Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go ByBookmark and Share

Thursday, 29 September 2011 - Reviewed by Matt Hills

Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By
Written by Dan Abnett
BBC Books
UK release - 29 September 2011
This review contains plot spoilers.

As if singing from the same hymn sheet as Steven Moffat's strategy for getting into a Christmas Special-ly sort of mindset, Dan Abnett cribs from Christmas songs for his chapter titles, as well as scattering a few lyrics through his prose. And this novel can pretty much be thought of as “the other Christmas Special 2011” given that it's about Ice Warriors attacking an Earth colony at their equivalent of Christmas time, while unusually vast amounts of snow are getting in the way of normal life. Abnett could hardly have made this any more Christmassy – there's a lovely coda showing the value of a thoughtful Christmas gift, a truly jaw-dropping seasonal pun at the conclusion of Chapter 1, and the winter wonderland setting is traditionally appropriate. No doubt many a fan will be finding this in their stocking or under the tree come December 25th – and if you wind up being one of those people, you'll be in for a treat.

In some ways this feels like a reaction to last year's The Coming of the Terraphiles, which to my mind read very strongly as a Michael Moorcock literary jape, but rather less strongly as a Doctor Who novel. 'Terra-' is an important prefix again this year, but followed by -form rather than -phile this time around. BBC Books have commissioned something that feels very much like a trad Doctor Who adventure. By and large the main characters' voices are captured well (even if the running banter about things being a bit “-ish” or a bit “-esque” wears slightly thin on occasion), and by page 41 the Doctor and Amy have already been separated from Rory, and a prison cell has loomed into the proceedings. If Christmas is all about rituals, then so too is Who.

The Ice Warriors' culture is lovingly rendered here. And we get a powdery dusting rather than a blizzard of continuity references: Jamie and Victoria are referred to, and the titular seeds from The Seeds of Death are remembered. The Doctor even points out that Ice Warriors appear to have got their own name wrong, since they were originally given the title by one of his companions, a fact which partly excuses Amy repeatedly calling them “Ice Men” in error. Plus the book's attractive, cold blue cover – always judge a book by its cover – makes it plain that we're not dealing with any rebooted, redesigned or Mini-Coopered Martians – these are stone-cold classic series monsters coming up against the eleventh Doctor, in what therefore feels like a curious (but compelling) blend of eras. It's as if 1960s or 70s Who has come in from the cold, clashing with the language and sensibilities of today: the Doctor says that his timing “sucks” (p.242), and tells his companions to “look at the pretty” (p.25) while Amy describes the Warriors as “very hench” (p.174) – dialogue that sometimes feels a touch too slang-esque. Or slang-ish. But language is consistently significant in this story, as Abnett plays an entertaining game with character names and locations; one that seems eminently guessable, and encourages the reader to speculate as to what's going on. But it's a language game that may still wrongfoot those schooled in the ways of The Face of Evil or State of Decay – see if you can spot the key word or phrase in the colonists' talk...

Dan Abnett also structures a few clever references to his story's title into events, so we find “snow falling as silently as moving stars” (p.83), and Ice Warrior's “scales [that] twinkled like stars as they showered into the air” (p.271). And the name that some Ice Warriors have for the Doctor – Belot'ssar – also becomes beautifully, poetically relevant at a certain point in the tale. It's these thoughtful details, glinting like winter sun on fresh snow, which make the book such a pleasure to savour, consistently revealing Abnett's mastery of his craft. Likewise, his witness accounts of Ice Warrior physiognomy are great. With my apologies to all, I'll admit I never found on-screen Ice Warriors to be the most convincing of alien races, but they are thoroughly plausible here: all red eyes, visors, and menacing green bulks glimpsed through the snow.

Oh, and as well as presenting a solid, hefty rendering of the Martian invaders, Abnett's closing sentence is just plain lovely. The point of this story isn't finding out what the “silent stars” are; science fiction 101 makes this as predictable as the changing of the seasons. Instead, perhaps the point is how elegant and brilliant and world-esque or world-ish mere words on the page can be. Building worlds doesn't always take DNA pools and gene codes and sublime cathedrals of engineering; terraforming is what storytellers do all the time with a well chosen description and a telling image. And on the strength of this showing, Dan Abnett is quite simply a great terraformer. If you haven't pre-ordered already then put this on your list for Santa; it'll make perfect midwinter reading.

