Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

“The Wedding of River Song”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

As the Doctor’s time runs out, he finds there is one thing standing between him and his death, the woman who is programmed to kill him, the woman who loves him, the woman who may just destroy the universe: River Song.


Wow. This review… this review required going back and watching the entire season again. Twice. It involved watching “The Wedding…” 5 times, with a 6th playing as I type this. It has led me to two conclusions: first, that Matt Smith truly has made the Doctor his own, and is one of the best of the many truly wonderful actors to play the part, and second, young River Song is one hot mess.

Good god. Let’s be clear, I really like the character of River Song, and Alex Kingston is an actress I can watch read a phone book. The River of “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, of “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang”, of “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon”: Wonderful. The River of “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The Wedding of River Song”? Good god, can we never see her again? Please?

Ok, to be fair, River in those two episodes is meant to be a young River, for all intents and purposes the equivalent of teen/20-ish years old, especially if she develops like Time Lords seem to do. More than once in the show’s long history, the Doctor has implied that the first hundred years or so are the Gallifreyans childhood, and while he may have been joking, from the evidence of those last two episodes, River is clearly far from an adult, and certainly not the strong, independent, equal she will become. Consider this little piece of dialogue from Amy and River in “The Impossible Astronaut”:

“River, we can’t just let him die, we have to stop it! How can you be ok with this?”

“The Doctor’s death doesn’t frighten me, nor does my own. There’s a far worse day coming for me.”

Now consider this exchange between River and the Doctor from “The Wedding of River Song”:

“I can’t let you die, without knowing you are loved! By so many and so much, and by no one more than me!”

“River, you and I, we know what this means. You and I, we are ground zero of an explosion that will engulf all reality. Billions on billions will suffer and die!”

I’ll suffer, if I have to kill you.”

More than every living thing in the Universe?”


Sound like a teenager’s view of love to anyone else? Nothing else mattering but being together?

Blarg. One hopes that from here on out we’ve seen the last of Young River, because she’s one screwed up Chickie. The Adult River is something wonderful and cool, the Young River nearly destroyed the entire bleeding Universe for love of one man, something that is more or less the opposite of what the Doctor believes in. When he says he’s embarrassed by her, it plays like he’s trying to goad her out of the lovesick fangirl she’s being, because here, that obsessive love is going to destroy everything the Doctor fights for. And that she turns on a dime and lets him have his way seems as much “Oh Joy! I get to be Mrs. Doctor!” as the revealtion that he’s got a plan. Driving this view home is the end, where Adult River visits Amy and Rory, and she acts, oh I don’t know, like a grown up and not a teenager. Please Mr. Moffat, more of Adult River, because we’ve had our visit with her early days and we all know how she came to be and please please please can we never come back? Mrs. Robinson yes, fangirl no.

Whew. Little rant there. So, what about the rest of it all? Well, the good news is that for about 70% of the episode we get some pretty cool timey-wimey-ness, and for the most part, answers to this season’s questions. The Doctor comes up with a plan to avoid his death, Amy gets to have her revenge on Madame Kovarian, and Rory gets to continue to be a badass, and while we’re there, those parts are very cool. In reverse order then…

As I’ve written a few times before, Rory has really developed A LOT throughout his time in the TARDIS, from being the hapless boyfriend to being The Boy Who Waited, to being the kind of man who makes terrible necessary decisions because they have to be made. Even in this alternate timeline, he’s become the soldier out of necessity and stands beside Amy, although neither of them are aware of their relationship in the real reality. Well, not initially anyway, but events will make that clear to them both, and the moment when the Silence break down the door and call him The Man Who Dies And Dies Again, and Amy saves him is one we’ve waited for. But it’s before that, when the EyeDrives are having their terrible effect, when Rory refuses to remove his because he won’t be able to fight the Silence without it? He stands there, one man in terrible agony, one man against an army of the Silence, because someone has to. Bravo Rory.

As for Amy Pond, again, I’ve written much about how she’s been treated this season, and here we get the strong, in control Amy that she deserves to be, AND we get a reaction to losing her baby! Bonus! Of course it’s still not the reaction we should have seen, with Amy losing her damn daughter to the Silence, but yes, it’s what we’re going to get. And it’s not so bad in fact… on their way to join the Doctor and River, Amy and Rory walk past the captive Madame Kovarian, reeling from the EyeDrive assault, and we get this:

“A..Amy… help me.”

“You took my baby from me, and hurt her. And now she’s all grown up and she’s fine, but I’ll never see my baby again.”

“But you’ll still save me though… because he would. A.. and you’d never do anything to disappoint your pre-precious Doctor”

“The Doctor is very precious to me, you’re right, but do you know what else he is, Madame Kovarian? Not here. River Song didn’t get it all from you… sweetie.”

It’s controlled, but it’s fury, and for the first time, Amy Pond willingly takes a life. And it’s something she is conflicted about, even when the timeline is restored, because she still remembers. Would that we had seen even this much over the loss of Melody, but alas. Still, it’s something, as is her real joy when River reveals that the Doctor found a way to cheat death.

For, of course, he does, and it’s pretty elegant, if not fraught with a pretty big “Wait, what?” Using the Teselecta, he goes to his death in a Doctor suit, which takes the fatal blows, and the regeneration we start to see was, um, special effects? And when his friends burned his body, it um… damnit! Right, here’s some of the 30% Just Doesn’t Work. So the Doctor is inside the ship, which has configured itself to look like him. Fine. But we saw the Doctor start to regenerate, which, ok, let’s go with the FX explanation. Dodgy, but ok. But they burned the body. They. Burned. The. Body. Ok, little Doctor, little TARDIS, they slip away fine. But the ship is still there, and somehow I doubt a) it’s going to be destroyed by fire, and b) considering how important it is to River that the Doctor’s body be safe from his enemies, that she wouldn’t wait until the fire consumed it all. Sigh.

While we’re on things that don’t work… ok, the suit was controlling River, and she was only able to discharge the weapons early, creating the new, and doomed, timeline. But in the original timeline she failed, and so the suit did the work. So why, oh why, was River necessary at all? I’ve seen it suggested that somehow River’s Time Lord/human DNA helped lock the fixed moment in time down even more, but there’s nothing in the episode to suggest that, and well, it didn’t work did it? If the suit just needed someone to be in it, why not just anyone? Why River?

What did work there, and what was important, is that the Doctor knew that River wouldn’t remember committing his murder, that the Silence would wipe her memory. So we get around our little question of River’s reaction to his death, by seeing that it was a true reaction. It must have been terrible knowing that she was serving a prison sentence for killing him, but not remembering how or when, and it explains her “Of course not”, when her bullets fail to bring the Astronaut down… she couldn’t stop it because she didn’t stop it. And she didn’t know that the Doctor survived, because he didn’t tell her that he did, until they were in the alternate timeline… remember that the Doctor spent 200 years traveling before he brought his friends to America, and in there, lived his life with River. Apparently quite a bit of it while she was still in prison, so one assumes that she agreed with his desire to slip into the shadows… and yes, I know that the following video tells a different tale. Mine makes more sense.

And that brings us to the Doctor himself. Recognizing that he’s become too big, too famous, too frightening, he decides to appear to die. And it almost worked too, if it hadn’t been for that damned meddling kid, um River. But in the end, he got to do exactly that, but not before a couple of very important things happened. The second is pure magic, and a little heartbreaking. Railing against what the Universe seems to be pushing him towards and coming very close to the arrogance of the 10th Doctor at the end, the Doctor calls Earth, and tells the person on the other end to get “him” and shouts that “Time has never laid a glove on me!”, only to find that it has.

He called the nursing home where one Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart resides, but too late. The good Brigadier had passed away months before, waiting to see his old friend one more time, and here, here, Matt Smith gives us a moment the Doctor experiences all the time, and one we almost never see. His friends die. They die of old age, and he continues on. It’s subtle, it’s powerful, and it’s true, and Smith delivers it brilliantly. As he says later, his friends are the best part of him, and in the end, they will all be gone. We never got to see Nicholas Courtney make an appearance in the new series, and his death earlier this year means we never will, so it was nice to see that sad moment become a part of the Doctor’s life, and an important one. Rest well Brigadier.


The first is this: While trying to avoid his fate, he searched for information on the Silence, and along the way, we got to see that the Doctor still has that dark edge to him, as he confronts a damaged Dalek:

“Imagine you were dying, imagine you were afraid, and a long way from home and in terrible pain. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you looked up, and saw the face of the Devil himself. Hello Dalek.”

