5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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END OF DAYS
What does it take for actions to have consequences?
Deceit? Unfaithfulness? Betrayal?
No? How about murder? Endangering the entire world?
If you picked e) none of the above, then you have our deepest sympathy. Because youíre obviously a member of the Torchwood production team.
It's written by Chris Chibnall, so we knew End Of Days was going to be a mess. We didn't think it was humanly possible for an episode to actually be worse than our expectations, but they did it.
The setup's not bad. Rift woe blah blah blah. The dislocations in time are a bit underwhelmingly low-budgety, but hey, they have to work with what they've got. And the reappearance of the fabulous Bilis is promisingly mysterious and spine-chilling.
If only they had the wit to capitalise on what they'd got. Instead, the thing descends into a welter of ludicrous plot and incomprehensible character motivation. With a monster.
As usual when confronted with a crisis, the team leap into action like a well-oiled machine. Ha! Kidding! What they actually do is stand around and argue. Jack points out that Owen's caused the problem by opening the rift: while this seems as obvious as a jaguar on an ice floe, Gwen upbraids Jack for being mean and nasty. Can't damage Owen's self-esteem by suggesting he's not perfect, can we? (Actually, we don't think you could dent his self-esteem with a steamroller, but never mind.) After an all-too-brief brush with the excellent PC Andy ("Say I do believe you, which I donít, because itís bollocks" should be carved over the door of the Torchwood production offices), it's back to the hub for Owen to at last, at last, get the boot.
No nipping out for a wee at this point, because it's the single place where it looks like Owen might have to pay for his actions. While this might seem like richly just deserts to the audience, clearly the Torchwood team doesn't think so, because it's treated like a grade-A tragedy. Slushy strings. Horrific lines like "I guess this is goodbye". And the appalled reactions of the team. What are they on? Of course he deserves it. Jack can't count on him to follow the instructions that stop the world being put at risk. What's more, although he keeps pointing out that if he hadn't opened the rift Tosh and Jack would still be in 1941 (which Jack would in fact have preferred OH THE IRONY), he didn't do it for them at all but to try and retrieve his fleeing girlfriend against her will. Would they have given it the full-melodrama treatment if he'd had his hand in the till? Whatís the difference? We were crossing our fingers that being handed your P45 at Torchwood means a quick bullet to the head and cold storage, but sadly, no. Frankly, retconning's too good for him.
Not according to Owen, of course, who makes a bitter little speech about Jack retconning him sometime in the next 24 hours. Whatís that about? When youíre fired, they take away the swipecard and frisk you for incriminating documents before you leave the premises. They donít sneak around crouching behind hedges and popping out of manholes the next day trying to lift them out of your pocket when youíre not looking. What's more, with the fate of the world at stake it seems a bit farfetched that Jack's top priority's going to be trying to slip Owen a Mickey.
Added to all this stupidity is the reason they're doing it. Owen decides that because he can't find Jack on Google he's not a real person. Brilliant basis for decision-making that, son. What do you think Jack is? A lollipop? Jack, for his part, demands Owen's complete trust when he won't tell them anything about himself and moreover has just admitted that he doesn't know what to do.
You'd think Gwen'd be a bit upset at this development, but five minutes later she's laughing and joking at Bilis's shop. He's able to travel in time, y'see, so he has a clock shop. Filled with clocks! That show the time! Dear oh dear. Why couldn't he have a kebab shop? (Oh God, he's not the Master, is he? Well, if we have to have the Master back, at least he'd make a great one.) He shows Gwen Rhys's sticky end (hur hur): her solution to this is not to tell Rhys that the house needs fumigating for ants so he goes home to his Mum's but to taser him and hurf him across Cardiff and into a Torchwood cell. Alas for the ever-so-trusting Gwen, sneaky old Bilis was having her on: rather like the audience, poor old Rhys after being screwed over is stabbed in the gut.
OK, Gwen's upset. Understandable, especially as a large part of that is guilt. But that doesn't explain why she convinces herself that opening the rift will, Dallas-shower-like, put everything back the way it was: Bilis only says opening the rift will "let it suck back what fell through". Somehow, though, she and the other Torchwoodies, despite Jack's eminently sensible arguments, decide to go for it. Owen, meanwhile, wanders back in. Those consequences? Gone. Despite the fact that Jack's just told them that what they're trying to do might mean the end of the world, Tosh is wide-eyed with astonishment when Jack pulls a gun. Despite the fact that Jack's just told them that what they're trying to do might mean the end of the world, Owen asks: "What are you afraid of, Jack?" (You MORON.) To round off a great day, Owen decides that the perfect way to demonstrate the size of his testicles is to riddle Jack with bullets. Can we just remind you that Owen has no idea Jack can't die at this point?
Well, guess what? While opening the rift does magically press the reset button, it also burps up a nasty CGI monster. Bilis boringly turns out to worship him (personally, it makes more sense to us when people worship nice gods likely to give them presents, not evil beings who'll probably munch them. Whatever) and he starts a little rampage, knocking people over with his deep dark shadow even though it's overcast.
Not to worry. Jack's bounced back by now and decides to forcefeed him. Not knowing that you should leave the table when you're full, Abaddon cannae take it, Captain, and slumps to the ground overcome by an overdose of yummy Jack goodness. And we feel seriously sorry for the binmen.
Jack, meanwhile, is looking a bit deadish. Hands up if you thought he was really gone? Thought not. Not very tense then, is it? He lies there attended by a weeping woman for several days before reviving, handing out forgiveness and being transported away into the heavens. Yes, they really did do that.
But let's back up a bit. All the Torchwood staff disobeyed Jack's orders, thus endangering the entire world. One of them shot him. Shot to kill and thought he had killed him. And the consequences? Zero. It's hugs all round and everyone reinstated for Series Two. What? The wormwood-and-gall bitter irony of it is that reaping what you sow is precisely what it's supposed to be about: itís Owen's choice to open the rift in the first place that's kicked it all off. That they can go from there to all of them opening the rift again and Owen committing attempted murder and then end up with a return to zero is ineptness of the highest order. Adult drama isn't people saying fuck and getting their arses out. It's about tackling the difficult issues and not bottling out.
We should be angrier, because this really is rubbish. But thirteen episodes of Torchwood, with only one good episode (Captain Jack Harkness), one with a good first half (They Keep Killing Suzie) and one with some good aspects (Small Worlds) have drained the fighting spirit out of us and stranded us in a trough of apathy. We can barely rouse ourselves to be disappointed that a series which could have been a fun, dark new direction for the Whoniverse is so terrible. Outside credibility, beyond belief. We're just so, so grateful we never have to see these episodes again.
YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED
How come the Roman soldier uses the Welsh name for the fort and not the Latin one?
The hand in the jar shows, a bit disappointingly, that the Doctor can't regenerate worm-like from one small piece. So how much does it take? A leg? A brain? What about if you sawed him in half?