5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS
At last. An episode of Torchwood that has some genuine heart. What’s more, it’s actually entertaining.
Cath Tregenna clearly has some kind of time-travel mania, as she wrote Out Of Time as well. Whatever. This time, she actually gets it right. As with Out Of Time, there’s nothing particularly original about it, but this time that doesn’t matter all that much: the execution is great, and that’s enough.
The best stuff is all Jack. Jack’s delight at being back in an era he’s so clearly fond of, his isolation and his gradually developing bond with his namesake all touch genuine emotional chords. The “real” Captain Jack is beautifully played by Matt Rippey, and together he and John Barrowman believably sell us the idea of the two of them having feelings for each other even though they've only just met. And we love the well-observed moment when the straight couple shoo them away from lovers’ corner in the automatic expectation that two guys won’t be needing it.
But while the final dance and kiss are completely adorable, the anachronism of it really grated with us. Much as it pains us to say it, in 1941 dancing with another man in public, let alone snogging him, would have have them instantly thrown out and probably beaten up, and Jack certainly wouldn’t have had the respect of his men we’re told he has the next day. If he was still allowed in the army at all. Wishful thinking’s nice and all, but that’s too much revisionism even to make sense.
The other character that really makes an impact is the mysterious (and mysteriously-named) Bilis Manger. Cree-py. He’s fantastic - very possibly the best thing about the entire series - and were it not written by Chris Chibnall we’d be looking forward to seeing him again in the series final.
And the rest of the regulars? Owen is, and do we even need to say this, annoying. He wants to open the rift to get Diane back, even though she chose to go of her own accord and would probably rip his head off if forced back. (Well, we can hope.) Ianto has a brief bout of interestingness when he shoots Owen, disappointed though we were that he didn’t drill him through the eye, but still, it was something. It’s decidedly too late for Owen: even if he gave it all up and took up a career helping kittens down from trees we’d still hate him. The repulsiveness goes all the way through.
Gwen barely features, and that’s a good thing, because we’re starting to hate her too. Tosh gets a lot of screen time here, and Naoko Mori does a competent job, but there isn’t really much character development for her.
It’s not perfect. It’s not even all that original. But for once, it’s real. We like it.
EVERY TIME YOU GO AWAY YOU TAKE A PIECE OF ME WITH YOU
Why, if you’re planning to take work home, would you take half the figures?
JUST ANOTHER DAY IN SPLOT
We’re sure Cardiffniks think they’re highly cosmopolitan. But the 1941 crowd not batting an eye at the sight of two men kissing in public or the appearance of the whacking great rift gets the prize for laidbackness.
WHO WILL I BE?
How come when Tosh is calling Jack from just outside the rift, the real Jack doesn’t react to his own name or show any surprise when our Jack responds to her?