Contains spoilers: avert thine eyes.
And so, up until last week – i.e. up to and including episode five of Torchwood: Miracle Day, I was enjoying the series immensely.
It was tightly written, no screamingly noticeable plot holes, it was proceeding logically and intriguingly in an interesting direction and I was happy to follow.
In episode five, things started to get shaky: Gwen Cooper, former member of the notorious Torchwood, marches up to a man in uniform, announces herself a ‘Gwen Cooper’ and demands to take her dad home. ‘Gwen Cooper, you say? The Gwen Cooper who at the beginning of the series was hiding in an out of the way house by the sea? The Gwen Cooper who was so paranoid about being found that she was prepared to blow holes in an apparently nice middle-aged couple asking for directions? Excuse me, Miss Cooper, would you mind trying on this lovely set of silver bracelets?’
And Vera – I wasn’t really prepared to say ‘goodbye’ to Vera … but her tirade at the man who was in charge of the San Pedro facility was kinda dumb, given that she was undercover. Telling the bad guy you’re gonna send him to jail is not traditionally the way to get safely out of the lion’s den.
Then Jack decides to appeal to the better side of a murderer and paedophile who’s just luuurrrving his time in the sun; just loving manipulating the world. And said Jack stands still to allow the amoral-but-with-great-hair Jilly Kitzinger to take a photo of him. Yes, I know that all the fancy Torchwood software has wiped all mention of Torchwood from the internet, but apparently someone still knows about them and is looking for them.
Which brings me to this week, episode six … where do I begin? How about Esther Drummond, the former CIA watch analyst who goes undercover using the name of ‘Esther Drummond’? ‘Esther Drummond, you say? The Esther Drummond who fled the CIA building and for whom we have been hunting these past months? I also have some nice silver bracelets for you.’ Apparently CIA School had some funding cuts and Undercover 101 was cut from the curriculum.
Rex Matheson – and why did Rex have a video camera? Why didn’t he get the fancy-schmancy contact lenses? Would it not have been in everyone’s best interests for his story to have been beamed straight out?? Where was I? Oh yes, Rex Matheson, in a piece of optimistic idiocy worthy of Captain Jack, tells everything to THE GUY IN CHARGE OF THE CAMP. Because he wouldn’t know what goes on in the module, right??
Gwen Cooper, who is still hanging around the effing overflow camp in Wales, now calling herself Yvonne Palister – wait? Did she? I’ve lost track of it now. Then there’s her husband who blurts out, when questioned, that his orders have come from Captain Jack Harkness – okay, I can forgive Rhys, he’s not trained. But then he drives through a guarded gate in a lorry and hightails it off down the road … and the guys with the guns behind him, who have been enthusiastically shooting at him, go ‘Oh, well, don’t give chase, he has escaped our grasp and well played, sir!’ And Gwen, all the gods bless her, tells him to take her dad home … because apparently no one will ever work out that ingenious hideout.
Luckily, she had stashed her leather suit somewhere along with her motorbike (perhaps she borrowed Hermione’s handbag from HP 7?) – which was apparently where she also stashed enough fkg plastic explosive to send a metric-butload of buildings skyhigh. Thank God for the foregoing, coz with these wondrous coincidences, we would not have had that cool scene on the motorbike – and didn’t that just make up for everything else?
It did not.
Were we really supposed to be surprised when the mysterious powers-that-be behind PhiCorp (aha, this is why Gwen needed to have the only pair of fancy-schmancy contacts in the world) told Gwen they had her family and she needed to give them Jack in exchange? Or was it as obvious as a lorry bearing down on the gates of an overflow camp. Oh, look! A gun on the mantelpiece, how unexpected.
It’s been said before and I’ll say it again: apparently there is no situation Torchwood cannot make worse by attempting to make it better.
And, let’s face it, folks – Jack might be spending a lot of time trying to save the earth, but it seems an awful lot of the earth’s problems began with Jack in the first place. Also, this is the man who sacrificed his only grandchild in Children of Earth* (also when Jack’s past actions caused trouble later) … and he doesn’t seem to be in any way marked by it. Jack never learns from his past mistakes … his overriding philosophy seems to be ‘Well, I know this hasn’t worked the last 72 times, gosh and golly, surely it will work now, right?’
Yes, I know it’s not real … but if you’re going to go to the trouble of telling us a story, make it a fkg good one. Build it as you would a house that you want to stand for a long time. I know we need to put obstacles in our heroes’ way to make their fight more interesting, but does their greatest obstacle need to be their own stupidity? Constantly? It’s really hard to feel sympathy for a character who keeps stuffing up coz of their own idiocy. And don’t make those obstacles continually look like you couldn’t think of anything better – that’s when your characters look dumb.
Maybe it’s falling apart because they’re trying to stretch it over 10 episodes. I’m not only a fan, I’m a writer and I am going to look closely at the seams of your work, writers of Torchwood. I cannot help myself. I will see where your stitches are coming undone, where you’ve put a demin patch over that bit that your scorched with the iron, where you’ve added sequins to cover up the fact that there wasn’t quite enough material. I know what you’re doing. Get your shit together, Torchwood – you’re making me very, very grumpy.
* Children of Earth was awesome.