In recent weeks I managed to anger and annoy several billion Torchwood fans with such posts as “Torchwood Smells Like A Big Old Poo,” “My Cats Can Write Better Than This And They’re Stupid Even For Cats,” and “I Fear The Weeping Will Never End.” Luckily a few hardy souls who had also watched the show were similarly appalled by it, and let me know they appreciated my attempts to sail my boat into the heart of darkness and kill the bald and overweight method actor waiting there.
Unfortunately, it was not to last. With the introduction of MARTHA JONES to the cast for three episodes, the entire show seemed to exorcise itself of some of its demons, with a high-watermark reached with the broadcast of Reset. The third episode of the Martha Trilogy (as it shall henceforth be known), A Day In the Death, was also okay, until the final moments, where it all kind of fell apart pretty badly (and not just because I don’t like Richard Briers). Still, this triggered a flurry of posts, including, “Vague Competence Is So Much Less Interesting Than Abject Failure,” “ZOMG Martha Is A Miracle Worker,” and “Is This A Thematic Coherence I See Before Me?”. I trust this new attitude will not confuse our readers. (Apologies to Private Eye for this rip.)
Yes, Torchwood finally improved, with MARTHA JONES’ temporary appearance pushing the show to a new standard. Other than in the first of her episodes there wasn’t much for her to do other than tread on Owen’s toes, but her natural charm was much easier to watch than Naoki Mori and Gareth David-Lloyd’s attempts, and gave the other characters something new to do, having exhausted every other possible interpersonal dynamic long ago.
Better than that, Owen’s death and awkward resurrection strengthened the show by not only giving the core team a new non-human member, but also mirroring Jack’s immortality, showing the dark side of such a power. He’s just a reanimated corpse with no cool powers, and as such is like a corporeal ghost hanging around and being mopey. It’s way more interesting than it sounds, and the idea has been developed pretty well, considering how this show usually does things in a half-arsed manner.
Torchwood has dealt with death before but in a looser way, and as the show cast around for ideas from other sci-fi stories to mimic, it got lost among the man-out-of-time, sex-alien, cannibal nonsense. Now that the show has set up a thematic arc (Resurrection Gloves, immortals and all), it’s become about something, instead of just being a silly macho no-brainer. Plus, Owen apparently likes the world-conquering math-rock goliath that is Atlas by Battles, which is okay by me.
Okay, those episodes weren’t perfect. Two of them ended with long emotional goodbyes to Owen, which came to nothing because even though he was in peril he survived. Also, Tosh has been portrayed as the unrequited lovefool of the team, someone to root for as her “charms” are ignored by Owen the heartless philanderer, only for A Day in the Death to show what she would be like if her wish was granted, i.e. a catty, self-centred dullard, which is yet more ammunition against RTD and Chibnall’s aversion to show-bible-derived character continuity. It might have worked as an ironic comment on viewer expectation, that we theoretically would have sided with her all along and guess what! She’s actually awful! Gotcha! Except not. I doubt that this was the intention, though.
Still, this was a good run for the show, and it’s sad that Martha is gone again, though rumours have it that two characters will leave in the season finale to be replaced by Martha. Shades of Caruso approves! Though whoever voted against her in our current Torchwood Gupta poll will be pretty annoyed.
ETA: It’s sadly not the full version, but if you’ve not yet come across the mind-bursting amazingness of Atlas by Battles (i.e. if you’ve been hiding from the good music in a cave or something), here’s some of it.