The only downside to such a Christmassy “Ice Men” story? Well, it probably makes a TV Christmas Special covering this sort of ground rather less likely. But as a gift to fans who have long clamoured for just such a tale, this is a book of delights.

Purchase from our Amazon store.




Doctor Who: Closing TimeBookmark and Share

Saturday, 24 September 2011 - Reviewed by Matt Hills

Doctor Who: Series Six - Closing Time
Written by Gareth Roberts
Directed by Steve Hughes
Broadcast on BBC One - 24 September 2011
This review contains plot spoilers and is based on the UK preview of the episode.

Doctor Who is often celebrated for its infinitely flexible format. And given that fact, it seems churlish to complain when it produces an episode of sci-fi sitcom infused with the language of our age. Emotional journeys, and giving it 110%: Gareth Roberts has got an app for that. Because this is very, very funny Doctor Who, fizzing with wit and containing some great sight gags. The lift that’s obviously a teleport; the changing room Cyberman adding a whole new meaning to ‘cyber-conversion’ - what's not to love?

And yet it should all have been so dark and desperate, witnessing the Doctor’s last days before Lake Silencio. We know his fate is closing in because we’re given the necessary visual cues: those blue envelopes (lucky that Craig and Sophie opted for TARDIS-blue stationery), receipt of a Stetson, and underwater River, ready and waiting. The iconography is brought into place, with everything wrapped up in a neat gift box ready for next week’s finale. I have one nagging question, mind you: how does the Doctor know for sure his time is up? Why can't he disappear off through time and space, deferring his visit to America and its fatal fixed point?

Setting aside this logic puzzle, Craig Owens makes a superb companion. Again. Personally, I suspect we’ll see him for a third time in 2013 if not before, James Corden’s schedule permitting. Sadly, however, Amy and Rory’s involvement is restricted to an in-joke, in-store promotion: Petrichor, 'For the Girl Who’s Tired of Waiting'. The scent of Moffat-Gaiman-MacRae referencing seems present just to ensure that Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill make the end credits, thus preserving last week’s surprise ending. Moffat knows all the tricks: he knows fans will be scouring cast lists, so the inclusion of Amy’s autograph scene feels calculated to defeat spoilerphiles. And although the moment is a massive coincidence, it's played for laughs as a coincidence. At the same time it has emotional clout built out of our affection for the TARDIS family – a story-beat whose bittersweet sentiment very definitely feels genuine rather than shop-bought. Even if coincidence is "what the universe does for fun”, this 'Doctor Who Coincidental' tugs at the heartstrings.

In an episode which switches companions, Roberts craftily plays with the meaning of ‘companion’. Not only does he riff on it as an old-fashioned term for partner in Val's subplot, he further integrates it into the “Time Lord and a man and a baby” storyline thanks to the Doctor’s comparison between his human companions and “sweet”, disarming babies. It’s cleverly done, with a suitably light touch, making the Doctor’s assistants a subject of humorous banter ("you're my baby!") rather than melodrama. Simultaneously, the Doctor becomes an assistant – “here to help” – and although showing him as a servant of capitalism seems more than a little incongruous, the episode promptly undercuts this meaning. Because the Doctor isn’t a shop assistant; he’s a universal assistant. “I was here to help” he tells three child bystanders, and suddenly we hear their adult voices speaking from the future. It’s a dizzying, glorious moment of time travel across human lives and memories. And occasionally Closing Time likewise jolted me back through time: Shona exploring the eerie emptiness of a Henrik’s-a-like store reminded me of Rose, while the silver rat Cybermat transported me back to watching Tomb of the Cybermen on video. Gareth Roberts can’t resist adding another layer of subversion, though, so we get an implicit acknowledgement that certain Doctor Who monsters might be introduced for their merchandising potential. As such, the Cybermat is a monster mistaken for a toy from the word go. The stock room of Sanderson & Grainger may say “there’s no such item”, but I’d put money on it becoming a real-world plaything before too long.

