Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Torchwood: To The Last Man

“It’s still warm, at least. Not been gone long.”

The pre-titles sequence introduces us to Tommy and sets up the time paradox forming the spine of the episode, and for the first time we’re introduced to an earlier generation of Torchwood. It’s 1918, and Gerald and Harriet are investigating “ghosts” at a hospital. Future visions of Tommy and Tosh lead them to take Tommy and cryogenically freeze him, waking him for just one day a year. Oh, and they’ve left sealed orders for a future Torchwood in the event of these events coming to pass. The Torchwood of our present are effectively playthings of their own past and future.

It’s a brilliant concept for a story from Helen Raynor, and to that we add some top-notch characterisation and a real emotional kick. This is Tosh’s episode; she clearly likes Tommy and their scenes together are sweet but… isn’t there something a bit creepy about having a boyfriend in a box to be used once a year? This isn’t a relationship, really, for her; there’s no need for commitment. For him, on the other hand, Tosh is around all the time, albeit getting a year older every day, and it’s a proper relationship, or can feel like one for a bit. This can’t last, and we know damn well that Tosh is about to be put through the emotional wringer.

There are lots of little things here which resonate; Ianto notes that Harriet died young, aged 26, the following year, “just like them all”. If I didn’t know better I’d have thought something was being foreshadowed here. And then there’s the other side of Owen we see- he’s worried about Tosh. He actually has a caring side. Blimey. He’s never been this likeable before. It’s almost as if something really bad was about to happen to him.

Inevitably, the time loop starts to work itself through. Tommy has to close the rift, effectively going over the top, and then, having saved the world, he gets shot for cowardice. Lovely chaps, those British WW1 generals.

The last few minutes are heartbreaking and gripping television, and Tosh is left devastated. Naoko Mori is excellent.

This isn’t quite enough for a 5/5; the dialogue doesn’t quite sparkle as much as I’ve recently become accustomed to. To be honest I’m having second thoughts about whether it might be worth a 5/5 after all, but I’ve already voted in the poll so 4/5 it is. Still, more Torchwood excellence.

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