That that is shown from the point of view of the Dalek is creepy, very creepy, and from the sound of the Doctor’s voice, well, the Time War is far from off his mind. But after a warped game of Live Chess, he find himself in possession of the still living head of Dorium Maldovar and the reason why the Silence wants him dead.

It seems that the Question the Silence doesn’t want answered is one the Doctor is in a unique position to answer, a secret that they know only he possesses, one that can never be revealed. And at a place called the Fields of Trenzalor, at the Fall of The Eleventh, there will come a time when only the truth can be spoken, and there, there, the Doctor will answer the Question, and this the Silence cannot allow. But what is the Question?

Ohhhhh you crafty buggers. It’s quite a big one, and it opens up a LOT of new questions itself. You see the Question that cannot be answered, the one that the Silence needs the Doctor to never answer, the question the Doctor has been running from all his life… is simply this: Doctor Who? Who is the Doctor? Well, that question came up years ago at the end of the first run of the show, and the plan was to reveal that the Doctor wasn’t quite who he claimed to be, and was part of what came to be known as the Cartmel Masterplan. It seems unlikely that we’ll be seeing that hit our screens, since it was so aptly played out in the New Adventures novel LUNGBARROW, but one does suspect that sometime in 2013, around a certain anniversary, the rug will get pulled out from underneath us.

So much more I could write about this episode, from Ian McNiece as Churchill, Mark Gatiss as Gantok, pterodactylus in London, Area 52 in Egypt, and more… but I think we’ve covered the most important parts. So thank you Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Steven Moffat and Co. It’s been a hell of a season, and it’s worked more than it hasn’t. You asked big questions and gave us big stories. That they didn’t always work, well, that’s how it goes, and we’re happy you tried, because sometimes you made magic. And now we wait. Because the bad news is that the London Olympics are going to push the next season back to the fall of 2012, and while we’ll have the Christmas Special and there are rumors of an Easter Special, the answers, and the new incarnation of the show are many months away. New incarnation? Yes indeed, because we have something of a reboot here don’t we?

The Doctor is Dead. Long Live the Doctor.

[“Doctor Who” on the BBC web site]     [“Doctor Who” on BBC America]


“Closing Time”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

With the Doctor’s time running out, he stops by Earth to see a friend and finds old enemies lurking beneath quiet city streets…


I kinda feel like the Grinch finding fault with “Closing Time”, considering how sweet-natured and funny it is, but I guess I’m just going to have to. Sigh.

First of all, while I love to see our universe’s Cybermen, I really think they were wasted here, and yes, yes, I know that they’re running on low power and such, but still. It was nice to see a Cybermat again, and the shots of the lone Cyberman were suitably creepy, but once we got down into the ship, all the tension seemed to evaporate. And yes, it’s sweet and happy and as a father I can cheer a bit for Craig overcoming the Cyber-conversion by the power of his love for his son, but, and it’s a big but, that’s not how it works. Well, that’s not how it’s worked before anyway, with Cybermen being pretty much mechanical bodies with human brains inside… ah to hell with it. That’s not really what this episode is about is it? The Cybermen are here to provide the bad guys, but it’s really about the Doctor isn’t it?

This season has been greatly about redefining the Doctor’s relationships, first with his mortality, then with the TARDIS itself, then with Rory and Amy, and most importantly, with himself. We’ve seen the Doctor realize how much he puts those he cares about in danger, and how his legacy is viewed by those in the wider universe. It’s been something of a dark picture, with words like “god complex” and “vain” figuring heavily, and while he really is just trying to help, it seem that the results have led to Madame Kovarian’s War and the birth of the Silence, all for the fear of the Doctor. Episodes like “The Girl Who Waited” have shown starkly the kind of terrible decisions the Doctor makes on a regular basis, and how monstrous they can seem when someone like Rory takes a hard look at them. Rory changed there, and it would be Amy who would set aside her hero-worship in “The God Complex”, and where the Doctor would decide that putting the people he cares about at risk, no matter how lonely he may be, wasn’t something he could accept anymore.

Picking up somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 years later, the Doctor finds himself one day out from the events of “The Impossible Astronaut”, and while we don’t have a lot of details, it seems to have been a full 200 years. Somewhere in there would be the bulk of his life with River Song, and while we’ve had hints (Jim the Fish anyone?), there’s little we know about this period of the Doctor’s life, aside from River calling it the best part of hers. The Doctor doesn’t appear to be thinking much of his happier past though, as he stops by to visit Craig Owens on what seems to be a farewell tour of sorts.

Finding Craig with new son in tow, the Doctor finds himself in the new position of having to be talked into investigating the mysterious power fluctuations. Feeling his years, feeling as though he’s doing more harm than good, the Doctor seems to want to walk away, but of course he can’t, because then he wouldn’t be the Doctor, would he? Craig’s innocent belief helps. Craig’s logic that staying close to the Doctor is the safest thing to do is somewhat flawed, but more often than not, it does turn out to be the case, and with young Alfie in tow, you can see how he’s think that. That Craig’s arc here is somewhat clichéd (frazzled new father in over his head trying to prove himself) and that it’s just another spin on his story from “The Lodger” is a little disappointing, but I suppose it’s too much to ask that he change too much. He wouldn’t, after all, be the foil for the Doctor that he is in these two episodes. There, of course, is much fun to have with Craig’s son Alfie, or “Stormageddon” as he prefers to be called, because of course, the Doctor speaks Baby, and of note is the somewhat revealing and funny “conversation” the Doctor has with him in the nursery.

Ok, I do have a couple of problems. One, while it’s cute that the Doctor can silence babies with a sound, his repeated use of it on adults is kind of insulting after a while. And the repeated use of the “partners/couple/companion” misunderstanding of the Doctor/Craig relationship as a gay couple is sort of beat into the ground. And the simple-minded/obliviousness of the clerks is… ah, it’s a comedy episode. Still.

The interesting moment for me this episode came with the “cameo” appearance of Amy and Rory, and the revelation that Amy has become somewhat famous as a model for a perfume campaign. Welllll… that’s what a lot of people seem to have come away with, but I think it’s rather something more. Let’s consider the poster the Doctor sees shall we? Lovely picture of Amy of course, but then there’s the name of the fragrance: Petrichor. It’s part of the psychic key the TARDIS gives Rory in the “The Doctor’s Wife”, and it’s described as the smell of dust after rain, and it seems highly unlikely that a perfume company would come up with something so specific to the Doctor on its own.

More likely, and the line “For the Girl Who’s Tired Of Waiting” backs this up, is that Amy created the fragrance, and far from being just a model, she’s created a business. With the idea that Amy and Rory deserve a life that doesn’t revolve around the Doctor being part of the reason he left them, it’s clear that they’ve built one, and a successful one at that. The Doctor holding back from going to them, the hiding from them, and his rueful expression when he realizes that Amy has moved on, show that 200 years or not, the Doctor still regrets what effect he’s had on the two.

If you didn’t enjoy last years “The Lodger”, or James Corden’s performance as Craig in it, you’re probably not going to appreciate this episode a whole lot. While I did, I do find it somewhat odd that the penultimate instalment of the season is something this slight, even though it gives us a counterpoint to the last two episodes. Craig quite sensibly tells the Doctor that the Cybermen would have woken up and began killing and converting people whether the Doctor was there or not, and that the fact that he is there mean that the Cybermen will be stopped. So yes, while the Doctor is responsible for putting his friends in danger, yes, he’s frightening to those in power and those who think he might try and stand in their way, and yes, his ego and vanity are responsible for much that is negative, the fact remains: Without the Doctor things would be much, much worse.

We have to discuss the coda here, where River Song is oddly reviewing paper records that don’t seem to have any real reason to exist, and Madame Kovarian and The Silence reveal that they still aren’t done with her. It’s good on one hand, because we need more evidence that thier investment of time, money and lives are worth it in their creation of Melody as a weapon, but it’s a little odd as well. She’s just become a Doctor you see, and now they’ve come for her? Hmmm. We do have the answer finally as to who was/is in the Astronaut suit, and there went my pet theory… I was leaning towards the Doctor himself.

So, funny, sweet, odd in its placement, “Closing Time” gives us a reminder that the Doctor is a force for good, even as he struggles with his own feelings on the subject. We also get a nice lead in for our season finale… now we wait. For the Death Of The Doctor, and the “The Wedding of River Song”.