This isn’t simply well-written comedy, it’s a well-written episode, full-stop. We get an ‘A’ story – the Doctor helping Craig to cope with baby Alfie, or Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All as he prefers to be known. Plus we get a ‘B’ story – a subplot (and it is pretty much a subplot) featuring Cybermen who are busy shoplifting department store assistants to build up their forces. Then there’s a neat dovetailing of plots A and B at the crucial moment of resolution, as Craig blows up the Cybermen “with love” for his son. Looked at from a screenwriting perspective, it all works with machine-tooled precision.

Still, I can’t help the feeling – and it’s a feeling strong enough to reboot emotional subsystems – that the Cybermen are defeated far too easily here, even if they are a low-grade outfit cobbled together out of “old spare parts” rather than being the real deal. Cyber-conversion can be reversed by a parent’s love now? Let's face it, these bargain basement Cybermen were never likely to succeed in taking over Colchester, let alone the world. For me, the conclusion slightly cheapens one of Doctor Who’s iconic monsters, as well as being “grossly sentimental and over simplistic”, as the Doctor himself points out. OK, the dialogue is part of yet another gag, but it’s a fairly high-risk one, going for an off-the-shelf emotional ending while illuminating its ersatz sentimentalism. And despite poking fun at the “emotional journey” associated with Britain’s Got Talent – or Torment – it’s the Doctor’s emotional journey, as much as Craig's, that we follow through this episode. The Cybermen may threaten to remove emotion, but Closing Time generates sentiment at the same time as mocking its formulaic manufacture. In a slightly queer, unstable way, it's never quite sure how it feels about feelings. But never mind that, because I've got an appointment I can't miss. A fixed point in time. Yes, next week is The Wedding of River Song.

What did you think of Closing Time? Vote in our poll here.




MeglosBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 - Reviewed by Anthony Weight

Poor old Meglos always seems to be the overlooked, under appreciated child of season eighteen. Sandwiched between the new-look relaunch story The Leisure Hive and the TARDIS crew-changing trilogy of the E-Space stories, its lack of any particular hook or event which makes it an important part of either the mythos of the show or the nature of its production means it tends to be rather forgotten about.

Which is a great shame, and I hope its turn to be released on DVD sees it getting a little more recognition than it hitherto has. Although it does have some of the po-faced faux-science that runs through all of season eighteen (why not just call it a “Time Loop”, rather than a “Chronic Hysteresis”?), it runs at a much faster pace and has a much more involving story than its immediate predecessor, with John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch doing a good job of creating an interesting story of science versus religion with characters who you actually want to know what happens to them.

Nowhere does their ability to create worthwhile characters come across more than the main villain, Meglos, who is possibly the most interesting villain to turn up anywhere in this season. His first appearance, as the random cactus with the disembodied voice, ought to seem utterly absurd and ridiculous, but somehow the vocal performance lends a genuine air of intellect and menace. As the story moves along, Tom Baker’s performance as Meglos impersonating the Doctor also works well.

Admittedly it does have to be said that Meglos impersonating the Doctor creates one of the weak points of the story, when the Tigellan scientists are so ready to accept that the Doctor has been impersonated, and to believe his story. It’s a shame that in a script where they generally do so well that Flanagan and McCulloch do lapse into some lazy writing every now and again – another case in point being Romana leading the Gaztaks, who hitherto been interesting and funny characters, round and round in circles through the forest like a bunch of space morons. And on another note, why didn’t they recognise her from their watching of the Chronic Hysteresis on Meglos’s screen, anyway...?

Quibbles aside, the aforementioned forest is one of the better ones to have been attempted within the confines of a multi-camera studio on Doctor Who down the years. In fact, the whole of Meglos looks pretty damn good – Terence Dudley having perhaps his finest outing as a director on the programme. He’s able to get the infamous lighting levels down for some of the Gaztak spaceship and Deon worship scenes, and he’s lucky enough to have great support from make-up (the Meglos cactus facial make-up on Christopher Owen and Tom Baker) and the more technical departments (the excellent Scene-Sync work).

