5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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A DAY IN THE DEATH
Sigh. They're trying; we can see they're trying. The dead thing's supposed to be all deep and emotionally affecting and stuff.
Trouble is, it doesn't work. For viewers to get engaged, to care about Owen and his fate, the basics have to be right first. And they just aren't.
Take the practicalities, for a start. We could fill up a whole server going into the problems raised by having a dead guy walking around. Don't worry, we won't, but a couple of obvious examples: they make a big thing out of Owen not breathing, so how's he talking? (Also, if you're going to have a scene where an actor goes on about how he's not breathing, it's a really good idea to remove his breathing noises in the post.) And how come when Owen gets out of the sea his lungs aren't full of water?
Then there's the way Torchwood treats him. The guy's dead. Dead. Why isn't anybody trying to find out what happened to him? Where's the all hands to the pump effort? Instead, they're fiddle-faddling about with some stupid little energy spikes.
Not to mention the inexplicably dumb way they deal with him. Why should he be a danger to the team? He's dead, not Davros. And if there's a possibility he might be dangerous, how come he's allowed to hang around making coffee, let alone twiddling a scalpel?
As for the individual Torchwoodies' attitudes, they're utterly mystifying. Ianto, rubbing his hands in glee over not being coffee guy any more, says "Are you really going to let this beat you?". What, being dead? That's an inspirational speech and a half. Tosh turning up with pizza is reasonable enough for her character, as is her yet again overlooking Owen's being a bastard to her (although we can't believe she tells him she loves him yet again. Masochist or what?). But she also zips to the other extreme with "You haven't changed, have you? It's all about Owen." We never thought we'd be defending Owen, but good God, Tosh! He's dead! We think he can be excused a little self-absorption just this once.
And then there's Jack, and he's the most mystifying at all. He's a total monster. He can't wait to tell Owen he's completely useless and possibly dangerous. He's utterly unsympathetic to Owen's plight, which given the amount of time he's spent hanging around on high places brooding about his own life/death situation is a tad hypocritical. And his idea of helping Owen through a tough situation is to say, after Owen's failed drowning, "How long's this going to go on for, Owen?" What, Jack? Being dead? Being a smidgen upset because he's dead? Feeling completely lost because you took his job away? Jeez.
As for the rest of it, it's pretty much a waste of space. Although we really love the surreal scene of the bloodstained bride on the empty road, the whole framing device of Owen trying to stop her from jumping is unforgivably hackneyed. It appears to be meant to be a surprise that he's there to stop her from jumping, not to jump himself, but that's completely undercut by being obvious from minute one, because jumping isn't going to kill him. Also, the message is completely blurry: just what is it, exactly, that's turned Owen around and will turn around Maggie? The love of friends and family? Not after the way the Torchwood bunch have treated him. A life well-lived? Nope, because that what Richard Briers's character's had and it's done him no good at all when facing the darkness. A tune crooned by an alien torch? Maybe, although it's not obvious why, and it's not obvious why that would help Maggie as well, since she doesn't listen to it. Beats us. The healing power of fireworks?
As for the Parker plot, dear God. Yet again: why the hell does Torchwood have to sneak in? Why don't they wave their ID and go in the front door? And what would have given Parker the idea that it was the blob that was keeping him going, with no evidence to suggest it? Yes, Richard Briers is predictably excellent, but even he can't make this plotline less than pointless.
The only time we got genuinely choked up was when Martha left at the end, not least because for the second episode in a row she was completely wasted. It says a lot about Torchwood that in the three episodes she's been in, the one where she played a major part didn't feel like a Torchwood episode at all, and in the two that were more Torchwoodlike she barely featured. Excellent character and Torchwood equals mutually exclusive? You may very well think so, but we couldn't possibly comment.
Like the parent show, they're all about the Messianic stuff, aren't they? There was all that stuff with Jack rising on the third day last season, and in this episode not only does the doubting jumper stick her finger in Owen's wound, he actually says "Like Jesus, really". Yeah, we got it.
They're doing their best this season to reform Owen, but we're not fooled. The excruciatingly leaden flirting with Martha's a clue, but where the true Owen really comes out is when he lashes out at Tosh. That's the guy we know and, uh, love all right.
TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS PART I
Yes, they want an excuse for that melodramatic "I'm wrong… I'm broken…" scene, but remind us again: why doesn't Owen take his gun out as soon as he goes inside?
ARE YOU ON OUR MAILING LIST?
"How do you know about us?" They're still asking that?
How come when Owen takes first Parker's then Maggie's hand, neither notice that he's room temperature?
TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS PART II
They think the pet rock is going to explode, right? So why would holding it help?
"I'm scared that if I close my eyes I'll get trapped in the darkness." Well don't then, Owen. It's not as if you need to sleep.