by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Three: "The Shakespeare Code"

Posted 31 August 2009 in by Catriona

Right. I am entirely prepared for the live-blogging of this episode, despite a day of marking. (And not my most successful day of marking, either.)

I’m also uncertain about the correlation between Shakespeare and Dan Brown implied by this episode title—though I’m reluctant to push that one any further, lest I be accused once again of being a Leavisite.

I have also (just to embed yet another sentence in this series) done some light research, the better to enrich my live-blogging of this episode.

Yes, I only looked up some key dates. And, yes, I work in an English department. And, yes, I should probably have know those dates already. My only defense is that I’m not a Shakespearean scholar.

(My friend Drew would be able to give you those dates off the top of his head.)

We’re here in London in 1599, with the girl from Hex carrying a candle and smiling at a young boy out of her window, as he serenades her with a fairly atonal Elizabethan ballad.

Still, it works for him: he’s invited in with the double entendre, “Would you enter, bold sir?”

“Oh, I would,” he says.

But she’s called Lilith, which is never a good thing. And she introduces him to Mother Doomfinger and Mother Bloodtide, who tear him apart.

Lilith speaks to camera about the coming of the end of the world at the time of woven words.

NICK: Who is she talking to?
ME: It’s a soliloquy, darling.
NICK: Straight to camera?

I don’t see why not.

Martha, in the TARDIS, wants to know how he travels through time, but the Doctor accuses her of wanting to take all the mystery out of things, and then reveals that he failed his driving test.

They’re in Elizabethan England.

MARTHA: Oh, my god. We did it! We travelled in time!
ME: Or you’re in Disneyland.

Martha is reluctant to wander around, in case she steps on a butterfly, or kills her grandfather. The Doctor asks whether she’s planning to kill her grandfather, and she says no.

Martha wonders whether she’s going to be carted off as a slave, but the Doctor says he’s not even human: he advises that she just walk around as though she owns the place. He says it works for him.

So they go to the Globe Theatre.

DOCTOR: You can go home, tell everyone you’ve seen Shakespeare.
MARTHA: Then, I could get sectioned!

At the end of the play, Martha starts shouting for the author, which the Doctor implies starts the tradition, but Shakespeare looks fairly happy to leap out on stage, so he seems quite used to it.

Lilith, the mysterious woman from the beginning, pulls a voodoo doll out of her purse as Shakespeare wanders across the stage.

The Doctor is partial to Shakespeare, it seems.

Now, this is Love’s Labour’s Lost (believed to have been written 1595-1596, first published 1598, so is this a later performance? Would it have been published before it was performed?) and Shakespeare promises the sequel tomorrow night.

Martha says she’s never heard of Love’s Labour’s Won, and the Doctor describes it as “the lost play.” Ooh, Cardenio must be feeling pretty out of things at this point.

Martha asks how it went missing in the first place, and that piques the Doctor’s interest: he says they can stay a little later.

So, they burst into Shakespeare’s room, while he’s sitting with his players and insisting he’ll have the last scene by tomorrow morning. (Lilith is wandering around disguised as a serving maid, by the way.)

SHAKESPEARE: No autographs; no, you can’t have yourself sketched with me; and, please, don’t ask where I get my ideas from.

Shakespeare manages to offend Martha—about ten times in a row.

The Registrar of Plays—I’m assuming he’s an historically accurate figure? I know the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century stage was heavily censored, but I’m not sure about dramatic practice in the sixteenth century.

Oh, it doesn’t matter: he’s bumped into Lilith, who is determined to have the play performed, and she and her “mothers” drown him through the powers of voodoo, and then stop his heart.

Well, that’s a bit mean! Why didn’t they just kill him? Why torture him first?

The Doctor tells people that he died of a sudden imbalance of the humours. When Martha challenges him, he says these people have one foot in the Dark ages: they’ll panic and think it was witchcraft.

MARTHA: Okay, so what was it, then?
DOCTOR: Witchcraft.

The Doctor and Martha take rooms at the inn, which allows Shakespeare to show how insightful a man he is, not least by noting that the Doctor is constantly performing.

DOCTOR: All the world’s a stage.
SHAKESPEARE: Hmm, I might use that.

(As You Like It would have been written about this time, in 1599 or thereabouts.)

There’s some bantering here about Venusian spearmint and the seventh Harry Potter book, but the Doctor spoils it all by saying Rose would know what was going on, and right now she would say exactly the right thing.

However you feel about Rose, that’s pretty tactless, when he’s currently sharing a bed with Martha.

Meanwhile, Lilith rises up to Shakespeare’s window and takes control of him with glowing green dust. Sorry, I can’t express it more scientifically than that. He’s now a puppet—literally: she has a marionette—writing what she and her “mothers” want him to write. And when she’s interrupted by the landlady, she turns back to her crone form, kills the landlady, and flies off—again, literally, on the landlady’s broom, right across the face of a full moon.

DOCTOR: Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
SHAKESPEARE: I might use that.

Martha says Shakespeare should know all about witches, since he wrote about them, but the Doctor shushes her. (Macbeth was written somewhere between 1603 and 1606.)

But Shakespeare says that their architect was obsessed with witches, and that makes the Doctor think about the shape of the Globe (fourteen sides) and the magic of the theatre.

But the architect is in Bedlam—and Martha doesn’t know what Bedlam is, which seems unlikely to me. (It’s now part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, so it’s not as though it burnt down.)

DOCTOR: Come on, we can flirt later.
SHAKESPEARE: Is that a promise, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Oh, fifty-seven academics just punched the air.

Back in the Globe, the actors work on the play, and conjure up what they think is a spirit, but which looks remarkably like the witches. They agree never to speak of such things again.

Martha is horrified by Bedlam, but Shakespeare says he went mad once, and the thought of places like this sent him sane again. The Doctor mentions the death of Shakespeare’s son, and he says it made him question the significance of life.

SHAKESPEARE: To be or not to be . . . Oh, that’s quite good.
DOCTOR: You should write that down.
SHAKESPEARE: Maybe not. Bit pretentious?

As the Doctor does his Gallifreyan mind-meld on the architect of the Globe, the witches realise that something is going on, and they see the significance of the Doctor for the first time.

The Doctor hypnotises the architect, telling him that he can recall the entire scenario of the building of The Globe as though it were a story, “a winter’s tale.”

Lilith sends Mother Doomfinger out to Bedlam to doom the Doctor, as Peter (the architect) describes the story in terms that are strongly reminiscent of Edgar as mad Tom in King Lear. Or so it seems to me, anyway.

But Mother Doomfinger turns up then, and kills the architect.

But the Doctor says that he has knowledge that no human has, and he names her: Carrionite. Apparently, they use words as a kind of science, rather than the mathematics that humans chose.

Mother Doomfinger is not dead: she’s simply been flipped back to the rest of her coven. Lilith promises to destroy the Doctor, but says her “mothers” have to get to the theatre for the performance.

The Doctor questions the performance, asking Shakespeare what the play is about.

SHAKESPEARE: The boys get the girl, they have a bit of a dance; it’s all as funny and thought-provoking as usual.

But he admits that he can’t remember writing the last few lines, and the Doctor realises that it’s a spell, with the theatre itself as an energy conductor.

Unfortunately, Shakespeare, trying to stop the performance, comes across as rather drunk, so when the witches make him collapse (with the voodoo doll from earlier), his actors assume he’s in a stupor, and drag him off the stage so that they can continue the play.

Meanwhile, as they search for the witches, Martha insists (just as Rose did in a similar episode) that the world can’t have ended in 1599, because she’s still here.

DOCTOR: It’s like Back to the Future.
MARTHA: The film?
DOCTOR: No the novelisation! Of course the film.

Oh, this episode is all about texts and variants.

Martha is knocked out through the power of her name, and the Doctor talks to the Carrionites. Lilith says that the Eternals found the right words to banish them into the darknes.

(NICK: The Eternals probably got bored with them very quickly.)

But they have a plan for taking over the world, as all villains do.

Lilith manages to take the Doctor out with a voodoo doll (or DNA-replication something or other: I forget the exact term), but, because he has two hearts, it’s not a success.

Still, it takes him a little while to get back on his feet, and Lilith gets to the theatre in time for the final words and the opening of the portal.

The next bit is mostly running and screaming—including the Doctor telling Shakespeare not to rub his sore head, or he’ll go bald.

But there’s no time for that, because the Carrionites are coming, streaming up out of the crystal that the three witches are holding.

And the Doctor tells Shakespeare to reverse it: he says that Shakespeare is the wordsmith, the one true genius, and he can use the power of The Globe to banish the Carrionites.

I make no comment whatsoever on the comparative quality of this speech, not even to mention the blending in of “Expelliarmis”—though I do think the combination of Shakespeare and J. K. Rowling is something that will either fascinate or make the blood boil.

And there goes the copy of the play, into the void.

Still, the play is a roaring success, since people are inclined to think it was all stagecraft, especially now the witches have been trapped in the crystal ball.

Back in the real world, Shakespeare is trying to cop a feel from Martha.

Then the Doctor wanders in wearing a ruff (he says it’s a neck brace) and carrying a skull, apparently from the props store.

Shakespeare has already worked out that the Doctor is an alien and Martha is from the future: he is a genius, after all!

He salutes Martha with a sonnet to his “Dark Lady,” and I know this annoyed some people. (Has he really known Martha long enough to write twenty-five sonnets to her over the next ten years? Really? Who can say?)

And then Queen Elizabeth turns up, declares the Doctor her sworn enemy, and tries to have him killed.

Martha and the Doctor dash back to the TARDIS—Martha asking how he knows Elizabeth I, and the Doctor saying he doesn’t know, but he looks forward to finding out—as arrows thud into the door.

And we’re off until next week!

(As a bonus, here are three candidates for the Dark Lady, which I prepared earlier: Emilia Lanier, Mary Fitton, and Elizabeth Wriothesley. Now don’t say you never learn anything on this blog!)

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Combat"

Posted 28 August 2009 in by Catriona

Now, you all know the first rule about weevil fight club.

So that means I can’t actually live-blog this episode. Sorry about that! See you next week for “Captain Jack Harkness”!

. . .

. . .

. . .

Oh, all right, then.

And here we are with the opening monologue. Oooh, I should have said that Heather is guest-watching with us again: let’s see if she can keep it PG this time.

We open with Jack chasing a weevil: he has “anti-weevil spray” and handcuffs. He is so Batman—except that the weevil manages to get a good hit in, which would never happen with Batman.

Rhys and Gwen are having dinner together, and Rhys flips out about the fact that she’s just absent all the time. Oddly enough, at that point, a weevil runs past, followed by Jack, whose shirt is torn open.

He grabs Gwen to help him grab the weevil, and Rhys tells her to “sit the fuck down.” I’m actually with Gwen when she tells him never to speak to her like that, though I am actually fond of Rhys.

Jack tells her to keep hold of her life. (In other words, stop shagging Owen.)

The weevil runs into a carpark.

HEATHER: Torchwood: we love carparks.
ME: Well, they’re cheap to film in.
HEATHER: Maybe Cardiff is just made up of carparks.

In other news, the weevil is grabbed by a carload of men with cattle prods.

Back at Torchwood, Jack wonders how other people know about weevils, and Ianto points out that there’s a higher incident of weevil attacks turning up in A&E these days.

Owen is not there, and his answering-machine message is typical for the kind of prat he is: “Leave a message. If you must.”

Gwen leaves an apologetic message for Rhys, and he deletes it.

