Friday, 18 June 2010

Torchwood: Dead Man Walking

“I’ve been looking for the phrase ‘I shall walk the Earth and my hunger shall know no bounds’ but I keep getting redirected to Weight Watchers.”

The feeling of shock continues as we open with Martha is about to start performing an obituary on Owen- who was, apparently, 27 years old and “Torchwood officer 565.” But Jack dramatically intervenes before she makes the first cut. In a dramatic and eventful pre-titles sequence, Jack goes to visit a mysterious little girl, a soothsayer (to be heard from again?), and learns about the location of the second of that pair of gloves.

It’s quite an opening, and quite an episode. Yet again, Matt Jones (I had to correct that- I originally wrote it as Matt Smith!), who gave us the Devil in The Impossible Planet, presents us with a supernatural theme. And together with the opening that makes this feel very much like a later episode of Angel- always a good thing in my book.

There are obvious echoes of They Keep Killing Suzie as Owen is brought back to life- and stays alive. But then again, he isn’t; he can’t eat, drink, sleep or, er, supply blood to a certain part of his anatomy. And it seems that date between Tosh and Owen is not to be; when it looks as though Owen is only back for a couple of minutes Tosh tells him that she loves him, only for him to rather too enthusiastically help her to backtrack later. It seems their moment has forever passed.

Martha, although obviously necessary as to the plot, takes a back seat here character-wise. This is appropriate; we need to see the reactions of the whole team here, and this we do. We see Gwen holding things together most of the time but when she’s on the phone to Rhys her true feelings show- an illustration that Rhys’ initiation into the ways of Torchwood has been good both for Gwen and their relationship. Tosh, of course, hasn’t got a Rhys and behind the professionalism she’s devastated. Jack, meanwhile, is quite aware of the extent both Owen’s death and the consequences of his resurrection are his own fault, as we see in the fantastic cell scene as well as his reaction to Owen’s comments at the end of the episode.

But, of course, this is all about Owen’s situation, and some old themes arising from this: there being “nothing” after death even though this is a “nothing” that stuff can happen in; the “darkness”; and something moving in it. And it seems that this something is “Death”, although true to The Impossible Planet form the idea is never really defined in the usual terms of the show. Like Small Worlds last season, this is fantasy rather than science fiction. Still, unlike The Impossible Planet with its musings on exploration and Victorian imperialistic poetry, there’s no discernible subtext to the iconic supernatural figure here; it’s all about the characters.

We get to compare Owen’s life to his old one as he cruises the bars as he has done many times before, drinks beer as he has many times before, and pulls as he has many times before. Except that he is now unable to perform on both counts. A pity, especially regarding the beer; it looks as though it could be a pint of something decent rather than the usual bottled lager.

Owen is really rather brave and heroic here, offering to be injected with formaldehyde and, of course, saving the day at the end, in a way which cleverly makes sense of those cryptic clues of Gwen’s. And he kisses Tosh, although I’m sure he’ll later insist it meant nothing. He does that.

Good stuff. Not even some rather poor age make-up from Martha can prevent this from earning a high 5/5.

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