5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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We know we said we liked the experimental aspects of Love & Monsters. But we didnít say we wanted the entire bloody thing all over again.
Actually, thatís an exaggeration. The good bits of Love & Monsters are charming, funny, tragic and memorably touching. Random Shoes, on the other hand, is just deathly dull.
It all feels so retreaded. Sunset Boulevard did the dead-guy narration more than fifty years ago, fer Chrissakes. And weíd need far more appendages than we collectively possess to count up the number of times the ďAm I dead?Ē shtickís been done before. As for the piecing together of Eugeneís last few days, isnít that the staple of every single cop show since John Logie Baird was a bairn?
Itís not even as if Eugeneís life was particularly interesting. In fact, the opposite. His father thinks heís a failure, his father fails him, blah blah blah. Gosh, we havenít seen that before. Add that to the usual potshots at geeks and subtract the charm of Marc Warren that made the first-person narration in Love & Monsters fly, and youíve got an episode that seriously made our eyes glaze over.
Adding insult to head trauma is the fact that Random Shoes only barely scrapes by as a Torchwood story at all. Essentially, itís Standard Afterlife Bollocks with an alien McGuffin wedged in to make it pass as Torchwood-friendly.
And only just at that. Although Jack mumbles something about how the eye gives you the chance to look back over your life, thatís not what happens. When Eugeneís freshly dead, he canít remember a thing. So much for perspective. If it hadnít been for Gwen and her hinted-at ESP, heíd still be wandering around in a daze by an A road somewhere, wouldnít he? Unless the eye arranged all that as well (excuse our dripping sarcasm. We hope it hasn't left a stain on the carpet). In short, the eye might as well have been a jellybean for all the difference the alienness made.
And while we're talking about the plot: why is a simple hit-and-run a Torchwood case? Other than the fact that if they did they'd torpedo the plot, why do they haul the body all the way into the dungeon and into the autopsy pit and then not bother to slice it up? Who in a million years would jump to the conclusion that the eye came from an alien? Who in a trillion years would jump to the conclusion that an alien was trying to buy its eye back on eBay?
Ah yes, eBay. Clearly, online auctions are a concept the writer has read about somewhere. Once. Quite a long time ago. "An online auction has an elegant symmetry"? The idea that eBay has a mysteriously extraterrestrial quality is quaint, we admit, but utterly bonkers. Then Josh says "We went on betting..." Betting? They were betting on eBay? What's more, Gary and Josh seem to assume that they now own the eye because they won the bidding (sorry, betting) on eBay, even though they haven't paid for it. Loooong sigh.
After all that, there's a massive dollop of treacle to finish the whole thing off (in all senses of the phrase). The funeral, with Long-Lost Dad inexplicably breaking into a quavering version of Danny Boy, we initially assumed was being played for laughs: we were certainly whooping uncontrollably. But no. How the hell they expected us to get all misty-eyed about the sorrow of a man who'd spent the last fourteen years living five minutes away from his son but had never bothered to contact him is beyond us. As for Gwen, exactly what was she getting all cut up about? Yes, Eugene saved her life, but aside from the few random facts about him Gwen's learned, he's still essentially a stranger to her. It's Eugene who's been with Gwen, not the other way around.
The acting? Fine. Paul Chequer's no Marc Warren, but he does the job: it's not his fault the character's so generic. Apart from Gwen the Torchwood lot barely get a line in, but when they do they're perfectly OK, as are the rest of the supporting cast. Except for one. By far the brightest spot in Random Shoes is Steve Meo's turn as Josh: it's a minor role, but it's crammed with personality and completely hilarious. If there's any justice in the world, Mr Meo is a rising star.
One great character who shook us from our slumber and actually entertained us. Other than that, hackneyed and witless.
WE'D LIKE TO COME AND SEE IT, BUT WE THINK WE'D BLOW OUR BRAINS OUT
They actually used Starman. And we said Murray Gold's music was obvious.
THE VERY SECRET DIARY OF GWEN COOPER
Eugene not only knows about Torchwood, but knows Gwen's name and also knows about her work. The top secret organisation strikes again.
GET YOUR PEOPLE TO CALL MY PEOPLE
Torchwood are supposed to be all about finding alien stuff, yeah? But theyíre so busy looking important and prancing about in slow motion they donít listen when someone's actually trying to hand some to them.
A FOR AGONISING
See how Owen's entranced by the video? Even the characters actually in Torchwood find another show infinitely more fascinating.
Gwen and Owen are obviously having troubles. We put this in here out of duty in the unlikely chance that anyone actually cares.