HEATHER: Oh, great—here’s Owen!

He’s in a pub, drinking himself into a stupor and being chatted up by a barmaid, whose bar manager is the biggest prat in the world. Barmaids are always friendly with their customers: that’s how they make money.

Owen beats up the bar manager.

HEATHER: Oh, he is such a [redacted].
ME: I can’t put that on the blog.
HEATHER: Oh, that’s fair enough. He’s just such a [redacted].

Tosh reminds Gwen that Owen and Diane had a “thing,” and Gwen says, yes, she knew that.

She totally didn’t.

Down in the vault, a weevil is weeping. Jack says Owen decided they might have a low level of telepathic ability, so someone, somewhere is not only kidnapping weevils, but also causing them pain.

The people in question are causing the CC-TV cameras to go down as they do whatever is is they do with the weevils, which Jack says just makes him all the more eager to find out what they were doing.

I really don’t think that Noel Clarke can write for Captain Jack, actually.

Tosh and Jack head out to a warehouse, where they find a man lying dead on the floor.

TOSH: Is he alive?
JACK: Hello?

Yes, that is a highly scientific method of determining whether or not someone is alive.

Actually, he’s dead. And he has a terrible ringtone. But the main thing is that the people who were involved in his death ring Jack on the dead man’s phone, and tell him to back off.

Ah, they don’t know our Jack.

Owen is ordered into the Hub, and he determines that the man was killed by a weevil, but that he took a beating first, probably at the hands of a human, since weevils go for the kill.

Gwen is sent out to tell the family about the man’s death. (He was married with a child.) Owen—well, it’s best not to try and describe how he’s behaving in this scene, because I can’t really do it without swearing.

Nick comes up with a new nickname for Owen, but it’s obscene.

GWEN: Ignore him.
OWEN: Yes, just ignore me, Tosh. I can be such a wanker, apparently.
HEATHER: “Apparently”?

They send Owen into the weevil-kidnapping network undercover, because they already know about Jack and Tosh (at a minimum).

Owen is keen for the work, because he would think it would be fun to be someone else for a time.

NICK: Try being Mr Guppy! He was great.

I’m so proud of Nick for making a Charles Dickens reference.

He pretends to be an importer of jellied eels—or some kind of preserved eels, anyway—looking for warehouses on the docks; he bugs the offices of the real-estate agency that has on its books the warehouse where the dead man was found.

Wow, that back story they built for Owen is complicated—and where did they get all the people in white coats for the video? No, never mind.

HEATHER: Owen speaks wankenese.
Nick: Yes! Fluently!
HEATHER: That’s why he got the job: his fluent wankenese.

Gwen finally makes it home, and Rhys is dressed in his “pulling top”—that’s what he’s called it, ever since Gwen told him he looked sexy in it—and he’s off out to a stag night. (Well, a fake stage night, but it still involves a strip club.)

Gwen says she’s in tonight, but Rhys says he’s not, and he’s off out. Frankly, I’m on Rhys’s side in this one. Gwen is quite horrible to him.

Meanwhile, Jack and Ianto are interrogating the latest weevil victim to be admitted to A&E, and they’re not being overly gentle with him. But he says he can’t talk: they’d kill him. Jack asks who would kill him, and he says “everyone.”

So they release a weevil in the middle of Cardiff, with a tracking device in its boiler suit.

HEATHER: Yeah, see, I’ve always wondered about that. Do weevils have their own boilers suits, or do they need to be provided for them?
NICK: Yes. Yes!
HEATHER: Because when they captured that one in the first episode, he already had a boiler suit.
NICK: Maybe they’re genetically engineered to grow boiler suits.
HEATHER: Maybe they had a slogan: free boiler suit with every weevil.

Meanwhile, Owen is back in the same night club where he had the fight in the beginning, but this time he is seriously attempting to kill the bar manager.

Elsewhere, Tosh and Jack track the weevil, which is kidnapped. Tosh is furious: she says that they would never treat a human like that, but, apparently, weevils are free game.

Owen has headed back to the real-estate agent’s house, because the real-estate agent was impressed with Owen’s bar-manager beating skills.

Heather is quite insistent that the rest of this episode could be evaded if these two just had a shag. Try rewatching that scene between the two of them in view of that sentiment. It’s a lot funnier, if you watch it that way.

Back at Gwen’s place, she’s admitting her affair to Rhys, and then telling him that she’s ret-conned him. She wants to admit what she’s been doing and get his forgiveness, and then have him forget everything.

I’m even more on Rhys’s side than ever.

And, frankly, I’m quite pleased that Rhys falls asleep before he can do as Gwen is begging him to do, and forgive her.

We have a scintillating hypothetical conversation about whether it’s better to admit an affair or to pretend it never happened. Our conclusions are not relevant to the discussion.

In an upstairs room in real-estate boy’s house, we have a weevil chained to the wall, bloody and unhappy, and what looks like an entire S&M room. Apparently, this real-estate agent, who is a bigger prat than Owen, keeps the poor bugger around so he can punch it stupid.

He says we all need a punching bag, so I suppose we—though not the weevil—should be grateful he’s not married.

Real-estate boy knows that Owen is attached to Jack and Tosh, though he doesn’t know who those two are. And he challenges Owen to find out the truth about what’s going on, provided that Owen disarms himself.

HEATHER: Fine, I’ll just take my penis and leave it here.

Gwen turns up in the Hub with pizza, but no one is there, either. So much for balancing life and work, eh?

The rest of Torchwood are still tracking the weevil, but they find, instead, part of a boiler suit in a parking lot. So they’re stymied.

And Owen and real-estate boy sit in a parked car and watch a series of bored, entitled, self-involved, white-collar men trail into an abandoned building, though we don’t know what their intentions are, just yet.

Gwen sits and cries into her pizza. Aw, I feel so sorry for her when she cries. I know (and Heather has just reminded me) that that’s what she wants me to feel, but I can’t help it. She’s so cute.

But as she sits there, she hears a phone go off. She thinks it’s hers, but it’s not—it’s the corpse’s.

HEATHER: So, they managed to delete all his phone records, but they forgot to take him off the text list?

Sure enough, they did. So he’s been sent the address for the latest meeting. She tells Jack, and he tells her they’ll pick her up on the way.

Back at fight-club headquarters, real-estate boy explains that it’s all about reclaiming certainty in an uncertain world.

REAL-ESTATE BOY: All the certainties our fathers knew are gone.
ME: You entitled, white-collar, middle-class, public-school dickhead!

So, here we are at weevil fight club. Real-estate boy explains that it’s all about too much disposable income and not enough meaning.

Basically, you pay a grand to go into the cage with a weevil, and whoever lasts the longest is the winner.

I seriously, seriously, seriously hate everyone in this episode. Every single one. Except Rhys. Well, maybe him, too—in the beginning.

Real-estate boy demands that Owen gets into the cage (NICK: Is that a euphemism?), and pulls a gun out. (Which really just reinforces the euphemism aspect.)

Owen isn’t keen on doing this under duress, but he is keen on heading into the cage.

NICK: This episode defies description!

Well, thank you for telling me that towards the end of my live-blogging experience, honey.

Anyway, Owen is in the cage, looking a weevil in the eye and grinning—and I really have no vested interest in recapping this section of the episode.

NICK: It’s all chin acting in this episode!
HEATHER: I can . . . make it . . . come out of my face more!

Owen is quite horribly mauled, just as the Torchwood staff come haring in, complete with guns, and drag him out of the cage. But as Jack tells them that it’s all over, and the weevils have to be released, real-estate boy heads into the cage, and allows himself to be torn to shreds by a weevil while Jack watches.

Owen, in hospital, attacks Jack for “blundering in” while he was busy being “at peace with the world” in the cage with a weevil. He asks Jack whether Jack always knows best.

Jack simply orders Owen to head back to work.

But when Owen does, he gets Ianto to let him in to the room where the weevils are being kept.

NICK: I want a moment alone with my weevil.
HEATHER: Clarice . . .

And Owen shows his dominance over all weevil kind. Or something like that.

Next week: “Captain Jack Harkness.” Whatever you do, do not miss that one. When I say it’s sublime, I’m not lying. Though I may be mad. Who can say?

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Three: "Smith and Jones"

Posted 24 August 2009 in by Catriona

I have to start this live-blogging by pointing out the following indisputably true fact: 35.4 degrees is a ridiculous temperature for the end of August.

Seriously, Brisbane? You need to stop with the insanity right now. Right now, I’m telling you, young man! (Young lady? Who can say?) Either way, stop it right now.

Frankly, it still feels stupidly hot now, but I think that’s just my house retaining the day’s heat.

It’s not helping my ambition to spring clean the house before my house inspection this Thursday. (Oh, it was clean before. I just thought I’d kill two birds with one stone. But in this weather? No, thanks.)

None of that is relevant, of course, but c’est la vie. Or c’est la live-blogging. (My French? Impeccable!)

And, apparently, we’re just sailing straight into the opening credits this week: no teaser. Well, that caught me wrong-footed.

We open with pedestrians on a London street. Martha (spoiler! Oh, wait: her sister just gave her a name) gets a phone call from her sister, complaining about her parents’ behaviour; then her brother, complaining about her parents’ behaviour; then her mother, complaining about her father’s behaviour; then her father, complaining about her mother’s behaviour—and it all comes down, apparently, to her father having run off with a much younger woman.

Then the Doctor turns up and takes his tie off, then walks off.

NICK: Well, that’s your life screwed, Martha.

As Martha walks into the hospital, a man in motorcycle leathers and a helmet walks into her, and walks off without apologising.

Martha is doing rounds in the company of a particularly smug consultant, when she sees two men in motorcycle leathers and helmets.

But that’s not important right now, because the next patient is the Doctor. Martha chastises him for running round outside, but he says it wasn’t him: and, no, he doesn’t have a brother.

Martha notices that the Doctor has two hearts, and he winks at her.

But the consultant gets a static shock off the patient’s chart, and his trainee doctors note the same thing has been happening to them all day.

He starts talking about Benjamin Franklin, and the Doctor interrupts, saying he got rope burns first and then he got soaked—“and then,” he says delightedly, “I got electrocuted!”

Martha, chatting to her sister on the phone, becomes aware that the hospital is at the centre of a highly localised storm cloud, and that the rain is, against all odds, falling upwards.

The hospital and its staff are shaken all over the place, but when they settle and are able to stand again, they see they’re on the moon.

There’s a beautiful CGI shot of the hospital, standing alone in the middle of a vast crater, then a lovely shot of the staff and patients staring wonderingly out of the window for a slow, silent moment—before completely and utterly freaking out.

The only one who is not freaking out is the woman whom Martha was looking at in the beginning of the episode, the one who has a salt deficiency from eating too many salads.

Martha tries to open a window, but her colleague freaks out, saying all the air will be sucked out. But Martha says no: the windows aren’t air-tight, so it should all have been sucked out already.

The Doctor, back in his suit, pops out from behind a curtain to tell her that’s brilliant, and is there a balcony nearby? She says yes: in the patient’s lounge. And he asks if she’d like to go outside.

They do, and Martha breaks a little, thinking of her brother’s birthday party. But she pulls herself together quickly, and says she wouldn’t miss it for the world.

The Doctor says they’re standing in the earthlight.

Martha says, in response to the Doctor’s question, that it must be aliens: she mentions the spaceships flying into Big Ben, and Christmas Day, and the Battle of Canary Wharf. She says she had a cousin who worked at Canary Wharf, and who never came home.

