BBCHD - 19th March 2008 - 10.00pm
An interesting and absorbing script from Chris Chibnall, who in my opinion can be as uneven a writer as Russell T. Davies. Here the focus is squarely on Gwen uncovering a particularly unfortunate skeleton in Torchwood's closet. It seems logical to assume that the rift in Cardiff not only washes things up on the doorstep but also is capable of snatching them away. Chibnall plugs into a particularly contemporary concern around missing persons and for the most part builds this into a rather tense exploration of Jack's modus operandi and Torchwood's shady past.
What brings this episode to life are the three performances from Eve Myles, Kai Owen and the guest actor, Ruth Jones. Jones is very impressive as Nicki Bevan, the mother of the missing boy that Gwen goes looking for. It's a lovely, sensitive portrayal of a mother who still has hope that her son will return and shows what a terrific actor she is as well as being a great writer. The journey that Nicki goes on is interesting but the conclusion to her heartbreaking story is predictable. It is inevitable that she will have hope torn away from her when Gwen finally puts the truth in front of her - a son so horrifically altered that hope is crushed. Here both characters learn that to know the truth is not necessarily a good thing. It's horrifically painful. And Jack, in his attempts to obfuscate Gwen's investigations, is all too aware of what will happen when Gwen finds out where the rift refugees have gone and what has happened to them.
Myles is great as the blinkered Gwen - so blinded to the truth that she can't see how her single-mindedness is wrecking her relationship with her husband. Kai Owen is equally good and I almost cheered when he laid it on the line for her in the great scene in the park. Gwen's journey has all been about reconciling her normal life with her extraordinary job. On this occasion he points out that she must learn to not to bring her work home with her! Apart from the relationship with Nicki, the rest of Gwen's dealings are with men and the men in this story are all trying to help her deal with the nature and power of truth - Rhys as her husband, Jack as her boss and Andy as her close friend. Even Ianto, acting perhaps as Jack's conscience, sympathises with her enough to actually spill the beans as to where the rift refugees are. I also love PC Andy Davidson as a character and hope they bring him back as Tom Price is delightful in the role and his work with Myles here is warm and very human.
For about three quarters of this, Chibnall maintains an ever growing mystery and delivers a frightening vision of the future when Nicki's son describes a solar system on fire. I would have liked more about what he witnessed but all we got was Gwen's voice over claiming he'd looked into a dark star. Instead of further elucidation we were shifted into the final act, and as I say, a fairly predictable and sentimental ending. It was rather clear from the outset that this would be how it ended - with Nicki left with nothing but the nightmare of a disfigured son instead of the rosy dreams she once cherished and Gwen learning a very hard lesson about how much truth you should go looking for. But it's acted and directed with great skill and certainly is a much more satisfying episode that some of the rather unfortunate disasters we've had in this series to date. The performances are certainly the strength here and the lush location filming in the Bristol Channel also manages to dispel the gloomy mood of late.
When it doesn't try too hard, 'Torchwood' actually starts to work and this is another example of an episode working because the usual histrionics, absurdity and smugness are nowhere in sight and characters are actually allowed to grow and endear themselves to the audience.
Previous episode reviews:
From Out Of The Rain
A Day In The Death
Dead Man Walking
To The Last Man
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
- Freelance writer and film and television researcher (for hire).
He has contributed to a number of books and websites about British archive television and cinema as well as recent television series including work for Moviemail, Frame Rated and Arrow Video. Publications include I.B Tauris's 'Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour - A Critical
Celebration of the Matt Smith and Steven Moffat Era' (2013) and 'Doctor
Who - The Pandorica Opens' (2010).
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