Torchwood 1×11-1×13 – Combat, Captain Jack Harkness and The End of Days


So Torchwood lurches to an end. I was going to say “finally found its feet, more or less”, but then I saw End of Days and I changed my mind. More on that later.

Before that was Combat, penned by that Mickey from Doctor Who. Let’s not beat around the bush: it was Fight Club with Weevils. No one was pretending otherwise. Since most of the Torchwood episodes were ‘inspired’ by something else, we shouldn’t be too surprised by this. All the same, while the plot was a bit rubbish, the characterisation was pretty good and you didn’t feel violated by the dialogue – always welcome, I think. At the end, the trailer for the next episode left me wanting to watch it. Amazing.

So then we got Captain Jack Harness. I enjoyed it. I really did. I sat there thinking that if the producers ever needed a template for future episodes, they could do a whole lot worse than this one. Tosh proved to be interesting, once she had something to do. There was some real spookiness. Ianto proved to have a few guts. Owen got what he deserved. Jack had some reasonable backstory filled in and John Barrowman proved that while he may lack sparks when he kisses women, he’s got what it takes with the guys.

I do worry though that the Torchwood team need to get out less, since they all seem to fall in love at the drop of a hat.

So there I was, about to say that Torchwood had finally worked out a decent formula, when End of Days popped up. Oh my. It’s like the entire team caught 24-hour Tourette’s. Now compared with Chris Chibnall’s previous efforts (Day One, Cyberwoman, and Countrycide), it was noticeably better. But all the usual failures were there: completely nonsensical plots, cringe-worthy dialogue, bizarre characterisation, and non-stop swearing for no real reason. The acting also became a thousand times worse.

We finally learned what the season’s big bad was, too: appropriately enough, a spin-off from a much better Doctor Who monster. Time taken to defeat the season’s doom-laden arc-creature: two minutes. Not that threatening then. Which was a shame, since the build up in Captain Jack Harness had been quite impressive. Surely if you’re going to spend every episode having someone say “Something is stirring in the darkness” (or similar), you better make sure it can’t be killed by a Care Bear Blast at the last moment?

I also have to wonder what The Mill’s been up to, since I saw better critters while playing a rubbish port of Quake for the Mac from about 10 years ago. Seriously, they got paid for that?

Nice ending though.

So now it’s over and another series has been commissioned. Since the writer of Captain Jack Harness, Catherine Tregenna, also wrote Out of Time, I think those happy few of you who are Torchwood fans should petition the Beeb to let her write most of next series’ scripts, since she’s clearly the best writer they’ve got (at least, until they learn how not to mangle PJ Hammond’s work).

At the very least, Russell T Davies needs to get himself an electric cattle prod and take it to work on the script editor and Chibnall until they get their respective acts into gear. I’m hoping that the lessons learned in the second half of the series get passed on and thought about, because I get the impression Torchwood is finally on the way to being a halfway decent series. But the deadwood in Torchwood still needs a whole load of chopping.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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