[“Doctor Who” on the BBC web site]     [“Doctor Who” on BBC America]

“The God Complex”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

Spoilers Abound.

“An ancient creature… drenched in the blood of the innocent… drifting in space through an endless shifting maze… for such a creature… death would be a gift.”

And so we’ve come to the only logical place we could have. Since Steven Moffat began his run on the series, he’s been dismantling the god-like Doctor bit by bit. With Tennant’s 10th Doctor, we got the Angry Lonely God, and in episodes like “The Last Of The Time Lords” and “Forest of The Dead”, and especially in “The Waters of Mars”, we see the Doctor knows what his reputation is, and even begins to believe it himself. He’s become the arbiter of Time and Space, and all you have to do is look him up to see why you should run.

With the arrival of Matt Smith in “The Eleventh Hour”, the Doctor continues to bank on his reputation, and whether it’s the Atraxi or a fleet of every enemy he’s ever had, he used the legend that had grown up around him to his advantage, over and over. But as we moved into Smith’s second season, we begin to watch Moffat’s very critical look at the idea that the Doctor can’t be beaten, that his reputation and his actions have far more impact than he knows, and that his adventuring through time and space leaves a lot of damage behind. The 11th Doctor has been shown over and over to be fallible, and more importantly, he’s been shown to be aware of the mistakes he’s made… and of the darkness inside him. The Dream Lord from “Amy’s Choice”, the revelations of “A Good Man Goes To War”, and now this… simply put, Moffat and Smith have given us a Doctor who is faced over and over with the realities of what his impact on the universe is. It’s not always positive, and Smith does a wonderful job of portraying the age, the guilt, and the underlying self-hate the Doctor hides behind that often childlike sense of wonder and joy. The consequences of his travels weigh heavily on him, and it does seem fitting that as he heads to what appears to be his death, the Doctor reflects on the lives that have been sacrificed for him, the danger he puts those he cares about in, and the many times he’s failed to save the innocent.

Rather lengthy intro isn’t it? Well, those are the things we’re really talking about in “The God Complex”, another episode this series with a title specifically about one of our main characters. Sure, the TARDIS crew is trapped in a “building”, facing off against a creature that was once a “god”, so we have the double play on words, but it’s quite clear that it’s the Doctor who has the complex in question.

While at first “God Complex” looks like another stand-alone ep, it’s really quite clear that it’s part of the larger arc, especially when looking at Arthur Darvill’s Rory. When he tells Amy that he feels like he should notify Rita’s next of kin because of how much the Doctor likes her, watch his face. He’s not actually joking. When he talks about traveling with the Doctor in the past tense, and when he points out that most victories don’t involve saving the universe, you can see that he’s had enough. With everything that has happened this season, from the Doctor’s death, Melody/River to Older Amy, Rory has seen the dark side of travel in the TARDIS, and since he doesn’t share the hero-worship Amy has for the Doctor, it’s been Rory who has vocalized, especially in “The Girl Who Waited”, the very real consequences of it on those the Doctor calls his friends. Watch Matt Smith’s face when his Doctor talks to Rory too, and you can see that he knows exactly what Rory’s thinking.

Here also is the part where we have to discuss the elephant in the room. While I’ve really liked so much this season, and really felt that story-wise, character-wise and sheer wonder-wise Moffat and Co. have done beautifully, they really dropped the ball on how Rory and Amy have dealt with Melody/River. Because they haven’t. At all. It seems that we’re supposed to find the resolution of “Let’s Kill Hitler” and River’s path to becoming the person they know as the end of their quest to be reunited with their child. As a parent, as a viewer, that’s nonsense, and sure, we know that stuff happens between the episodes, but c’mon, really? One one hand I get it… DOCTOR WHO has always been episodic, but while this season has been arc heavy for a show that isn’t known for them, when you deal with fundamental issues like parenthood and family, you have to DEAL with them. If you set up big situations like the kidnapping of a child and turning her into a weapon, having that child become your crazy best friend isn’t actually a solution any parent would accept. With only two episodes left, and Amy and Rory only in one of them, it’s a big, bad, wrong hole in the story. And with one hand on the elephant, we turn to Amy.

I’ve said it before, the writers have NOT been kind to Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond this season. And with what she’s been through, that Amy isn’t a lot more like Older Amy, or pointing a gun at the Doctor like she did River and demanding answers seems surprising, but here we look hard at why she keeps putting her faith and trust in the Time Lord. There is hero worship, there is gratitude at being returned for, there is love and all those very human reactions to someone as wonderful and kind and magical as the Doctor. But she’s also holding onto all of those things despite the fact that the Doctor takes her into danger over and over, that she’s lost her child because of her traveling with him, that she’s watched Rory die more than once… for all that Amy is smart and bold and independent, when it comes to the Doctor she has a massive blind spot. And that almost, almost goes a long way to explaining her acceptance of losing the opportunity to raise Melody. Almost, but not enough.

What it does do is put her in danger again, and it takes the active breaking of that blind faith by the Doctor to save her from the Minotaur. That it happens in a room where 7 year old Amy waits in vain is great, but despite a wonderful performance by Smith, the scene seems too short, too simple, or maybe it’s because, just as we haven’t dealt with Melody’s loss, we don’t get the scene where Amy takes the Doctor to task for the way he has let her down. I personally like the distance between the two of them at the end when the Doctor leaves them behind, because it felt like two people who have severed a link between them, who have fundamentally altered the relationship they had. It’s uncomfortable when that happens, and there’s an awkwardness and a sadness that isn’t just about the Doctor leaving: It’s about the idea of the Doctor changing for Amy Pond.

“I brought them here. It was their choice, but offer a child a suitcase full of sweets and they’ll take it. Offer someone all of Time and Space and they’ll take that too. Which is why you shouldn’t.”

“I can’t save you from this, there’s nothing I can do to stop this. I stole your childhood and now I’ve led you by your hand to your death. And the worst thing is I knew, I knew this would happen. This is what always happens.”

“Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored.”

“Look at you. The glorious Pond. The Girl Who Waited for Me. I’m not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are… Amy Williams.”

Matt Smith’s performance here is fantastic… each of those quotes is delivered with a sadness and a sense of self-knowledge that we really haven’t seen before in the Doctor, at least not to this level. He knows what he’s done, he knows what he’s doing, and he knows that what he offers is irresistible. And that’s the problem. He’s brought Companion after Companion into the TARDIS and into harm’s way for centuries, and they all fall a little in love with the idea of the Doctor, that madman with a box, adventuring through the universe and beyond. But look at Adric, Katarina or Sara Kingdom. They died because they stepped into the TARDIS. Look at the way the Doctor has used his friends as weapons, or left them without a word. It IS what always happens, and he knows it. How many times has Rory died? How many times has Amy? Martha. Rose. Donna. River.

“What’s the alternative? Me standing over your grave? Over your broken body, over Rory’s body?”

The Doctor is lonely. But he knows. And on the way to his death, he’s going to save Amy and Rory one more time, by letting them go. Of course they’ll be back, but one hopes that we haven’t seen the last of this change in the relationship between the Doctor and Amy, so that Amy can be who she’s meant to be, not just The Girl Who Waited.

As for the rest of it… if you know David Walliams from LITTLE BRITAIN, then you may not recognize him here as Gibbis, a member of a race that uses surrender as a kind of weapon. He’s funny and darker than he appears, although the joke wears a touch thin. There’s also Dimitri Leonidas as Howie and Daniel Pirrie as Joe, both fine as fodder for the Minotaur, played by Spencer Wilding. The Minotaur is an interesting adversary by the way, eons old and wanting to die, but kept alive by the prison ship. Operating almost purely on instinct, it wants the Doctor to stop it, and it also sees some parallels between it’s life and the Doctor’s.

The hotel is very much Kubrick’s THE SHINING inspired, and looks fantastic, and the little reveals about the fears lurking in each room are quite fun. The fact that we don’t see what is in room 11, but hear the TARDIS’s Cloister Bell is intriguing… But the story itself has a few problems. The prison, floating through space and snatching up the faithful for the Minotaur’s food does look like a hotel for, um, what reason? And surely the race that imprisoned the Minotaur couldn’t be that much a bunch of right bastards to just let its prison float about and grab innocent people, right?