There’s a very good guest cast been recruited, too – notably Bill Fraser, Frederick Treves and yes, even Jacqueline Hill coming back to a series that must have been so bamboozingly different from that little programme she left back in Lime Grove all those years ago. She’s let down by Lexa’s death scene, though – which is rushed, pointless and basically thrown away.

If you’ve not seen Meglos before, or if you haven’t given it a look for some time, I’d recommend picking this up if you get the chance. You might be pleasantly surprised – it’s a reminder that even in its uncelebrated instalments, Doctor Who can provide more entertainment than an average piece of television.

Extras

As always, we’re spoiled on Doctor Who, with even a “run of the mill” story such as Meglos receiving a bonus feature package which puts most feature films to shame. The commentary, which features Lalla Ward, John Flanagan, Christopher Owen and Paddy Kingsland, probably doesn’t contain anything startlingly insightful, but is amiable enough, and it’s interesting to note how on occasion Ward seems to slip into a moderator-type role, leading the discussion and asking questions of the others.

My favourite of the bonus features was Meglos Men, an interesting way of looking at the writing of the story. Rather than simply being talking heads in a studio, Flanagan and McCulloch meet up and travel around some of their old London haunts in a very nicely-shot and interesting feature which even sees them pop round Christopher H. Bidmead’s house. I don’t think they’re writers who will be as familiar to most Who fans as some others who have worked on the series, so it’s worth a look to find out a bit more about the background to the writing of the serial.

The Scene Sync Story is an interesting look at the technology behind the innovation which helped make the Zolfa-Thuran scenes of Meglos look so good, locking two cameras of a Chromakey shot together. I am very interested in this sort of behind the scenes, production history nitty-gritty, although I appreciate it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

The Jacqueline Hill documentary, A Life in Pictures, is very welcome, although I couldn’t help but feel it would have been nice for it to have been longer, and to have included some more clips of her work outside of Doctor Who. I appreciate that this probably would have involved clearance costs, though, and doubtless the money was better spent elsewhere on the release.

I didn’t like Entropy Explained very much – this sort of ‘educational’ type feature may be an interesting idea for a different type of extra, but I just don’t think it works. It’sDoctor Who, after all, not real science, and exploring the real scientific concepts stories may sometimes play with probably only flags up how dodgy the science of the stories often is. Plus it doesn’t seem to be able to decide if it’s trying to be serious or funny, with the presentation style playing it straight, but the captions throwing inHitch-Hiker’s Guide jokes and shampoo advert reference





The New WorldBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 - Reviewed by Paula Seligson

Torchwood is back. There are differences - more explosions, American-geared jokes, and cinematography no longer based on the confines of a city. But the feel of a science fiction story grounded with people and taken to the edges of dark and disturbing is the same.

It begins dark. A convicted rapist and murderer of a young girl, Oswald Danes, is prepped for execution by lethal injection. The mother watches, hoping for closure from his last words, and cries as Danes dismisses her and waits for death. Immediately the plot (already spoiled by the previews for the episode) is introduced. The liquid enters the man’s veins and he thrashes in agonizing pain, undying.

And so Miracle Day starts.

This episodes begins with why I love Torchwood. With Danes’ unsuccessfully completed execution, it immediately shows the horrible nature of the Miracle: if people can’t die, what does that mean for the pain they suffer when death wont release them? With Danes, we see horrible pain but no other side-affects because the drug simply passes through his body.

With CIA agent Rex Matheson we see an unhealing injury. Even in the promo pics, he’s depicted with a bloody shirt.

And of course with the exploded assassin, we see the abject horror of the Miracle. What happens when a person’s body is damaged beyond function? They keep living.

