Two good episodes in a row written by Chris Chibnall. Yes, we said Chris Chibnall. What, has he had a brain transplant or something?
Fragments is the compulsory Origins Show. You might think the end of the second season is a bit tardy for this (and you’d be right), but hey, we’re grateful they got round to it at all. We thought the characters were far too busy being cool and stuff for them ever to bother explaining how they got into Pterodactyl Central in the first place. And on the whole, it’s very successful.
All right, the beginning’s a bit dumb. From the Queasycam to the idiocy of them all splitting up (silly under any circumstances, but also, isn’t Tosh supposed be a geeky computery type, blinking helplessly in natural daylight like a nerdy bushbaby? After all, look what happened in Countrycide. So what’s Jack thinking sending her off on her own to take on an unknown alien?), it fair shouts of a set-up. We don’t know about you, but our reaction when confronted by an ominous countdown would be to leg it, not stand around making dismayed faces. Still, who’s complaining? Bugger the naked hide and seek – it’s seeing almost the entire team buried under rubble that’s a fantasy come true.
And OK, the continuity’s crap. We’re not going to detail exactly how crap, because that would mean trawling through the first season’s episodes, and we’re not doing that. Not even if our mothers were being held captive by snarky state secret stealers. But as a vague examplish type of thing, we’ve got the distinct feeling that last year we were told Owen and/or Tosh were seconded from UNIT. Shrug. Some of you may find this rewriting of history annoying; we don’t care enough about Torchwood to get fluffed up about it.
As for the rest of it, some bits work better than others, but when it’s good, it’s very very good. The Jack segment in particular is outstanding. For a start, we like the “1,392 deaths earlier” caption, which nicely subverts an over-fashionable plot device rapidly progressing past its use-by date.
We’ve previously speculated that the former Torchwoodies must be more interesting than the current lot, and we were right. Those two nice young gels enjoy their work far, far too much. Add to that a really cute alien and the welcome reappearance of Tarot Girl (we love the insouciant way she tosses the tankards over her shoulder), and we were utterly hooked. This has got to be one of the best bits of Torchwood ever.
Tosh’s story is also nicely done. We particularly like the remarkably un-Torchwoodlike way they leave us to figure out what’s going on with Tosh instead of inserting a heavy-handed scene carefully explaining the mother situation at the top of the segment. Show don’t tell, for once, and how much better the show is when they go in that direction. Tosh’s situation stuck in that hideous UNIT cell is genuinely chilling (and hey, maybe that’s what “seconded from UNIT” meant? Well, we can dream).
Owen’s heart-tugging tale is clearly another chapter in the all-out push to rewrite him into a nice guy. Very sad and all, and we like the scene of Fiancée with an alien pulsing in her brain. On the other hand, we’re still not buying that this undoubted tragedy is sufficient to turn a perfectly lovely guy with an earnest desire to help humanity into a date rapist. The production team’s remorse at having made Owen quite such a bastard is increasingly obvious, but flail though they might, that particular bolt is shot. They’d be better off making him really really dead and bringing in his identical twin. Yes, it really is that dire.
As for Ianto, he’s never very interesting, and unfortunately his backstory didn’t do a lot to make him more fascinating. So he used to hang around in parks wearing a strange disco belt. So what? And the rest was repetitively Apprentice-esque, seasoned with an unconvincing pterodactyl and some equally unconvincing flirting. Sorry, but they’ve just never given us a single reason to believe in Jack and Ianto’s attraction, and after this we’re still none the wiser.
As for the big reveal at the end, colour us unimpressed. We thought this character was rubbish at the beginning of the season, and his reappearance here did nothing to vary our opinion. Maybe he’ll change our minds in the next episode. Maybe not.
It’s not entirely stellar. But when it does work, it works very nicely indeed. Win.
It’s all very well for Jack to get so indignant about the Victorian Torchwoodies shooting the alien, but we’re not so sure the “long-term storage” he’s so fond of is any more, er, humane.
“How else are you going to earn?” Surely Jack’s not so unresourceful that working for Torchwood is the only job he could possibly get?
UNIT’S come a long way since the cosy set-up of the Brig’s day, hasn’t it? Ah well, autres temps, autres moeurs. But explain to us again: why is someone nicking military secrets a UNIT matter? It’s not alien tech, is it? And if it is, why’s the Min of Defence got it instead of UNIT?