I’ve saved Amara Karan’s Rita for last here for a reason. Smart, intuitive, able to see through the Doctor and the one to point out his god complex. The first devout Muslim I can recall in the show since it returned, in this time of pointless Islamophobia, it’s really nice to see a character with those religious beliefs portrayed not as a fanatic or a danger, but as a good person. She thinks that the hotel may be Jahannam, the Islamic Hell, and finds herself a victim of the Minotaur, but not before the Doctor essentially offers her a place in the TARDIS. It’s a shame, I liked her and I think the addition of a religious woman from an eastern culture might have made for some interesting story possibilities, but like the Ninth Doctor and Lynda and the Tenth with Astrid, the Eleventh has met that potential Companion who dies before they get the chance. And I was a little angry alongside the Doctor when she didn’t fight harder to live.

So! A good episode, with some great and quite important character and arc developments, and the departure of Amy and Rory, well, until the season finale that is, with the only glaring flaw being the continued lack of real resolution to the emotional trauma Amy and Rory must have felt about Melody. Ah well. It’s still a great season of DOCTOR WHO.

[“Doctor Who” on the BBC web site]   [“Doctor Who” on BBC America]


A Review by Timothy Harvey

When the Doctor tries to take Amy and Rory to the No.2 Most Beautiful Planet in the Galaxy, the TARDIS crew finds themselves in the midst of a planetwide medical quarantine, with Amy on the wrong side of the line, and trapped in a faster timestream.


There have been a LOT of good episodes this season, and some real big ideas and revelations, and most of it has been tied into the Death of the Doctor storyline, but it was one of the stand alone stories that is my current favorite of this run: “The Doctor’s Wife”. Neil Gaiman’s exploration of the love affair between a boy and his Box was pretty damn brilliant, and gorgeous to boot.

I now have a 2nd favorite episode.

Let me be perfectly clear, this is one of the best episodes of DOCTOR WHO since it’s returned to our screens six years ago. Like “The Doctor’s Wife” it examines a relationship, only this time it’s Amy and Rory’s, and like it, it looks at what the power of love means for them. And this episode, too, is gorgeous. It also takes a good long look at the Doctor in a way that is both true and unsettling.

I’m not going to give you a recap here, because this is an episode you have to watch. Leave aside the stunning production design, the lighting, the makeup and the effects, which are really, really good; it’s the story and the acting and the questions at the heart of it all that you have to watch. So if you want to go in completely fresh and see this the best way? Stop reading and watch it. Seriously.


OK, so if I’m not going to give an actual recap, what am I going to do? Well, first of all lets get the negative out of the way, because yes, it’s not a perfect episode. The premise of a medical quarantine that uses time to separate the sick from the healthy is really very interesting, and the idea of being able to watch your dying loved one have a full life in the 24 hours they have left is both truly kind and deeply sad. It is, unfortunately, a little hard to buy that every one of the 40,000 infected are all in their own separate timestreams… good God, think of the power and the processing requirements! And while the caretaker robots aren’t actually designed to be something to fight, no matter their adversarial nature here, they are apparently of pretty flimsy construction when the story requires it… painting canvas is not that effective a weapon. And that’s the quibbles. All of them. Seriously folks, that’s as bad as it gets.

Because writer Tom MacRae have given us something really good here. MacRae isn’t someone I expected this from to be honest, and that’s more my fault than his. I wasn’t much of a fan of the alternate universe Cybermen of his two-part story “Rise of the Cyberman/The Age of Steel”, and while I know that scripts change a lot in the course of filming, when I saw he wrote this episode, it didn’t make me all that excited. Mr. MacRae, I still don’t think much of those two episodes, but believe me, sir, the next time I see your name as the writer of anything, I will watch it.

Credit must also be given to director Nick Hurran, who is new to DOCTOR WHO, and especially to cinematographer Owen McPolin, who also shot “The Doctor’s Wife”, and if I could have him do the camera work for the entire series that would be just fine. The look of this episode falls squarely on the shoulders of McPolin and the production crew, and they do a truly excellent job.

What make this episode special is the hard look it takes at the love between Rory and Amy, and the consequences of travel with the Doctor upon that love. We’ve seen before what Rory’s love for Amy will lead him to do, from following her into the TARDIS in the first place, all the way to spending 2000 years waiting for her. We’ve seen him take on the universe to get his wife and child back, and if nothing else, we know Rory loves Amy. He’s grown immensely from the fairly feckless comic relief of “The Eleventh Hour”, and while he’s still funny as hell, Rory is a very three-demensional character.

Amy? Well, yes and no. She’s gone through a lot too, but essentially she’s stayed the same since we first met her. She’s still the strong willed, smart, sassy Scottish lass, and while we’ve seen some change with the pregnancy/Melody/River story, it hasn’t been much. And lately it’s been, and yes, it goes with the story arc, Amy needing rescuing a fair amount, with Rory being the one to save her as much as the Doctor. Here though… here we have a very different Amy than we’ve seen before.

“Rory, I love you. Now save me.”

In brief, when Amy is caught in the separate timestream of the Two Streams, 36 years have passed compared to the mere moments/hours of time Rory and the Doctor, and the years alone, constantly on the run from the HandBots, have hardened her into a bitter, angry woman. She’s built her own sonic screwdriver, hacked the computer system to aid her, and taken one of the HandBots for something resembling companionship. Feeling abandoned, her love for Rory and the Doctor has hardened into disdain for them both, and for the Doctor particularly, actual hatred.

“You told me to wait, and I did. A lifetime. You’ve got nothing to say to me.”

It’s quite the change from the Amy we’ve seen, to put it mildly. Physically Karen Gillan goes all out here, moving differently than young Amy, talking differently than young Amy, and yes, the excellent makeup helps, but it’s Gillan’s performance that makes older Amy work. Her anger, her bitterness, and most importantly her refusal to be saved by those she feels abandoned by, make or break the story, and Gillan gives her best work yet. We have to believe in this woman, this slightly mad, survive-at-all-costs woman, who would sacrifice her younger self to preserve her own life, for this to work, and that it does is a testament to the writing and her performance. When she’s playing against herself, old and young, it’s fantastic.

There’s a moment where the younger Amy reminds her older self of what it was like to fall in love with Rory, what that love means to them both, and it leads to this exchange:

“You’re asking me to defy destiny, causality, the nexus of time itself for a boy.”
“You’re Amy, he’s Rory, and oh yes, I am.”

Here we see what differentiates the two Amys, and it comes down to whom they put first. Young Amy asks “what about Rory”, and that she does shows how far the two are apart. Older Amy puts herself first, and you can see that she’s had to, but young Amy puts the man she loves, her husband, first. It’s an important moment, because while we have seen Rory do that for Amy over and over, we’ve rarely seen Amy return that level of sacrifice, and make no mistake… younger Amy is asking older Amy to sacrifice herself so that Rory can be reunited with her younger self. That the argument works only to a point is made clear moments later, when older Amy demands that the Doctor save both versions, because while she rediscovers her love for Rory, she quite simply doesn’t what to die.

“I don’t care that you got old. I care that we didn’t grow old together.”

Poor Rory. Last season it was “how can we kill Rory this week”, and if anything, he was the comic relief of the Doctor and Amy Show. Starting with “The Big Bang”, Rory became something far more, turning into a true Companion, and not just The Boy Who Follows Amy. From the Last Centurion of that episode to the Last Centurion of “A Good Man Goes To War”, Rory has asserted himself more and more, and proven again and again that nothing will keep him from being with the woman he loves, but here… here he has an almost impossible choice. Older Amy IS his Amy, damaged to be sure, but she is the woman he loves. It hurts that he didn’t get to grow older with her, and when the Doctor tells him they can still save the young Amy, obviously he’s going to try. And of course he’s going to try to save the older Amy too… he loves her. But the days of Rory just going along are over, and he’s even willing to have a yelling argument with older Amy, something we couldn’t have pictured when we first met him. And when he realizes that ultimately, the situation is the result of the Doctor’s way of doing things, and that it could have been avoided:

“This is your fault.”
“I’m so sorry, but Rory…”
“NO! This is YOUR FAULT! You, you should look at a history book once in a while, see if there’s an outbreak of plague or not!”
“That is not how I travel!”

When the Doctor tells older Amy that there is a way to save both versions, things become even worse for Rory, because as we all know, the Doctor lies. Having promised him that he would save “thier” Amy, the Doctor is willing to do whatever it takes to get her back, and lying to his friends to achieve that goal is the least of it… because when Rory carries a tranquilized young Amy through the TARDIS’s doors, the Doctor slams them shut on the older one. The paradox would be too great to sustain, and so the Doctor does what he always does, and makes the terrible decision that has to be made. Only this time, Rory stands up to him and finds himself forced to make the decision, leading to another important line:

“This isn’t fair, you’re turning me into you!

