Jack Harkness - John Barrowman
Gwen Cooper - Eve Myles
Ianto Jones - Gareth David Lloyd
Owen Harper - Burn Gorman
LI>Toshiko Sato - Naoko Mori
Rhys Williams - Kai Owen
OTHER TORCHWOOD SERIES
Children of Earth
OTHER JOHN BARROWMAN SHOWS
Doctor Who (Christopher Eccleston)
Doctor Who (David Tennant)
OTHER DOCTOR WHO PAGES
Doctor Who (Tom Baker)
Doctor Who (Sarah Jane Smith)
OTHER DOCTOR WHO SPIN OFFS
Sarah Jane Adventures
KISS, KISS, BANG, BANG - First Transmitted 16th January 2008
Captain Jack Harkness walks back into the lives of his alien-hunting team to find that they have moved on since he went AWOL at the end of season 1. They are now more of a team, Gwen's engaged and they're doing the job. The job, in this case, turns out to be Captain John Hart, rogue time agent and ex-lover of one Captain Jack Harkness. He's tracking down some particularly nasty cluster bombs that have ended up in Cardiff, but considering that the man is as much a con artist as Jack used to be there is a high level of likelihood that he has a whole different agenda.
TORCHWOOD is back and how!
This opening episode of the second season is an absolute belter thanks almost entirely to the appearance of Captain John Hart. He's every inch the scoundrel that Jack used to be and every bit as much fun as Jack used to be in DOCTOR WHO. Having two such larger than life characters bumping heads makes for some very snappy dialogue and wonderful exchanges. The scene in which Harkness and Hart face off like gunfighters in a Sergio Leone western only to kiss passionately and then trade punches equally passionately is brilliant. It's helped by the fact that Hart is being played by James Marsters of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fame. The character is not unlike the vampire Spike that he played there (amoral, bitchy, mercenary, full of himself etc), but it was a great character there and it's a great character here. He plays it with full abandon, forcing John Barrowman to raise his game.
The rest of the cast barely get a look in. Jack and John take up the whole screen whilst they are on and the few moments that they get to shine in are over so soon that they barely register. They are basically angry that Jack left, but glad that he's back and that's about it.
The plot is back of a fag packet stuff (old style Jack's partner shows up and causes trouble) and not unpredictable, but it's really about Hart and Harkness and when they're about the time just rattles by.
After Season 1 the jury is still out on TORCHWOOD, but this season debut has gone a long way to putting that right. It does set the bar pretty high for future episodes though.Top
SLEEPER- First Transmitted 23rd January 2008
A burglary turns into a bloodbath with one of the thieves managing to warn against the wife as being the frenzied attacker. When she proves to be immune to harm, the Torchwood team take her in and subject her to a mind probe that reveals her true nature as a sleeper agent sent by an alien race to learn all about humanity before the main invasion fleet arrives. The other members of her cell activate and start a killing spree that only Torchwood is going to be able to halt.
Hmmm, the aliens look just like us, live in our society alongside us and then suddenly go out and commit acts of wanton terror such as suicide bombings. I wonder to what they are alluding? This (not so) sub-text is actually the entire raison d'etre for the episode and it is about as subtle as a brick. Hell, one of them even manages to let her own baby die before blowing up the telephone exchange (though I'm not sure how this takes out all the mobile phones as well). The fact that the alien is now so embedded in her own humanity that she wants to prevent what she is programmed for makes her so much like the cylon Sharon character out of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA that it hurts also manages to provide the spark of humanity in the show as Gwen fights for her right to exist to fight what the aliens have done to her.
The pace of the show is breakneck, clearly that being a fault that was picked up with Season 1, but there are times (the extended torture scene) when this is only acheived through rapid cutting that only really has the effect of confusing what is going on and sound effects that drown out much of the dialogue.
There are flashes of the old pre DOCTOR WHO Captain Jack, but the character that we are really warming to at the moment is Ianto who gets all the good lines.
It's also nice (though unlikely) that only a week after not being able to shoot a blowfish at three paces the entire team can put down a woman across the entire room with unerring accuracy.
