...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day 2607: TOYCHWUD (Three Ls and an H) Double Bill: Reset


Now, in order to do some CATCHING UP with my diary, I have made Daddy Richard make like the good BBC3 folk and bring you an EXTRA episode of Torchwood, straight after the last one!

The thing to say about Martha in Torchwood is how odd it seemed to be for a while until I realised that Freema Agyeman, marvellous in season three of Doctor Who, was still doing "Doctor Who acting". That isn't bad acting, it's just a bit larger than life, a bit left of reality, and a bit different to how they're playing it in Torchwood.

Having said that, she added a marvellous new spur to the proceedings, bouncing off all of the regulars and raising their game in various ways. Jack and Martha already share a bond, and John Barrowman and Freema are clearly mates too, which was great for a scene of them sharing their past, secret from the others. Lovely to see Martha wheedling Ianto out of his shell; his wariness towards her – she knows something of Jack that she doesn't – won over by her girly, conspiratorial sharing of her insight into his and Jack's "secret". And there was a nice "girls together"-ness to her fast friendship with Gwen. Gwen clearly hasn't had a "chum" in the Torchwood crew – Tosh is too distant, Owen too intimate, Jack too too much. Martha was clearly just the person Gwen needed.

Still, there has to be a plot, and this one involved a series of mystery assassinations with a medical twist. They need an undercover operative to go into research centre "the Pharm" to find out what's going on. (Minor in-joke alert, the cover name of "Samantha Jones" – even getting to be called "Sam" – is oh so coincidentally the name of the Eighth Doctor's long-running and infinitely irritating do-gooder companion in the BBC novels, so I'm sure someone is happy that it is now canon that the Doctor had a companion known as Sam Jones.) But the insider needs medical training and Owen has already shown his face. Why how handy that Doctor Jones should arrive… well, okay actually they had the fig-leaf of UNIT having sent Martha to join forces with Jack's team, but we're still being a little clunkingly obvious in the "this is the Martha episode" stakes.

And she is Doctor Jones now, which brings up the interesting question of passage of time.

The crucial questions to ask are when exactly did Jack leave the Hub when he ran off at the end of "End of Days", and when did he come back again at the start of "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang". Because the series seem to treat it as though the gap is at least months, and probably the entire span of time between the end of season one and the start of season two, which is more than a year.

But this is actually quite odd, because although Jack spent a year as the Master's prisoner aboard the Valiant, the time reversal at the end of Last of the Time Lords returned them to the minute after President Winters was killed by the Toclafane, i.e. 8.01 a.m. on the day after Harry Saxon won the General Election. Or the Friday after Martha first got into the TARDIS.

So if we were to assume that the Doctor didn't fold Martha's timeline back on itself by landing her in Cardiff before she left London with him (and that is the get-out clause, of course) then Jack can't have been away from the Hub for more than a week either.

It's still odd, even if you do allow the first scene of "Utopia" to take place paradoxically months before "Smith and Jones". Enough time has passed for Martha to pass her doctor's exams, and to be recruited by UNIT. So, you'd think that the seven-and-a-half to eight months from June (2008, obviously) to February (2009, one supposes) would be fine. But surely Jack went straight back to the Hub at the end of "Last of the Time Lords" (he was stood right outside the Millennium Stadium). So either the last six weeks of episodes cover a longer time span than is obvious, or Jack snuck off somewhere for a few months until he could dramatically surprise his team at an appropriate fishy climax.

Mind you, it's also odd that when they were pressing him with all the "where were you?" questions he never mentioned "hey, did you notice how the Prime Minister turned evil and then disappeared?" In fact it's quite odd that no one has mentioned that the Prime Minister did turn evil and assassinate the American President live on telly!

(And that's without even going into the whole Jack being declared public enemy number two-and-a-half, which some people might think worth mentioning and which internet-access-all-areas Toshiko would have spotted even if she was halfway up a Himalaya. Lucky they didn't shoot the "terrorist" Martha Jones on sight!)

Anyway, back to this week's drama.

A little lost in the mix was Owen's admiration for Professor Aaron Copley. There wasn't room for it in all the Martha malarkey, but there was a sigh of something interesting in that this man had clearly inspired Owen as a young doctor and here he was turned into the bad guy. As a hint it wasn't enough to make Copley more than a two-dimensional bad guy, a typical mad scientist. It's a shame, because he ought to have been more than that, and they seem to have lost his mobility along the way. Still, it was a crowded script.

And it is another clich̩ for the sexual tension between characters to be resolved in the episode where one of them is killed off. So obviously we were all saying "he's doomed" as soon as Owen (kinder gentler version) agreed to go on a "one date and we'll just see and I'm not stopping flirting Рwhich is so not the term he'd have used in season one" with Tosh. He's so dead and her heart is so broken, it could have been written in glowing letters in English and Welsh alongside "Within these walls stones sing".

And by an incredible coincidence they've got another medic to hand! Maybe Martha will be staying on… oh, go on.

Oh and the CGI Mayfly wasn't quite as beautiful as the creature everyone on the cast seemed to be reacting to. It was nicely done but… eeek! Have you guys not seen Wirrrn?

Next time… because in Torchwood bringing the dead back to life is always such a good idea… Owen Harper, going for the longest death scene in television history, is the "Dead Man Walking".

But before then, I shall be interviewing our own "Ed Man Walking"! More on that story later…


Knife and Spoon said...

The time thing is strange. I should be rewatching the last three episodes of season 3 quite soon - is there a possibility for some weeks of r and r to be slotted in before Jack's farewell?

I don't know if Torchwood's timeline has been pinned down anywhere. It looks a lot sunnier during Jack's sprint toward the Tardis than during the LotTL episodes - perhaps that whole first series takes place months earlier. Otherwise Abaddon's rise and the Master's big plan both happen with the same fortnight or so, along with Lazarus and the Judoon incursion, not to mention the Himalayas red herring.

I can't help thinking this is would produce an amusingly busy calendar of invasions in Doctorwholand...

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