After a little banter about his name, the Doctor points out that there’s a forcefield, which means that this air is all the air they have. Once this is used up, the thousand or so people in the hospital will suffocate.

Martha wonders who would do that and, right on cue, here comes some space ships. Quite the CGI budget for this episode, isn’t there?

The Doctor points out that the aliens are the Judoon, but he doesn’t elaborate on who they are.

As they march towards the hospital, the consultant from before is confronted by the salad-eating, salt-deficient woman from earlier in the episode.

She explains that she was only salt deficient because she’s so very good at absorbing it, so she needs blood. She has the two leather-clad men from earlier restrain him, while she explains that his blood is exceptionally good because of all the fatty foods and good wines and Michelin-star sauces.

Then she pulls out a straw she prepared earlier, which is beyond creepy.

The Judoon, meanwhile, turn out to be heavily armed space rhinoceroses. No, seriously.

Of course, they manage to assimilate Earth English from one brief recording of a medical student begging for his life, which is pretty advanced technology.

The Judoon, the Doctor explains while he and Martha are hiding above the lobby (with the Doctor rhapsodising about the little shop), are interplanetary thugs—sort of like police for hire—who have scooped the hospital off Earth in the search for someone non-human.

They have no jurisdiction over Earth, he says: Nick thinks it’s stretching the point to steal an entire hospital, but I suggested that they might want to grab the hospital, find the alien, and return the hospital before anyone notices, what with the Earth not being fully networked.

I’ve missed a lot of material here about the Judoon wiping the hospital records and the Doctor not being human and why he checked into the hospital in the first place when he does, after all, have two hearts, but then Martha walks in on the salad-eating woman drinking the consultant’s blood, which seems to answer any questions about the non-human that the Judoon are seeking.

He and Martha flee (he grabs her hand and says, “Run!”, which is really just the first instance of Martha being played as, essentially, a poor-man’s Rose, which always annoyed me. It didn’t seem fair to her, somehow).

Also, the Doctor is expelling radiation through his shoe while I’m typing this.

The sonic screwdriver has been ruined in the process of killing one of the slabs—the leather-clad men—with the radiation.

But the Doctor has realised that the salad-eating woman is assimilating the consultant’s blood, not eating it.

NICK: That’s a pretty fine distinction there, Doctor.

But he argues that she can mimic the biology, and pass as human. The risks with this are two-fold: the Doctor is non-human, which makes him vulnerable to the Judoon, and, in addition, if the Judoon can’t find their target, they’ll find the entire hospital guilty of harbouring a fugitive and execute them all.

At this point, they’re ambushed by the Judoon, and run again.

This is almost old-school Doctor Who, with all the running.

Why don’t the Doctor and Martha just find a thick black texta and draw an X on their own hands? Then they’d look like they’d already been scanned.

The Judoon are coming, and the Doctor needs a diversion. So he snogs Martha, saying it means absolutely nothing.

Martha, a bit stunned, says, “That was nothing?”

But the Doctor is off. He’s found the plasmavore (previously known as the salad-eating woman) in the MRI room, and starts ranting about how he’d recommend this hospital to anyone, but then there were rhinos and they are on the moon, until she orders her slab to grab him.

He’s acting oddly human, isn’t he? Is that significant, I wonder?

Martha scans as human with non-human traces, and the Judoon grab her for a full scan.

The Doctor, meanwhile, listens to the plasmavore explaining that she’s going to nuke the hospital, the Judoon, and the side of the Earth facing the moon, so that she can escape in the Judoon ships.

He tells the plasmavore that the Judoon are increasing their scans up to level two, and she says she’ll need to assimilate again: she drinks the Doctor’s blood.

Just as his body drops, the Judoon break in to the MRI chamber. They try to declare the case closed, but Martha, running behind them, grabs a scanner and flashs it at her face—and, of course, she comes up as non-human.

She’s executed, but what she has already done to the MRI machines is already in place: they’re going to explode, and the Judoon prefer withdrawing to actually helping people.

They march past the inhabitants of the hospital, all of whom are weakened by lack of air.

Martha performs CPR on the Doctor, but I wouldn’t have thought that would be terribly effective when the cause of death is blood loss.

Then again, I’m not that kind of doctor. And, as Nick points out, it doesn’t look like she drained all his blood.

Either way, he wakes up in time to try and do something about the MRI machine, though he’s hampered by his lack of a sonic screwdriver. (His laser spanner would be good, here, but it was stolen by Amelia Earhart, cheeky woman.)

Still, he succeeds: he’s the Doctor.

And he carries the unconscious Martha through the halls of the hospital to the window, where he watches the Judoon ships take off and begs them to reverse what they did.

When it starts raining on the moon, he grins.

As Martha is greeted by an over-excited younger sister, we hear the sound of the TARDIS dematerialising.

Cut to Martha (ooh, reference to Mr Saxon, was it?) getting ready for her brother’s 21st birthday party—which collapses into a screaming domestic in the street, as the father’s girlfriend marches out, followed by various shouting members of the family.

But Martha’s not too bothered, because she’s just caught sight of the Doctor.

And, sure enough, he’s hanging around outside the TARDIS, trying to look debonair.

MARTHA: What species are you? It’s not every day I get to ask that.
THE DOCTOR: I’m a Time Lord.
MARTHA: So, not pompous at all then.

He asks Martha to go with him, but she’s caught up in the responsibilities of her linear life. And so he tells her that the TARDIS is a time machine, too—and proves it by flipping back and taking his tie off in front of her as she’s on her way to work.

She asks quite sensibly why he didn’t warn her not to go into work.

THE DOCTOR: Crossing into established events is strictly forbidden—except for cheap tricks.
NICK: That explains so much about the Doctor.

Cue the blustering about the TARDIS being bigger on the inside than the outside.

Now, Martha: you couldn’t tell there were some issues here right from the start? With the blustering about Rose and the “We were together,” and the insistence that it’s only one trip?

Nevertheless, she gets in the TARDIS, and off they go—after the Doctor releases the handbrake.

Well, she’ll find out soon, when he starts taking her to the same places that he took Rose.

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Out Of Time"

Posted 21 August 2009 in by Catriona

I’ve come into this just in time to see the ABC using Barack Obama as the authority on the quality of The Wire.

I understand The Wire is great, but that only gives me the impression that President Obama is . . . actually, what’s the opposite of an early adopter?

It’s a late adopter, isn’t it?

I really should have thought this through more, shouldn’t I?

Wow, Keeley Hawes’s hair is terrible in Ashes to Ashes, isn’t it?

Circulating Library: where we discuss the big issues.

But now with the Torchwood of it, as we watch, from over the shoulders of the Torchwood team, as a bi-plane comes in to land. The pilot is a lovely, dark-haired woman, who apologises for the “unplanned landing.” Behind her are a young woman in co-ordinated ashes-of-roses clothing and a man in a trenchcoat and hat.

The outfits makes sense as Jack, flanked by Owen and Gwen, pushes the pilot, Diana, to tell him when they took off, and she says “1953.”

The three people—Diane, Emma Louise, and John—introduce themselves to the Torchwood staff, after Jack takes them back to the Hub. The passengers think that it’s a trick, but Tosh shows them footage of the millennium celebrations, changes in technology, and the development of Cardiff over the past fifty years.

The Torchwood staff take the passengers through the lives—and, in most cases, the deaths—of their various family members.

Emma Louise’s parents are dead: Gwen’s cheery “Your mam lived to be eighty-three” probably doesn’t help much. John wants to know about his son, but the records from the 1950s are incomplete. And Diane says she never had a regular boyfriend: she never stayed in one place long enough.

The three are taken to a halfway house. Gwen bonds with Emma, who was going to stay with her aunt, to care for the children while her aunt is ill. It’s good practice, she says, for when she has children of her own.

Jack bonds with John—which is strangely narcissistic, when you phrase it that way.

The problem is that they can’t be returned to their own time: as Nick points out, not even the Doctor could fix that.

Jack sets them up with fake identities, but John rejects the idea that they should abandon their own names, that it’s the only thing they have left. (Shades of The Crucible, there.)

Ianto takes them out to give them some sense of modern developments and the currency, but they’re all just fascinated by bananas.

IANTO: Of course, bananas are much more interesting.

Well, in 1953, they have just come off rationing.

While John is staring at a scantily clad children’s presenter on the cover of a magazine, Nick comes out with the worst spoiler he could have managed. I shall not repeat it here.

John seems to be struggling with this more than anyone else. He says he’s going to check out the stadium, but he’s looking for traces of his own past. Emma and Diane, meanwhile, are respectively worrying about how they’re going to find either a husband or a career in aviation.

Diane heads back to her plane, where she comes across Owen—poor love.

DIANE: Terrible wind over the [geographical location I have forgotten. Some sort of ocean].
OWEN: Something you ate?

I choke, and Nick points out that, apparently, this is Owen being charming. I choke again.

Meanwhile, John and Jack are bonding over an early F.A. Cup Final (I could find out, but I’m betting it’s 1952: something to do with the late, great Sir Stanley Matthews), one of the earliest—perhaps the earliest—to be aired on television.

Emma is struggling with the two young girls with whom she’s living. Nick wonders if it’s really a good idea to put this refugee from the 1950s in with these two very modern young women.

But they seem to bond relatively well—unlike John, who has been chastised for lighting up in a pub.

And Owen and Diane are out to dinner. Owen is such a revolting man: “Let me get this straight,” he says. “You expect equality and chivalry?”

Owen, I have some advice for you, but I can’t write it on the blog because of my firm “no swearing” policy. (For the record, I really don’t want people to pull out my chair. But that’s no reason for Owen to be revolting.)

Back at the halfway house, Emma is off her nut (having been sharing drinks with the other two girls) and is viciously chastised by John, as he returns home from the pub.

Diane and Owen flirt.

John has called Gwen, to help him with the process of chastising her for having half a glass of alcohol. John really is over-bearing in this scene (and I won’t eat liver, either), but Nick says they deserve kudos for the warts and all portrayal of the 1950s’ pater familias.

Diane mocks Owen for his vast quantity of beauty products. They’re quite obviously going to sleep together.

Oh, there we go.

Meanwhile, Gwen has taken Emma home with her.

Sorry, I got bored with some of the pillow talk between Owen and Diane, just then. (Though, when Diane says, “When you take off together? It’s the next best thing to flying,” Nick can’t stop himself saying, “That explains so much about Top Gun.”)

And then Emma sees Rhys naked. Poor girl. Rhys can’t cope with Emma’s conservatism.

GWEN: Emma’s parents are a bit religious.
RHYS: I see. Well, best not tell them you saw my morning glory, then.

Meanwhile, they’ve found John’s son: he’s a childless widower, suffering from Alzheimer’s, living in a nursing home. John’s trying to show Alan, his son, pictures of them fifty years earlier, but Alan is not in a lucid moment.

Alan does remember who won the F.A. Cup when he was a child, and John—poor, desperate John—thinks this is a sign of returning lucidity. But it’s not, of course, and John is crushed.

Owen tries to get Diane up in an airplane again, but they’re booked solid.

And Gwen takes Emma to a nightclub, but she’s rather paralysed by the situation. And Gwen really should be paying more attention, instead of snogging Rhys, because Emma is not fit to be out in a modern nightclub on her own.

So when Gwen finds her in a back room with a cute boy, Gwen shows her some modern magazine, to explain to her that people are more sexually aware these days than they used to be.

