Because I forget stuff. Part of

Note: It appears you must have reached this page by a deep level URL. In general this site is currently down and unmaintained. See here

About This Post

Originally posted November 21 2006 at 20:11 under General. 0 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled.


This is another Torchwood review, of Episode 6 “Countrycide”. Spoilers etc. contained below


If last week we had a fairy tale then this week is firmly one of horror as our bumbling buffoons Intrepid heroes make their way out to do a little camping and hunt monsters. Well, long panning shots of Cardiff were getting a bit boring, though they could have at least brought the pterodactyl for some fresh air—secrecy doesn’t seem to be a worry with the crew asking any old random policeman if he knows of Torchwood and openly discussing aliens at conveniently placed burger vans in the middle of nowhere (not to mention the decals on the most conspicuous vehicle in the whole of Wales). The local police are clueless over the disappearance of a large number of people in the area, which leads to speculation that maybe the rift is spreading and depositing nasties in the Welsh countryside. The Torchwood group are just clueless over basic wilderness survival, as they struggle to put up tents (it’s a Doctor Who spin-off; don’t they know they’ll have to be somewhere vaguely quarry like eventually. Come to that, they’re a secret organisation with alien tech; don’t they have something better than tents to use).

Having eventually set up a little camp we have some premise for Ianto to get all soppy (what’s the tea boy doing there anyway). I’m going to be fairly (er…) hypocritically critical here and (urm…) criticise the episode for doing something I’ve called for previous ones to do more of. Well, perhaps not so much criticise as comment upon. Here Ianto recalls his now dead cyberlove (and Owen reminds us that he and Gwen had a snog—more on that later). It’s a hey, remember all those things which happened scene (it’s certainly no coincidence that this episode and cyberwoman were both written by Chris Chibnall) and it’s there to do just that. I think I wouldn’t be quite so bothered by it if last week hadn’t lived in such isolation—and indeed while there are mentions of cyberwoman all over here there isn’t exactly talk of fairies at the bottom of the garden—but because last week was so isolated this scene felt even more forced. There’s no series history permeating the show, popping up naturally. Instead each reminder of the previous episodes stands in isolation with no purpose other than to be a reminder. Remove this scene and the episode isn’t affected whereas with good interlocking writing over a series you can’t even tell the scene to remove it. That all said at least there was some reference to the past episodes which is certainly to be welcomed.

Back from talk of what has went before to the talk of the episode at hand. Through sheer, though by now unsurprising, incompetency the crew manage to lose their hyped-up super range rover to whatever is busy knocking off the humans in a nasty way. It is, as they say, an obvious trap but in the grandest tradition they decide to walk into it anyway. That leaves the episode with a classic horror suspense scenario. Fleeting glimpses of an otherwise unseen threat as the team is picked off one by one while exploring (badly) a seemingly deserted village; it’s all there. Slowly (via a rather unsavoury message about torture which could have come straight from the US government script book) the captured, still free and wounded are wound together into the web.

Except at some point towards the end the entire tale of hidden alien monsters is changed as it is abruptly revealed that the horror stalking the area and the Torchwood fools is the villagers themselves. This isn’t exactly an original thought either; in fact it’s dangerously overdone and liable to cliché. Inevitably it was at times well over played (I don’t think you’ve been able to do the licking lips thing seriously since Silence of the Lambs). I have to admit, by the end I was marvelling that they’d discovered Royston Vasey in the Welsh countryside and expecting League of Gentleman theme music rather than Torchwood’s. That’s almost beside the point though because the more I think about the less bloody sense it makes. Are these fairly slow witted yokels really supposed to be the ninja like stalking presence of earlier?? That they stole the Torchmobile on the assumption that it had some tracking device which could be traced and hence it was useful as a trap? That the Welsh police force is so incompetent that even without the aid of the local bobbies they fail to become suspicious of this peculiar village when people keep going missing every ten years? To be honest it felt like they’d taken three quarters of an episode and tacked on the end of a similar but entirely different episode.