The difficult second episode is over. What will the rest of the season bring?Top
TO THE LAST MAN- First Transmitted 30th January 2008
Tommy is a soldier from World War One who has been kept frozen in Torchwood's cryogenic chambers until the present day, thawing out for one day every year just to make sure that he is still alive. Tommy, you see, is key to preventing 1918 crashing into 2008 and ending everything. The only problem is that he has fallen for Toshiko and doesn't want to go back to his own time.
Time travel produced two of the best episodes of SERIES 1 (Out of Time and Captain Jack Harkness) and the trend continues here. The halting love story between Tosh and Tommy is nicely played and gives Naoko Mori a chance to take centre stage and she runs with it. There's also a couple of nice moments with Owen who suffered much the same issues in Out of Time and so empathises with her.
The plot frame for this relationship is less deftly handled. There's no explanation as to why the two time periods are colliding (other than the ever-present rift) and it seems all a bit arbitrary. Considering that it will mean the end of everything, why didn't anyone think to keep the hospital at the heart of the story under constant monitoring? Who the hell demolishes a building with the mains power still on? How does injecting Tosh with Tommy's blood allow her to appear as a mental project to him in another time?
The humour of last week's Sleeper is sadly absent, but the emotional content of the central love story makes up for that.
With the success of time travel stories perhaps they ought to stick to those.Top
MEAT - First Transmitted 6th February 2008
A road collision throws up a cargo of some very suspicious looking meat in a crashed lorry. The Torchwood team investigate and discover that it is not of earthly origin. Rhys, Gwen's intended husband, works for the haulage company that hired out the lorry and he follows Gwen to find out what is going on, getting himself caught up with a bunch of armed men who are carving up a giant alien creature alive. Forced to bring Rhys into the loop in order to gain access to the operation, the team set out to end the creature's captivity.
What a turnaround this new season of TORCHWOOD is proving to be. THe plot is sparse to the point of simple, but that allows the characters space to breathe and show a bit more. Gwen and Rhys (played by Kai Owen ) get to shout a lot about love, betrayal and danger whilst everyone else throw in some pithy one liners and angst over their own romatic situations (or lack of them). Naoko Mori is wonderfully vulnerable as she tries to make moves on Owen who quite simply doesn't even notice. The banter between the team is sharp and witty and everything is just so much more assured. And the old fun Jack is back, flirting shamelessly with the hired help in Rhys's office in an avalanche of double entendres.
It is also nicely done that the villains of the piece are the worst race in the galaxy, human beings. That they are willing to slice up a living being whilst it is still alive for mere profit is both terrible and all too believable. The creature itself is impressive whilst dormant, although there are a few too many long, lingering camera passes over what is, effectively a beached whale, but when the anaesthetic wears off and it gets all the more active it becomes a very unconvincing CGI effect.
TORCHWOOD is nicely in its stride now and we're looking forward to the rest of the series.Top
ADAM - First Transmitted 13th February 2008
Gwen shows up at work and wonders who the hell Adam is before admitting that it was a joke. When she forgets her fiance Rhys, however, it is no laughing matter. As she tries to rebuild her relationship, Jack struggles with a long-buried memory, Owen admits his love for Tosh and Ianto begins to suspect that Adam isn't the beloved team member that everyone (including him) thinks he is.
Wow now this is intense. There certainly aren't a lot of laughs to be had around this episode. The idea of someone insinuating themselves into the lives of the characters by playing with their memories isn't exactly new (see Superstar in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER or Conundrum in STAR TREK:THE NEXT GENERATION), but whislt the role reversal of Tosh and Owen's roles smacks of the personality changes in those two shows, this is all about the emotional fallout on the characters of what happens with their memories. The fumbling attempts to rebuild Gwen and Rhys's relationships in the face of her amnesia are quite touching, echoing what their initial courtship must have been like whilst Jack suffers from the return of the memory that haunts him the most - the worst moment he has ever lived.
All of this pales next to what happens to Ianto. The scene in which Adam punishes him for his learning of the truth by forcing memories of hate and murder into his mind is quite disturbing and very powerfully acted. Brian Dick is less convincing in his role as the interfering alien, but this is more a measure of how the regular cast are growing into their roles rather than any problem on his part.
