Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Girl Who Waited

After a decidedly average first episode in the form of “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and the potentially brilliant but unfortunately rushed second episode “Night Terrors”, I was honestly dreading “The Girl Who Waited”.  I’ve never made any secret of my dislike of Amy Pond, and frequently complain that Doctor Who has turned into The Amy Pond Show, with the Doctor occasionally guest starring, often relegated to a minor supporting character.  Last week, he stepped back to the foreground and dominated the storyline, but that storyline barely did the character justice, rushing through most of the interesting moments due to the running time.  The ‘Next Time’ trailer made me deeply unhappy, as the Doctor barely even appeared.

How pleased I was, then, when “The Girl Who Waited” ended.  And not because once it was over, I’d never have to see it again, as I’d expected.  No, “The Girl Who Waited” was the probably the second best episode since Moffatt took over as show-runner, second only to “The Doctor’s Wife”.  Whilst there were a few issues within the episode, I was totally blown away by it – it was brave and riveting, exciting and tragic.  I’m not ashamed to confess that I even shed a few tears.

Karen Gillan was excellent.  Again, I never thought I’d say that.  Her performance as the older and embittered Amy Pond, left abandoned for 36 years by the ‘raggedy Doctor’, was so far removed from her usual portrayal of the character, from vocal tone to stance, that it was unbelievable that this was the same woman.   Whilst the make-up wasn’t the most realistic we’ve ever seen in Doctor Who – Rory’s aged make-up in “The Doctor’s Wife” takes that medal – it was reinforced by her outstanding performance, allowing me to easily look past this in favour of the plot.  And what a plot...

In essence, this was the Doctor-Lite episode – Relegated to the TARDIS for the majority of the story, with Amy stuck in one time-stream, and Rory desperately searching for her in a second, later, time-stream.  Unlike the atrocious “Love and Monsters”, or the superb “Blink”, however, the absence of the Doctor was barely noticeable, mainly because he was ever present through the glasses worn by Rory.  His voice penetrated every scene, and there were frequent cuts back to the TARDIS interior, reminding us that he was still a physical being, not simply a disembodied voice.  This made a refreshing change, and one which I hadn’t really expected – usually, Doctor-Lite episodes embrace the absence of the Doctor, whether for better or worse.  As the companions wondered around the facility – with stunning sets worthy of a Tim Burton film – looking for each other, the story trotted along at a decent pace, slower than usual but none the lesser for it.

The Doctor is stuck inside the TARDIS as the facility houses a plague which is a danger to any organism with two hearts, including the Apalapalachians whose home planet the TARDIS lands on, and Time Lords.  As such, the Doctor would die of the one-day plague if he entered the facility proper, so must send Rory in after Amy instead.  Amy, meanwhile, is wondering around in the hospice, taking in the stunning surroundings, such as the garden with moulded topiary that would make Edward Scissorhands hang his head in shame.  Chasing after her are the Hand-bots, whose sole purpose is to ensure the avoidance of the plague spreading.  Much like the antibodies in the Teselecta in “Let’s Kill Hitler”, they had some great lines, assuring their victims that what they were doing was for the greater good, and out of nothing more than kindness – before firing huge, deadly metal needles from their faces.  The fight sequence in which Older Amy replicated the swishing gun battle of River Song from “Day of the Moon” was wonderfully choreographed, and proved that Gillan has it in her to be a little more physical than she usually is.

The best thing about this serial, though, was Arthur Darvill.  By far the most interesting of the companions since the regeneration of the series in 2005, as I’ve said before, Rory frequently is getting the best lines – and this episode was no different.  In addition to the comedy, though, were some of the most heartbreaking moments we’ve seen, including the reprise of David Tennant’s Doctor’s line “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry” as he took his hand away from the lock.  The decision he was forced to make, by the Doctor, being an absolute bastard, was heart-wrenching and painful to watch.  Having to decide between the love of his life, and the same girl but with 36 years of pent-up bitterness was awful – and then Older Amy persuaded him to leave her.  “If you love me, don’t let me in” she said – and the tears poured.  I genuinely felt nauseous with emotion.  It was dreadful – and perfectly performed by both Darvill and Gillan.

Of course, there were also the bad points.  Every serial has them, even the great classics like “The Caves of Androzani” and “Genesis of the Daleks”.  And it would be lazy of me, as a reviewer, not to touch upon them.  The biggest flaw, as I could see it, was with Older Amy – specifically, her knowledge.  Whilst she had been abandoned, becoming the embittered middle aged lady Rory meets during a fight with the hand-bots, she whips out her sonic probe – “I call it what it is” – and talks about the “nexus of time” and so forth.  But surely, as she was completely alone, she would never have been able to get to grips with this technology?  Who taught her?  The interface, as wonderfully voiced by Imelda Staunton?  It’s unlikely... 

