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Originally posted January 2 2007 at 21:01 under General. 0 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled.

Fighting Back

This is a somewhat belated (thanks to my taking almost a week to watch it) review of episode 11 of Torchwood (Combat). As usual I’ll leave the spoilers until after the jump, just in case you haven’t seen it.


First of all, yes, it’s Fight Club with Weevils. So Torchwood is still a bit devoid of original ideas (there’s not much wrong with doing Fight Club with Weevils, it makes a sort of sense, but that’s all it is). It was a pleasant surprise after the last couple of weeks to find it was actually quite well written though. It’s probably something like ironic that it’s taken some bloke who started off acting rather badly in Doctor Who to get that far. Noel Clarke has taken a simple enough premise however and done something which too many episodes of this series have failed to do: built a solid and believable story around it. Somebody may have already made the movie which does all his leg work, and to some extents acts as a short cut for the savvy viewer to take, but he hasn’t messed around and has found a conclusion which, whilst it’s still reliant on the magical last minute Captain Jack intervention, is a hell of a lot more natural and less forced than some of the stuff we’ve seen.

So we lack the technology makes the plot problems go away magic, and the big plot inconsistencies, and it’s so much the better for it. Not only that but this felt like an episode which had a series to live in. Clarke didn’t have to introduce his monster because it’s been there all along. While we still may not be feeling much of anything for the characters (a series failing rather than an episode one) they at least acted in ways which felt consistent for the most part. Owen’s mood particularly actually paying more than a passing reference to what had happened in the previous episode—something Torchwood needs to learn to do a lot more of (though it is difficult to imagine that Gwen didn’t know about Owena and Diane until Tosh let slip, it still managed not to jar to much). Even the near obligatory boyfriend scenes had an authenticity which give the impression that these two people, somewhere at one time, cared about each other and one another’s lives. If we must put up with the touchy feely influence of RTD in such ways we need more of this and less of the tacked on scenes of earlier episodes.

On with the story. There’s an illegal fight club using a weevil as the ultimate opponent. What the hell, why not go with the enjoyable flow. Of course Torchwood don’t know this to start with; they just know that their own pet weevil (which, come to think of it, they seem to be quite hazy on reasons for actually keeping) is a bit upset due to its telepathic empathy, and that someone has nicked off with one. If the episode’s typical Torchwood weak points come to the fore then it’s in the central, infiltration section they do so. It’s always a bit too lucky in these things that the first thing they try leads to the secret organisation and explanation of the mystery. That’s really a problem of telling the story though, and would be a particularly harsh criticism to call Torchwood out on. Mark Lynch’s interaction with the internet is actually one of the best portrayals I’ve seen in a while (no bleeping scrolling text, he used a search engine…) but is let down by, having found the faked up site, just relying on information it contains. First thing I’d do is google that company. Then again it’s later apparent he saw straight through it, so maybe he didn’t feel the need. The magic alien device to read the information on the computer is a bit too, well, magic too (and I’d expect it to go next to the hard drive but that’s just me).

That said the story does keep moving, which is no bad thing, and Owen finds himself at the fight club and eventually facing the weevil. Quite neatly your never quite sure he cares, and always have the impression that if he did do then maybe that weevil wouldn’t have such an easy time as you might think. Then Jack et al burst in and we seemingly will never know. (Damn that ending. It’s bugging me because it worked fine but was yet again Jack marching in to save the day). The little scene between Owen and the pet weevil at the very end was quite neat too…more to Owen than you might think it seems.

In all it’s a story which works, more or less. The central position of the weevil means that it’s just about a Torchwood story too rather than being just an episode of any old thing like some of them could have been (only just though). More importantly though the writing was actually tight for once; it didn’t seem to have pieces unravelling or hanging off where they’d been belatedly hooked in. If we could have more of that, coupled to some actually original thinking, then there might be hope for series two. On such an optimistic note I’m a little nervous of the double episode finale but no doubt I’ll get round to watching that at some point too!

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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)

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