Review: Torchwood 2×7 – Dead Man Walking

I see dead people

Firstly, a quick word about the Torchwood reviews. Obviously, it’s all getting a bit tricky now that BBC3 is airing the next episode directly after the current BBC2 episode, and BBC America is a couple of weeks behind BBC2. So my general reviewing policy will be to review on Thursdays the episode of Torchwood that aired on BBC2 on Wednesday night. I’ll also keep the spoilers until after the turn.

I figure that people who can only watch the BBC2 episode will then be able to read the review the next day without having to hunt for it with the search engine; people who watched the BBC3 episode will be able to read the review on the front page as well, but the following week; and Americans, well, it’s probably search engine for you guys, but I’ll hopefully not be spoiling you. That’s probably the most equitable arrangement and it does mean I won’t have to stay up late to watch the BBC3 episode, but can watch it at my leisure.

Dead Man Walking then. I believe last week we left the official verdict at: 

Ahahahahah. I’ve seen next week’s. Ahahahahahahaha.



And that’s still a pretty robust verdict. All the same, far from the worst episode of Torchwood there’s ever been.

Deep in shock, the Torchwood team have to face their darkest hour. However, in an effort to put things right, Captain Jack Harkness unleashes a primal force that uses Torchwood as a conduit to wreck havoc across Earth, aided by the Weevils and their newly-appointed King.

Was it any good?
Well, there were high hopes for this one, given it was by Matt Jones, who put together the Doctor Who
 two-parter The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit a while back. Still, was he going to channel The Impossible Planet (great) or The Satan Pit (not so great)? Turned out it was a bit of both.

The plot was relatively simple: Jack’s hacked off that Owen’s dead so goes and gets the matching death glove that resurrected Suzie, from the Church of St Weevil; death glove works, brings Owen back as requested, but doesn’t let him return to the after-life after his 30 seconds of last words. So Owen, whose body is still somewhat dead, wanders around for a bit farting and vomiting, talking in dead languages (à la The impossible Planet) and letting his eyes go black, before realising that Death wants to enter into the world through him. Blah, blah, noble self-sacrifice then school playground shoving match with badly CGI-ed Grim Reaper sends old Skeletor back whence he came. Owen’s still dead, but walking around. The End.

On the whole, though, it wasn’t bad. There were strange jumps and holes in the plot: how did Jack escape from the weevil church? What happened in between his being knocked out and waking up again? Why exactly did Martha get hagged (no jokes about spending too much time with Jack, please)? When did tiny old Welsh church records from the middle ages get digitised?

But Owen’s predicament was interesting. He becomes, in a sense, the flipside of Jack: Jack can’t die, Owen can’t live. It becomes a bit Truly Madly Deeply at times, with everyone perhaps a little uncomfortable with Owen hanging around being all dead and such. There’s some nice Jack/Owen interplay. The Weevil worshipping was quite creepy, as werel the black eyes and talking in tongues (even though we’ve seen them before). And actually making Death (I’m sure there’s some Doctor Who New Adventures cruft about Death being one of the ancient Time Lord gods) the enemy is quite ambitious, similarly creepy and almost awe-inspiring: how do you defeat Death?

Nevertheless, the Devil is in the details. It all felt a little padded out, with too little plot to last the episode’s allotted span; having the glove do an Evil Dead was very misguided to say the least; the CGI Grim Reaper was good right up until it started to walk like it was in a Daft Punk video; the "interdimensional void produced using distorting mirrors" effect was old and bad when they were using it in the Jon Pertwee era; and farting and vomiting gags – where are the Slitheen when you need them?

Still, adventurous and didn’t quite have the ending we were no doubt expecting (Owen dying – again – in a noble act of self-sacrifice after everyone’s been allowed some proper goodbyes, thus avoiding fan clamour for his return since look what happened when he did come back).


  • 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.