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Torchwood 1.7: Greeks Bearing Gifts

November 27th, 2006 (12:56 am)
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Well, that was my favourite episode since the first. No Russell T Davies credit in the end, despite Radio Times - perhaps that was a subtle bit of promotion, but on the other hand the script had a little more life in it than earlier ones, and indeed author Toby Whithouse's Doctor Who story 'School Reunion' - and maybe Russell did polish this one a bit. It's certainly closer to the metrosexual series of the pre-publicity, and seemed a script that gave the principals more to do than last week's 'Countrycide'.

The series has slowly thrown successive members of the Torchwood team fragments of Jack's predicament, and has left it up to them to join the dots. The women have seen more, and done more, than the men. Knowing that Jack can't die first seemed to provide the basis of an attraction between Gwen and Jack, but in hindsight it appears puppyish. Owen hasn't made anything that we've seen of his realisation that Jack has survived electrocution in 'Cyberwoman', but as yet he has had no cause to. Now Toshiko has looked into his thoughts and seen nothing - as if he were dead. Mary, too, asked what Jack was - he said he didn't know. I have a sense of us moving into the second half of the season here, where the routine business of the first few episodes begins to be overshadowed by backstory, as the preview for next week further suggests as Indira Varma makes her return as Suzie.

I wasn't that impressed by Naoko Mori's performance in this episode at first - understated can so often be the same as flat - but as Tosh let herself fall in love with Mary, Dr Sato became more nuanced as she became more entranced and more anguished. By the end of the episode I was with Tosh in a way I haven't identified with any of the other characters so far.

Mary was a gift for fanfic writers; no doubt several apocryphal spin-offs have been constructed already telling the story of Mary's love affairs (and they must have been, mustn't they?) over the last 196 years with each person whose heart she steals. (I liked the way we just cut away from Mary's first meal of heart; I'm sure that Daniela Denby-Ashe was too.) How long do you think it would take Mary's craft to reach the Sun, and would this give her time to regain control of the craft? The character reminded me just a little of Firefly's Saffron, and I could see her coming back in some form in a later episode.

Some good photography as well - the scenes in Tosh's home, where movement speeds up and slows down, represented well the emotional swings of the start of a love affair as well as the sheer invasiveness of it, particularly to someone as introverted as Tosh.

Possibly more tomorrow if I make space to watch it again... and it will be the first episode since 'Everything Changes', I think, where I've done that.

EDIT
For all its concentration on Tosh one of the features of the episode which I most liked, but forgot to mention, was its emphasis on Torchwood as a team. There were hints from the middle of the episode that Tosh was being observed for unusual behaviour, and I'm sure that one or more of our misfits under the fountain must have spotted the unearthly pendant. A good touch.

Comments

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 04:54 pm (UTC)

Hurrah! That was definitely Not Shit. I watched it on a little torrent and will watch it again on the telly on Wednesday. It actually *had* a script, as opposed to a bunch of cliches impaled on a stick.

I was a little surprised at an RtD series doing an "attractive lesbian turns out to be psychotic alien" shocker, but then everyone else's relationships so far have been a disaster, so I suppose it's only fair. Gwen's endorsement of Toshiko's in-loveness at the end underlined the difference from a standard Star Trek possession episode.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
KingCharlesI

I think that the script's treatment of the lesbian angle is a way of asserting that there is no need any more to be relentlessly positive about homosexuality. There are good lesbians, evil lesbians, and all shades in between, just as Tosh's sexuality is probably difficult to categorize simply as 'lesbian'. After all, she clearly had an attraction to Owen.

Daniela Denby-Ashe was attractive, wasn't she? Still, you've commented before on how I end up attracted to slightly gothy women.

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)

Hm, but it was a particularly stereotypically evil psychotic lesbian. As someone pointed out on the Torchwood community, Jack also appeared to have a pop at transgenderism at one point (the Vanessa story). Which seems unutterably weird, coming from that character, and I can't quite believe I heard it.

I thought Tosh was being played as straight but having a lesbian fling. Still, it's a bit feeble that her being a computer expert has apparently made it obligatory for her to be a lesbian with no life. I get the impression that of the several minds contributing to the show, not all of them are working on the same base assumptions. I wonder if the writers' bible is inadequate, or something as simple as that.

Mary was very attractive. But no you can't go out with her.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 07:07 pm (UTC)
parrot

I didn't think that any value judgements were being made about transgenderism at all, nor did I think that Mary was a stereotypically evil psychotic lesbian, at least no more than any malevolent lover which is an age-old trope.

I don't think that as tight a rein is kept on the writers as on Doctor Who, which is a pity. Next week's is written by two newcomers, and not Chris Chibnall, which (I hate to say) is probably a good thing.

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC)

I'll have a close look when it's on the telly on Wednesday, but wasn't Jack complaining about how dreadful it was when his friend changed genders? Which did seem extremely weird, so if there is a more sensible interpretation do tell.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 07:12 pm (UTC)

"It was a particularly stereotypically evil psychotic lesbian."

She was an stereotypical Evil Seductress. If anything, the fact that the victim was a woman rather than a man helps to break the stereotype, not reinforce it.

"her being a computer expert has apparently made it obligatory for her to be a lesbian with no life".

I do not think the episode linked the concepts of being lesbian and not having a life. On the contrary, the experience provides new insights for her which are at the end explicitly recognised to not be all bad ("love suits you").

But then again, it is quite easy to over-interpret that kind of thing, either way.

KT

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 05:39 pm (UTC)

Yes, this was great (although I still prefer The Ghost Machine).

I liked the pendant itself better than the alien that went with it. She would have worked as well as a human seductress in the possession of some questionable technology.
But this is more of a personal observation rather than actual criticism.

I wonder where Jack's character is leading - he has turned a bit trigger-happy, hasn't he?

KT

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC)

I think that Jack's character is now dominated by his difficult relationship with death. He feels outside the bounds of normal morality, I suspect. Still, last night we saw more flashes of the old Harkness, I thought, with his mock southern belle voice and willingness to defend his team from the front at the end.

Posted by: helflaed (helflaed)
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 10:32 pm (UTC)

I find his willingness to denfend his team intriguing- how far would he go and would he double cross them- he's shown himself to be utterly ruthless when required.

I like the way that more and more hints are dropped about Jack's darker side/past- the throwaway comment about when I go to murder someone I don't mutter about it in a public place was rather telling.

I'm just glad that the children haven't found out about it yet.....

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 27th, 2006 10:44 pm (UTC)

I'm intrigued by the forthcoming time travel episode 'Captain Jack Harkness', at Christmas. I wonder if the Harkness that Jack and Tosh meet (according to the brief preview in the public domain) isn't our Jack, but the man whose identity he stole? That would open dark possibilities.