Wracked with pain, torn apart by knowing that if he doesn’t let older Amy into the TARDIS she’ll die, Rory almost does it, but older Amy stops him. Realizing that she truly has forgotten how much he loves her, how much she loves him, she accepts that there can only be one Amy, and gives the days to the one who can grow old with Rory.

My daughter told me today that this scene at the TARDIS door is being compared on some message boards to the 10th Doctor/Rose scene on the beach. Rubbish. While it’s true, I’m not a huge Rose fan, and always thought that “love” story was out of character, that scene was about something else entirely. This feels far more real, and the emotion of this scene is far more powerful. Listen to Arthur Darville’s voice, look at his face throughout this entire episode, but especially here at the door, and you’ll see what I mean. I am a big Arthur Darville fan, and this episode he’s bloody brilliant.

This is a “Doctor Light” episode, and while it’s all about Amy and Rory, without the Doctor’s actions, the story wouldn’t have played out the way it did. Rory is both right and wrong to call the Doctor out on causing all of this, because yes, traveling with the Doctor is dangerous. For every wonderful moment of new worlds and adventures, there are horrible moments of terror and potential death, but ultimately Amy and Rory chose to travel in the TARDIS, and they chose knowing that. It doesn’t, however, make it any less true. It also brings to the fore again something that it’s been easy to forget but this season has been greatly about: The Doctor’s decisions are always made for the greater good, but there are consequences to them, and they are not always kind. The war against the Doctor by the forces of the Silence and thier allies are a result of the fear those decisions and actions have caused, and while they are on a much smaller scale here, it’s the same thing. The Doctor will save Amy, and if that means wiping older Amy out of existence, well, that’s what has to happen. But watch Matt Smith’s face when the Doctor slams the door on her. Watch his face when she’s screaming through the door that she trusted him. Watch his face when he makes Rory choose and when Rory asks him if he always knew that there could be only one Amy. And watch his face when Amy asks where her older self is. The Doctor knows, and has always known what he’s doing when he makes the decisions that shatter empires and wipe out timelines. And I think we’re seeing here the reason the Doctor doesn’t like himself very much.

Well, there was a lot more recap here than I planned, but it was hard to write about some of this, a lot of this, without it, so there it is. Again, just about a perfect episode, and again, one of the absolute best of the series. Writing, performances, direction, design and music: fantastic.

It isn’t simply a great DOCTOR WHO episode, it’s a great STORY.

Not with a bang, but with a… well, it’s better than a whimper, but only just.

With “The Blood Line”, we do get an ending, and it does wrap up the story and answer most of the questions, and overall it’s not a bad episode. For all the fuss and bother to get us here though, it’s an ending that lacks quite a bit, and if you’ve been dissatisfied with TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY so far, you’re probably not going to be overwhelmed.

So what happens? Well, our two Torchwood teams move into position at the polar ends of the Blessing, fighting their way into the Shanghai and Buenos Aires facilities, and confront the Families. There they get the answers of why and how the Miracle happened, defeat the villains, and save the world from the curse of immortality. The end.

Not thrilled by that summary? Well, it’s actually better than that, quite good in places, but after watching it all, I admit I was left with a definite sense of “Meh.” It really has been a “too little, too late” season for TORCHWOOD, and while they try to make this last episode big and grand and powerful, there are a few things that just make that impossible.

Let’s start with the Families and their plan. See, way back when, they saw the repeated resurrections of Jack, and while he escaped them, they kept large quantities of his blood and used them in their quest for immortality. Realizing that they would need more power than they currently had to make that happen, they moved into politics, the media and the financial worlds, gradually taking them over and preparing for the day when they would have the chance to rule the world and live forever. The discovery of the Blessing gave them the final piece they needed, and they used its unique properties to make humanity immortal so they could take over the world after the chaos collapsed society. Yes folks, the Families are James Bond villains.

I mean really, that’s it. The big plan? Watch the world burn, then step in and pick up the pieces and rule. Sorry, but isn’t that the plot of MOONRAKER and THE SPY WHO LOVED ME? I’m not saying that John Barrowman couldn’t play Bond, but is that really what we tuned in for? And as for the Blessing itself, we got a lot of “That’s what makes it magical” to try and cover for the fact that they never actually tell us what it is or how it manages to be apparently alive and still run through the molten center of the earth, and its apparent control of the morphic field of the Earth really just comes down to “because it does”.  That it somehow made humanity immortal to be “kind” also makes little sense, as does the whole damn premise because Jack’s blood isn’t what makes Jack immortal.

In DOCTOR WHO’s “The Parting of the Ways”, Rose Tyler uses the power of the Time Vortex to resurrect him, and leaves him a fixed point in time: while Jack can be killed, he will always come back to life, wounds healed and never aging. That’s what he is. What he’s not is a man carrying around immortal blood with its own unique properties that can be passed on to other people, and yet ignoring what he himself created, that’s what Russell T. Davies has given us here. The interaction between the Blessing and Jack’s blood and it’s creation of an immortal humanity makes no sense whatsoever, and less so that Jack would become mortal in response. It’s something that comes across purely as story mechanics, and when you have the character say, in this season, more than once, that there’s nothing special about Jack’s blood, and still the plot hinges on there being something special about Jack’s blood? Rubbish. And don’t get me started on Rex’s resurrection and new-found immortality because of a blood transfusion…

We do finally get a resolution to Oswald Danes’ arc, or rather, his complete lack of an arc. Oh they implied he was something of a changed man, for a moment or two, but here we have the unrepentant monster, the murdering pedophile, larger than life and twice as repugnant, and I just have to ask… what, exactly, was the point? Don’t get me wrong, I really think Bill Pullman has been excellent here, but it’s the character and his arc that just doesn’t work. From the world-wide celebrity that never made sense all the way to his human bomb exit, we’ve never really been given a reason to spend all this time with Danes, and we end without one. Was it to set up Jilly and bring her to the attention of the Families? Can’t be, since she already worked for PhiCorp, and that brings me to Lauren Ambrose, and I repeat the question, what was the point?

Her Jilly Kitzinger ultimately brought, um, what exactly to the show? Again, Ambrose performed great, and I liked a lot of the moments she was on camera, but in the end, she was just an unethical self-serving PR hack, and aside from the fight scene between her and Gwen here, I can’t see what point the character ultimately serves. And to make matters worse, we get an epilogue with her and Blond Family Lackey that teases that this was all a trial run. I don’t know, like Oswald, Jilly got a lot of set up for not a lot of payoff.

That’s actually a problem with the whole show by the way. After 9 episodes, the climax feels flat, and for such an earth shattering premise, the resolution is pretty banal. And no, let me add, no mention of the complete and utter collapse of society at the end, or any kind of political fallout for the leaders of the world who all jumped headfirst into fascistic territory. Not. One. Word.

Let me also take a moment to both praise and condemn the CIA in this episode. John De Lancie’s Director Shapiro returns, making the longest run of the American-Genre-Cameo brigade, and steals the scenes he’s in. That he gets the sendoff line he gets is pretty awesome, but at the same time, one has to ask how a building full of spies misses the “I’m-clearly-hiding-something” behavior of Marina Benedict’s Charlotte Wills, and it’s a little hard to believe that running a trace on the Families phones would be such a resource drain, budget cuts or not, considering what the CIA’s budget is in our world. It’s a nice explosion scene, but it really does seem like they were missing the extremely obvious, and surely the CIA has some protocols in place to track down moles. I mean, they are a spy agency after all.

Our Torchwood team is back, front and center here, and for the most part, Jack and Gwen get treated pretty well. Eve Myles gets to open the episode with a really nice speech about Gwen’s father, and for a character that has spent most of his airtime playing dead-ish, what she has to say brings him to life as a person the way nothing we’ve seen has. And it brings the actual stakes to the fore as well, acknowledging that saving the world from the Families means Gwen will be responsible for killing her dad. Her interactions with Jack feel like TORCHWOOD of old, and her beat down of Jilly was, as I said, fun to watch. Her being the one to kill Jack, because she knows he’s not a suicide, her commitment to the horrible yet necessary goal… I’m thinking that Gwen finally got to be Gwen here, and it’s a shame that she was, like Jack and the others, written so poorly this season.