The resolution to the problem is possibly a bit facile and the final face off between Jack and Adam in the cells is a bit forced, but on the whole this adds to the impressive run of quality that TORCHWOOD is putting together right now.Top
RESET - First Transmitted 13th February 2008
People are dying for very strange reasons and the medical evidence compels Jack to call in a medical expert - Martha Jones. She quickly helps Owen track down the problems to a medical research facility known as the Pharm and is the perfect person to infiltrate the facility as a test subject. Once inside, she learns that all the cures that the company is creating are coming from imprisoned aliens. She calls in Jack and the team, but a tragedy then occurs.
Jack and Martha first met in the DOCTOR WHO episode Utopia when they faced some very disturbing times. This is referred to throughout by the pair of them, but no explanation is ever given, so if you haven't seen the three episode plotline then that will be lost on you, and that could be annoying, especially as it forms an important part of the reason why the Pharm's head doctor decides to implant an alien in Martha, as he explains at length.
Freema Agyeman proves to be even more at ease with her character here than she did in DOCTOR WHO and has a snappy, easy repartee with both Jack and the rest of the cast, with the possible exception of Tosh who doesn't like how well she's getting on with Owen.
Even though it's only an hour long, the plot does wander a bit at times and is more than a bit similar in outline to last week's Meat (TORCHWOOD team find humans exploiting/torturing aliens), but it is also tense and exciting at others and it pulls off its finest trick with the closing shock. We can't wait for next week.Top
DEAD MAN WALKING - First Transmitted 20th February 2008
Jack isn't willing to give up on Owen just because he's dead and brings him back with the help of the second resurrection glove. Instead of only a couple of minutes of life, Owen finds that he has full control over his body, but it's a body that is rapidly becoming something else, something else that the Weevils worship and that needs 13 lives to finally become fully corporeal.
Following directly on from last week's events, this is an uneven, patchy episode that one moment has Jack getting a tarot reading from a seriously creepy little girl (who I am sure we haven't seen the last of) and the next is ushering the incarnation of Death into the world, all the while centring on Owen's angst that he can no longer eat, drink or have sex (he's a deep one is our Owen). There's grieving for a fallen comrade, getting drunk overly stylistic camera flourishes and then watching a comrade get ready to sacrifice himself (twice).
The creature that comes from the dark is an OK special effect, though it is neither scary nor truly convincing, being mainly a skeleton walking around in a black cloud. Is this really the thing in the dark that previous episodes have mentioned? The resurrection glove running around the laboratory is ALIEN's facehugger by way of THE ADDAMS FAMILY's Thing and is far funnier than it is probably meant to be. Martha's sudden ageing also proves to be a step too pointless.
DEAD MAN WALKING is the least effective episode of the second season to date being patchy, uneven and unconvincing. It moves fast enough not to grate mind, which still puts it above a fair few of the first season stories.Top
A DAY IN THE DEATH - First Transmitted 27th February 2008
Dr owen Harper is dead. The fact that he is walking and talking doesn't take away from that. He can't eat or drink or do any of the things that make life bearable. He can't even feel pain. He also can't heal. Put on suspension whilst the rest of the team try to figure out what to do with him, he goes on a downward spiral of desperation that takes him on a mission that only a man with no body heat could acheive and onto a rooftop with another suicide case.
Rare indeed is it to find an episode of a show that deals solely with the emotional fallout of the events ina science fiction series. Even rarer is such an episode that is any good. 'A Day In The Death' is both. It benefits from an excellent central performance from Burn Gorman as the man whose life is over, but whose existence seems likely to be eternal. Inevitably, he goes through despair, lashes out at those closest to him and struggles to find some reason to carry on. The strangeness of his situation does not undercut the reality of the emotions that he is going through. There is good support from the rest of the team, but especially Naoko Mori who, as Tosh, is destined never to have an easy relationship with anyone.
The script does wobble in a few places, though. The plot point of the recluse with a fatal case of old age is shoehorned in simply to give Owen another hope that can be snatched away (and to give Richard Briers some street cred) and does contain the main faux pas in which he is unable to give the kiss of life because he has not breath despite being able to talk all over the place, speech requiring the exhalation of air.
