As we learnt last week, Cath Treggena isn’t too hot with the action-adventure plots, but does quite well with the emotional stuff. This week’s episode was thankfully free of action-adventure plots, but high on emotional stuff.
I think I’m actually pinching myself as I write this, but it might well be the first episode of Torchwood that bears… repeat viewing.
An alien with the power to change memories infiltrates Torchwood, can the team save themselves before it’s too late? With Captain Jack caught up in memories of his lost family, and Gwen struggling to remember Rhys, it takes Jack’s love of Ianto to reveal the truth. But there’s always a price to pay.
Was it any good?
Initially, it was tempting to think this was just going to be a retread of that Buffy episode where Jonathan mysteriously becomes head of the Scooby Gang – right down to his mysterious insertion in the title sequence. Ooh, who’s this Adam and why does everything think he’s a member of the team? Let the intrepid Torchwood investigate and stop him while they discover a little more about themselves.
Indeed, there was more than a little of that in the episode. But it was more of a musing on the nature of memory and how much who we are depends on what we remember. Change the memories and change the person.
So Owen becomes nerdy and Tosh becomes confident for no real reason other than its fun to watch. Gwen forgets her fiancé. Ianto thinks he’s a serial killer. And Jack remembers growing up with a family of white, beach-dwelling snood wearers terrorised by flying beasties we can’t see for budgetary reasons. Except that’s supposed to be real. Oh dear. I thought the 51st century would have been cooler.
All this is handled quite sensitively and even movingly at times. Gwen’s breaking down as a brief recollection makes her realise that she really has forgotten Rhys; Owen’s failed courting of Tosh and the knowledge that she’ll regret turning him down if she ever remembers; Tosh’s despair at having to forget the false memories of a man she thinks she loves: these were real chances for some decent acting and emotion that the cast more or less lived up to.
Unfortunately, both John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd were really quite bad with their false memory syndromes, Barrowman steering towards the hopelessly unconvincing and melodramatic, David-Lloyd just going over the top. Best not try that again, guys. A nice bit of gentle comedy for you next time. You’re good at that.
As per usual, shining the torch of logic at Torchwood is a bad idea. Why was Gwen, who’s already taken the Torchwood amnesia pill, so resistant to the idea that she might have lost her memory? Why didn’t anyone ever write anything down to explain things to their future amnesiac selves in case things go wrong? Why are there official plastic bags stamped with a Torchwood logo? Why do the amnesia pills wipe out the old memories Adam didn’t create as well as the old memories he did create if they’re only supposed to wipe out new memories? When did Jack wipe the CCTV system and why? To avoid Adam coming back? But isn’t everything going to unravel once Rhys blabs his mouth off about what’s been happening to them? Or if they try to work out what’s been happening for the past 48 hours, like in the first episode? And, without sounding too much like Brad Pitt, what’s in the box? Is it the sand from the beach that Jack played on? Why?
But hey ho, it’s all about the journey, isn’t it? Quite fun and quite touching, bar a few sickness inducing moments. A pretty good episode overall.