Torchwood season 2 episode 5 review

Short of storylines? Don't worry, you can always use old ones from Buffy. Torchwood forgets where it left its keys and loses the plot in the process...

It’s quite fitting that this week’s episode of Torchwood was based on amnesia, as just twenty minutes after watching it I can barely remember it. It was a rather delicate retread of ‘Superstar’, the Buffy episode where Jonathan inserted himself into everyone’s heads as a vampire-fighting studmuffin. I saw that seven years ago and remember it. This is probably a lesson for Torchwood to take better notes while rummaging through old shows scripts, as all the nice touches were completely missing from ‘Adam’.

The head-messin’ began before the programme with a BBC Two trailer interspersed with shots of what appeared to be a giant mosquito. I presume this may be something to do with next week’s episode (which anyone who watched it on BBC Three may therefore already know), and I personally would trail upcoming episodes with Martha Jones in it, so no blame there. But it is pretty darned confusing when it is the first of so many things that were being messed with. Then the opening credits had Adam in. Then Jack kept on having visions of his family. Then the voice in my head told me to set fire to the neighbours. Lesson two for Torchwood: tone down the head-messingness.

Talking of the opening credits, there was a notional effort to put Adam into them in a ‘hasn’t he always been here?’ way. But they didn’t even bother to refilm the moody walking on top of Cardiff’s finest multi-storey car parks. That sort of idea – again, particularly when so pointedly lifted from Buffy – isn’t going to work if you aren’t going to fully commit to it (lesson three).

Instead we had Adam, who was into brainwashing people into doing his bidding. It involved a lot of neck grabbing, intent staring and use of the word ‘remember’ as a question, in a very ‘look into my eyes, not around my eyes’ fashion.

Ad – content continues below

The loss of memory meant everyone was behaving a bit wrong. Ianto cracked a smile, before remembering he was a serial killer. Or was he…? (No.) Owen lost his rapey air and became a liver-lipped sap. Tosh became a dynamic sexpot through a combination of empassioned whispering and a delicate push-up jobby. This is a nice idea, but I didn’t entirely notice it happening for the first fifteen minutes. They aren’t strong enough characters to be trying to subvert them like this, particularly if you rely on Owen and Tosh faffing about as a sign of acting out of character, given that they do that once a week without fail (lesson four: cut the faff).

I missed the dialogue in the middle section thanks to a phone call (from sight alone it appeared to be a lot of un-amnesia-ing while sat in front of some iTunes visualisations; do correct me if I’m wrong) before heading back to Mini Jack’s upbringing. Jack apparently used to be Shia LaBeouf – after Even Stevens, before Transformers, somewhere in his neckerchief phase – who grew up on the beaches of Barry Island (again, do correct me if I’m wrong). We saw his family die, because it is written in the Big Book of Sci-Fi Clichés that the hero must be an orphan, or preferably have lost their family to an alien invasion. And never one to deviate from The Book, it must therefore come to be in Torchwood.

Still, we can forget all about that by taking a short-term amnesia pill – you’ll find them in a standard issue medical kit, although it is advised not to keep them in the same box as the Tic-Tacs – so everything’s back to normal. I wouldn’t want to argue with the writers. Let’s just forget about this week altogether.

Read last week’s episode review here.