Tuesday, 15 June 2010
“What’s his… dabbling like?”
“Innovative. Bordering on the avant-garde.”
The first scene is from the point of view of a mystery person (but we know it’s Martha) entering the Torchwood hub, and we briefly get to see the newspaper clipping (New Mayor, New Cardiff”) from Boom Town on the door, a nice touch. Then we get a few minutes to catch up with our old friend. Dr. Jones has passed her exams and has been working for UNIT ever since she was approached on the recommendation of an “impeccable source”. Hmmm. No doubt we can expect the Doctor to respond to her career choice with enthusiasm when next they meet, then.
The potential for friction is not ignored- Martha is after all quite close to Jack after the Year That Never Was, and knows things about him the rest of the team don’t, a tradition al source of conflict- but her natural likeability and obvious abilities quickly bring her to be accepted by the team. It’s interesting here that UNIT and Torchwood seem to rub along well enough, in spite of the obvious scope for conflict in their respective histories. I don’t imagine the Brig who clashed with Chinn in The Claws of Axos would have particularly clicked with Yvonne Hartman, but there you go. Things change.
The actual plot for this story, by Whoniverse newcomer and TV veteran J.C. Wilsher, is as solid as they come, even giving the viewer enough clues to have a fair go at guessing what’s happening. In fact, this part of the episode is so impressive that we even get to see Martha and Owen teaming up for a quick medical montage to the sounds of Gorillaz’ Feel Good Inc. There’s no doubt about it- Torchwood gets some really rather cool bands for its soundtrack.
The premise, when revealed, is rather a good one; medical experiments to find a cure for all known aliments, with the unfortunate side-effect of infecting people with an alien parasitic insect, leading ultimately to an Alien-style demise. That’s our first major Alien homage for a while, and is a strong concept to boot. The main baddie even gets to protest that his Mengele-like experiments are worth it in order to work real medical wonders. Plus, we get a brief confrontation scene with Jack and Owen before the real stuff begins. This is great, almost like a James Bond film, and it gets even better when Martha gets to go undercover with those camera contact lenses. If that’s not a Bond gadget I don’t know what is, and Ianto makes a rather good Q.
This is an unusually action-oriented episode and has a strong focus on Martha to boot, so we don’t get as much character arc stuff here. There’s one major exception, though, as Owen easily accepts Tosh’s offer of a date. Could this mean the beginning of a long and happy relationship?
There’s another deft touch towards the end, as the script intends us to believe that the alarm is going off because of Martha when it is in fact an escaped mayfly queen which has triggered it. But Martha, alas, is captured, and infected with the parasite. Luckily, Owen manages to save her in a way which has been nicely set up throughout the episode (another sign of good scripting). But the episode ends with a shock as Owen is suddenly shot dead.
Brilliant, an extremely well written and produced piece of work, easily deserving a 5/5. This goes to show that an episode fulfilling a fairly run-of-the-mill role in the season can nevertheless manage to be superb by just doing everything really well.