The same holds true for Barrowman’s Jack Harkness. His speech to Danes about the glories of the universe and Oswald’s insignificant place in it is quite good indeed, as is his “death”, and while I doubt that anyone thought Jack would stay dead, the buildup was nicely dramatic. Jack gets to be the hero again, and like Gwen, seems like himself here. He has been written pretty well these last few episodes overall, but here he’s back in form.

Rex gets to finally show his humanity here, treating Esther like a real friend, and aside from his rather odd reaction to her being shot… ok, look. They all knew they could fail, they all knew that the Families could cause their true death, they knew the stakes, and while Rex reacting to Esther being shot should certainly have been one of horror and outrage, his questioning what to do seems out-of-place considering the fact that he and Jack were prepared to die to save the world. That Rex wouldn’t think that Esther would be prepared to make that sacrifice too doesn’t really make sense. Mekhi Phifer has had a sort of thankless task this season, playing such a ill-tempered man, but here he shows that Rex really does care, and it would have been nice to see more of that. Unfortunately, we got the magic blood solution to Rex surviving the return of death to the world, and that seems something of both a cheat and a contrived resolution.

Oh poor Esther. We’ve watched her be somewhat useless and then grow into a pretty good field agent, and if we had her family subplot handled clumsily overall, we did get enough of her character developed into something real that by the end her death had some weight. That we got some resolution with her funeral at the end was nice, even if the appearance of her sister and her nieces avoids the question of their mental illness. I’ve liked Alexa Havins’ performance throughout the series, finding fault with the writing but not what she’s done with it, and while I don’t have any problem with main characters dying if they are written out well, I did hate to see her be the one to go, especially after losing Arlene Tur’s Vera.

There were other good moments, as well as other bad… Good was the time Rhys and Sgt. Andy spent with Gwen’s father and the nameless Category One girl, and Rhys’ talk with Gwen. Also good was the air of superiority the two Family Big Bads displayed, but bad was the “Talking Villain Syndrome” they both had, and the rather arbitrary midnight deadline to blow up the entrances to the Blessing. Again, very James Bond, and the story suffered for it. Bad also was the pace of things, because while it was better than a lot of the other episodes, that’s not saying much, and here too it was very uneven.

So, it’s over, and despite having a truly horrific premise and vast potential, this season seems like a LOT of wasted opportunity and filler. I think there was a really solid 6 episode story here, but at 10 it just dragged on. I think we spent a LOT of time with characters we didn’t need to, and worst of all, we had villains who ultimately had a fairly dull reason and over-complicated plan. I wonder if TORCHWOOD will be back to be honest… the reviews have not been kind and the ratings haven’t been much to get excited about, so we shall see. Let’s just hope Mr. Davies is listening and it’s better next time.


The Torchwood team has decided to accompany the granddaughter of Jack’s old love Angelo to a long-awaited reunion and some answers about the mysteries of the Miracle, but all is not as it seems…


Arriving at the mansion Angelo calls home, Rex has Esther stay outside maintaining a link to their HQ’s computers while he, Jack and Gwen are led inside by Angelo’s granddaughter, Olivia. Revealing that Angelo was inspired by Jack to search for immortality, she takes them to him, but while he found many ways to prolong his life, he has not been able to stop the aging process. When the Miracle happened he was very, very old and barely alive, and despite it’s effects, Jack finds his friend comatose.

Olivia reveals that while Angelo was trying to live forever, he wasn’t the only one: three men, each representing a different wealthy family, the same three men Jack saw when being murdered over and over in the 1920′s. Finally we have names for them: Ablemarch, Costerdane and Frines, also known as the Families. Esther’s attempts to find them electronically prove fruitless though, as they have used their wealth and power to scrub their names from history. She also reveals that while Angelo and the Families were both searching for immortality, they weren’t doing it together, and while they somehow managed to put aside any racial tensions to form their pact, Angelo’s love for another man made him someone they weren’t… comfortable with. Even Angelo’s later marriage and happy life as a husband and father did nothing to bring him into their plans and so he watched them from a distance. He also watched Jack…

But as Esther is finding the Families have covered their tracks all too well, Rex and Esther’s old boss Friedkin returns with a team of corrupt CIA agents. It seems Rex made a phone call to Vera’s brother to express his condolences and the CIA picked it up, leading to agents tracking him down, and Friedkin racing to get there first. Knowing that Rex and Esther can expose him, he’s quite prepared to create a houseful of Category 1′s, but just when it looks like he might get away with it, Rex reveals that this is all part of his plan. Knowing full well that the CIA would pick up on the call, and counting on Friedkin’s attempt to stop him, Rex has used the Contacts to transmit their conversation to every receiver within 100 feet, exposing Friedkin’s betrayal to the arriving Director Allen Shapiro.

Taking control of the situation, Shapiro makes it very clear that things will now be done his way, and while this rubs Gwen and Jack the wrong way, there really isn’t much they can do about it. It does bring Rex and Esther back into the good graces of the CIA, and Rex convinces Jack to work with Shapiro to finally find a way to stop the Families. Their plan to get information from Friedkin runs into a bit of a problem when, knowing that the Families don’t treat failure well, he uses a bomb to blow himself up, taking Olivia with him.

Jack is given a few minutes to say goodbye to Angelo, and while talking to him and revealing he still loves him, something unexpected happens: Angelo dies.

Despite Jack’s attempts to revive him, it becomes quite clear that in this world where no one actually dies, Angelo has, with no clear reason why. Rex quite understandably needs to know if this is a worldwide event, but it’s only Angelo, and the question of how is an answer Shapiro needs to have. Jack denies understanding how, but left alone with Gwen, it’s clear that he knows more than he’s telling.

As Rex reunites with his old team and the quest for the Families kicks into high gear, Agent Charlotte Wills reveals to Esther that her sister is in a secured mental hospital, and contacting her, Esther is horrified to learn her sister has volunteered to be classified Category 1. It seems that there is a growing number of people who feel that this new world is a kind of hell and just want to escape it, and Esther’s sister is one of them, desiring death for herself and her children.

Meanwhile in Dallas, we have the return of Oswald Danes and his PhiCorp handler Jilly Kitzinger. Oswald ignores Jilly’s attempts to plan his itinerary and demands a prostitute, trying to reinvent himself even more. When Jilly storms out, she finds she’s gained a new intern, and tasks her with finding one for him. What she doesn’t know is that her new intern has a full-time job already with the CIA, with Jack’s interest in Danes making Jilly an obvious target for surveillance. When the prostitute arrives she’s surprised to find that Danes doesn’t want her to dress up like a schoolgirl or play the innocent, and repulsed by his desire to just talk and have dinner. Telling him that his illusion of being loved by the world is just that, she reveals that his celebrity status hasn’t stopped people from hating him for his crime, and she refuses to play along. When he loses his temper she warns him that he’s running out of time… soon he’ll be Category Zero.

Confronting Jilly, Oswald finds that she too knows that his time is running out, and she explains that Category Zero is for those whose crimes deserve death, and that he will soon find his way to the ovens. Furious that he’s been used by PhiCorp and Jilly, Oswald attacks her before fleeing the hotel, with her screaming after him that she will see him burn.

At Angelo’s mansion, Jack tries to keep secret that he suspects something about Angelo’s death, but Esther’s conversation with her sister has put her in no mood for such secrets. Forcing him to reveal that there is something odd about the platform under Angelo’s bed, Jack’s attempt to deny he knows what it is brings Gwen into direct conflict with Shapiro and to get the answers he wants from Jack he has Gwen deported. Jack reveals that the technology is a Null Field, somehow affecting the Morphic Field that is behind the Miracle, but denies knowing how it works. Shapiro demands that Jack find a way to move it safely so they can take it back to Langley, seeing in it a way to stop the Miracle. Reluctantly Jack begins work on it, but makes it clear to Rex and Esther that he can’t allow the CIA to have access to alien technology. The risk it poses to the future is too great, and the power it could grant to any government is something mankind just can’t have. He also reveals that it used to be part of the Torchwood Hub, and that Angelo must have recovered it from the wreckage left at the end of the third series of the show. Convincing them to help him remove a critical piece and escape to save the future, they plan to help him to slip away while Rex and Esther stay with the CIA to continue to track down the Families.

At the hotel, Jilly and her intern are on their way to the police when they are stopped by an agent of the Families who reveals that the intern is CIA and kills her. While Jilly reels with shock, he reveals that he’s there for another reason: the Families want her to work for them. Accepting, she goes with him as he makes a call to a contact at the CIA, and we see that Agent Wills is not the friend she appears to be.