This scene with Gwen and Emma is so gorgeous: Eve Myles is so adorable in this scene, as she tries to explain to Emma that sex between consenting adults is fine, but that Emma shouldn’t do it—not that there’s anything wrong with Gwen having slept with a number of men.

Diane is freaking out about being unable to fly, and I should sympathise with her, but I just find her annoying. Aren’t I unsympathetic?

Emma, meanwhile, has found a job, which Gwen thinks is fabulous—except that the job is in London, and Gwen isn’t comfortable with the idea of Emma going to London.

John, who we haven’t seen for a while, has a plan: to get a job and a driver’s license—though as Jack turns his back, John nicks some car keys, and lies to Ianto about looking for a bus timetable.

Owen, in a suit, takes Diane, in the lovely new dress he bought her, to a mystery location.

But Gwen, coming home happy with Emma, finds a cranky Rhys, who has spoken to Gwen’s mother and found out that Emma is not a relative. Rhys is furious about how easy it is for Gwen to lie to him, but Nick thinks Rhys should have noticed earlier, since it’s hardly a new thing.

Emma explains that Gwen should let her go, since she’s just causing more tension between Gwen’s two lives: Torchwood, and everything else.

Diane and Owen banter. I feel quite ill.

They also dance, so at least I can catch my breath.

Then they have sex, and I think I might check Facebook, to see if anything interesting has happened while I’ve been blogging.

And then Ianto rings Jack—to say his car keys are missing, that John was behind the counter earlier, and that he can’t raise him on the phone.

Jack, tracing the car, sees that John has “gone home”—which is to say, his old house before he disappeared.

But it turns out that “gone home” is also a euphemism: Jack finds John suffocating himself in the car in his old garage. Jack tells John that he’s lost, too—he was born in the future, lived in the past, and also doesn’t know where he belongs. He tells John that he—John—is still young: he can find a job, make friends, marry and have children. But John says he did all that: when he was supposed to, in the past.

Back to Owen and Diane. I’m bored.

Nick reminds me that I didn’t have any sympathy for this sub-plot last time. But I think it has to do with Owen: Owen is such a tart that there’s no reason to think he feels anything in particular for this woman. And Diane herself is a fairly thin character.

John and Jack talk about how John can hang on—as Jack has been hanging on for too long. But John says he’ll just wait until Jack’s back is turned, and then make sure he does it properly.

Oh, Owen is in love, is he?

OWEN: How have you done this to me?
ME: Oh, because it’s always the bloody woman’s fault isn’t it, Owen?
DIANE: I love you, too.
ME: Hmm, maybe they are a good match.

John and Jack sit in Ianto’s car and commit suicide together. Ave atque vale, John.

Diane tells the sleeping Owen that the problem with love is that you’re always at its mercy.

Gwen sees Emma off to London.

Owen wakes up alone, and tracks Diane down to the airfield.

OWEN: This is madness.
DIANE: If I’d listened to everyone who said that, I’d never have broken any records.
NICK: You’re supposed to say, “This is Sparta!”

Diane wants to head back through a rift, as she did when she arrived. Owen says she can’t go home, but she says then it will take her somewhere new.

Nick is distracted by how cute Eve Myles is in a beret.

Owen wants to go with Diane, but she says she flies solo. I really have no idea about the motivation of these two characters. Sadly, they feel like characters, like scripted players, and not like actual people. Because this makes no sense to me.

Either way, Diane takes off.

And we flash back on the interactions of the Torchwood staff with their charges as Diane taxis down the runway, takes off—and disappears? Or does the episode just end?

It’s ambiguous.

Ah, next week: well, you all know the first rule about weevil fight club.

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Christmas Special: "The Runaway Bride"

Posted 17 August 2009 in by Catriona

I’m here! I’m here! I’m not too late or anything!

I was fretting that I’d be a little late to this, since we’ve been frantically watching True Blood. But no! I’m right here!

Though, actually, we never did finish the episode of True Blood. I need to watch the last ten minutes of that after I finish live-blogging this Christmas episode.

I wonder if they’ll go straight on to season three after this? That might be intriguing, though I do have a late, late teaching day on Tuesdays. I wonder if I could petition ABC to move this to Sunday nights?

Too late! Here is the beginning of the episode coming up now—though this jumping over walls lark is taking quite some time.

No, here we are—that looks like Earth. And there’s the blushing bride, about to be escorted down the aisle of a seriously enormous church—what’s the point of a veil when it’s worn thrown back like that, I wonder?

Of course, now the bride is literally glowing. And screaming. And disappearing, much to the shock of her guests.

And she reappears in the TARDIS, to the astonishment of a Doctor who really doesn’t need this, having only thirty seconds earlier failed to tell Rose that he loved her. (Or at least I assume that’s what he was going to tell her.)


And now the Doctor’s wondering how she materialised in the TARDIS when it’s in flight.

The bride demands to know where she is, and the Doctor says, “The TARDIS.”

“The what?” she says, before saying, “That’s not even a real word. You’re just saying things.”

The bride’s assuming that “Nerys” is responsible for this, and threatens to sue the Doctor. But when she throws the doors open, it’s obvious she isn’t getting back to the church any time soon, since there’s a nebula outside the doors.

The Doctor introduces herself, and Donna herself: the Doctor asks if she’s human, and she says, “Yeah. Is that optional?”

“It is for me,” says the Doctor, off-handedly.

The Doctor starts babbling about how impossible it is for Donna to even be there, but Donna slaps him—and I don’t really blame him, since she’s been quite hysterical about the idea of missing her wedding.

The Doctor says he’ll get Donna to the church, but Donna finds one of Rose’s T-shirts, and freaks out about whether the Doctor serially abducts women. But the Doctor says no: “I lost her.”

“Well, you can hurry up and lose me,” says Donna.

Back at the church, Donna’s mother is saying this is typical of Donna: “First day of school, she was sent home for biting.”

The TARDIS doesn’t land in Chiswick as planned, and while the Doctor is babbling about what Donna might have eaten or drunk or touched, Donna is freaking out about the dimensions of the TARDIS.

She’s well freaked about missing the wedding now, and the Doctor asks why she isn’t carrying a phone. She rants about the absence of pockets in the average wedding dress. The same goes for when they manage to hail a taxi, and she realises she isn’t carrying any money.

The taxi decants them on the pavement, as Donna shouts after the driver, “And that goes double for your mother!”

She’s such a shock to the system after Rose, is Donna.

The Doctor’s caught up in the “get me to the church on time” mode now, as he makes it possible for Donna to phone and goes to get some money.

But Donna, not trusting him, borrows a tenner from a woman in the street and grabs a taxi—a taxi being driven by one of those plastic Santas from “The Christmas Invasion.”

The Doctor freaks out, but he’s back to the TARDIS in a flash.

The taxi driver, oddly enough, isn’t taking the most direct route to St Mary’s, Chiswick, which makes more sense when Donna rips his mask off and sees what’s underneath.

The TARDIS is in “full explosion” mode.

NICK: Time machines shouldn’t be doing this, Doctor. It ain’t right, though it looks awesome.

But here comes the TARDIS, spinning down the freeway behind the taxi. The Doctor manages to keep the TARDIS running alongside the taxi while he opens the door (by controlling the TARDIS with string), but Donna’s unwilling to just jump out of the taxi).

NICK: Get some fuses, Doctor.

The integration of special effects in this scene is rather awesome.

Donna doesn’t want to jump.

DOCTOR: Trust me.
DONNA: Is that what you said to your friend? The one you lost? Did she trust you?
DOCTOR: Yes, she did. And she’s not dead. She’s so alive.


Donna jumps, much to the delight of the children watching ecstatically from the cars nearby.

The TARDIS is a little burnt out by all this—the Doctor points out that for a space ship, she doesn’t do that much actual flying: they need to give her a couple of hours.

Of course, they’ve missed the wedding by now, anyway.

Donna wishes that the Doctor had a time machine, because then they could go back and do it properly. The Doctor says yes, but no: he couldn’t go back on someone’s personal timelime. “Apparently,” he adds, diplomatically.

He gives Donna a ring/bio-dampener (“Do you have to rub it in?” she asks), to cover the signal that the robots are tracking.

DOCTOR: With this ring, I thee bio-damp.

The Doctor is still wondering why the robots are tracking her: he’s running a machine over her, and insisting, “I mean, you’re not special or anything.”

DONNA: This friend of yours, before she left, did she punch you in the face? Stop bleeping me!

Donna explains to the Doctor that she used to work somewhere called H.C. Clemens—“a fancy name for locksmith,” she reckons—and that’s where she met Lance, her intended.

But before the Doctor can figure out how this makes her attractive to the robots, Donna says it’s time to face to music—won’t everyone be annoyed at missing out on the huge reception she had planned?

But, no: they’re having the reception without her.

The Doctor’s not much fun at this party: he’s not wearing a tie on his head or inventing banana daiquiris or anything. What he is doing is flashing back on memories of Rose and generally feeling sorry for himself.

Fair enough—Rose only left about two hours ago.

So he wonders over to the videographer, and works out that what made Donna disappear were huon particles (oh, I’ll check the spelling later)—but they’re ancient, he says. So ancient that they can’t be hidden by a bio-dampener.

And sure enough, there are the robot Santas, and the Doctor now notices the Christmas trees everywhere. So Donna and the Doctor are screaming at everyone to get away from the trees, when Donna’s mother tells them not to be ridiculous.

Sure enough, the Christmas baubles start exploding.

I love Christmas.

I love long sequences in which things explode, because it allows me to catch up with the live-blogging.

The Doctor manages to make the robots explode—and various guests’ brains bleed out their eardrums—by plugging his sonic screwdriver into the sound system.

Donna tells the Doctor to stop rabbiting on: he’s a Doctor, she says, and people have been hurt. He could help. But no: he says he has to think of the bigger picture, the signal.

And Donna, like any good companion, barely pauses a moment before dashing out into the street after him.

The Doctor says that the signal is coming from above the planet, and we see a sinister red-skinned figure ranting and raving about the cleverness of the Doctor and the desire to descend to earth, as we see a wheeling shape that is half spiderweb and half Christmas ornament.

Somewhere in the next scene, the Doctor describes Donna as a pencil in a mug, which is a neat way of describing the way huon particles attract each other.

But on the computer, the Doctor can see something evident beneath the H.C. Clemens building where Donna, Lance, and the Doctor are looking for clues.

LANCE: Are you telling me there’s a secret floor in this building?
DOCTOR: No, I’m . . . showing you there’s a secret floor in this building.

Ah, narratology jokes. I love them.

The Doctor plans to descend, but Donna won’t let him out of her sight, and she orders Lance to go down, too.

Meanwhile, the red-skinned creature is a little too keen to see Donna coming, saying the bride is her key.

There’s an entire secret base under here, much to Donna’s surprise. (DOCTOR: I know. Oh, I know, love.) To the Doctor’s surprise, there’s a room devoted to building huon particles, which are inside Donna.

The Doctor gets a little too excited describing how the particles are activated by the chemical overload incited by the wedding-day excitement, and Donna slaps him again.

DOCTOR: What did I do this time?
DONNA: Are you enjoying this?

And the Doctor can’t say anything. And that’s why the Doctor needs Donna around: she can bring him down to earth (so to speak) in a way that his other companions can’t.

But the red-skinned creature speaks to the Doctor, and he taunts and taunts until the creature agrees to come down to earth: she is, the Doctor says, one of the Rachnos.

Empress of the Rachnos, she insists. And the last of the Rachnos.

The Doctor says that the Rachnos are ancient, but they should all have been wiped out. All but the Empress.

