13 December 2021: not really a review of Flux added.
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OUT OF TIME
Please, make it stop. Our brains are getting number and number as we plough through this stuff. Must…get…through…to…end…of…season…
Like Random Shoes, Out Of Time isn’t Car-Crash Awful Torchwood, it’s just Trite And Tedious Torchwood.
The premise has been done before. So many times. Soooo many times. And we wouldn’t mind that if it was done with some originality, some panache or at the very least some attention to historical fact.
It wasn’t. Instead, it’s a random mix of emotion-by-the-numbers, no emotion when there should be some, and playing fast and loose with history.
First, Torchwood shows its customary caution with secrecy: The least (sic) you know about us the better. Here are all of our names! And here’s our secret base! Here’s my Switch card! The PIN’s written on the back!
Then they manage to convince the time travellers it’s the shiny new future by showing them a few drawings of planes: sounds good to the travellers, who take this in without breaking stride. Although Torchwood has more money than God, they put them up in a horrific shared hostelly thing which looks like an abandoned set from Life On Mars. Then they hand out their pocket money and talk about learning money management like it’s a day trip from the sheltered workshop. Why would they need to learn that stuff? It’s not all that taxing working out that things cost more now, is it? It’s only when Jack changes their names that one of them spits the dummy, and quite right too, because it’s totally pointless.
After that minor hiccup, it’s off to Asda to drag out that compulsory rationing-era topic, bananas. Diane leans out in wonder to fondle a TV screen, because in the Torchwood version of reality they didn’t have TV in the Fifties. They apparently didn’t have porn either. All of this plus a packet of crisps rocks them far more than the much more outlandish stuff they’ve already clocked in Torchwood’s “secret” base.
And that seems to be the extent of Torchwood’s caring, sensitive orientation course on the twenty-first century. You’d think the Fifties Three would be utterly shell-shocked by this point, but it seems the crisps are more than sufficient to console them for the loss of family, friends and everything familiar.
But no! Because here’s where the Emotion kicks in. After the last crisp’s been scoffed, Emma wipes the crumbs off and realises her dog died fifty years ago. A little snivel soon follows, but a couple of swallows of booze and a knees-up later, she’s fine again. And apart from unwittingly causing a bit of trouble between the oppressively motherly Gwen and the hapless Rhys, that’s her sorted: trauma over, she’s got a job and can’t wait to start her new life in the big smoke. Well, that was easy, wasn’t it?
As for John, he’s tracked down his son and he’s not in good shape. You’d think the audience could be counted on to figure out that this is a somewhat harrowing moment, but for insurance, a single manly tear trickles down John’s anguished cheek. He really can’t be arsed with all this modernity, and he decides to check out. And Jack lets him. In one of the few scenes that actually makes an emotional impact, Jack confesses his pain and fear to John and sits with him while he dies. It’s tightly controlled and understated, and as a result has enormous emotional heft. It was the courageous way to go and the right way to go.
And Diane? She’s in the worst situation of all: erstwhile ladykiller/date rapist Owen is a goner. His heart has gone all squidgy. As we discover via the charmless dialogue that Torchwood has made its own, she’s The One. They’re doggedly determined to show us Owen’s sensitive side, so he inexplicably buys Diana a dress and takes her dancing on top of a carpark. (Knowing Owen and his usual tact and winsomeness, we were expecting him to drag a sexy stewardess’s uniform out of the bag.) It doesn’t seem all that romantic to us, and nor is Owen ever going to convince us he’s a nice guy underneath it all, but we know that’s what we’re being prodded into feeling because Murray Gold ladles slush all over it. In the end, Owen gets his comeuppance: we’re sure we were supposed to feel compassion for his newly exposed vulnerable side, but instead we were high-fiving. It would take more than that – a lot more than that – to redeem this character.
Where it’s not once over lightly, it’s utterly clichéd. We were so bored we started doing sudoku.
When the tea-making girl asks Emma where she got her shoes, her glance isn’t anywhere near at the right angle to have seen them.
THE LAST TO KNOW
It’s a bit ironic that Rhys is in the dark about Gwen’s job given that everybody else in Cardiff including the trainspotters know all about it.
BUT WE DON'T LIKE TO TALK ABOUT IT
It's bad enough that Owen's pick of the highlights of women's advancement is that they can get pregnant without having sex. What's even worse, however, is the historical inaccuracy: tens of thousands of women had achieved pregnancy via artificial insemination by the early 1940s.
DROP THE PILOT
“I fly solo, Owen”? Oh, good God.