My other issue, although again this is nit-picking, was the decided lack of a real monster.  Again.  Let’s Kill Hitler had the Teselecta, but they weren’t the bad guy.  Night Terrors had those awful dolls, but they didn’t kill anyone, and they were defeated by a brave little boy.  This week had the Hand-bots, simply robotic nurses desperately trying to help, but without the humanity to understand that they aren’t always helpful.  I’m really missing monsters now – not even the recurring ones, like the Daleks (I don’t miss the Daleks at all) or the Cybermen, or even the Weeping Angels – just some proper monsters to scare us.  Next week has a Minotaur in a hotel room, and some horrible looking ventriloquists dummies, as well as David Walliams.  The following week will feature the Cybermen.  And James Corden.  So that’s something to look forward to...  Maybe.

All in all, then, it was a terrific episode.  It proved that hard Sci-Fi still has a place on British TV, and that Doctor Who can still achieve within the genre when it pulls all the stops out – and writer Tom McCrae absolutely nailed it this week.  His previous experience on the show was a bit too hit-and-miss,  but this week’s episode was a smashing, emotive piece.  It was a team from heaven, with new-to-Who director Nick Hurran creating a beautifully cinematic experience.

In a series which has focused so heavily on story arcs, it is telling that the best episodes so far have been the two stand-alone episodes.  I only hope that the Grand Moff pays heed and that, as he has promised, the story arcs are done away with and we return to the older days of interesting individual episodes – even if they lead into a final plot point, it’s better than every story line serving one overall goal.  Nick Hurran returns next week to direct what looks like a frankly outstanding episode.  I only pray that it doesn’t let itself down, with Walliams cast as a fearful mole creature bred to be afraid – I only hope that it doesn’t go down the JNT route of casting celebrities to grab viewing figures.  It looks set to be a dark and scary piece.  Fingers crossed...

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Torchwood – Episode 9 – The Gathering

This was a somewhat appropriate, yet wholly inappropriate title, given the plot, which featured the Torchwood team finally all being under one roof, albeit very briefly, before scattering all over the globe again.  What was nice was that much of this episode did occur in Wales again – finally returning the show to its roots.

As has been the major flaw in this latest series of Torchwood, much of the episode was filler.  I’ve said before that this series has a great and interesting premise, with any number of possible avenues for exploration, all of which would make great series’ in their own right.  Sadly, RTD and the team haven’t gone down any of these avenues – they instead have turned into a cramped cul-de-sac, and spent nine weeks trying to perform a U-Turn. 

From the cliff-hanger last week, I was expecting one hell of an opening.  Jack shot, dying in the backseat of a car driven by dunderhead Esther.  Gwen deported with no way of controlling the events as they spiralled out of control around her.  Rex stuck with Shapiro, trying to explain how Esther and Jack escaped.  Oswald Danes trying to evade the police, and the vengeful wrath of Jilly.  Jilly being taken by The Families.  The Morphic field under Angelo’s bed was created using alien technology from the Torchwood hub.  So how did it start?

“Two Months Later”.

Seriously?!  There is little more annoying than a cliff-hanger that doesn’t deliver.  And this one really didn’t deliver.  Whilst we were filled in, via TV and radio news feeds, about ‘institutionalised murder’ and the like, it still felt like I’d been cheated.  I’d hoped for so much, and Torchwood delivered nothing.  Just more exposition.

The loose end involving Gwen’s father was finally tied up – he’s been kept in the basement.  In agony.  For months.  Maybe I’m heartless, but in a world where death has stopped and the only option is cremation, or incineration rather, surely that’s a better option?  If, because of the heart attack they suffered, they should rightly be dead, then that must be better than writhing around in pain, being pinned down by your nearest and dearest as a shifty rat from the council snoops around?  But all this is besides the point – it didn’t matter about Gwen’s father. It never mattered about Oswald Danes, as he has nothing to do with the Miracle or the Blessing either.  In fact, it has nothing to do with any of the earlier plot points and twists and turns that finally got us to this episode.  With only another hour of screen time, it’s surprising that about half of the episode was wasted on this minor occurrence.