Lance is sneaking up on the Empress at this point, with a fire axe over his shoulder, and Donna distracts the Empress’s attention so that Lance can get close enough.

But Lance, of course, is in the Empress’s employ. He’s been dousing Donna with huon particles in their morning coffee for six months—he moans about the “never-ending fountain of fat, stupid trivia” that he had to put up with, agreeing to Donna’s proposal so she didn’t run off.

He’s a highly unpleasant character, is Lance.

Donna’s crushed here, but when the Empress asks her robots to shoot the Doctor, Donna jumps in front of him, telling them she won’t let them hurt him.

But the Doctor has a plan: just as the huon particles in the TARDIS drew Donna in, he can draw the TARDIS down to cover them.

And he takes them back in time to the beginning, to see what is buried at the planet’s core that could possibly be drawing the Empress of the Rachnos’s attention.

So they go back 4.5 billion years, to the moment when the Sun is brand new and the Earth is just now beginning to coalesce from the dust and rocks around them.

Donna says it puts the wedding in perspective, and that Lance was right (when he ranting about why he was betraying Donna): they’re so tiny.

But the Doctor says no: that’s what humans do, make sense out of chaos by marking it out with weddings and Christmas and calendars. All this is marvelous, he says, but meaningless if there’s no one there to observe it.

He’s such a scientist.

But, sure enough, the core at the centre of the new Earth is a Rachnos ship.

Meanwhile, the Empress is force-feeding Lance huon particles, to make him the key in Donna’s absence.

And the Empress activates the huon particles to draw Donna back to join Lance. The Doctor manages to keep Donna way from the Empress, but, as he’s explaining the Empress’s plan, Donna is kidnapped by robots.

The Empress really has a terrible, terrible sense of humour.

NICK: She must have been watching a lot of television while orbiting the Earth.

But her sense of humour isn’t necessary when she’s activating the key: she uses it to awaken her children, buried in the depths of the Earth for 4.5 billion years. As the children start climbing, and the Empress summons her spaceship to her, she also drops Lance down the tunnel to feed her starving offspring.

This is also what the spaceship is there for, to harvest humans for the omnivorous, starving Rachnos.

The Doctor manages to release Donna, though he doesn’t manage to catch her as she swings down from the web on the roof.

And the Doctor offers the Empress a chance: he will find her a planet on which she and her children can co-exist. When she rejects his offer, he tells her that what happens next is her own fault.

She tries to have her robots destroy him, but he has the control he took from Donna’s reception.

Then he reveals himself as a Time Lord—much to the Empress’s screaming horror—and blows up the Thames flood barrier above them, pouring water through the facility and into the tunnel up which the Rachnos are climbing, drowning them all as the Empress keens, “My children! My children!”

This is the most implacable we’ve seen the Doctor up to this point. This broke my heart the first time around.

But Donna talks the Doctor down from the ledge (metaphorically speaking): the Empress transports back to her ship but—under orders from Mr Saxon (hmm, I wonder who that could be?)—the army fires at will and blows her ship from the sky, as the Doctor and Donna climb up onto the Thames flood barrier, now in the middle of a completely dry river.

The Doctor drops Donna back at her house, but she points out that the absence of huon particles is a small blessing, considering everything else that has happened.

So the Doctor makes it snow for her. (“Basic atmospheric excitation,” he says.)


The Doctor asks what she’s going to do now, and she says she doesn’t know: “Just go out there and do something.”

You’re breaking my heart, Donna! Retrospectively.

The Doctor says she could come with him, but Donna doesn’t even pause before she says no. He’s hurt, but she explains that she couldn’t live her life like that every day.

DONNA: That place was flooding and burning and they were dying, and you stood there like, I don’t know, a stranger.

That’s why the Doctor needs you, Donna. You could always talk him down from the ledge, couldn’t you?

Donna talks the Doctor into having Christmas dinner but he, saying he just has to park the TARDIS properly (“She might drift off to the Middle Ages, or something”), slips into the TARDIS and starts to dematerialise.

Donna calls him back (“Blimey, you can shout”) and she tells him to find someone, because he needs someone to talk him down.

He leaves again, with parting words:

DOCTOR: Be magnificent.
DONNA: I think I will, yeah.

And you were, Donna. And then the Doctor stripped your mind and your memories and left you with nothing.

And I cried.

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Random Shoes"

Posted 14 August 2009 in by Catriona

We have a special guest for the live-blogging tonight—our friend, Heather—but thus far, everything she’s said has been unsuitable for this time slot. So we’ll wait and see if she can keep it PG during the actual episode.

Of course, right now we’re stuck with that Rob Brydon sitcom that has never really appealed to me. Though I do find Sarah Alexander quite adorable.

I am deliberately not repeating word for word the conversation that Nick and Heather are having about exactly why men are from Mars (hint: universe’s tallest mountain) and women are from Venus (no hints there).

And now Nick has won an argument about whether this sitcom actually has Ben Miller in it instead of Rob Brydon. (He was right, but don’t tell him that.)

Here’s the opening monologue from Torchwood—though we’re actually talking about Guy Pierce, here in my living room.

HEATHER: God, I hate Owen’s pants.
ME: Yeah. Well, I hate Owen.

But we actually open on a guy lying in a road, apparently dead, except he’s opening his eyes and sitting up.

And there goes two paragraphs, as my Internet connection goes down. Bugger.

I can’t recall it now, but (in short) Eugene tracks down the Torchwood group at the side of the road and finds himself dead. I wrote quite a touching paragraph about that. (Not really.)

He doesn’t know whether he’s a ghost or a zombie. But he decides to stick with the “team,” to find out.

Once my Internet connection is back up, we find Eugene talking about losing a science competition, and being given an eye (HEATHER: Eye? Ew.) by his science teacher as a kind of comfort.

And Eugene’s family life is really screwed up, especially his father.

But we’re back with Eugene and David Bowie, and Eugene’s increasing obsession with the alien coming back to find its eye. He begins to collect alien artefacts, and that’s when he meets Gwen, who isn’t that interested.

NICK: Pushing through Gwen’s self-involvement take more effort than that.

Then he tries to attract Owen’s attention.

EUGENE: I’ve got this thing I need to show you.
HEATHER: Yeah. Yeah.

Meanwhile, as I try frantically to catch up with the narrative, Torchwood are explaining Eugene’s death to his mother. And then they’re rummaging through his collection of alien artefacts, and mocking the fact that he’s been taken in by so many shysters.

Back at the Torchwood Hub, Eugene is mostly excited about actually being in the Hub.

In terms of Owen being a moron, he’s now telling Gwen to do the autopsy, if she thinks it’s so important, because he has a stack of admin. to do. I really, really hate Owen.

Just as Gwen is about to start the incision, though, Ianto come up with a report of a drunk driver who admits to knocking a man over near Cardiff, and the investigation is called off.

Eugene lies in the autopsy room and looks at his own dead body, wanders around the Hub, and stands outside his own house to watch his mother cry.

But Gwen isn’t sure that there isn’t anything else going on. Owen mocks Gwen—of course—but Gwen backs down.

Of course, the next thing we see is Owen watching the DVDs that Eugene has borrowed from the video store before his death. Owen is really incredibly unbearable in this episode.

But Gwen offers to return the DVDs, and ends up in Eugene’s usual cafe, eating two eggs, ham, and chips for lunch, and working her way through Eugene’s friends [on his phone, I should have added] while waiting for his video store to open.

Gwen returns the DVDs.

VIDEO STORE CLERK: Dead, eh? Shit. That’s pretty final.

Apparently, Eugene owes thirty-four pounds in fines—while the clerk is cracking on to Gwen with the worst pick-up lines in history—that Gwen agrees to pay. The clerk is also a jerk: he and Owen should get together. (He suggests that Eugene might have killed himself, because Eugene “has loser written through him like Brighton through a stick of rock.”)

Now Gwen is at Eugene’s job, where they’re passing a card around—some colleague has written “Good luck in your new job,” and when Eugene’s colleague Gary points out that Eugene is dead, the colleague says, “No! Who’s it for, then?”

I don’t think that Eugene’s mum will be pleased with that card.

NICK: You know what’s interesting about this episode? It shows that Gwen is actually a pretty good cop, and is probably wasted on Torchwood.

And then Owen talks to Gwen on the phone, and tells her to just hurry up with the investigation, will you?

NICK, HEATHER, AND ME: F—- off, Owen!

Meanwhile, Linda is telling Gwen that Eugene offered to buy her a ticket to Australia, where she wanted to move, by selling his alien artifact—his eye, the one his science teacher gave him—on eBay.

And he does.

And the item just sits there, until the bids start climbing and climbing one day, until they reach fifteen-thousand pounds.

At this point, though, Eugene’s mother rings Gwen, and she leaves Linda alone in the pub where she’s been telling this story. (And I’ve just realised at this point that Eugene messed up a maths competition, not a science competition.)

At Eugene’s house, the brother tells Gwen that Eugene found out about a fortnight before that their father, rather than moving to the U.S. because of his very important job—as the mother has always told them—was working as a garage attendant just down the road.

Gwen drives there, with Eugene still in the car, but he stops Gwen getting out of the car. He says he wants nothing to do with his father: he says, “Sorry” and Gwen, not seemingly realising that she’s addressing him, replies, “It’s okay.” She doesn’t look at Eugene, but it’s a creepy moment.

Back at Torchwood, Gwen talks about Eugene’s alien eye and Jack explains what it is: I’ve forgotten the name of the alien already, I’m afraid. But the eye lets you “see behind you, see where you’ve been,” Jack says. That’s why they’re in demand.

But Gwen, tracking down the buyer of the eye, finds Gary, Eugene’s colleague, who is the one who originally inflated the bid for the eye on eBay.

Gary says he first did it to cheer Eugene up, because he was so depressed. But then Eugene came to him with his argument that it was the alien, the original owner of the eye, who was bidding so much money for the eye.

But then Eugene made an arrangement to meet someone in a transport cafe, but Gary, sputtering slightly, says he doesn’t know who he was meeting.

Gwen shows Gary photographs of feet on Eugene’s phone, but Gary says they’re just “random shoes,” he supposes.

ME: Hmm, I should probably not have written that as “random hoes,” I think.
NICK: Great band.
HEATHER: Best album ever.

Gwen, in a hotel in Aberstwyth (oh, I’ll check the spelling later! I’m not Welsh!), ponders what could have happened to Eugene—Eugene babbles about happiness and doors and what happened the day he died, until he blurts out to Gwen, “I love you.”

She stands up, and they’re almost lip to lip, but Gwen can’t see him—she’s just looking out the window, or perhaps at her own reflection in the window.

The next morning, Gwen heads out to where Eugene ended up meeting the buyer of the eye—which turns out to be his friends, Gary and the prat from the video store. They bid as a joke, though there was a real buyer who bid up to the fifteen thousand—the friends are the ones who then upped it to fifteen thousand, five pounds, and fifty pence.

They now want to buy the eye from Eugene for thirty-four pounds, and then sell it to the collector who bid fifteen thousand—he collects alien ephemera, Nazi memorabilia, and Beanie babies.

Then the friends start attacking Eugene, who swallows the eye.

The waitress who is telling Gwen this story, says “Well, that’s not acceptable behaviour, not in a Happy Cook.” But, of course, she has quite the heavy Welsh accent.

HEATHER: I’m sorry—a happy what?

It’s best to leave that there.