Escaping from the house does not go smoothly for Jack, as an agent sees him and shoots, wounding him and seeing Esther helping. Realizing that Jack will need Esther’s help, Rex knocks out the agent and orders her to go, staying behind to try and work from within. Esther drives away with Jack, but her entreaties to him to tell her where to go and what to do get only silence…

The title notwithstanding, this is not, in fact, the end of the road. This is episode 8 of ten, and FINALLY, some answers in this oh so frustrating season of TORCHWOOD. But here’s the funny thing… although when I watched it the first time I was very pleased with this episode, I’ve watched it several times since and well… hmmm.

The good news is that finally the story seems to be coming together, after what can only be described as a very unfocused season. With the last week’s “IMMORTAL SINS”, we saw the beginning of the events that would lead to the Miracle, and here we get a TON of information. From the personal revelations about Angelo’s life after Jack to the fleshing out of the Families, we’re starting to have a story here, and the pace of things these last two episodes has been much more consistent than most of the previous ones.

I was concerned that somehow the Miracle was going to be the result of Angelo’s broken heart, and in a way it is. His fears that led to Jack being tortured and killed over and over, led in turn to the interest of the Families, and thorugh thier actions, the Miracle, but Angelo’s biggest crime there was being human. There’s a certain sadness to the fact that he watched Jack all those years without contacting him, simply because he was ashamed of growing old, never realizing that Jack is long since used to watching those he cares about age. One of the best moments in the episode is where Jack is saying goodbye to him, and the devil-may-care Jack disappears for a bit. John Barrowman can chew the scenery with the best of them, but it’s this quiet moment, and especially his mention of Ianto, that may be his best this series. I’m not sure that’s a great compliment considering some of the writing we’ve seen so far, but there it is. Also good is Jack’s reaction to Angelo’s death, with the shock and frustration of not understanding how he died playing alongside his sadness.

The addition of John DeLancie to our motley crew was something I wasn’t all that sure about, but the arrogant and imperious Director Shapiro was funny as hell. DeLancie is of course best known to a lot of genre fans as Q from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, and while you can certainly see the same kind of arrogance in the two characters, there is a cynicism here that tones down Shapiro, even as he’s saying some of the funniest lines of the show. I’ve always wanted to see DeLancie play just an ordinary guy, but of course this isn’t the show for that, and that’s ok. What’s unfortunate is how little he gets to play off of Nana Visitor’s Olivia, especially based on the brief exchanges they do have. Both powerful and self-assured, and leading what amounts to a couple of private armies, it would have been nice to see more of them clashing. And no, unlike some of the folks out there in the online communities, it didn’t seem to me like a STAR TREK mini-reunion. Perhaps it’s the years between, or maybe the fact that Q only appeared in one STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE episode, but it felt more like the “Oh Look! American Genre Actors” theme the show is already running with than anything else.

Speaking of which, it’s nice to see some of these actors return for a second episode instead of just popping up to make the fanboys and girls squee… the return of  Wayne Night’s Friedkin especially. Seriously out of his depth, we get more pieces of his character this time around, enough, in fact, to make me regret his self-inflicted demise. His complimenting Rex on his plan and his mention of the times he’s worked against the Families make him a little more of a tragic villain.

Also returning here is Nana Visitor, but she has sort of a thankless role to be honest. There’s a LOT of exposition here, and her Olivia is pretty much Queen Info-Dump. She gets to have the nice bit where she explains that a) Jack isn’t so special after all and b) she’s been protecting him because her grandfather wanted her to, not because she actually wants to, but aside from that she’s more or less here to pass on story points and die.

Eve Myles Gwen gets a weird treatment this episode, and I’m not really sure what they were thinking here. Oh, she’s fine for most of it, and pretty funny, but when Friedkin has his men drag Rex out of the room, even faced with multiple guns pointing at her, Gwen keeps trying to go after him. Yes, yes, we get it, Gwen’s impulsive and stubborn and stands by her friends, but it just seemed like a parody of the character for that moment. That and her somewhat abrupt removal from the episode made her just.. odd… to me this time.

Rex gets to play his own game here, and it’s a pretty neat little sting he pulls on Friedkin, although there is a bit of a problem with it. Ok, I can see that he lifted the Contacts from Gwen, although how he knew which pocket they were in is a bit of a mystery, but since we were shown that they have some pretty advanced lip-reading software because they don’t have audio, the sudden appearance here of Friedkin’s voice seems a little… ah hell, it seems sloppy. Anyway, Mekhi Phifer seems to be enjoying himself here, and aside from the unnecessary comedy with the Null Field, Rex is nowhere near as grouchy or unpleasant this episode.

Alexa Havins gets to do more here with Esther than be the increasingly more important tech and research member, and her performance in the scene with her sister is quite good. Her return to a life within the CIA clearly gives her some relief, but her despair over what the Miracle has done to her sister is her best part of the episode. It’s odd though… while the revelation that her sister wants to go to the ovens is quite disturbing, it’s been so long since we’ve seen or heard from her that it loses any real impact on the overall story. I can’t be sure that I really want more of the Drummond family drama, especially considering how much this show has sprawled in its story, but without more depth to it, there’s something missing from the scene.

The return of Oswald and Jilly after being out of sight for the last few episodes was welcome, especially since we’re running out of story here and we still haven’t seen any real reason for all the focus they’ve had this season. I’m liking Bill Pullman’s performance though, and here his twitchy monster gets the beginnings of his comeuppance as he realizes how disposable he really is. I still don’t buy the whole “Oswald Danes: Superstar” thing though, and between the prostitute and Jilly it’s clear that he’s pretty hated, so why are we expected to believe that the public has been so moved by him? Sure, we have very odd relationships with our celebrities, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any that are pedophiles and murderers. The scenes with Oswald are always good, but I just never understood the importance of the character to the larger story.

I have a similar problem with Jilly Kitzinger, played with great relish by Lauren Ambrose. We’ve established that she’s a pretty capable PR lady, and morally flexible enough to feed the Oswald publicity machine to great effect, but here we find her being recruited into the Families, and I’m not sure why. Aside from being very good at what she does, and feeling disgusted by Oswald, she hasn’t really done anything a real PR person does, so other than more of less keeping Oswald in line, why the interest? It’s odd, but still Ambrose has the most to work with here of any of her appearances, with her disdain and relief that she doesn’t need to keep babysitting Danes quite nice to see. When she’s attacked by him, her rage is something to behold.

So why am I not as happy with the episode after watching it multiple times? I mean, there’s clearly some good performances, more information than we’ve had before and definite movement on the story front, but still. This is episode eight, and now we’re getting answers. The Families still seem to be this weird mix of all-powerful and strangely impotent, especially when it comes to Torchwood, and still the reasons for the Miracle and what the Families could possible gain from it are unclear. Compared to the majority of this season’s episodes, this was practically poetry, but it was also exposition heavy and characters like Olivia and Gwen exited so oddly abruptly. I don’t know… two episodes left and I’m still trying to figure out just what Russell T. Davies and Co. were thinking here.

[photos: Starz]

[Official Show Site at STARZ]   [Official Show Site at BBC]


In the present, with Gwen’s family in jeopardy, Jack Harkness finds himself the reluctant part of a prisoner exchange. In 1927, Jack befriends Italian immigrant Angelo, with unexpected consequences.


Our previous episode establishes that our villains have hacked the Torchwood Lenses and used them to force Gwen (Eve Myles) to bring them Jack (John Barrowman) in exchange for her family. Returning to the makeshift Torchwood base in LA, Gwen lures Jack out and tasers him, tying him up and heading off to the rendezvous. When Jack awakes, Gwen explains what’s going on, and resisting every attempt by Jack to talk her out of it, demands that Jack figure out what he did to cause all of this. In a particularly cold moment, Jack attempts to get Gwen to release him by telling her that his wrist unit can be reconfigured to find her daughter, but she sees through it and our villains, silent through the Lenses up till now, confirm what Gwen already knows: Jack lies.