In a world which has reached major economic depression – yet Gwen’s family still get their shopping delivered – and health crisis, it’s a small wonder Gwen manages most of what she does.  Whilst being watched by surely the most incompetent surveillance man ever, she manages to sneak off and do a bit of smash-and-grab akin to the London riots, to steal two pizza boxes worth of painkillers, sanitary towels and diomorphine.  What made the entire sequence even more laughable is that whilst raiding this chemist – which surely should have some better security in this age of unlimited life – she took her balaclava off.  Whilst a man was walking past outside!  Having ram-raided the shop and shot out the camera, why would she not just leave the mask on?  Of course, we as an audience needed to know it was Gwen...  but really, we could’ve just had her crying or muttering “bollocks!” (her latest slogan – I can see it catching on with the kids at school) and we’d have known it was her.  Meanwhile, the man paid to spy on her radios in that it’s fine – she just went to get pizza.  Did he not think to follow her?  What if she’d done a runner, and emigrated?  He’d have had egg all over his face then!

We then cut to Jack and Esther, who for some inexplicable reason are hiding in Scotland, muttering about a man who asks too many questions, and Esther’s solution that they’ll keep heading north.  Why?  What is the bloody point?  They’ve had two further months in which to work out the miracle, and yet they have achieved absolutely nothing.  Not one of them has achieved anything.  None of the team has come up with anything of any value.  At all.  It’s ridiculous.  They must be the most inept crime-fighting team since Inspector Gadget.  But at least Inspector Gadget had a neice who managed to help him save the day.  All this lot have is Rex.

Rex has somehow managed to climb back up the echelons of the CIA again, despite his evident involvement in the escape of the prisoners the week before.  With the mole still beating them at every turn, Rex hasn’t achieved anything either, per se – but at least he’s trying.  I never thought I’d say this, but Rex was actually the best thing about this episode.  By a mile.  He’s proactive, resourceful, and most of all, he’s thinking outside the box.  Basically, he’s become Torchwood, whilst the original Torchwood team sit around doing bugger all.  The only thing which I found annoying about Rex this week was simply that he didn’t realise that Charlotte was the mole.  She couldn’t look more guilty if she tried.

Oswald Danes, everybody’s favourite paedophile, has somehow now joined the Torchwood team too, through the most convoluted reasoning imaginable.  Despite his heinous crimes, and being the most wanted man in the world, he somehow managed to ‘sneak in’ to Britain.  Most specifically, Wales.  Just like Jack.  Again, a bit of a cop-out, but I’ll look past that.  What frustrated me was the ease with which Danes entered Gwen’s house, and, following a severe beating, the confidence with which he spoke.  If a paedophile touched my child, I sure as hell would have given him more than a few soft punches and a whack with a pan.  It turned out Danes had arrived with information that he would only impart to Jack – information which turned out to be a link between Jilly Kitzinger and the Families, via a name – ‘Harry Boscow’. 

Bill Pullman’s portrayal of Oswald Danes has grown more and more pantomime as the series has progressed, peaking with his dreadful dancing last week.  This week seemed marginally more restrained, as he gurned his way through exposition on the floor of Gwen’s family home.  The Harry Boscow lead turns out to be a spin doctor term, rather than the man it at first suggested.  Whilst the team discuss this, watching ‘Boscowed’ footage, Rhys finally makes himself useful – all series, he has been nothing but a hindrance, a big Welsh lump with little or nothing to do.  In this episode, he spots the connection between Shanghai and Buenos Aires – despite the geographical implausibility, he spots that they are exactly opposite each other.  Frankly, it was incredibly useful that he had been playing with a globe, or the team never would have gotten anywhere.  My issue with Danes is that what we saw on screen was his the making of this pariah – and his fall from such a height has been entirely off-screen during these unaired two months.  There’s only one possible reason for having included him in the series at all – which I’ll mention in a moment.

And so, it is this discovery that sees our merry band of fools split up and traverse the globe – Rex met up with Esther in Buenos Aires, whilst Jack and Gwen begrudgingly team up with Danes in Shanghai.  Also in Shanghai is Jilly – Jilly Kitzinger’s storyline has now almost come full circle – after two months of working mistranslating data, she finally gets the promotion she had been expecting, and is shuttled off to Shanghai, despite the closed borders, to see The Blessing.  Lauren Ambrose has been the most involved character from outside of the original Torchwood clique, as well as the most interesting, and her scene in which she approached the Blessing was brilliant, as she smiled to herself and muttered that it told her she was “right...!”

And yes, we finally got to see the Blessing.  Which is good.  And it looked like a gigantic vagina.  Which is bad.

This week’s episode was good, though.  I think.  I still can’t quite make my mind up – there are so many holes in the plot that it’s difficult to look beyond them, but underneath the tarnished veneer there is definitely some shining beacon.  The most depressing thing is that this episode was penned by John Fay – the man responsible for two episodes of Children of Earth – one cannot help but wonder where it all went wrong.  This series of Torchwood had ten episodes – which could have been cut to half that – in which to keep the action tumbling along.  However, with so much filler, and no killer, it has felt stilted at all times, with important plot points rushed through, and time wasted on MacGuffins left, right and centre.