The episode rightfully takes the time to explain the mystery of Torchwood for the new American audience just tuning in, with echoes of season one: finding an old picture matched to a modern-day Jack and retcon. The two accessible characters - Rex and fellow CIA agent Esther Drummond - are believable. Rex is portrayed as arrogant and in search of advancing his own career, but ultimately with a very personal stake in the mystery of the Miracle. The joke about the toll bridge fell short, but hey, the guy is in a lot of pain, you can’t expect to have a sound sense of humor. Esther’s obvious (and unrequited) feelings for Rex are an expected addition to the character interactions (there’s always a romance) and will be interesting to see unfold. Esther shows she’s both inquisitive and self-directed by seeking out information on Torchwood despite being told not to bother, which is encouraging for her later character development.

Of the new characters, the surgeon, Vera Juarez, is the most interesting, due to both her personality and her experiences while standing at ground zero of the Miracle - the ER.

We’re just getting to know the new main characters, and so far so good. Esther is definitely the weakest, but that leaves the most room for character development. All are in the thick of the Miracle’s effects, and they each deal with their respective burdens in different ways. The only one I’m not sure about is Danes, because his side-plot seems extraneous, and so far is the weakest portion of the show. Still, I’m excited to see what directions the writers take the new characters.

But if you’re a returning fan, they’re not why you’re watching the show. Jack, Gwen, and Rhys were fantastic.

Gwen has reached a new level of bad-ass, now that she’s a mother protecting her child. The scene where the couple comes to her and Rhys’ door for directions was brilliant. I love the new level of fierceness she brings to fighting. She has her daughter and her husband, she has reclaimed her life from Torchwood, and she will not let ANYONE ruin that for her.

I am so glad they didn’t change Rhys and Gwen’s relationship. He’s just as annoying and against Torchwood as he’s always been, and it’s a wonderful counter-perspective to Gwen’s readiness to jump in and save the world. While Gwen protects her family from the dangers of the world, Rhys has to protect Gwen from herself and her willingness to get involved. Their argument in the hospital was wonderful, and the best example possible of why Rhys is a worthwhile character to have around. I especially loved his readiness to handle a weapon and fight, revealing how much he’s grown since the start of the show.

And of course, Jack! Saving the day, one rocket launcher at a time. His reunion with Gwen was quick but well-done. Just the sheer look of joy on Gwen’s face (and the disgruntled scowl from Rhys) made me grin in delight - what’s left of the team is back together. Their reunion leaves fans wanting more, which I am confident the writers will deliver in the coming episodes.

And their reunion reveals the biggest shock of the episode - Jack is now mortal.

Plotwise, along with Torchwood being broadcast in the CIA headquarters before Jack wiped it from the entirety of the internet, it seems as though Jack’s presence is connected to and possibly causing the Miracle, and perhaps was even a trap for him. But could it instead be that whatever is causing the Miracle has managed to supersede Jack’s immortality, making him able to be injured but still (like the rest of Earth) unable to die? We’ll have to wait and see, but the plot is extremely intriguing and I can’t wait to see where they take it.

And yet the most interesting aspect of Jack’s mortality is not even the plot, but himself as a character.Jack has been immortal at this point for thousands of years. He has suffered in horrific and excruciating ways, and even spent his first few hundred years trying to find the Doctor in order to regain mortality. For now, in the thick of the plot, he’s most concerned with protecting Gwen and saving the Earth. But does Jack want to die?

We watch him casually suggest decapitating the exploded assassin in a truly cringe-worthy scene, all the while knowing he’s been through a similar experience during Children of Earth. The audience rarely sees the inner psyche of Jack. We see him endure horrible experiences, and he always seems to absorb whatever is thrown at him, back to his flirtatious old self by the next episode. But by the end of Children of Earth, he finally leaves because he’s suffered too much on his home planet.

Now that he has the chance to die, will he take it?

I suspect the finale of this story arc may be Jack’s choice between death or immortality, a choice that will decide the fate of the Earth.

In the meantime the fascinating plot will continue to unfold as the entire world deals with an increasing population and a growing number of injured who should but cannot die. The New World was an exciting start to a 10-episode season, slow paced enough to let the show right itself on American soil, but still full of action and adventure. And most importantly, it was still distinctly Torchwood.





