BBC2/BBCHD - 6th February 2008 - 9.00pm

'We could release a single'

No,no,no,'s all gone wrong again. And don't you dare release a single.

They really have to sort out the 'Torchwood' modus operandi. Firstly, just why are they called to a road traffic accident involving a meat van? Has some police officer spotted the weirdness of the slabs of meat and muttered 'Bloody Torchwood!' and then given them a call? It's really not clear to me why they turned up at the scene. No one would have known the origins of said meat until the DNA testing was done.

Secondly, great as it was, the confrontation between Rhys and Gwen where she finally screams 'I catch aliens!' and she is instantly rebuked by him for being ridiculous doesn't hold any water. Rhys has by then seen the moaning space whale in the industrial unit and been freaked out by it and, if this is all taking place in the same universe as the 'Battle Of Canary Wharf', 'The Christmas Invasions' and the 'Buckingham Palace Incident', wouldn't he have some inkling that Gwen is actually not as mad as a box of frogs? This temporary amnesia about aliens and alien invasions is starting to look very, very silly now.

That said, I like the Rhys character and his delayed awareness of Torchwood and what Gwen does on the payroll has long been overdue. Kai Owen, as Rhys, was excellent in this and his refreshing swathe through the usual Torchwood cloak and dagger pretensions was most welcome. The ruffled feathers at Torchwood and the fractious relationship between him and Gwen were the highlight here. Although, the odd visual choices in their argument in the flat did slightly undermine the tension. I couldn't keep a straight face as the two characters were going at each other whilst in the background their screen saver was a sick making, lovey-dovey picture of the two of them. Couples, eh? What can you do with them. Which seemed to be a subtext running through this as Rhys enters Torchwood and meets the gang, gets involved in their Scooby Doo mobile phone address book routlette (Gwen loves Rhys, Jack loves Gwen, Ianto loves Jack, Tosh loves Owen, Owen loves himself...and the space whale) and then gets shot into the bargain. It's both unintentionally hilarious and then intentionally raised to yet another level by a stream of witty barbs from Ianto.

'Listen to Ahab'
'I'll stock up on plankton'
'And guess who'll have to look after it in the meantime...'

We even get an action-Ianto too with a Bondian coolness to his despatch of those meat-wrangling villains and with that level of super-cool it's about time he got a decent episode to himself because, whilst I'm warming to him, he just can't keep being the funny man all the time. However, despite all this frivolity and the domestics between Gwen and Rhys, Cath Tregenna's script doesn't actually amount to much or go anywhere. This is a shame as she is one of the better writers for the series and her work on the first series is miles ahead of this pulp nonsense. Get beyond the character touches and we're dealing with a subtext of 'human cruelty' to benign aliens as well as an anti-whaling Cardiff. What seriously buggers this up is the appalling visual effects. It's the last few shots of the space whale getting free of its shackles and screaming in pain that look especially ropey and are very apparent in the penetrating clarity of HD. Add to this Owen's dancing about with big needles to put the thing out of its misery and I thought I'd wandered into an episode of 'Primeval' by mistake. It's heart is in the right place but the execution scuppers it completely and reduces it to the worst episode of the run so far.

I'm glad Gwen didn't retcon Rhys. She stood up to Jack and was quite right to do so as I think Rhys adds an interesting dimension to the series and is emblematic of Gwen's humanity in the face of those sneering singletons at Torchwood. Which is more than can be said for John Barrowman. This was probably his least effective episode as Jack and he and Burn Gorman take the joint award for mangled performances of the week. Both of them vacillated between barbed cynicism and trembling lipped liberalism. Oh, the utter cruelty of it all and all that...And the space whale gets 'Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy' award for 'most unconvincing whale' in a supporting role.

Back to the drawing board, BBC Wales or should that be BBC 'whales'.

I'll get me coat.

Next week, 'Torchwood' does 'The Naked Time' with a twist. And we get another episode courtesy of BBC3.

Previous episode reviews:
To The Last Man
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

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