5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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Sigh. Yet another Torchwood episode that starts well, then just gets crapper and crapper.
It's definitely an intriguing beginning, right down to the Buffyesque inclusion of Adam in the titles. The continuity from the last episode with Rhys at the beginning is a nice touch, too. And the sight of the team laughing with the cuckoo in the nest is satisfyingly gobsmacking.
That's the high point, however. What follows is sometimes obvious, sometimes overwrought, and frequently both at once.
Changing the team's personalities is a good idea in theory. There's a ton of potential there. But it has some unfortunate results.
Tosh, for example. The more she has to do, the more we like her, and Naoko Mori takes her transformation to confident sex kitten and runs with it. But doesn't anyone on the production team take notice of what's happened before? Three episodes, and three love interests for Tosh, all three of them doomed. In a mysterious feat of script alchemy, that's simultaneously too varied and too much the same. Who's she going to fall in love with next week? The Weevil?
Then there's Owen. Yes, we know they're busting a gut trying to rehabilitate him, but this is just dumb. Leaving aside the boring pop psychology about how his mother never loved him, how does taking away your cynicism transform you into a cardigan-wearing nerd, let alone make you fancy someone you've never had the time of day for?
The others don't get off any more lightly. Ianto's character has been ping-ponging around since the beginning of the season, and this episode is no exception. Casting aside the wise-cracking man of action (if that was the last one - we can't keep up), at the suggestion he's a serial killer he's back to the blubbing mess he was in Cyberwoman. And anything that reminds us of Cyberwoman is by definition a bad thing. We're sure Ianto's crisis is meant to be intensely dramatic and deeply affecting, but it doesn't ring true to us (lines like "You crave flesh" probably have something to do with it). We just want to throw a box of tissues at his head and tell him to stop sniffling.
Same goes for the other Mr Sobby. While it's somewhat interesting seeing a bit about Jack's background, did they have to pick such a clichéd scenario? And as in Meat, John Barrowman's emoting here verges on embarrassing. He really needs to stop pitching this stuff to the back of the circle.
Gwen and Rhys are probably the best bit, simply because Rhys is always a highlight: he seems like a real person to us in a way none of the others ever quite manage.
As for Adam, meh. He's not evil, he's just trying to survive. Strangely like... well, most of the aliens, really.
The rest of it wouldn't be bad if they didn't make it all so obvious. To wit: endlessly repeated shots of the smile falling off Adam's face when nobody's looking so we can tell he's a baddie, crashingly redundant lines like "It was the worst day of my life" as Jack describes losing his father and brother, horrific lines like "I actually ache for you" in case we don't get the irony that this Owen is in love with Tosh. The glowing golden beach, followed by the thunderstorm when things start going wrong, topped off by the oh-so-symbolic sand slipping through Jack's fingers. And the impromptu therapy session/Last Supper, with Jesus Jack bringing comfort to the afflicted and everybody giving the obvious another, more thorough run-through, is the squirmy capper.
The final blow is the utter lack of logic. What's the point in retconning everybody when Rhys remembers? Why does Jack use a lie detector on Ianto? Unless it's special futuristic lie detector, lie detectors measure what a person believes, not the actual truth. And how does giving the team amnesia help? It's not like reverting to a backup - Adam makes it clear that he makes physiological changes, overwriting memories.
We're really tired of being mean about Torchwood. Sometimes we wonder: is it us? Are our standards ridiculously high? Do we just hate everything? Then we remember the Red Dwarf episode Thanks For The Memory. Same premise, but instead of the Torchwood hit-you-over-the-head interpretation, Thanks For The Memory has true pathos and is devilishly clever as well as being hilarious. And that's just supposed to be a sitcom. Sorry: it's them.
We were a little bit nervous when nowhere in Meat did they mention a single blood sample. Fortunately, the test tubes are back. Phew!
So obviously, having wiped their memories, the first thing they're going to do now is pull out all the stops to figure out what happened. Why didn't they leave themselves a note to tell themselves why they should leave it alone?