Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Home, home again

I like to be here when I can. And that's your Pink Floyd lyrics for the day.

As is customary, the festive break has left an abiding memory of games at The Lovely Jo's folks, and an excess of TV at mine. (I see George out of George and Mildred has joined Last of the Summer Wine. Old British TV actors don't die - their careers do. And then they go on Last of the Summer Wine.)

1. We did of course watch the Christmas Doctor Who, which was entertaining piffle. Nice monster (and hey, a big freaky spider-creature that didn't set off my arachnophobia), Catherine Tate turned out to be a passable (and not too annoying) actress, and some lovely effects - not just the big TARDIS chase scene, which was just as good on second viewing, but also watching the Earth forming. "You need someone to tell you when to stop" - very significant line, nice touch. But the story itself was absolute bulwarks from top to bottom. And what, another alien invader that uses robotic Santas and lethal Christmas trees? Or are we to take it that there's a Rent-a-Villainy stall just past Mars that sells these things to all comers? I somehow preferred The Christmas Invasion.
EDIT: There is one other nagging thought: did the script actually have the Empress of the Racnoss saying "Noooo! Noooo! My chillllldreeeeen!!" five times, or was it just the once and poor old Sarah Parish was forced to repeat the line so as not to spend the rest of that scene looking a bit of a lemon?
I think it's fair to say the best bit of The Runaway Bride was the series 3 trailer, but only because - ooh! Wow! Things! Shiny! A Dalek, again? Sod that - why's there a Busby Berkeley musical number in there? Look, Mark Gatiss! Mmm, Face of Boe. Yes, once again spring cannot come soon enough.

2. Robin Hood was not watched in the future in-laws' household, and so I did not see (nor even notice not seeing) the penultimate episode. I did see the finale at the ancestral residence, and sure enough the Sheriff and Guy of Gisbourne survived Robin H's grief-stricken rampage, as well as the foiling of the Sheriff's latest wicked scheme. In my mind, however, they've finally been lynched by a mob of angry earls and nobles, and so I can happily ignore the second series.

3. Torchwood was also not watched in the f i-ls' h, but we caught the Wednesday repeat of "Torchwood Does 'Fight Club'" at the a r. Pretty darn good really, and y'know, I did almost feel the faintest twinge for Owen at the end. Noel Clarke must write for Who. It's the only sensible course of action. Shame, looking back now, that this was the last major thing to happen to the Weevils. I was sure there was still more to be done with them. But maybe next year?
And then came "Torchwood Does 'Haunted Dancehall'". This was brilliant! Well, brilliant for a given value of brilliant. I mean, the to-ing and fro-ing with Tosh's message was a bit contrived, especially writing in blood - couldn't she ask someone for a pen? And presumably Jack has actually saved the real Captain Jack's life, since the next thing that would happen after their public gay kiss is that the Captain would be arrested (homosexuality being illegal in Britain in 1941) and therefore unable to fly to his doom the next day. But what a great character Bilis was! I kind of get the impression (not least from the title) that Captain Jack Harkness was supposed to be the focus of my attention, but not a hope with Bilis around!
Now I'm sure the makers of Torchwood won't mind a rank amateur like myself taking them to task over this. They're patient that way. But it seems to me the best thing in retrospect would have been to have this episode very early on - maybe even second after the intro episode - and spent the whole series building up the mystery of who Bilis is and what his agenda is. Screw the publicity talk of "stand-alone episodes", because we didn't exactly get that anyway - have a proper series arc instead of a last-minute two-episode arc. I'm sure if Who's "family" audience can handle series arcs, an "adult" audience can too. They could have built up the fact that Jack's got an Airfix TARDIS console - sorry, a "rift manipulator" - as well, instead of springing that on us all of a sudden.
But all in all, very good. I think at last the series was regaining the giddy heights of the fairy episode. And then the finale!
How corking was the first half hour of that? Really can't fault it - the outbreak of the Black Death, the dead people popping up in front of the team, more mysterious stuff with Bilis - best episode yet! If only this could've stretched over a couple more episodes! Because y'see, if there'd been more time spent on this story, and if there'd been more of a build-up of Bilis and his motives, having Randy Pan Goat-Boy suddenly bursting out of the rift in the last quarter hour wouldn't have come so completely out of a ****ing hat. What was the point of that?!
The other problem I had with this episode was that it kind of muddied the waters around Bilis' motives. Why did he make it so difficult for the team to fix up the Torchwood TARDIS - why did he actually steal a component from it - if he wanted them to open the rift all along? Sure, he scratched out Tosh's equations because he didn't want them to get their sums right, but why actual sabotage? But anyway. He vanished, so he could possibly come back. I expect there'll be some sort of follow-up in the second series.
No points for spotting the religious parallels, of course. So Jack sacrifices himself, is resurrected, forgives Owen Iscariot, and even ascends into Doctor Who series 3. And lo, he shall come again in the spring. But will he appear in Torchwood again?


Skeeter said...


I not only agree with you, I thoroughly agree with you - except that I still loved the emotional resonance of the last part of the finale.

Jack sacrificing himself for a team that frankly should all be sacked (if killing your boss isn't grounds for dismissal even in Torchwood then putting the world in jeopardy should be surely?!) Then getting dragged back by Gwen (find your religious imagery there or what?!)

And finally getting pulled off by the Doctor who presumably wants to tell him off for opening the rift "it's not my fault, I was dead at the time!"

Gareth Edwards said...

Hello Toon!

I'm still enjoying your blog. Thank you for much merriment while I should be writing notes about plays.

I'm not sure Captain Jack (either one) would be arrested for their kiss. The law (the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment) prohibited acts of gross indecency (public or private) between men. Although there was no statutory definition of 'gross indecency', it's unlikely that a kiss would be considered an offence. Although he would undoubtedly have been the subject of gossip and perhaps taunting, it's not even particularly likely that he would face any disciplinary action from his superiors. Although both the US and UK military would punish those suspected of homosexuality before and after the war, the personnel pressure of war led to a comparitive tolerance during the early 1940s. However, the fact that his indiscretion took place where women were available might lead his men to look more harshly on it. Although homosexual acts were often tolerated, this was sometimes only if the partipants could be seen to be making the best of things in the absence of women.

A source tells me that CJ will be back in Torchwood for the end of the next series. Don't know how confident he is of that, though.

Happy New Year!

John Toon said...

Captain Jack got pulled off by the Doctor?! Blimey, they are making full abuse of the post-watershed time slot, aren't they?

I'll reply more fully and sensibly later.

John Toon said...

Very well done both of you for not making the obvious reply about "abusing the time slot". Or possibly for not being online to do so.

Skeeter - I just don't think *anything's* a sackable offence in 'Torchwood'. They're all just so patient and forgiving. I can only be in awe at a team of people who shoot each other repeatedly, badmouth each other and put everybody's lives at serious risk, and can still come into work and be civil towards one another.

Edwards - I live to give. I sit corrected re arrestable gayness. It has been pointed out to me that homosexuality in the forces wasn't always a problem, certainly at the front ("no atheists/homophobes in a foxhole", eh?), but I imagined that gentleman-on-gentleman tongue action in a room full of people in Cardiff might just raise eyebrows. Then again, the strange symbolist salute-and-fade ending on that episode would seem to tell us not to take the whole thing at face(-sucking) value.