At that point, Eugene’s friends turn up: the guy from the video store (Josh) acts as a total prat, but Gary trips him as he tries to flee from the store—he shouts at Josh that he misses Eugene.

Ack! I just pasted instead of cutting! But it’s fine. It’s fine, really. (Stupid Internet connection.)

Now Eugene remembers everything that happened to him, and it’s one of the more nihilistic moments in the show: Eugene remembers running across the field, feeling the sheer joy in life, just before he is hit by the car.

And Gwen rings Eugene’s father, and we skip to Eugene’s funeral, where the father stands, talks about Eugene’s life, and then sings “Danny Boy.”

(Gwen, meanwhile, has bribed the funeral home to take the alien eye out of Eugene’s body. We all say “Eww” in unison.)

And, while family flood in to the wake, Gwen starts talking to Eugene, but not as though she can actually tell where he is—she’s looking in the wrong direction. Then Torchwood tear up in their enormous black 4WD—they tell Gwen they need to go, but Gwen is distracted by the reunion of Eugene’s parents.

And then Eugene knocks her out of the path of an oncoming car—and she can see him.

Everyone can see him.

All the family and friends standing at the wake can see Eugene, as Gwen gives him a quick kiss (since he did just save her life).

And then he hands the eye—which had fallen out of the bag Gwen had it in—to Gwen, and he disappears.

He has a monologue, but it’s mostly about random shoes and loft insulation.

Wow, but that was a depressing episode.

(In other news, they’re at least playing “The Runaway Bride” next Monday, and I’ll be live-blogging that: I don’t know if they’re going on to season three, but I’ll live-blogging that.)

HEATHER: Now, I think, First Spaceship to Venus!
ME: What?
NICK: Is that like Last Exit to Brooklyn?

And I think we’ll leave the night there, shall we?

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Two: "Doomsday"

Posted 10 August 2009 in by Catriona

So here we are for the tear-jerking season-two finale. Does “tear-jerking” count as a spoiler?

Nah, surely not! After all, it’s been three years. Or two, maybe. The years pass so quickly these days.

Today—continuing my tradition of boring you with the minutiae of my life prior to actually getting on with the live-blogging—has been strangely variable. My beautiful, beautiful chain-mail necklaces arrived in the mail, but then Telstra took all day to fix the line fault (reported last week) that had deprived me, first, of my landline and, secondly, of regular Internet access.

Then I ended up having a debate with my mother about feminism—and I knew it was going badly when I found myself using the line “Well, you certainly weren’t a First Wave feminist, Mrs Pankhurst,” and yet I still didn’t end the conversation five minutes earlier. Why? Why will I never learn?

So I’m in exactly the right frame of mind to recap this—not the most cheerful of episodes, but one with strangely humorous and optimistic moments.

Oh, man, is that girl who annoyed me on Australian Idol several years ago releasing an album now? This version of Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet” that I’m being forced to listen to makes her sound as though she can only remember half the words and none of the tune.

And just time for “Ode to Joy” before the show starts.

But this is Rose’s monologue again: the story of Torchwood, the last story that Rose will ever tell.

And here are the Cybermen and the Daleks, and the story of how Rose died.

We start the episode proper with the Daleks, bleating “Exterminate!” But Rose stops them dead by shouting “DALEK!” at them: she bribes them with her knowledge of the Dalek species and of the Time War, and they promise to keep her alive.

But they say that the Genesis Ark must be protected at all costs.

Jackie, meanwhile, is freaking out, knowing that Rose was in the room with the sphere. But the Doctor gives her his word that he will get them both out alive. And then he puts his 3D glasses on again, which is oddly whimsical.

The Cybermen are promising, over all broadcast channels, to make everyone identical: to remove sex and race and class.

This goes about as well as can be expected: humanity refuses to surrender, so from Canary Wharf, the bewildered Cyberman can see the city of London burning while he wonders why people are fighting back.

The Daleks have their own agenda: they wonder who is the least important of the three people in the sphere room. They want intelligence about Earth and they “extract brainwaves” from the Torchwood scientist, by crushing his head between their plungers.

No, seriously.

ROSE: You didn’t need to kill him.
DALEK: Neither did we need him alive.

The Cybermen and the Daleks meet and speak.

DALEK: Identify yourself.
CYBERMAN: You will identify first.

This goes on for a while.

MICKEY: It’s like Steven Hawking meets the speaking clock.

The Doctor meanwhile tries to ring Rose, who answers her phone.

CYBERMAN: Our species are similar, though your design is inelegant.
DALEK: Daleks have no need for elegance.

The Cyberman proposes an alliance, but the Daleks refuse their offer and exterminate the Cybermen.

CYBERMAN: Daleks, be warned. You have declared war upon the Cybermen.
DALEK: This is not war. This is pest control.
CYBERMAN: We have five million Cyberman. How many Daleks have you?
DALEK: Four.
CYBERMAN: You would destroy the Cybermen with four Daleks?
DALEK: We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek.

So, so awesome.

Now the Daleks have noticed the Doctor, and they note that “the female human’s heart rate has increased.” (Adds Mickey: “Tell me about it.”) But when they demand to know who the Doctor is, Rose tells them: “That’s the Doctor” and they noticeably quail.

The Torchwood personnel are being led off to be upgraded, with Yvonne (head of Torchwood) barely in control of herself. She shrugs off the Cyberman clutching her arm and walks, albeit unsteadily, into the conversion chamber herself, intoning, “I did my duty—oh God. I did my duty, for Queen and country.”

Jackie is right behind her in the queue.

But the Doctor, in the main Torchwood room, sees Jake (the Brummie one) from the Cybermen two-parter flip through from their own universe, destroy the Cybermen, and head off to liberate Torchwood.

Jackie legs it down the stairs.

Jake flips the Doctor back to his own universe, where he is confronted by Pete.

And there’s a slight hiatus in the live-blogging there, as my Internet connection goes down temporarily and I’m too frightened to add any more content before I can get what exists already up online.

(The important bit there was Rose’s recap of the first time she met a Dalek and the Daleks’ revelation that the Genesis Ark is Time Lord technology.)

Back on the parallel universe, Pete denies that Rose is his daughter (and, seriously? She’s not. It’s like saying that she’s his daughter if she was fathered by his twin brother. Except more parallel) and chats to the Doctor about what effect the breach is having on their world—like global warming, in short, but more so.

And a little bit of sweet-talking is all it takes for the Doctor to agree to defeat the Cybermen and the Daleks and save the world. He quickly finds out that Jackie is still alive, and then surrenders to the Cybermen (with a flag made of a sheet of A4 paper).

Back in the sphere chamber, the Daleks tell Rose that they need her handprint to open the Genesis Ark. Then she goes a little far, and taunts the Dalek, telling them that she met the Emperor “and I took the Time Vortex and I poured it into him and turned him into dust.”

The Daleks, unsurprisingly, are furious and plan to exterminate her.

But, naturally, the Doctor turns up at that point. And the Daleks ask him how he survived the Time War.

DOCTOR: By fighting. On the front line. I was there at the fall of Arcadia. Some day, I may even come to terms with that.

I love that line. Such an unusually restrained line delivery for David Tennant.

There’s quite a bit of bantering between the Doctor and the Daleks here that reveals that the Daleks are the Cult of Skaro. Perhaps the fact that they’re unusual Daleks explains the fact that they’re oddly hysterical? Well, oddly hysterical for Daleks.

Or perhaps that’s down to the fact that Cybermen have just burst into the room and started shooting them to death.

During the battle, Mickey falls and touches the Genesis Ark. It had to be poor put-upon Mickey, didn’t it? I mean, it couldn’t be the Doctor, for once?

Jackie, confronted by a Cyberman, is saved by Pete, with Rose (clasping her hands together, she’s so desperate for this to work out), the Doctor, and Mickey behind him.

The Doctor starts explaining parallel universes, but Jackie says, “Oh, you can shut up.”

Pete asks whether she ever re-married, and Jackie says, “There was never anyone else.” Mickey and the Doctor roll their eyes, but I’ve never seen why that can’t be true. After all, she never re-married, did she? Not in twenty years?

And Jackie and Pete embrace, while down on the main floor of Torchwood there’s a running battle between Daleks, Cybermen, and Torchwood troops. (The Daleks are trying to move the Genesis Ark outside, because it needs a large space in which to operate effectively.)

The Cybermen call for all their troops to converge on Torchwood Tower (Canary Wharf). Does that include all the ones we saw materialising near the Taj Mahal?

Meanwhile, the Daleks are sending the Genesis Ark outside, after the Doctor steals one of the devices we were shown last week, the one that allows you to lift massive loads.

And, outside, the Genesis Ark opens, releasing hundreds and hundreds of Daleks—millions of Daleks, the Doctor says.

DOCTOR: It’s a prison ship.

Well, we knew it wasn’t anything good.

And now the Daleks are calling for a wholesale extermination of all lifeforms below. Pete says that’s it: the world is going to crash and burn, and there’s nothing they can do. They’re going home, and Pete’s taking Jackie with him, back to his universe.

And now a particular theme is starting up, quietly. That’s not a good sign.

He finally explains the 3D glasses, explaining that he can see “void stuff” with them.

The Doctor’s idea is that he can open up the void, and anyone who had travelled through the void will be sucked into the void. Rose points out that they’ve all travelled through the void: they’re all contaminated.

The Doctor says that’s why she has to go through to the other world. He’s only opening the void on this side, not on the other side: the void will close itself off, sealing the two worlds apart.

Rose won’t go, she says. The Doctor doesn’t seem to be arguing with her.

Jackie, on the other hand, refuses to go without Rose, despite Pete’s arguing. But Rose says no. The Doctor is alone, but not any more: now he has her.

But the Doctor pops the void-travelling device over Rose’s head and triggers it, so she’s sucked through to the parallel world. Rose isn’t a moron, though, and she flips herself back.

Jackie is hysterical, and I don’t blame her.

But Rose tells the Doctor that she made her decision a long time ago and she’ll never leave him, even if it involves never seeing her mother again.

Cybermen converge on Rose and the Doctor’s position, but are stopped by Cyber-Yvonne, still chanting, “I did my duty for Queen and country.”

And the Doctor and Rose open the breach, sucking everything through the void.

Now, I have to ask: this is so powerful a force that it can suck Cybermen in from as far away as India, but Rose and the Doctor can just hang onto something and they’ll be fine?

Well, never mind about that, because Rose’s lever goes offline, and in order to bring it back online, she has to let go of her grip on the wall: she hangs on to the lever, but it’s not enough—her fingers slip, and as she flies back to towards the void, Pete flips through, grabs her, and flips back to the parallel universe.

And now the theme starts up in earnest.

The void closes.

Rose is beating on the wall on her own side, begging to go back. But Pete says the device has stopped working: the Doctor closed the breach.

The Doctor lays his head and his hand against the wall on his side, and, as though she can sense him there, Rose’s weeping calms a little, and she lays her own head and hand against his, though separated by a wall and an entire universe.

It’s obvious that I feel for Rose here, but I also feel for Mickey and Jackie, having to watch this hearbreak.

But Rose is strong, and she doesn’t kick against the pricks when there’s no point. She walks away—still broken, of course, and still weeping, but she walks back to her family.

But then she comes awake with a start, hearing the Doctor whisper, “Rose! Rose!”

NICK: Oh, Doctor. That’s just creepy.

She tells her family about the dream, and they all pack themselves in Pete’s Jeep and follow the voice for hundreds and hundreds of miles.

And we catch up with her at the point of the opening narration, telling the story of how she died.

