Here’s a question. What precisely was the point of bringing Martha in to Torchwood for just three episodes? She spent one week being busy in a medical testing facility, and then spent two weeks standing around the institute like anther spare part – as if the programme needed another one.
Instead, we got more ‘incisive’ analysis of Owen coping with death. The past two weeks have been the best of times and the worst of times. On the one hand, the programme has been incredibly confident in pushing forward with examining its topic, putting imagination into different shots (Owen jumping in a lake and discovering he is unable to drown), putting music to good use and allowing the actors some scope to act beyond the typically flimsy plotting.
But what exactly was it hoping to achieve? It looked as if it was trying to drift towards some deep conclusions about the meaning of death, and to chance their hand a bit, the meaning of life. There were a lot of looks at what would happen to Owen’s body as a dead man – losing control of his bodily functions, cleaning out his fridge of food he no longer needed, and occasionally poking his wound like a four-year-old with a scab. But even in a rather plodding programme made up of Buffy outcuts like Torchwood really is, these should be mere garnish to running through the rigmarole of his anguish, not the meat itself of why he’s such a grumbly Graham these days.
If Torchwood are supposed to present a human defence against aliens, shouldn’t they be a bit better at dealing with the psychological ramifications of being dead? So, you can’t practise as a doctor for a few days and you have to make the coffee. Boo hoo! Poor little ‘ittle Owen, with his magic abilities to not feel pain. Or age. Or crack a smile anymore, apparently. One week of acting has apparently given away to joining the slag heap of misery that comprises the rest of the team (bar Tosh).
At least the locations department was on as fine a form as ever. I know I’ve made jokes about their propensity to set at least one scene atop a multi-storey, but setting the anchoring narrative for the whole episode there was really rather daft.
As, indeed, where the various assumptions being thrown around to drive the flashback narrative, as the team decide they need to break and enter a man’s house because they’re picking up energy signatures. And energy signatures only ever mean one thing: it’s going to blow up and take most of South Wales with it. Not that we ever get any explanation behind why an energy signature is inevitably going to blow up. Christ knows what Torchwood would be like if they ever took a day trip to Sellafield. On the same problem, why would aliens develop a technology that takes ages to get ready to blow up while being easily detectable by Torchwood, instead of just sending a nuclear bomb through the rift?
After Owen was done being moody, there was just enough time for Martha to get misty-eyed about the emotional times that she has had with the rest of the institute – namely, standing around and not being useful. She should by all means come back, but it would probably be best if she brought her own plotline with her next time.
In short, the Torchwood staff now comprise of miserable bastards who’ve driven Martha away, can’t handle the mental aspect of their job, and seem to jump to conclusions faster than a Sun leader writer. Let’s hope that next time the energy signature turns out to be a real bomb.