Torchwood series 2 episode 3: To the Last Man

Torchwood was good, this week. Actually, genuinely good. And it was by the woman who took the Daleks to New York. Andrew's confused.

If last week’s Torchwood made a cracking opening and went rapidly downhill, this week started in a crevice and then scaled a cliff.

Actually, this week’s quality rating was started before the credits even rolled, with the suspicious listings circulating for the programme: “Time zones are colliding”. Are they really, television? Is Pacific Mid-West head-on with Greenwich Mean Time? Or do you mean something else?

But I judged far too soon. ‘To the Last Man’ focused on Two-Button Tosh, who was banned from using her technological whiz-bang knowledge in order to devote herself to a soldier cryogenically frozen by Torchwoodin World War One. He gets defrosted once a year to be virtuous and wide-eyed, as all people in history were (and ‘handsome’ as well according to the suspicious listing, but that seems to have been rather constrained by budget).

That’s a nice enough set up, but it’s soon clear from Tosh appearing in a dress that his enormous ‘handsomeness’ will woo our favourite incy wincy, ousy mousy technolady. Tosh is the one character who doesn’t deserve to be killed off at some point in the next two series; while all around her are flapping about and looking as serious as granite despite doing naff all of any help, she’ll be tapping on two buttons to save the world, and then peering about Wales’ finest basement like a baby bird.

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Contrast this with Gwen, who I think is becoming something of a personal figure of hate. She loudly declared at the start of this series that she held the place apart while Jack (who, incidentally, must be hiding a pregnancy, the amount of time he currently spends sat behind his desk) was gallivanting across the universe. But what does she do when confronted with a ghost, and given plenty of exit options? Screams and flaps her arms about a bit. Makes a change from looking serious as granite, but she still must have been about as much use as a Lemsip hosepipe without the big man around.

Still, back to the fact that Tosh is a good thing; take that with the fact that ‘handsome soldier’ was endearing in a buerkish kind of way, and the programme pulled off the characterisation that was so sorely missing from last week’s episode. There were lots of nods to him coming from 1918 without bludgeoning us with talk of bully beef and the Kaiser. Actually, I think I declared last week that you couldn’t get enough characterisation into a 50-minute programme to make viewers care about the characters, so I think I probably stand corrected.

This week’s quality effort also leaves me standing corrected on a rather embarrassing topic for me: the episode’s writer, Helen Raynor. When she wrote the double for Doctor Who that took the Daleks to 1920s New York I advocated she be put in the nearest cupboard. Now she’s gone and given the actors something to work with, warmly exploited by ol’ Two-Button. Hopefully her Who series contribution this year with the Sontarans will be more Tosh than tosh.

Read last week’s Torchwood episode review here