Mrs Mike again and as they walk through the set doing “we’re busy” acting, Jack and Ianto share a look that I can only interpret as “first we’re going in the back to have a quick shag”. Ianto is carrying something that looks like a looped antenna or something. Wow, he likes his props, doesn’t he?

In...some other part of the dimensionally-transcendental Hub that recently grew itself some tunnels...Mrs Mike is staring intently at some glass jars lit by the ‘lights of eerie blue information gathering’. Gwen declares her intention to freeze her again and says that Tosh has re-configured the device to work around the implant so it will no longer give false images. There’s a lot of dialogue here, delivered expertly by Nikki Amuka-Bird but the gist is that Mrs Mike, ever the realist, is already so far ahead of Gwen. She can see what will happen, what will go down, how it will end. It’s not what acts she will commit or what horrors she will inflict that bother her; it’s the fact that once the change begins she won’t care anymore. No guilt, no memories of love or of humanity and as she talks it through we can see the thoughts across her face as she decides to do the honourable thing; the kind of thing Gwen should have the guts to do but wouldn’t because she’s too caught up in her own self-image.

She activates the arm and backs Gwen into the Hub, yelling that she won’t let them freeze her. Gwen realises Beth is deliberately provoking them but can’t do anything as Mrs Mike pulls back her arm and is shot dead by Jack, Owen and Ianto.

“She wanted you to shoot her,” yells Gwen in anger, “she used her last shred of humanity to do this,” and Owen notes that they had no choice. “She just wanted to make it easier for us,” says Jack and we pull back on the dead and broken body of Beth, the most human person in this room.

An aerial short of Cardiff at night (sip) before cutting back to Jack’s office and even though my job continues, what happens now is almost irrelevant, particularly since Jack and Gwen decide not to actually do anything about the multitude of alien sleeper agents and the inevitable alien invasion. I would have thought that identifying the evil army of aliens would be the next step but apparently not. Somewhat of an appropriate end to the hole-filled plot that did not undermine this emotional episode. Like ‘Captain Jack Harkness’ in Season 1, I choose not to care because the poorly-written science fiction is just not the point.

Gwen reminds us that she’s getting married, Jack is left in his office alone and we fade out of Torchwood. See you next time.