...a blog by Richard Flowers

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Day 2184: TORCHWOOD: Combat


It’s Christmas Eve so Daddy is waiting up for Father Christmas to deliver me PRESENTS. I’ve gone to bed early, but I’ve asked him to stay up and make sure that Santa gets the sherry and sticky bun that I have left out for him. I hope that he knows I have been a GOOD elephant!

I wonder what Daddy will do while waiting up for Father Christmas?

[wibble wobble wibble wobble… later that same evening…]

The first rule of Weevil Club is you do not talk about Weevil Club.

Well, like the film “Fight Club” from which this is an obvious derivative, “Combat” is a superior, thoughtful piece, much more than the macho one line summary might suggest.

There is – unlike for example the Babylon 5 / WWF wrestling cross over punch up “TKO” – remarkably little of the actual punching. Instead the story follows the conflict – combat – between characters as the fall out from the Gwen/Owen affair tears the pair of them to pieces: Owen falls into a macho nihilistic mood making him perfect for infiltrating the gang of Weevil-fighting thrill seekers, but at the same time entirely vulnerable to their ideology infiltrating him.

Gwen compounds her betrayal of Rhys by using the amnesia drug to try and salve her own conscience and get the forgiveness from Rhys that she craves without having to face any of the consequences of her telling him about the affair. Get a priest, love, doing that to Rhys is abuse and you ought to know it. At the end of the episode we don’t even know if Rhys is alright or has slipped into a coma or drowned in his own vomit – Gwen seems to have let him fall drunkenly asleep and left him on the sofa while she goes down the Hub for a (Jubilee) pizza and a bit of a blub.

Another writer to make a nice pick up of Retcon from the pilot episode, by the way. Writing was something we were looking forward to anyway, because the man responsible is Noel Clarke, possibly better known to us as Doctor Who’s Mickey Smith, but also the writer of dark teen-life movie Kidulthood. Noel has been a huge supporter of the new series of Doctor Who, making a great many appearances for fans and really pushing the series of which he is obviously a huge fan himself, as well as immensely proud. With Rose leaving the series, we were sad to see the end of Mickey (and of the lovely Camile Coduri as Jackie too) but we were hopeful that there could be some life after death for Mickey in the form of following Helen Raynor and Chris Chibnal from Torchwood onto a writing gig for Doctor Who. On the strength of this, Noel is certainly deserving, handling the ongoing character arcs well and writing a well paced action episode that takes the time to make you think. When Tosh calls Jack short and says that they are using the Weevil in a way they would never use a human it is a nice reminder to the audience too. And when the obvious villain Mark suggests that the Weevils aren’t aliens but humans from the future it is a clever surprise to have our assumption that they are just aliens challenged. Our audience insight knowing the time rift (that has just last week brought us humans from the past) makes us find this more than plausible. And the very dark last scene where Owen demonstrates his alpha-male status over the captured Weevils leaves us thinking that Mark’s notion is right. Rather better done than the Links in “Blake’s Seven” – which were similar – the Weevils as bestial Morlocks is really rather satisfying.

Mark’s cryptic remark about “in the darkness something coming” though, feels a bit more shoehorned in as a tip to the series fast approaching climax. How would he know?

Mark’s fate, death by Weevil, is another moment of callousness from Captain Jack. Or is it? His alternative is to kill the Weevil, and Tosh has just recently reminded him that the Weevils are living creatures too. Owen and Jack seem lined up to clash too, now that neither is in any way sure of what the other believes any more, and Jack seems less certain of himself just as Owen seems more. Owen’s question: “always know the right thing to do, do we?” is interesting, because anyone who answers “yes” is actually a dangerous fanatic. The real question is: “who is Captain Jack Harkness?” Funnily enough, tune in next week…

On the downside, once again Torchwood seem a bit rubbish. The backstory website is all a bit more “Hustle” than “Spooks”, so no wonder Mark sees through it. And both Alex and I scoffed at the blinky-blinky blue tracker. Yes, of course the flashing light is TV shorthand so the viewer knows what it is, but really did no one at Torchwood think of something a bit more sub-dermal? Alex recommended two trackers, one hard to find the other harder so that the Weevil takers might find one and discard it, but miss the other. Handy then that even having taken the trouble to erase the phone history of dead-guy Dan’s mobile they forget to remove him from their text list of where to find the next fight. Still, at least Gwen was professional enough to tell Jack where the fight was rather than going in alone to save Owen.

The Weevils, oddly, seem misplaced, less part of Torchwood’s ongoing story, more of a Maguffin. We would have expected revelations about the Weevils to be a part of a bigger picture – something was said to be driving them up from the sewers – but here they were just the punchbags in a different story.

This doesn’t seem so much life after death as recent weeks: more life after the affair. Gwen and Owen are both seeking their own peace – she through absolution, he through violence and death.

“Combat” took us up to the brink, as far as the characters of Gwen and Owen were concerned. We teeter on the edge of seeing whether there will be the long fall into consequences.

And a Very Merry 24th and LAst Day of Advent to All of You at Home!!!

No comments: