BBC3 - 21st March 2008 - 10.00pm
Slickly made, I'll give you that. But it's a house of cards with plot contrivance layered on circumstance layered on coincidence. It's very 'Buffy' to have all your characters to go into flashback mode and present to the viewer the turning point in their lives that leads all of them to their present situation. Trouble is, where 'Buffy' does this kind of thing it's usually underpinned by an emotionally significant plot that intersects with the flashbacks and gives them great resonance, 'Fragments' was just that...fragments. As disconnected as the bits of rubble so decorously placed on our heroes as they get caught in a series of exploding bombs. They should all have been torn to bits considering their proximity to the blasts so realism goes straight out of the window for a start as the team lies there and casts their minds back to the day they eventually joined this piss-poor organisation.
So we see Jack (who dies in the explosion and yet still has a flashback) with a natty cape and sideburns get caught up in the machinations of two Victorian lesbians running the turn of the century version of Torchwood, complete with name-dropping of the Doctor. It's good to see how Jack got back to Cardiff and got involved and how this progresses through to 1999 but it doesn't connect to anything going on in the present day. And it's nice we find out why Owen was such a **** in Series 1 but why would he join up with a man who effectively has just carted off his fiancee's brain and made everyone else forget about the alien crawling around in her head? Devasting as it is for him, it just feels like writer Chris Chibnall is making this up as we watch it.
The backstory for Tosh isn't much better either. She's an industrial spy just for mummy's sake and then she ends up in UNIT's version of Guantanamo Bay to teach her a lesson. And when did UNIT get so harsh? Have the days of Sergeant Benton's hot tea and bacon butties been left behind in favour of this callous organisation here? But how does that work when no one knows she's there? She displays incredible technical prowess which we've never actually seen before too...is this really the same Tosh we've been watching for the last two years? Finally Ianto picks Jack up in a park and has an homo-erotic tussle with a Weevil, begs him for a job, helps him catch a Pterodactyl and stands outside the Torchwood office brandishing cups of coffee. So he was employed as the tea boy after all!
This is all fine and dandy but it's too indicative of a writer, whilst wanting to come up with introductions for the main characters as flashbacks, banging square pegs into round holes. The pieces don't quite fit with what we're already familiar with. Then there's no actual plot to relate this to for 45 mins. Add in some bits of Gwen and Rhys rescuing the injured parties, with Gwen getting the clunkiest piece of dialogue and then performing it in the clunkiest way possible in response to Jack's request she goes and finds Owen...altogether now: "Oh, that's right, he can't heal, can he!"
Ouch. Of course the audience has completely forgotten that Owen's a zombie.
Then as they all dust themselves down and leave with little remaining time, Captain John turns up and claims he did it all out of jealousy. Right. That's a lame cliffhanger to take us into the finale. Just what is the motivation here and why is this simply tacked on almost as a last minute effort in creating a plot? I suppose we'll have to wait for the final episode but I was wishing Bilis Manger had turned up at the end instead of James Marsters doing Spike again. Chibnall's 'Adrift' was far better than this entertaining but empty bit of fluff and, agreed, the flashbacks do have a fanwanky charm to them but I was expecting much better than this. Mind you, it's head and shoulders above some of the dross that 'Torchwood' has inflicted on us this year.
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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