Review: Torchwood 1×8 – They Keep Killing Susie

Torchwood

So here’s the thing. A couple of weeks ago, I got so hacked off with the poor quality of Torchwood, I decided to stop watching. I studiously avoided tuning into the next episode and even though various people said it wasn’t bad, I still couldn’t bring myself to devote 50 minutes of my life to it. I even went as far as recording it, but I deleted it because I knew I’d never do anything more than glower at its sullen awfulness. Having a tooth extracted looked more inviting.

But there were enough people saying it was actually pretty good that I decided to tune in this week. Plus the title was They Keep Killing Susie, so I figured it might be a bit more interesting than the standard Torchwood episode.

You know what? Maybe it was because I’d had a vacation from Torchwood but I really enjoyed it.

Okay, so some of the standard Torchwood criticisms applied: the whole covert thing was a complete joke; the Torchwood-mobile is absurd; it dragged a bit; some of the acting was a bit wooden; Captain Jack’s gunwork was pants; and there were various Galactus*-sized holes in the plot that wouldn’t have passed Looney Tunes‘s strict script-editing standards.

But, the Torchwood team actually seemed like tolerable and near-competent human beings for a change, there was some nice characterisation going on, Captain Jack was all the better for being somewhat nearer to his fun, sex-loving Doctor Who incarnation and it was a genuinely adult plot. No sex, no swearing, no rampant lesbos™: just an interesting study of the near-universal, adult concerns of life, death and the hereafter. It was genuinely moving, thoughtful and original at times.

So if you’ve been avoiding the show for a while, try to catch the re-runs this week as you might be witnessing the one and only good episode of the series. Next week’s looks a bit Love and Monsters-ish, although not in a good way, but I might give that a go, too.

Four things to leave you with

  1. I can do three episodes, I can do five episodes, but if anyone thinks I’m going to hold out ’til cocking episode eight of every single TV show that airs to see if it’s any good, they’ve got another thing coming.
  2. The Ianto/Jack ending at the end: were they going to do what I think they were going to do? Ugh!!! Please tell me I’m wrong.
  3. Why does Torchwood tend to drag so much? Someone’s suggested that it’s the lack of B-plots. I think they might be right. What do you think?
  4. Supporting the theory that only Torchwood episodes written by Russell T Davies are any good – Torchwood being the mirror universe version of Doctor Who – this could be the episode that he mentioned in DWM has having completely rewritten. If not, who are the masked avengers of not-awful writing behind this episode?

* Sorry. That was a bit geeky, wasn’t it? In my defence, I’ve been watching Minoriteam episodes over the weekend.

Here’s a fifth thing: the trailer for next week’s episode:

  • Nah, still thought it was awful. The two-handed scenes with Indira Varma and anyone else were very good, and I think probably rewritten by someone who can do dialogue. But the plot was leaden and frequently nonsensical, lots of the dialogue was terrible (this is the UK. We do not address CID officers as ‘Detective’. Although it was lovely to see Yasmin Bannerman not dressed as a tree).
    That bit with the ISBN number? What sort of bollocks was that? And that bit with the stopwatch at the end? What the hell was that supposed to be?
    In short, you could see the joins. And the presence of Indira Varma showed up the rest of the cast’s (lack of) acting ability something chronic.

  • I agree with most of your criticisms: distressing large plotholes that couldn’t withstand a second’s worth of scrutiny but I could ‘polyfilla those as I watched. Maybe you need a holiday from Torchwood, too, to replenish your supply?
    As for the stopwatch, well, that’s my “things to leave you with number 2” concern. I get the horrible feeling – maybe I have a dirty mind – that they were heading for a timed wank off. I do hope I was wrong. I’m also glad someone else didn’t instantly work out what they were up to: it’s not just me.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    I watched this with family last night. We agreed it was a good episode. Mind you, it’s the straw that’s broken the back of the guy who set up Behind the Sofa.
    To answer point 2:

    ‘There’s a line in one of the episodes, and someone asked me whether it meant one male character was sleeping with another, and I said, “I’m not going to tell you.” Some things are left vague.’

    — RTD in The Gay Times, apparently
    PS Speaking of Adult Swim cartoons, have you ever written anything on The Venture Bros.?

  • I knew it.
    Nah, haven’t watched The Venture Bros, but I’ve heard good things about them. Might give them a try at some point.

  • If there’s something else you can do with a stopwatch, maybe Jack has a tube of KY in his desk somewhere.
    I’m gonna stop right there.
    Yeah, the lack of B-plot is a problem, as is the lack of character consistency, which is what makes it hard to give a toss about any of them.
    It does smack of a lack of rudimentary writing craft. All the Torchwood scripts seem to be two drafts short of completion.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    I think a few episodes are still on YouTube, assuming you’re comfortable watching stuff in that format. (Both seasons were available there, but the gods of copyright caught up.)

  • Craig

    If anything, the previous two episodes of Torchwood have annoyed me even more than the previous ones, because they’ve proved that this COULD be a good series, if only they had a decent, brutal script editor.
    Last night’s effort almost worked, but then certain elements stabbed me in the eyes, like red-hot pokers. The ISBN thing was utterly stupid – why not get around the problem by finding a few clever ‘unlocking’ lines in the book? Simpler, and more effective. And I have to say that when I lived in South Wales, it never went from midnight to the middle of the day in about five seconds. Gnh!
    And, yes, you’re not the only one who thought that about the stopwatch, Rob.

  • I got asked to write a review of this episode, for…actually I can’t even remember the publication. They never got back to me so presumably didn’t use it, but if you’re curious, I blogged it here.
    Short version: Promising start, then more holes than plot, technobabble that ST:TNG would be ashamed of, looks like the setting up of a story arc…that never went anywhere.