...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 2637: TOYCHWUD: Adrift

Good Friday (again)

So Torchwood has jumped to a Friday, cunningly doubling up the episodes this week in order to finish before (one day before) the 5th of April.

Still, if you can't wait that long to watch some new Doctor Who…

…here's Daddy's review to tide you over!
What I found interesting was the way that "Adrift" touched on so many similar plot points to "From Out of the Rain" – the supernatural force that takes people away; the secrets from Jack's past; the following of the investigation – and yet seems to have so much more take place over the course of its forty-five minutes.

It begins as, apparently, a simple, single missing person case when Gwen's old chum from her proper police days PC Andy (and charmingly he's in the credits as "PC Andy") asks for her help and she discovers – to her surprise – that in one way the missing person is herself. Gwen needed to be reminded that she use to care, indeed that she was recruited to Torchwood because she cared, and only when Andy nags her into seeing single mum Nikki Bevan who has lost her son Jonah does she begin to reconnect. But then the story expands into something rather epic as we discover that the Rift has been snatching hundreds of innocent victims off the streets of Cardiff and casting them into time and space. And that Jack clearly knows something about it.

The episode actually does a rather good job of turning what we think we know about Captain Jack upside down for a while before it all turns out as before. John Barrowman plays a great "sinister" Jack, apparently not caring – though as we later learn it's because he cares too much and doesn't want Gwen hurting people by exposing them to what Jack knows.

And the story succeeds in becoming larger still, as Gwen discovers Jonah – returned by the Rift but scarred and aged – along with dozens of other victims that Jack has in care, but hidden away. And through Jonah we get a glimpse of a much, much larger story, the solar system burning and the heart of a black star.

I'm fascinated – and it's the sort of fascination that H P Lovecraft would use to draw me into a doom of insanity, just as it has done to Jonah – to know where and more importantly when Jonah went. It can't be "The End of the World" as that was all over in an instant, certainly no time for a ship to rescue a timelost boy from the planet's surface. I did wonder if it wasn't sideways in time to the Inferno Earth that was destroyed in fire, but that was just the Earth and not the whole Solar System. So I infer that it might be the time of the Solar Flares, which ravage the Earth some time after the year 5000 A.D. and from which the humans take shelter on the Ark in Space.

The last twist, expected but powerfully delivered, is the brilliant horror of the form taken by Jonah's madness (even if it is surely impossible to scream continuously for twenty hours). It is a both totally alien and yet a very human nightmare.

Ruth Jones, perhaps better known as writer and actor for "Gavin and Stacey", delivers a deep and moving performance as Nikki, first coming to terms with the loss, almost positive about her plans for a support group and then confronted with the truth, first rejecting then determined to take care and then faced with the reality of final horror, blankly devastated. Robert Pugh is also moving in the role of the older broken Jonah, as seen in his saner moments.

Jennie has, not unreasonably, pointed out that Gwen is wrong to extrapolate from one tragedy that all the others with lost ones would be better off not knowing. I think this overlooks the implication that Jack has trod this road before and that Nikki's reaction doesn't on its own make Gwen's decision but prompts her to at last accept what Jack has learned from (much more) experience. Nevertheless, she's right: in spite of the pain that knowing causes, it also releases Nikki finally to grieve and move on, as we see from her putting away Jonah's old room. She has been arrested, frozen and unable to get on with her life, obsessing over video tapes – now what's that all about! – and in many ways her obsession with finding Jonah has replaced her life. Now she's free to move on. That can be really hard. But also necessary.

This was another episode from the pen of Chris Chibnall. That's Chris Chibnall spelled R.U.S.S… well, it's either that or a total brain transplant since series one!

Next time… We're still haunted by the past when an old friend (look, there's really only one possible returning villain) comes calling and Team Torchwood go to pieces in "Fragments".

[A: Woo hoo! It's the return of Iblis Manger and his army of kitten-heeled Cyber-sexisms!]

1 comment:

Bob The Fish said...

Of course, there's no reason that Jack couldn't have given the sanatorium a lick of paint at some point.

There's also no reason he couldn't have just *told* Gwen about the sanatorium when she started asking about the rift spikes.