Thursday, 1 July 2010

Torchwood: From Out of the Rain

“Make her cry. I want to drink her tears.”

Objectively this should be a great episode; effective and fascinating concept, real atmosphere, great direction, Julian Bleach. But I find myself being, not underwhelmed, but… whelmed by it. There’s nothing wrong with this; it just feels a bit by the numbers.

Partly this is because we have a standalone monster-of-the-week story here, one which doesn’t develop any characters or plot threads at all. That makes it an oddity in this season. So too does the more or less exclusive focus on the baddies to drive the plot, rather than allow it to be partly driven by character stuff. It’s a perfectly fine piece of sci-fi drama, but this just doesn’t feel like Torchwood. In fact, not that I’ll push this too far as I’ve only seem the first one-and-a-half “assignments” of said programme, this feels a lot more like Sapphire and Steel than P.J. Hammond’s previous Small Worlds did, and with the much faster pace it feels like a rushed version- the character of Pearl, for example, was left frustratingly undefined. And perhaps there’s also a little too much of Steven Moffat in the use of recorded images as a threat, even by this point.

And I’m getting a bit tired of all these meaningless random nuggets from Jack’s past which show no sign of fitting into any larger pattern.

Still, for what it was, I liked it. I imagine the combination of Julian Bleach’s performance and the eeriness of the footage would have scared the wits out of any little ‘uns watching. I love the strangeness of it all; it was absolutely the right thing to not explain who the Night Travellers were or how they were able to do what they did. The concept of saving someone’s breath in a flask is inspired, as is the mostly downbeat ending, with the team only managing to save a single child. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what they failed to do in Hammond’s last script.

Not that I necessarily want to read too much subtext into this, but I like the idea of the travelling entertainers using film, which would eventually mean their downfall, as a means of survival. More eyebrow-raising, to someone who was watching reconstructed versions of missing Doctor Who episodes a year and a bit ago, is the implication that we should burn any old film cans we have in our attic!

So, great concept and great execution, but by this point monster-of-the-week stuff like this is no longer what this show is about. 3/5.

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