Torchwood 2×8 – A Day in the Death

Death Becomes Him


It’s odd the way a writer’s career can leave a permanent imprint on their style. Take Russell T Davies. Not a trace of soap opera in his style, is there?

Oh wait…

Joseph Lidster is already quite a well known Who writer. He’s done a number of Big Finish plays, as well as Torchwood fan fics original licensed novels. 

Take a look at the average Big Finish play – Doctor or assistant bumps into random mortal at some point and starts blurbing their life story and deepest feelings to them.

Lo-and-behold, Joe Lidster’s first Torchwood episode turned out to be pretty much a Big Finish play in disguise.

A victim of his newfound circumstances, Owen Harper believes he needs absolution. Will the lonely girl on the rooftop help him, or will it be a mission to the retrieve an alien device that is proving more lethal by the second? And how far will Toshiko go to help him?

Was it any good?
Yes. There were even times when tiny little tears fell from the corners of my eyes. What’s up with the world when Torchwood is good from week to week? Could it be the influence of one Gary Russell, former DWM editor, Big Finish supremo and member of the Famous Five?

As a metaphor for clinical depression, being dead is an interesting one. Not being able to feel pleasure any more, wanting everything to end: poor old Owen wants to kill himself but someone’s already beaten him to it. All he wants to do is to feel needed.

And that’s more or less the whole point of the episode – finding something for Owen to do on Torchwood other than do autopsies and be snarky. Ignore all the guff with Richard Briers since that was irrelevant.

There was some good dialogue, some good scenes (although implausible that the guard would leg it, I did like Gwen’s emotionally cruel call to the guard) and a couple of bad ones (Owen’s talking the other guard out of shooting him).

It was beautifully directed, albeit a little gimmicky at times. The music was good, unlike on the mother ship. It was all so nicely done, particularly his discussions with the poor old bride who wants to kill herself. I could’t really believe it was Torchwood at times.

But with good old Lidster  stuck in the alternative Torchwood universe of books for so long, it seems he’s come up with some interesting ideas of what’s normal on the home base: Gwen giving orders; Tosh coming over for chats at Owen’s pad; Owen still being mean to anyone who comes near him. Jack, apparently, is a constant though. The only big issue on the writing side: the singing space pod.

There was also a certain lack of rigour on the science, which has been mentioned round here already (muscles being maintained by exercise, when exercise ultimately destroys muscles until they’re rebuilt; no breath yet being able to talk; Owen’s nerves not being fried or muscles spasmed by electrocution, etc). Ultimately, we have to accept, I think, they’re never going to get this right on either Torchwood or Doctor Who. Still, that was probably the largest problem of the episode, other than Martha – although even she has been remembering how to act (clearly she was out of practice).

Rather good then, with only a few minor, excusable problems.

As for next week’s episode, all I say is it’s a nice day for a Welsh wedding. And that was a very Welsh wedding.

  • If I followed the chronology of Owen’s flashback correctly in this episode, he walked out of the Hub after Martha’s going-away party with “the Pulse” still in his bag. What happened to the rules laid down in the very first episode about taking the alien artifacts out of the headquarters?

  • They’re beyond rules, Toby. They’re Torchwood.
    Actually, didn’t they spend most of the first series nicking stuff from the Torchwood lockers? Beats stealing staples and paper from the photocopier, I supposed.
    Besides, the very next time Tosh uses her Macguffin detector, she’ll spot the singing, ringing pod shouting out loud and clear.
    PS You really do pay very close attention, don’t you?

  • It’s a blessing. And a curse.

  • I’ve been thinking more about this episode, about all three with Sweet FA as the guest star.
    This was a story they needed to do, but there was hardly anything for Martha to do during it. (That would be “bugger all” over there, righ?)
    They probably should have saved this episode for after Martha left, or at the least have Martha leave in an episode which justified the crossover. (Besides priming us for a possible future consideration….)
    At the very least in those three episodes, there should have been at least one scene in which Martha reflected on what it meant for her personally to be working with Torchwood. After all, it wasn’t just her reunion with Jack, but this was the organization her cousin Adeoloh (?) was working for when she died.
    I just think there should have been some mention of that….

  • MediumRob

    Yes. As a three-episode slot, it was a bit rubbish. It almost feels like a “contractually obliged” three episode appearance rather than one they actually wanted to do.

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