5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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Far and away the best Torchwood episode so far this season, mostly because it's not actually a Torchwood episode at all.
Nope, what makes Reset worth seeing is that it's the Martha Jones Show. And after an entire season of trailing along after a Doctor who hardly noticed she was there, at last Martha comes into her own.
She's mysteriously managed to zoom through the rest of her medical qualifications, she's signed up with UNIT, she's confident and competent, and she's most definitely not mooning after the Doctor. She might be younger than everyone else on the Torchwood team, but she's the most grown-up one there. Even more than when she was in the TARDIS, it's a pleasure to spend time with her. Not only do we want to keep Martha for ever and ever, we're jonesing (ahahahahaha) for the episode in which she takes over, fires the entire hapless bunch of losers and hires a team we can actually invest in.
As a result of the Martha factor, while the usual good start/slow decline is there, it's good for a lot longer. Why, for a good two-thirds of the episode it actually feels almost like a decent story.
As long, that is, that you keep your eyes firmly shut to the crap stuff. Why would the mayflies bother fixing the host? It's not as if the incubation period's years and years. And what's with the Alien ripoff? Either it's a homage, or they don't actually know it's been done before, or they're hoping we don't remember it's been done before. We're hoping it's the first one, because the other two don't bear thinking about.
Then there's the whole Evil Organisation thing. Nice as it is to see fellow New Zealander Alan Dale trotting out his well-honed Slimy Bastard, and scared as we are for Martha creeping around in the scary building, it's a combination of cliché, silliness and some very woolly thinking. Lucky, isn't it, that this supersecure organisation not only has no video surveillance but also has no offsite or offline backups and an easy-to-crack access code (six digits is way too short for security, not to mention that the screen helpfully makes it clear it's exactly six digits, thus cutting down on the potential number of combinations tremendously).
And you're going to flood the entire place with inert gases, are you, Jack? Much as we'd like to think that he means he's going to pump in helium to give the aliens squeaky voices for a giggle, what we suspect he really means is that the inert gases will force out the oxygen. Have you seen the size of the place? It'd take tanker after tanker of gas, and what for? If he insists on mercy killing (and we're not sure why: why doesn't he do whatever Torchwood normally does with aliens?) there are much easier ways.
And about that killing thing: Jack gets to make a dramatic speech about how they're perpetrating slavery, exploitation and war crimes, just after we see him using his cruelly-imprisoned Weevil as his own personal torture instrument. Surely some mistake? Also, they're insects. Big insects, but insects. Does Jack think it's a war crime to swat a fly? And if not, what does he see as the difference? Shouldn't somebody at least mention it?
Not to mention the whole question of what they're doing there: is it really a wise idea to shut down without a second thought a project which could cure all disease? After all, as soon as they're able to synthesise the magic stuff the mayflies are off the hook, and with an enormous payoff for humankind. For all Jack knows, that stage is right around the corner, but since they've destroyed the records, they'll never know, therefore completely wasting the lives of the aliens and humans that have been sacrificed. If you're going to set up such complex ethical scenarios, it's really not good enough to deal with them in such a kneejerk fashion.
And the ending, pleasant as it is to see Owen with blood dribbling from his mouth in a decidedly final manner, is also a bit silly. Why would Professor Alien Torturer randomly shoot just one of them, then stand there like a lemon while Jack leisurely draws a gun and puts a bullet between his eyes? And poor old Tosh: just when she's finally managed to land a date, yet another potential boyf is cruelly snatched away. Honestly, they're taking the piss.
It's not very original, nor does the glossy surface stand up to more than the most cursory inspection. Nevertheless, thanks to Martha, so far it's the most successful Torchwood of the season.
CHAIN OF COMMAND
"Yeah. And I put her in there." 'Scuse us, Jack, but doesn't Martha outrank you?
Ah, the reassuring presence of test tubes.