19 June 2017: The Eaters of Light review added.
11 June 2017: Empress Of Mars review added.
6 June 2017: Extremis/Pyramid At The End Of The World/Lie Of The Land review added.
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THEY KEEP KILLING SUZIE
Nnnnnnrrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhh. So close!
With gradually dawning wonder, we watched a Torchwood episode unfold and realised that for once we weren’t replaying a scene from A Clockwork Orange. No, not that one. The one where they strap Alex down and force him to watch the screen while he screams and writhes in agony.
It wasn’t painful. We weren’t begging for death. We were, in fact, quite enjoying it. So what’s the difference?
Well, for a start, it doesn’t hurt that they take the piss out of themselves. After all those mirthful look-at-us slomo trots across crime scenes, the scene where Jack admits to an entire nickful of coppers that they’re locked in their base and they can’t find the keys is less a breath of fresh air than a Force 10 gale.
More importantly, this was real in all the key ways. Real conversations. Real emotions. We’ve been banging on forever about the need for Torchwood scripts to damp themselves down, and at last here’s a script that absolutely gets it. Take this conversation between Suzie and Gwen about Jack:
“Do you ever wonder…”
"Who is he?”
“All the time.”
See? Simple, understated and so much more effective than the baroque lace-encrusted speech about Jack’s weirdness that most of the other scripts would have called for. Dear God, what a relief.
Emotionally, it all makes sense. Jack’s perturbation about not being able to use the glove. Owen and Tosh’s unease around Suzie. Gwen’s compassion for Suzie despite her knowledge of what she’d done. Suzie’s desperate grab for life. For once they seem like real people instead of characters pushed around at random. And that’s even more the case given that with the (ARGH) retcon they’re for once facing the consequences of their own actions.
And the plot setup’s molto intriguing. Using Max as a Trojan horse is a brilliant plot twist, as is the glove draining Gwen’s life force. Suzie offing her father’s not bad either.
And the guest stars also do a fantastic job. Yasmin Bannerman, last seen as a tree in The End Of The World, manages to make her conversations about Torchwood actually sound natural. As for Indira Varma, once decoupled from dramatic speeches about why she’s a serial killer for fun and profit she turns out to have more personality in her left femur than the rest of the Torchwood bunch squashed together. We had every finger crossed in the wild hope that they were going to kill off Gwen and keep a Suzie/Gwen hybrid, but no dice.
Great characters, great dialogue, nice plot twists. Exactly how it should be.
Um, about that plot thing.
Like we said, it starts well. Then it slips a bit. Then a bit more. And finally it slithers downhill, gets stuck in quicksand and sinks without a trace.
There’s way too much idiocy in here for us to describe all of it. But the biggest, most spectacularly moronic idea of all: that Suzie has an elaborate backup plan to come back to life in case she’s ever dead. (Please don’t tell us she deliberately gets herself killed just to get away from Torchwood, because that’s even worse. Besides, if that’s the case, why does she try to kill Jack?) What’s more, she only seems to want to come back because of the thing in the dark. But she only found that out after.... Since this giant glaring tortuous impossibility’s right in the heart of They Keep Killing Suzie, it’s doomed from the get-go.
But there’s so, so much more. How does she know someone will be able to use the glove? Yes, the “life knife” (did they say cool?) brings Suzie back, but how’s she managing to carry out her dastardly plan with half her brain gone AWOL? How does Max manage to time the saying of the poetry so exactly that Suzie’s outside but nobody else is? If they have a cellphone signal, why don’t they look the bloody poems up on the internet instead of waiting while PC Plod pops out to Waterstone’s? And if they insist on dragging the police into it, why don’t they get them to stop Gwen’s car instead of forcing them into poetry readings? And why does draining Gwen’s life involve duplicating Suzie’s injuries?
It’s really bad. Really, really bad. The good things were so good that we were more than willing to cut them tons of slack, but this much charity is too much even for Mother Teresa. It was all going so well! We could cry.
HOW MANY MILLION FINGERS AM I HOLDING UP?
“If it’s someone we pissed off, that narrows it down to…” Just how big is the viewing audience, anyway?
He’s got retcon in his blood? Yeah, we know a few fans like that too.
So Suzie was sleeping with Owen, eh? Imagine our interest.
The effect on Max of saying “Torchwood” we can more than empathise with.
Max is the patsy in all of this, but it doesn’t come as any surprise to see the way Jack and Owen treat him with zero compassion. Which ones are the good guys again?
BIG RED BUTTON
That’s the second time they’re stuck in their own base. If Suzie can build in an override, why the hell doesn’t Jack?
BOOK HER, DANNO
The ISBN? And how lucky is it that the police bought the same edition?
DEBATING: E. MUST TRY HARDER
Jack’s argument that it’s fair play for Suzie to let Gwen live when Suzie has to die for it is hardly likely to make a stunning impression, is it?
SAX AND VIOLINS
We haven’t mentioned Murray Gold’s music for Torchwood yet, because we think you can take it for granted by now that it will be a complete pile o’shite. But here he outdoes himself: it’s about as subtle as a piledriver.
Didn’t Jack say Gwen was going to be fired for this? And instead they’re exchanging gooey looks to a horrifically intrusive music cue. No wonder they say Torchwood is the job you can’t leave.
Just when we’d got used to the characters being believable, the stopwatch conversation comes along. In the last couple of eps, they went out of their way to show us that Ianto was a nasty grieving mess: it was all he could think about. But suddenly that’s all over and he’s eager to proposition Jack with tortured innuendo. Bizarre.
Gloves come in pairs? Yeah, on humans!