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Army of Ghosts review, part two

July 2nd, 2006 (05:32 pm)

Yvonne Hartman was another piece of RTD's broadbrush satire, targeted at modern managerialism. Yvonne believes in trying to know all her staff by their first names, defines her objectives and focuses on them assiduously; but she doesn't have enough insight into people to notice that her staff are starting to display an efficiency that exudes a lack of humanity, and ignores dangers and imperfections in her plan when they threaten the achievement of her target. This style of management is bundled up with a peculiar British neo-imperialism; whereas UNIT researched and fought for humanity, Torchwood have been scavenging for Britain.

This eighteenth-century historian finds the secret history of 'Torchwood' fascinating, for its echoes of eighteenth-century fears of 'secret influence' and that behind the official government, responsible to parliament, there existed an administration 'behind the screen' answerable only to the monarch. These anxieties, whipped up by Horace Walpole, Edmund Burke and others, were most evident in the early decades of the reign of George III. Here we have Queen Victoria establishing Torchwood by royal charter - presumably secret - and the said body remaining true to its version of Victorian values ever since. Doctor Who again emphasises its modernity by endorsing a caricatured version of the past - the Victorian political elite included its Gladstones, and no doubt more radical critics of Empire, as well as its arch-colonialists - but Yvonne's imperialism is marked by so great a hostility to the 'alien' that inevitably leads the audience on to make comparisons with the Daleks.

The converted humans were very well presented, and tied into this season's pervasive theme of the betrayal of love. Abi and Gareth's workplace tryst was well-written and performed, but it was somehow appropriate that their ersatz woodland bower, wrapped in plastic as it was, turned out to be a place of permanent steel-clad sterility rather than bearing the promise of fertility. The decision to make cyber-organics white might be a nod to the androids of the Alien films but is almost certainly governed by the notorious Mary Whitehouse-offending scene in 'The Tomb of the Cybermen' episode four.

That's all for now as I have to go shopping again - in this heat, which according to my car reached 36C this afternoon, the bread has gone mouldy very quickly, and I'm regretting not thinking to put it in the fridge - but there might be a part three later.


Posted by: Pellegrina (pellegrina)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC)

The show you review is somehow always much more interesting and thoughtful than the one I see broadcast!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2006 08:12 pm (UTC)

I think that it's an effect of our different standpoints; to me any episode of Doctor Who is worthy of close critical attention amd I take for granted that there are carefully-considered authorial intentions behind the scenes. The series generally hasn't worked when the scripting process isn't taken seriously. Even if one has reservations about RTD's worldview, it has its own integrity, and he takes the programme seriously even if he isn't serious about the way he does it, so to speak.

Posted by: Pellegrina (pellegrina)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC)

But this happens even with shows that don't irritate the hell out of me!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2006 09:10 pm (UTC)

True enough...

Posted by: Disparate Housewife (wryelle)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC)

Nerve fibres are white. ;)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)

Thanks - I've noted this in another version of the review. :)