The addition of the suicidal woman on the roof also starts off seeming to be an artifice too far, but eventually works really well thanks to some good writing and good playing.
A Day In The Death is both unexpected and excellent, continuing the increased quality of this second season and bringing the trio of stories featuring DOCTOR WHO's Freema Agyeman to an end. It is a good way to end it.Top
SOMETHING BORROWED - First Transmitted 5th March 2008
It's Gwen's wedding day, but things get off to a rocky start when she wakes up nine months pregnant. Things don't improve when it turns out that the child belongs to a shapeshifting alien that bit her the night before and the creature's mate is mingling amongst the guests, waiting for the right moment to disembowel her to let the child free.
There's a certain sense of British theatrical farce about this story. There's a lot of running around, calling mothers ugly, mistaken identities, keeping secrets and explaining away sudden pregnancies. There are tarty bridesmaids and horny best men and bad DJs. Still, theatrical farce is funny if done well and this is done well enough. The jumping about in time at the beginning is a bit gimmicky, but once the story kicks off it moves with a pace fast enough to deflect the silliness of it all.
More importantly, the relationship between Gwen and Rhys at the heart of all this actually convinces. He really loves her and she is desperate for him to provide some sort of stability and sanity in the face of the insanity of her working life. Their determination to get married in the face of everything is genuinely touching.
It is a sign of how this second season has improved on the first that even such an average episode as this is so much better than most of what we saw last time around.Top
FROM OUT OF THE RAIN - First Transmitted 12th March 2008
The Electro cinema is opening up again and for its first film it is showing a collection of old images of the cinema and the area around it from the days of the silents. On one of those films is a series of clips of a travelling carnival, a carnival that left missing people in its wake wherever it went. Now two of the stars of that carnival have stepped out of the film and are roaming around Cardiff, stealing people's last breaths so that they can create ghosts to be their audience forever.
After a light-hearted, almost comic, romp comes a dark and moody scary piece. Anyone who is familiar with the series SAPPHIRE AND STEEL will instantly recognise this story written by the creator of that show, PJ Hammond. This is not because it lifts a plotline or anything, but rather because it shares the same concerns and the same atmosphere. It's about time, the mixing of the modern and the old, about things past and things present in collision. It's about images and shadows and things unexplained. It's about mood and uncertainty and scares that come from atmosphere and suggestion rather than overt violence. In short, it's bloody creepy.
In a way, it is a progression of the ideas that first emerged in the SAPPHIRE AND STEEL story Assignment Four in which a supernatural presence was hidden within photographs - any photographs. This is about film, but essentially follows similar thinking. There is some nice background with the birth of cinema bringing about the death of the travelling show and the beings (no explanations are given) getting trapped on film and the flashbacks to their activities are nicely creepy, as are the two refugees walking around Cardiff stealing breath. In fact, take away the Torchwood team and put in two elementals and what you have is a SAPPHIRE AND STEEL episode, which is no bad thing as that show was a true original.
There's a sense of it not quite sitting in with the style of the show. It's magnificently moody build up not fitting with the more action-packed stuff that we are used to from TORCHWOOD and the climax struggles to make a happy ending out of something very dark indeed.
Perhaps there's some way in which this would persuade Mr Hammond to bring back SAPPHIRE AND STEEL to the TV screens. That's certainly something we'd pay money to see. In the meantime, this will do nicely thank you very much.Top
ADRIFT - First Transmitted 19th March 2008
A 15 year old boy suddenly vanishes only metres away from his home. An old police friend of Gwen's asks her to help in the investigation. Reluctantly she agrees and follows a trail that leads to dozens of missing people in Cardiff, all of them related to the Rift. Against Jack's advice, then wishes, then explicit orders, Gwen follows the trails to a barren island and the most shocking revelation of all.
After the pallid disappointments of Season 1 here's a statement that we never thought we would be issuing - 'Torchwood is bloody brilliant'. Well, this episode of it at least. With not a monster nor a special effect it sight, it produces the most human, the most dramatic, the most powerful and the most moving story that the show has ever produced and also one of the most brutal (emotionally speaking). This is supreme quality adult drama (and we don't mean the Jack/Ianto half-naked moment kind of adult, we mean intelligent, thoughtful, grown up kind of adult).