As we travel along with the duo, we also flash back in time to 1927, where Jack is arriving in the US and getting processed through Ellis Island, or rather, he’s trying to. He has a problem in that his papers have been stolen by a young Italian man named Angelo Colasanto, but a dramatic tussle gets them back and Angelo thrown in jail. Sensing something about the young man that he likes, Jack forges some documents and gets Angelo out, and the two find a room together in New York. As they look out the window, they see a beautiful girl on a fire escape, and while Jack describes what he would like to do to her, it’s clear the seduction is of Angelo. Being able to reveal his sexuality to someone in a time far more dangerous to homosexuals than the present is liberating for Angelo, and the two begin a relationship. It’s sexual at first, but quickly grows into something more for both men, and there, well there will lie the seeds of one of the worst times in Jack’s long life.

Let’s get this out of the way. If you find sex scenes between men uncomfortable, you may have a problem here. You’re also probably watching the wrong show, since same-sex relationships have been common in TORCHWOOD from the beginning. But the move to STARZ has meant the writers and directors can get a bit more graphic, and like the earlier Jack sex scene, they push up to the limit. Personally such things don’t bother me, but it does seem like the scene is a little long. I’m sure that some viewers would disagree.

I’m kind of torn on Angelo. As played by Daniele Favilli, we have a young man both lured by the adventure of America and fleeing his small town it Italy, and swept up by the mystery and glamour that is Jack Harkness. His sense of wonder at the impossible things Jack reveals to him is reminiscent of the Doctor’s Companions from DOCTOR WHO, and if fact, Jack lets Angelo into his life because he feels like he needs a companion. That we also get a specific reference to the Doctor is nice, and for a show that hasn’t talked about Jack’s origins much, we get quite a few DOCTOR WHO nods this week.

But as interesting as Angelo’s struggle between his sexuality and his Catholic faith is, as interesting as his joy at being let into a world of alien wonders, it’s Jack’s story here that feels most like TORCHWOOD of old, and Jack’s recklessness will throw Angelo in over his head. When they get caught running alcohol by the Mob, Jack talks the boss into letting them work for them, and their first job is moving a crate from one warehouse to another, without, it’s stressed, looking inside. And while it starts as a chance for Jack to reveal an alien to Angelo, it ends with the police gunning down Jack before the young man’s horrified eyes, and a year in prison. And when Angelo gets out, a man who he watched die is waiting for him… Jack’s immortality striking again.

It’s too much for Angelo. Going back to the room they shared, Jack tries to make love to him, but Angelo’s faith is too ingrained to accept Jack’s resurrection as anything other than the work of the Devil, and he stabs him. When Jack comes back to life again, Angelo kills him once more, and brings the family that owns the rooms into it, and swiftly it spirals out of control. Trussed up in a basement room, Jack finds himself the subject of a crowd of the curious and morbid, killed over and over and over again for their blood-lust. Somewhere in this horrific chaos, Angelo realizes what he’s done, and sets out to free Jack, but not before three men in suits discuss the possibilities of owning a man who cannot die. A deal is struck between the three, and they clasp arms in a dun dun dun!!!!!!! triangle shape.

With the Christ-like imagery already everywhere, Angelo frees Jack, washing the blood from him, the camera lingering on Angelo wiping the blood from Jack’s feet. They flee into the night, but any hope of reconciliation is dashed when Jack tells Angelo that he’s going to go away without him. Before throwing himself off the roof they’re on, Jack looks at his young lover and betrayer and says:

“It always ends the same way. You kill me. Men like you kill me.”

Why am I torn? Because the reveal at the end of the episode is that in the present…. well. Lets return to the present.

Bound in the backseat of the car, Jack’s attempts to get Gwen to let him go prompt her to reveal just how much she’s emotionally damaged here. She loves Jack, and tells him so, but she loves her family more, and the situation has made her realize that her involvement with Torchwood and Jack is the reason her family is in danger. More so, it’s made her face the truth about something far worse: She’s addicted to the danger of Torchwood.

“I caused this, I made this happen. I knew Torchwood was toxic, right from the moment I joined it. The very first day, but I stayed… You know what is the worst thing of all? Out of all the shit we have seen, all the bloodshed, all the horror, you know what is the worst in all of that? I loved it. I bloody loved it.”

The adventure, the secrets, all of it, it’s what has led Gwen here, has put her family in jeopardy, and for their sake, she’s willing to sacrifice Jack, even though she does love him.

Jack of course isn’t all that willing to die for anyone, especially now that’s the last mortal man, and he makes sure Gwen knows that he’s going to fight for his life, even if that means he has to kill Gwen to do it.

This is pretty good stuff here. From the beginning of the show, Gwen has been a junkie for the excitement of Torchwood, and certainly for Jack, and several stories dealt with the lies and betrayals she inflicted on her husband because of them both. These two are the heart and soul of the show, and to have them at such odds is long coming. What’s unfortunate is what isn’t talked about, on which I’ll have more in a moment.

Arriving at their destination moments before the bad guys, Jack and Gwen share some moments of sadness and regret at where they’ve brought themselves to, and at Gwen’s prompting, Jack tells her of the most beautiful thing he’s seen in his long life. It’s an apt choice: A bird made of fire, smaller than a hummingbird, that lives only a minute, as Jack reveals that no matter how long he’s lived it hasn’t been enough. And then it’s time.

Stepping out of the arriving cars is a woman and two armed men, the woman clearly knowing Jack even as he tells Gwen he doesn’t recognize her. Suddenly shots ring out and a laser sight settles on the woman… Rex and Esther have tracked them to the rendezvous.

It seems that when Esther was checking the data cache on the Lenses, she found the messages from the bad guys, and using the system to track them, she and Rex have set up a snipers nest. More importantly, they’ve contacted Gwen’s old Welsh police friend Andy, who leads a police assault to free Gwen’s family. The tables turned, it seems as if the Woman should be afraid of what Gwen might do to her in retaliation, but she’s not, in fact as far as she’s concerned nothing has changed, except that now Jack will want to come willingly. Why? Because she can take him to the man who knows how the Miracle all began, the man who is waiting, has been waiting, for a very long… Angelo Colasanto.

OK. On one hand, this is a really good episode, and a lot of that credit goes to the writer Jane Espenson. Recognize her name? You should, as she’s written for BUFFY, FIREFLY  and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA among others. She’s also written the third and fifth episodes of this series, and is the writer of the upcoming eighth and tenth. Now I thought there were a LOT of problems with episode five, but three was good, and this one goes a decent distance in making up. But in the scheme of things it’s almost too little too late. This is EPISODE 7. Of 10. It really seems like we’ve been spinning our wheels a LOT this season, and with only three episodes left, it really would have been nice to have reached this point sooner. I don’t know, maybe the final three won’t feel rushed, but with people like Oswald Danes absent again this week, it seems like we’ve got a lot of characters with stories to resolve in not a lot of time.

Continuing this season’s genre cameos, we have Nana Visitor of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE as The Woman, and while it’s been nice to see her and Ernie Hudson and C. Thomas Howell show up in TORCHWOOD, it’s also starting to feel a little like “Hey! Look! We’ve got American Genre Actors!” I don’t know… maybe it’s just me.

There’s a line Rex (Mekhi Phifer) has after he and Esther (Alexa Havins) rescue Jack and Gwen that sums up my issues with the series so far: “I’m tired of Torchwood acting like amateurs.” So am I. And they have been for most of this series. Here it feels like they are getting back on track, and even Rex and Esther get to work as a team together. There’s a good moment where Rex is watching the fallout of the video he shot of Vera’s death on the news, and finding himself grieving. They really didn’t know each other well, more thrown together by the situation than drawn together, but they shared a bed and got a little close, and her death has hit him in a way he can’t quite define. Phifer is good here, and so is Havins, as Esther tries to comfort him. Esther also gets to use those computer skills to save the day, and after all the abuse she’s taken for her mistakes, it’s nice to see her get the important things right.

Ah yes, Angelo. I don’t know… something about Daniele Favilli’s performance didn’t quite gel for me, but for the life of me I can’t tell you why. I can tell you that he does make a good foil for Jack, well, up until the point he kills him of course. It does seem a little presumptive that he would expect Jack to take him back after the whole chained-in-a-basement-killed-over-and-over bit, but love is a strange thing, and honestly, Jack lets him get way too close way too soon. That he’s revealed to at least know what the origins of the Miracle are I can deal with, but I find myself wondering if we aren’t looking at Angelo and the Triangle guys being seperate groups. What I have a question about is why Angelo hasn’t tracked Jack down loooooong before this. I mean, Jack really isn’t known for being low profile, and if Angelo made the Miracle happen, and this all turns out to be the result of a broken heart? Yeah, I think I’m going to be ticked off.