The Doctor is exploiting a small hole in the universe: he’s in the TARDIS, in orbit around a supernova: “I’m burning up a sun, just to say goodbye.” He looks corporeal, but he isn’t. Rose wants him to come through properly, but he says he can’t, that it would destroy two universes if he did.

I don’t think he would, anyway. He loves his own universe. Remember how hard he tried to get out of E-Space?

Rose tries to fool the Doctor into thinking she’s pregnant. I’ve often wondered why she does that. It seems odd. But Jackie is pregnant.

Rose tells the Doctor that she’s working for Torchwood now. And the Doctor tells her that she has officially been listed as dead back home. (I found that such a cheat at the time.)

Rose weeps as she asks if she’s ever going to see the Doctor again. He says no.

Rose tells the Doctor that she loves him.

DOCTOR: And, I suppose . . . It’s my last chance to say it. Rose Tyler—

And he winks out of existence.

We come to a close-up of his face, tear-streaked, in the green light of the TARDIS console room.

Rose, back in her parallel universe, runs weeping to Jackie.

And the Doctor wipes his face, and wanders around the console, before looking up to see a strident bride standing in the middle of the console room.

And that’s season two to an end. I’ll give you all a chance to wipe your eyes before I expect any comments, shall I?

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "They Keep Killing Suzie"

Posted 7 August 2009 in by Catriona

I’ve lost my jumper.

I know: it doesn’t sound like a tragedy. Yet it frustrates me, because it’s become rather cold in the last half hour.

Also, how do you lose a knee-length cardigan?

Anyway, here’s Torchwood, so I’ll stop whinging about my jumper now.

We get some back story on Suzie, from the opening episode: Suzie talking about her desire to control the glove and resurrect the dead, Suzie talking about how much she loves working for Torchwood.

And here is Torchwood, walking in slow-motion towards a murder scene. Jack tries to charm the high-ranking police officer in charge, but she’s not having any of it.

POLICE OFFICER: Are you always this dressy for a murder investigation?
CAPTAIN JACK: Why, would you prefer me naked?
POLICE OFFICER: God help me. The stories are true.

The murder is a young couple hacked to death in their beds, with “Torchwood” written above their bodies in their blood.

Jack orders the police officers out of the room, and, as she leaves, the police officer tells Jack that as far as she’s concerned, he’s responsible for this crime: “Torchwood walks all over this city as if it owns it. And now these people are paying the price.”

But Tosh does get the results on the killer’s hair—and the police officer manages to show them that the killer has “ret-conn” in his blood: the drug that Torchwood gives people to make them forget all about Torchwood.

Wait, did they have the killer’s blood? Because, if not, how did they manage to get that information out of the killer’s hair?

Apparently, Torchwood have given amnesia pills to 2008 people. Wow: that’s a lot of people.

And now Gwen brings up the glove, but Jack and Owen say no: the glove killed Suzie and it stays in the vault.

But Gwen is persuasive.

NICK: Listen to Jack, Gwen. He’s being unusually sensible.

But, no: Torchwood want to talk about the glove needing a “cool name.” Tosh reminds them that they called it “The Resurrection Gauntlet,” but Owen—the bastard—just repeats “A cool name.”

Ianto suggests “The Risen Mitten,” but the less said about that, the better.

Meanwhile, Jack is trying to resurrect the first victim. But he says he’s not very good with the glove: apparently, it only responded to Suzie. Gwen points out that she never had a go, though, and Jack hands the glove over.

Sure enough, Gwen manages to bring the first victim back to life. Of course, the poor bastard is screaming for help and begging for his mother, and is in no fit state to help anyone. This glove is a monstrous, monstrous object.

And it only works once.

OWEN (to Ianto): Give the man a stopwatch and he’s happy.
IANTO: It’s the button on the top.

Remember that later, because that’s a double entendre right there.

They have more success with the latest victim, who says the murderer was the man who came to “Pilgrim” and that his name was “Max”: they want a description from him, and the poor dying man says “Suzie” knew him better—she was always talking to him.

Jack says they’ve been talking to the wrong corpse.

Tosh says “Pilgrim” is a religious support group, like a debating society, run by Mark Bristow’s wife Sarah—Mark and Sarah were the most recent victims. The group is so tiny it doesn’t even have an Internet presence.

And we find that no-one knew anything about Suzie at all. She didn’t really have any friends at Torchwood, so Gwen suggests that a group of complete strangers would be exactly where Suzie would go to talk.

Luckily for Torchwood, they own all Suzie’s stuff—it’s Torchwood regulations. So all Suzie’s possessions are in a storage locker somewhere, and Torchwood are rummaging through them. Gwen finds a photograph of Suzie with her father: Jack finds a volume of Emily Dickinson’s poems.

And Tosh finds a Pilgrim leaflet.

So Jack says it’s time Suzie came back.

So they drag her out of the refrigerator and into the autopsy room.

Gwen is slightly freaked out by the fact that Torchwood employees’ bodies are frozen forever. We’ll just see about that shall we, Torchwood?

Gwen says she can’t resurrect Suzie: she’s too far gone, she says. All Gwen can get is memories of the time Suzie tries to kill her.

But Owen suggests using the knife with which Suzie killed people, saying it will be like closing a circuit. But to make it work, they have to kill Suzie with it—Jack tries just slicing her arm, but it doesn’t work. So he drives the knife down into her heart.

And she comes back to life. And she’s furious that Gwen can use the glove.

From this angle, as Suzie talks, we can see the entry wound from the self-inflicted gunshot that killed her, under her chin. That’s strangely creepy.

But Suzie “dies” again and Gwen collapses—but, no, says Ianto. Suzie is just unconscious. She’s breathing, not dead.

Looks like Suzie is back for good, even when Jack pulls the knife out of her heart again.

And as we see Suzie in a wheelchair in an interrogation room, the camera pains around her and we can see the exit wound in the top of her skull. Now, that’s more disturbing than the entry wound.

Even as a reanimated corpse—and a reanimated corpse who is thoroughly pissed off that she’s been brought back to life and who looks as though she needs a good night’s sleep—Indira Varma is just so damn gorgeous.

Owen and Tosh aren’t willing to be in the same room as Suzie, and she mildly taunts them about this. But she eventually admits that she gave Max an amnesia pill once a week, every week—for two years. No wonder the poor bugger over-dosed and went mad.

Suzie says she just wanted someone to talk to—every week, as soon as she’d finished talking to him, she’d give him the pill.

Jack convinces Suzie to help, and she scans through the photos: she says there’s a girl missing, a Lucy McKenzie who worked in a club. But her strength wanes pretty easily, and Jack has to resort to shouting.

Cut to Jack, still in his World War II overcoat, strolling casually across the dance floor at what seems to be a heavy-metal club. They’re looking for Max before he can find and kill Lucy, the last remaining member of Pilgrim.

Suzie, meanwhile, is back at headquarters with Tosh, looking paler and more drawn than ever. And Torchwood think they’ve isolated Max, but they’ve grabbed the wrong man: Max Tressilian comes up behind Gwen, and Suzie shouts a warning so that Jack can stun him.

Oddly, Max is perfectly calm—until you say “Torchwood,” when he goes completely berserk, but only for ten seconds. That seems an oddly specific type of psychosis—and deliberately saying “Torchwood” as you leave is just mean, Jack. Why taunt the poor man your employee brain-damaged?

Suzie, meanwhile, is working on Gwen’s sympathies: I’d failed to mention earlier that the glove works most effectively for an empathetic individual. And now Suzie is playing on that, by constantly mentioning how dead she (Suzie) is, and begging to see her father—apparently, Suzie’s father is dying of cancer, and Suzie doesn’t even know whether he’s still alive.

Ooh, she’s good, Suzie. When Gwen insists that she has her own function at Torchwood and isn’t just a replacement for Suzie, Suzie brings out, “Have you slept with Owen yet?” And at the look on Gwen’s face, she looks down and says, “See? Replaced me completely.”

So Gwen goes barging into Jack’s office, and we get this monologue:

JACK: I had a boyfriend who used to enter rooms like that. The Grand Entrance. Got boring quickly. But he was one of twins, so I put up with it. Twin acrobats. Man, I have got to write that book. Maybe even illustrate it.

While I’m typing out that monologue, I miss a long conversation about whether Suzie will ever die.

But Owen calls Jack down to the conference room to point out that Suzie is still draining the life out of Gwen, while Gwen (simultaneously) suggests a road trip, to find Suzie’s dying father.

Because Gwen is both empathetic and stupid, apparently.

So to stop Suzie from draining the life out of Gwen, Jack says they have to kill Suzie again. Owen asks who’ll do it, and Jack draws his gun, saying, “As you say, I’m the boss.”

The rest of Torchwood see Gwen loading Suzie into her car—just as Torchwood goes into full lockdown. Gwen thinks that Jack will catch them, but Suzie says you never know: they might get lucky.

So how did Suzie initiate the lockdown? She’s using Max: he’s the Trojan horse, reciting an Emily Dickinson poem over and over again, as a verbal trigger to the lockdown process.

Suzie has planned this for a long time. She gives Max a complex series of verbal commands and, when he doesn’t see her for three months, they kick in. He starts killing people and writing “Torchwood” on the walls. Torchwood are called in and find the ret-conn in his bloodstream. They bring Max in and resurrect Suzie.

Now that’s a convoluted plan.

It’s rather brilliant.

But I suspect it relies a little too much on luck.

Suzie, in the car with Gwen, is looking much healthier, while Gwen herself is starting to look a little drawn.

Meanwhile, Ianto has used the water tower as a relay to enable mobile phone coverage. But who to call?

Well, Detective Inspector Swanson, from the early murder investigation.

JACK: We’re locked in.
SWANSON: You’re locked in?
JACK: Just a bit.
JACK: In our own base.
SWANSON: You’re locked in your own base?
JACK: It’s not funny.
SWANSON: And how am I supposed to help you?
JACK: We need a book of poetry.

Suzie, in the car with Gwen, is remembering songs her mother used to sing and crying.

But, meanwhile, Swanson has called her entire staff around the phone, and put Jack on Speaker phone:

SWANSON: Okay, Captain Jack: just say that one more time, nice and clear.
JACK: We’re locked in our base and we can’t get out.

Ah, but now Gwen is looking very tired. And she wants to know what there is after death. Suzie asks if Gwen is religious, and then taunts her: “Your faith never left primary school.”

She says there’s nothing out there: “Just this. Driving through the night. We’re just animals, howling in the dark.”

This is the most nihilistic show on television.

So, asks Gwen, you just die? There’s nothing else? But Suzie says no: she never said that: there’s something out there and it’s moving. Why, she asks, does Gwen think that Suzie was so keen to come back?

And Tosh manages, with Swanson’s help, to open up the Hub again, through what is, to be honest, technobabble at its most ridiculous and improbable.

Still, the main thing is that Jack is out and on Suzie’s trail, just as Gwen’s strength begins to fail terminally in Suzie’s father’s hospital room—and she’s bleeding from the head. Suzie, whipping off the scarf that she’s been hiding her ruined head with, shows that she’s almost healed, while Gwen is slowly, very slowly taking on Suzie’s fatal head wound.

And Suzie stands up, greets her father—and tears out his breathing tube. “Just what the bastard deserves,” she says.

But now they’re on the move again. Now Suzie is driving, while Gwen is barely conscious.

Suzie and Jack talk over the phone, and Jack promises that if Gwen dies, he will kill Suzie. But Suzie says she’ll do anything to stay: there’s nothing else, she says, nothing but life, and she’ll do anything to stay alive. She’s weeping, and I must admit I’m crying a little with her.