The writing from Chris Chibnall is nuanced and subtle, taking a simple plot and layering onto it emotional depth , shading and warmth before hitting you with a sucker punch of extreme darkness. This is what character drama is all about. If, by the end of this episode, you haven't been moved to tears and had every bone in your spine turned to ice then you need to check that your dna is human.
Following last week's From Out Of The Rain, ADRIFT has managed the impossible task of making TORCHWOOD utterly unmissable.Top
FRAGMENTS - First Transmitted 21st March 2008
Four of the team are brought to a deserted building by alien life readings. Those readings turn out to be false lures into the blast radius of small bombs. The bombs go off and the team are left dead or injured. As they wait for death, rescue or resurrection, we see flashbacks to how they came to join Torchwood in the first place.
If a science fiction show comes with all the characters intact at the beginning then this episode is inevitable, the story of how they were all recruited. The framing device of the bombs in the building is really a set up for the series finale and there's no evidence that they are actually flashing back to those stories, but that doesn't really matter.
It's only fair that Jack's story should be first and it's the most amusing of the lot, dealing as it does with his flirting with two Victorian ladies who turn out to be the Torchwood team of the times and more than his match. At least his reasons for joining and staying make sense. Tosh is up next and hers is a story that doesn't have a lot of originality in it. Coerced into espionage by the kidnappers of her mother, she is locked away with no hope of parole until Captain Jack comes knocking. The most interesting thing about this is that UNIT (for whom both the Doctor and Martha have worked) is portrayed as being an evil organisation, something a little off the accepted canon.
Next up is Ianto who recruited himself by helping Jack capture the team's pet pterodactyl and landing on top of him. Finally there's Owen, the most convincing of the stories is its explanation of not only how he came to join the team, but also his attitudes towards women and relationships. He also gets the best post-explosion scene, held beneath a window that it just itching to drop a pane to sever his head. The question is how would that affect him as he's already dead and would he have to go around everywhere carrying his own head?
Fragments is an entertaining and solid entry into the second season of the show, a step down ont he last two episodes, but way up on the majority of Season 1, the last scene setting up the season finale that we could not have believed was going to be this unmissable when the show came back to our screens in January.Top
EXIT WOUNDS - First Transmitted 4th April 2008
BE WARNED - it is impossible to review this episode without spoilers and so if you don't want to know what shocks are in this episode then all you need to know is it's bloody good. Don't read any further.
Following the bombs that he planted (Fragments), Captain John Hart sets in motion a masterplan that sees parts of Cardiff blown up, Weevils flooded onto the streets, a nuclear power station in meltdown, Jack transported through time for a terrible fate and two members of the team facing death. He, however, is the puppet and not the one pulling the strings.
It shows just what a change there has been that the thought of anyone on team dying in the finale wouldn't have bothered us at all, but the very real prospect of losing several of them here does affect us. Where before we actively wanted Owen to die, this time around we don't want anyone from the team to go and the fact that they do, and not necessarily who you think, is devastating.
It's all wrapped up in a storyline that brings together the plot threads that have been floating around in this season involving Captain John, Jack's brother, owen and Tosh's relationship. The motivations of the villains feel weak and forced, but what they actually do certainly doesn't. As Cardiff goes up in flames you hope that there's not going to be a DOCTOR WHO-style reset resolution and there isn't. As the nuclear reactor goes critical you hope that they're not going to find some miracle solution - they don't. As characters face certain death you hope that they're going to be rescued in the nick of time - they're not. And as Jack and his brother meet for the first time in years you hope that they're not just going to kiss and make up - and they certainly don't.
There are echoes of other shows and old storylines in the plot and the revenge of burying Jack alive for centuries, making his eternal life a curse, is borrowed wholesale from ANGEL (only there it was burial at sea), but is utterly chilling if you haven't seen that. None of that matters as disaster builds on disaster, the team are blocked at every turn by the villains and shock follows shock.
TORCHWOOD finally pays off on the promises that it made when it started production. Season 3 is now a must.
But we can't go without screaming at the production crew (as one of the team did at the television) 'You can't do that to her!'
Ah, but they did.Top
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