The ending irked me more because they’ve taken what was turning out to be a fairly run of the mill but solid scifi episode and turned it into something which could have been (an admittedly gruesome) episode of some police drama. What’s the point of Torchwood (as a series, not the institute) if it’s going to do what you can do elsewhere anyway? Ed has had something of a sneak preview of this review, in which I mentioned the above point. His response was along the lines of I thought it was something of a Scully episode. If you go around chasing every strange occurrence then you’re bound to find some without an alien explanation. He’s right, of course, and I’d be more willing to accept this as a “Scully episode” were it not for the looming threat having such an entirely different, and inconsistent, feel to what was produced after the big reveal. It’s also not been clear that Torchwood do chase any old strange occurrence: The entire thinking was that the rift may be spreading, an idea basically dumped without comment (though admittedly running after fairies might at least suggest they take a passing interest).

I want to say “so in the end” about now, but of course it’s not yet the end. There is still Gwen’s domestic life to sort. Oh dear. Oh…ah stuff it; I can’t really bring myself to give a shit about Gwen’s domestic life. Having had the pointless boyfriend foisted upon us again and again Gwen ups and decides to leave him for Owen. This would have made an awful lot more sense had there been any signs other than a snog. Instead during the last episode we got a picture of happiness as Gwen discovered her ransacked house. In fact all we’ve ever been given is how wonderfully cosy she and her boyfriend are when not being interrupted by Gwent’s rather awkward work schedule. Some sign of her struggling with not being able to talk about her work to him, even his asking some questions, would have been good, would have made sense. We’ve never had that though, never had any indication of that sort of struggle. Bah, as I said, in the end I find it hard to care about Gwen’s home life. Hopefully this does mean that we can live without the pointless boyfriend scenes, though I look forward with some trepidation to the cosy Owen and Gwen scenes.

Right…So in the end. I felt this was a pretty good episode of something I just didn’t think it was a good episode of Torchwood. It may be a Scully episode but even those were often ambiguous and for a long time in the X-Files we were never sure of anything. In Torchwood not only is the truth out there but it’s right in front of us and we know what it says. The aliens are undoubtedly real and living in the sewers. So I just wish it would give us some scifi rather than raping every legend and urban myth and at best wrapping a flimsy soap bubble of an alien lens around it, or not even bothering at all.

I’ve thought about this last paragraph a bit, not entirely sure and happy about it, but here we are. Note the easy comparisons to X-Files, and of course Buffy/Angel. They are of course large genre waypoints in terms of TV but Torchwood must be careful. It has the opportunity to carve out it’s own unique spot but to do so it must find more originality, stop trying to be everything and, most importantly in my opinion, be brave enough to be the series it promised it would be rather than an amalgam of well done but vanilla, almost conventional, episodes. In its chase for the “popular” opinion it can risk being just another adult detective drama, with the occasional piece of fantasy, rather than something stand out and better, so that in the future the comparisons include Torchwood in the list.

Comments (0):

Post a comment

Name and email address are required. Email address is never shown. If you enter a URL your name will be linked to it (this and other links will have the rel attribute set to contain nofollow). Markup allowed: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <em> <strong> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <p> <br />. Anything else is stripped; please be valid. Single linebreaks automatically convert to <br />, double to <p>'s. Additionally anything that looks like a bare URL should get automagically linked. Many acronyms and abbreviations are also automagically handled.

Please note this blog's comment policy

Trackbacks (0):

Trackback URL:


This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

More about me [Disclaimer]

You may subscribe to IMS_Blog using the RSS Feed, the Atom Feed or by email.

Creative Commons License

From November 21 Other Years

© Ian Scott. Powered by Movable Type 3.2. This blog uses valid XHTML 1.0 Strict and valid CSS. All times are local UK time. For further details see the IMS_Blog about page.. All my feeds in one.