I don’t think it’s the character: I think it’s Indira Varma. She’s one of those actors who makes me want to cry when she cries.

Suzie is making for a ferry out to the islands. But she has to take Gwen with her. She’s formed this odd bond with Gwen, where she’s talking about the two of them running—that Jack won’t hurt them, and they’ll keep on running, the two of them.

And when Gwen collapses, Suzie doesn’t keep running, but stays leaning over Gwen’s body, asking if she’s gone.

And Jack asks Suzie, if he kills her, will Gwen come back. But Suzie says he can’t: can’t he see that she’s the last thing left of Gwen Cooper?

And Jack says “Not one bit”—and shoots Suzie in the back.

But she can’t die.

So he shoots her again. And again. And again.

But she’s still alive, lying in a pool of her own blood on the pier. “Captain, my captain,” she says to Jack. “Shall I tell you a secret? There’s something moving, something moving in the dark. And it’s coming for you.”

And then Tosh, acting on Jack’s orders, destroys the glove.

Suzie spasms and dies.

And Gwen spasms back to life.

But Suzie—poor Suzie is heading back into the vault. All that effort, all that planning, all that running—and she’s back in the vault. She’s dead again, back in the hands of Torchwood, back in that limbo of existence where no one even knows you’re dead.

And here’s the twist many of us have ben waiting for:

IANTO: If you’re interested, I’ve still got that stopwatch.
IANTO: Well, if you think about it, there’s lots of things you can do with a stopwatch.
JACK: Oh, yeah: I can think of a few.

But Ianto has ten minutes before he has to meet Jack in the office, and he offers to put a lock on the door in case Suzie goes wandering again. Jack says no: “The resurrection days are over.”

But Ianto says that’s the thing about gloves: they come in pairs.

And so they do.

Next week: “Random Shoes,” another heart-breaker.

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Two: "Army of Ghosts"

Posted 3 August 2009 in by Catriona

So here we are with the second-last episode of season two of Doctor Who, a moment so auspicious that it can only be introduced with a long series of prepositional clauses.


Well, to be honest, I’m currently watching Media Watch being very arch on the subject of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O. It’s an unpleasant subject, of course, but the archness bothers me somewhat.

Okay: it bothered me before we got to the section about the estranged family members being “reunited” on the programme: now I’m too disgusted by the whole issue to even be bothered by the archness. Frankly, this is even more distressing than the lie-detector tape.

I’m so pleased that I don’t listen to Today FM.

Okay, but I’m ready for Doctor Who now. Enough of John Laws, please. I don’t want to hear about John Laws ever again.

Or Kyle Sandilands.

Or Jackie O. They’re as bad as each other, and the only thing that bothers me is why she doesn’t get as much flak as Kyle does.

Okay, so now I realise that Nick has in fact had it on a different channel all this time. Or something. Anyway, this doesn’t count as live-blogging any more, because I’m now fifteen minutes behind the programme.

Also, Nick would be sleeping in the spare room, if my parents weren’t in there already.

I’ve missed all the opening monologue by this point, too. So now Rose is talking about the army of ghosts, about Torchwood and the war, and saying that this is the story of how she died.

After the credits, the TARDIS materialises in a children’s playground. (This was eight minutes ago in proper Earth time.) Rose has come to visit Jackie—this is just like back-packing for her, isn’t it? Only less expensive. And she still gets her mother to do her laundry for her.

But Jackie’s not excited about the present Rose bought her, because she says that Grandad Prentice is coming to visit them in ten minutes. But Rose says that Grandad Prentice has been dead for years.

Rose thinks that Jackie has gone mad, but a ghost walks through the wall about that time. Well, it looks like a ghost, in that it’s an indeterminate humanoid shape.

They’re everywhere outside.

But Jackie says midday shift only lasts a couple of minutes, and then the ghosts fade. As the Doctor points out, no-one is freaking out or screaming—but as the ghosts fade, we see Torchwood and a man manipulating a giant steampunk lever.

Hey, Trisha Goddard! I remember when she was on Playschool. Trish’s appearance is the beginning of a running through of all the programmes dealing with ghosts: advertising, talk shows, “ghost watches,” and the ghostly reappearance of Dirty Den on Eastenders.

Jackie says when everyone first saw the ghosts, some months ago, everyone was freaking out, but they’ve all become accustomed to them.

The Doctor says they’re not ghosts, that people are investing them with ghostly significance.

Hey, it’s Freema! Freema but not Martha. So we’re back at Torchwood, who are running a series of experiments: the ghost ones are successful, but the ones in the basement—on a mysterious, unmeasurable sphere—are not coming up with any results.

In fact, you can’t even touch the sphere with your hand, as it turns out. That would be annoying.

Freema is sending flirty IMs to her cute co-worker across the aisle. I suspect “fancy a coffee?” is actually a euphemism, as the two of them come up with highly convincing excuses to run off together.

They sneak into an “out of bounds” area marked off by plastic—well, Gareth sneaks in there, but Freema is interrupted before she can follow him. By the time she follows him in, he’s completely silent. She pushes past sheets of plastic, only to be confronted by a Cyberman.

Back in the TARDIS, there’s a fairly embarrassing Ghostbusters impersonation from Rose and the Doctor (well, embarrassing and kind of adorably geeky) as the Doctor sets himself up to measure the ghosts.

Jackie wonders why the Doctor always has to reduce everything to science: “Why can’t it be real?” she asks.

But the Doctor says people’s deceased loved ones coming back is horrific. (And, also, he can’t help himself.)

Now Gareth and Freema are back at their desks at Torchwood in time for the next ghost shift, but they look suspiciously blank and their earbuds (remember the two parter?) are flashing in a disturbing fashion.

Jackie’s wondering what will happen to Rose when she’s gone—she doesn’t like the way Rose is changing, becoming more like the Doctor. She thinks Rose is losing her humanity, but Rose says she can’t settle down because the Doctor never will.

Ghost shift begins at Torchwood, and Freema doesn’t even blink in the bright light. But the Doctor has managed to capture himself one of the ghosts.

And Torchwood are seeing the disturbance in the ghost field. The head of Torchwood orders them to close down the ghost shift, while they pinpoint the disturbance in the ghost field. They patch into the CCTV network in the area in which the disturbance appeared, and they see the TARDIS.

Oh my god, they say: it’s him.

But the Doctor has isolated the source of the ghosts, and he activates the TARDIS.

Oh, the head of Torchwood is pleased about this. (In passing, the Doctor is ranting about how much he likes saying allons-y, and how much he would like to meet someone called Alonzo, so he can say, “Allons-y, Alonzo.” Remember that in about, ooh, two years ago.)

Meanwhile, Jackie is still on board the TARDIS.

The TARDIS lands in Torchwood, and is surrounded by armed men, though the Doctor’s disembarkation is met by a massive round of applause. And then another one. And another one.

The Doctor’s rather pleased by this, though he’s also slightly freaked out.

The head of Torchwood demands to meet the Doctor’s companion, and he drags Jackie out, introducing her as Rose and explaining that she looked into the heart of the time vortex last week and aged fifty-seven years.

Torchwood, it seems, is in the business of shooting down, stripping down, and using alien technology “for the good of the British Empire.”

JACKIE: There isn’t a British Empire.

The Doctor seems mostly worried that Torchwood is advancing human technology unnaturally fast. Yvonne (the head) is demonstrating all their lucky finds—and, incidentally, nicking the TARDIS, on the grounds that Torchwood’s motto is “If it’s alien, it’s ours.”

The Doctor says she’ll never get inside it, but, of course, Rose is still inside.

Meanwhile, Freema is seducing another cute co-worker away from his desk, by telling him he can come and see something interesting.

Back with the Doctor, Yvonne is explaining how Torchwood was established by Queen Victoria after her unfortunate run-in with a werewolf. She explains airily at this point that the Doctor is a prisoner, but they’ll make him perfectly comfortable. In the meantime, they take him to look at the sphere—which he looks at through his 3D glasses. Can anyone remember the significance of the 3D glasses? I’ve forgotten.

The Doctor explains that the sphere is a void ship, designed to travel through the void between universes and survive outside time and space. It’s supposed to be impossible—a mere theoretical exercise.

They want to know what’s inside it, but the Doctor says no: it needs to be sent back into the void. Yvonne explains that the sphere started it all: it came through and the ghosts followed. The Doctor demands to be shown, and marches forcefully out of the room, an effect slightly undercut by the fact that he chooses the wrong direction.

Cute co-worker #2 has fallen victim to the plastic-shrouded Cybermen.

And Rose is working her way out of the TARDIS, swathed in a stolen lab coat.

Yvonne explains that they built Torchwood Tower—Canary Wharf—to reach the spatial disturbance they’ve been measuring, through which the sphere came.

The Doctor wonders, out loud, why they’ve been trying to make the hole in reality bigger. Yvonne rants about how the Doctor tries to enforce alien superiority over the rights of man, and he demonstrates how he’s right by smashing one of her glass doors.

There’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s what it boils down to.

Yvonne won’t stop, so the Doctor sits back with Jackie to watch the fireworks—but, oddly enough, his grinning face puts Yvonne off, and she cancels ghost shift, and sets someone to clear up the broken glass.

Freema and her robotic co-workers, though, have other plans, and they start tapping away at their keyboards.

Rose, running full-pelt through the bowels of the building, which is a bit suspicious in and of itself, finds herself in a deserted corridor: opening a door, she’s in the sphere room with one other lab-coated worker.

And she’s staring at the sphere as the head of the research unit asks what she’s doing. Nice and subtle, Rose. But, unfortunately for her, everyone at Torchwood has some degree of psychic training, and he knows her “credentials” are blank.

He tells Samuel to check the locks, but Samuel is actually Mickey, and he rests one finger on his lips to tell Rose to be quiet.

At this point, Yvonne is made aware that ghost shift is still underway—she orders everyone to stop, but, of course, they’re not listening. We’re going into ghost shift.

And the sphere is active.

In Yvonne’s room, the Doctor deactivates Freema’s earbud, and she and her two co-workers die screaming. (Though the worst bit is when Yvonne pulls the earbud and the attached gooey cord straight out of Freema’s brain.)

Mickey, down in the sphere room, says it’s okay: “We’ve beaten them before and we’ll beat them again. That’s why I’m here.”

Rose asks what they beat, and Mickey says, “What do you think?”

The Doctor has found the building renovations, looking for the nearby remote control that was behind the earbuds—and, like the others before him, they find Cybermen. They have soldiers with them, who open fire.

In the sphere room, Mickey says no one knows what’s in the sphere, though they suspect it’s Cyber.

The Cybermen are killing everyone and ordering an increase in ghost shift: the ghosts appear everywhere, but now we can hear them clanking. Harmless increase, eh? I think not, nice policeman on the telly.

But, more worrying, the sphere is opening. And what’s coming out of this? We won’t find out just yet.

The ghosts are, of course, Cybermen: millions of them appearing across the world and becoming corporeal.

Now people start screaming. Quite sensible, really.

The Doctor says it’s not an invasion: it’s too late for that. It’s a victory.

And in the sphere? Mickey has an enormous gun hidden under his desk. (How? How did he get that past security? Honestly, Torchwood are so amateur.)

But the sphere is not Cyberman in origin, the Cybermen tell the Doctor.

Oh, no. No, it’s not.

It’s the Daleks.

And that’s one hell of a cliffhanger.



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