Genesis of the DaleksBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 - Reviewed by Darren Allen

The latest batch of BBC Vintage Beeb releases (the third), wherein BBC LPs/tapes of the 1970s are reissued on CD, in some cases for the first time, includes another outing for Genesis of the Daleks. This is its fourth release; following the original LP/cassette release in 1979, the BBC Radio Collection double cassette pairing with Slipback in 1988 and the expanded CD release of 2001 paired with Exploration Earth.

I have two problems with the Vintage Beeb range. The first concerns the very concept of a 'Vinyl replica'. Now to me, like a lot of people, this means a faithful replica of the original album sleeve in cardboard. This is something that the Japanese have been doing with albums for nearly twenty years; releasing faithful reproductions of many albums in exact detail with gatefold sleeves, embossed sleeves, cut outs, inserts etc. Even with some EMI albums of the early 1980s they have exactly replicated the paper inner bag complete with the "home taping is killing music" logo and slogan! (Apologies for those readers under forty for which this will mean nothing. But believe me it shows attention to detail!)

Unfortunately to BBC Audio/AudioGo, 'Vinyl replica' just means a reissue of a title onto CD in a standard jewel case but now with the original sleeve artwork/photo used on the booklet and a black CD. The latter is a nice gimmick, but it hardly makes the release a replica!

The second problem is that whilst we are seeing some long unavailable albums such as I’m Sorry I’ll read that Again released onto CD, this range still contains a number of titles previously released on CD as part of the BBC Radio Collection. Monty Python’s Flying CircusThe Magic Roundabout and Genesis of the Daleksto name but three. The question on a lot of peoples’ lips is "When are we going to see a CD release for the themes albums that were a mainstay of the BBC Records and Tapes range of the 1970s?" I would dearly love a re-mastered copy of 1979’s BBC Space Themes as my original tape is showing its age... but then it is thirty years old! I suppose the problem here is that is easier to clear the rights for BBC shows, rather than music collections.

I remember buying the original release of Genesis of the Daleks back in 1979, when it was timed to coincide with the screening of Destiny of the Daleks. At the time it was hoped that it would be the start of a series, but despite being a consistent seller it was sometime before we got a range of Doctor Who audio releases!

Even now, Tom Baker’s opening line "I stepped from the TARDIS onto a bleak planet..." is as great a hook as ever, drawing the listener in to a breakneck version of the original TV story. Although the ensuing argument with the Time Lord about interrupting a transmat beam jars somewhat! The linking narration fits very well, filling in the gaps of story inherent in condensing a six-part TV story down to under an hour’s worth of LP. And Tom’s reading is superb, as we move from one memorable scene to the next. Only being an hour long, such a short version should not work; but it does and all credit to Derek Groom who produced it back in 1979.

There is one difference to the original audio release though. That annoying jump cut at the end of side two of the original LP, wherein the theme cuts in halfway through the Dalek’s closing line resulting in "we will take our rightful place as the supreme power of the univer", has been rectified in line with the previous CD release, so you now get "universe" in all its glory. Whether this is a good thing or bad, I leave to individual choice!

Despite problems with presentation, to quote Destiny of the Daleks, "Its what’s on the inside that matters." This is still a very valid release and heartily recommended for two reasons. Firstly, it does reproduce the original 1979 release complete with end of side one cliff-hanger. And secondly, it can be ordered online for not much over £4, making it very good value!





Dead of NightBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 - Reviewed by Paula Seligson

A team dynamic has returned.

When Torchwood first hit television, it was described as Jack’s spinoff. But by the end of the first episode, the audience knew the show would focus on the Torchwood team, not just Jack. The previous two episodes ofMiracle Day were lacking because there was no team dynamic. We had Gwen and Jack, and Rex and Esther. These four are now finally working on the same side, along with Dr. Vera Juarez.

