Monday, 15 March 2010

Torchwood: Random Shoes

“Selling life and… still waiting.”

Again, we get a nicely effective pre-credits sequence with a twist; Eugene is dead, but he’s narrating. And he does so throughout the episode, assisted by loads of flashbacks. It’s a nice idea, and a rather clever plot, but in the end it doesn’t quite come off.

I don’t know who Jacquetta May is, so I’ve just googled her. Apparently she’s an actress / writer who’s also written episodes of New Tricks and Where The Heart Is. None of that tells me much, really. There are impressive things here, though; the intricacy of the plot is really quite impressive, and there are lots of nice character bits. I particularly like the enthusiastic voiceover from Eugene about the possibility of alien life as we hear his parents arguing in the background, and the idea of having our sympathetic narrator also being someone who is basically stalking Gwen in a rather creepy way. Probably the most impressive thing about the episode is the way that strong emotions are presented in an understated way and are all the more powerful for it.

All the same, though, this didn’t feel right for me. Partially it’s Eugene’s voiceover; it just doesn’t feel like something anyone would spontaneously say aloud, and feels awkwardly close to being self-consciously poetic, or rather of being “literary” prose. In fact, it’s probably just me but a lot of Eugene’s dialogue reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s prose style, which is not quite the ideal effect. This sort of thing might work on the page, but not as lines to be delivered by an actor. And then there’s the way that the overall subtext of the episode (don’t waste your life waiting for things to happen; they’re happening now so carpe diem) is constantly being alluded to in ways which are in themselves quite clever, but the message itself is too didactic to really work as a subtext, and isn’t actually all that profound anyway.

Oh, and why doesn’t Eugene have a Welsh accent? Everybody else in his family and social circle seems to have one. Also, I should probably start mentioning the actual Torchwood gang. It’s actually quite nice to have Eugene as a framing device so we can see the characters from another POV, and I don’t think the regulars suffer in terms of screen time because of Eugene. Still, the episode is far too Gwen-heavy.

Still, it’s a solid episode, with very strong plotting and characterisation in places, let down only by a sometimes clumsily handled subtext and some overly artificial-sounding dialogue. A solid 3/5.

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