Though a team dynamic has returned, the team dynamic has not. Jack, Gwen, Toshiko, Owen, Ianto - these five worked together as friends and with trust. The new ‘team’ formed from necessity, and is rightfully on very shaky ground. We see Rex challenge Jack’s leadership, ultimately deferring to him but then walking away and later returning. Esther grapples with her lack of experience and self-confidence, echoing Gwen’s first episodes of uncertainty at her ability to do the job. Jack, though a leader to Rex and Esther, defers to Gwen. And Gwen takes the most leadership, at a level of self-confidence not before seen in the show. 

Jack and Gwen’s semi-role reversal finally gives insight into Jack. He’s mortal for the first time in thousands of years, and he wants to enjoy it, revelling in discomfort and hilariously even a hangover. But more than his mortality, he’s letting Gwen into his life. Instead of putting up a strong front as the sole leader of the group, he acknowledges (and she also interrupts and reminds him) that she’s competent and knows what she’s doing. In doing so, he also acknowledges that he’s not ‘okay’ from the events of Children of Earth. As he reveals the lasting effects of that finale, it leads to one of the best scenes in the show so far: Jack’s confrontation with Danes.

Danes is creepy and disturbing, and his description of how much he enjoyed raping and murdering the young girl left me feeling legitimately disgusted. He assumed Jack was like him, and just watching Jack’s expression change from one of anger to guilt and then to revulsion was disarming. Danes reveled in the murder of a child, and Jack listened with first-hand experience. Jack expected a monster and he found one. Of all the people affected by the Miracle, this man is the one becoming the next Jesus-like cult leader, deceiving foolish and desperate people looking for some kind of sense in the world. We now see his role in the show, and it’s one hell of a social commentary that I can’t wait to see progress.

But this conversation with Danes also revealed how fragile Jack has become. Not that he’s close to breaking or no longer being the Jack we all know and love - that would be a ridiculous cop-out. He has thousands of years of experience and is an impossibly strong person. Regardless of the horrible choices he’s had to make, he’s still the hero who will save the day. Yet all those years weigh on his shoulders and soul, and before that didn’t matter, because he had to keep going. But now things have changed - Jack is mortal. The writers are emphasizing his mortality not by just his actions - like ignoring the world for a night of sex - but also through his emotional exhaustion - his heartbreaking phone call to Gwen. I think they’re foreshadowing how he will deal with the Miracle at the end of the season. Because Jack saw himself in Danes; he saw a man with a deathwish.

As for the plot, it continues to unfold at a slow pace, throwing a bone or two to the audience each episode. PhiCorp either caused the Miracle or knew about it and chose not to tell anyone. And why? For profit. They’re pushing their agenda for a world with no drug prescriptions, pushing it via Danes and a terrified populace, with drugs stockpiled using Timelord technology.

I’m still waiting for the shocks and twists bound to appear that will make this quintessentially Torchwood, and find myself impatient at the tantalizing speed of the storytelling. This story is much slower than the other seasons, and it allows for more analysis of the affects of the plot - like Danes’ being noticed and attacked by two people and then picked up and beaten by the police, the cult with the masks, and a night full of sex for some and work and uncertainty for others. The slower storytelling creates more attachment to the plot through the characters, and hopefully wont cause the episodes to become boring as the story progresses.

But what of the growing team dynamic? Rex and Vera are ‘not strictly professional’ while Esther pines after him. Jack is trying to become closer to Gwen while she’s more focused on the Miracle and her family. Esther will hopefully come into her own as she faces new challenges, perhaps with the guidance of the obviously-impatient and frustrated Gwen. Rex continues to deal with his constant pain, and grapples with essentially being a solo agent, no longer tied to the CIA, an organization he’s dedicated his life to. And Vera attempts to find solutions for this entire mess, getting roped into Torchwood through her role as a surgeon and her access to PhiCorp. Jack and Gwen’s partnership carries the direction and expertise of the group, but the other three contribute, trying to make sense of the new world with their own respective skills. The five have the potential to recreate Torchwood, but as of yet have not succeeded. There are essentially two members of Torchwood, and three trainees. 

They’re not a team yet, but they’re becoming one.








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