All in all, it entertained, but there is still so much left undone, and unsaid.  Jack’s blood is drawn towards the Blessing, despite his protestations that it has nothing to do with it.  Danes is with them in Shanghai, so my guess is that he’ll ‘redeem’ himself by stepping into the Blessing, with Jack’s blood held in his hands, to bring it to an end.  And what exactly will happen when the Blessing ends?  Will the dead just drop in the streets where they stand?  Will Rex die?  What about Geraint Cooper, Gwen’s father? (Not that I really care about him either way)  Will the Soulless reappear?  Will there be another Miracle rally?  Will the Dead is Dead squad do anything exciting?  These last three points are several of the interesting ideas mentioned early on and unused since.  There are so many loose ends that it’s difficult to figure out whether the final episode can provide an adequate conclusion to them all – it’s only an hour, after all.  Added to this the fact that RTD penned the episode himself, with Jane Espenson, and it is likely to be quite the explosive finale to this tumultuous series which has sadly had more troughs than peaks.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Night Terrors

I had been so looking forward to “Night Terrors”.  It looked terrific, scary and funny.  And it was funny.  And bits were sort of scary.  But terrific?

Sadly, as happens on much of this new series of Doctor Who, the ideas are excellent but they fall short at the last hurdle, something which I personally blame on the running time.  In the good old days, a story would unfold over weeks, rather than minutes.  Whilst the episodes ran for a shorter time (excluding much of the Colin Baker era), each story was set over 3-6 weeks, with some monumental serials taking between 10 and 12 weeks.  Now, however, a story takes 45 minutes.  Whilst there is the over-thought story arcs which transpire over the course of a series, most serials are not connected by plot – each episode works as a stand-alone, with connecting threads of plot.  Whilst the occasional two-parter does sometimes occur, they are a rarity.  And that is the biggest flaw with New-Who.

Don’t get me wrong – it was a good episode.  It just wasn’t great.  A reimagining of “Fear Her” from series 2, but much better written and directed, it held great promise.  Mark Gatiss is a great writer, and the ideas behind this latest episode held great promise – finding terror in the ordinary, everyday things we have lying around the house.  It just all felt a little too rushed in the 45-minute running time, with ideas being thrown out too quickly for the audience to fully digest them.  There was none of the story arc in this episode, possibly due to its movement from episode 3 to episode 8 in the running order, but that certainly helped with the pacing – As the Ponds wandered around the doll’s house of nightmares, there was no mention of Melody or River – or of their ‘best friend’ Mels either. 

The pacing lent itself nicely to the plot – exposition wasn’t high on the list here, rather preferring the old fashioned horror moments typical of much of the horror movies of the 60s and 70s.  There was very little CGI, instead using excellent set, costume and lighting to create a claustrophobic feeling of genuine terror.  As the shadows danced across the walls, and lights flickered ominously, it genuinely was edge-of-the-seat stuff, reminiscent of “The Mind Robber” and like a good version of “The Celestial Toymaker”, with dolls creeping around in a fictional world come real, childish giggles and nursery rhymes audible during truly tense moments.  Director Richard Clark has been gifted, this series, with the two strongest scripts, both stand-alone episodes with no arcs to hinder them.  Unlike his earlier stories, “Gridlock” and “The Lazarus Experiment”, the focus is entirely on the ordinary.  This one wasn’t sci-fi, in any way, really – it was simply a horror story in the gothic mould. 

(As a side-note, it seems like the entire crew have gone Stanley Kubrick crazy – last week was the jump cut of the TARDIS reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and this week was the twin girls who looked straight out of The Shining.)

As I have now said a couple of times, the issue with this episode was time – the excellent ideas on show from the crew and writer couldn’t be done justice in the time allocated to it.  The progression of characters, and the characterisation that it could have afforded, was sadly drawn too quickly, in too-broad strokes.  And that isn’t a fault of the writer or director.  I’d argue that it’s the schedulers fault – them, and Moff, forcing excellent premises like this into single episodes so that the arcs with which people have quickly lost patience can be given more episodes upon which to encroach.

George, the young boy suffering from nightmares, was excellent – young Jamie Oram was adorable, with his slight speech impediment and weak physical appearance highlighting the inherent fears in this poor defenceless child.  Daniel Mays, as his father Alex, was pretty strong too, although again much of his character was lacking – I personally find it difficult to believe that simply because a child is scared of things, the family would call social services.  Leila Hoffman, as Mrs Rossiter, was sadly under-used – she is amazing when given the chance to give comic turns, as seen in How Not to Live Your Life.  Unfortunately, she spent the majority of her screen time mumbling to herself, before being eaten by bin bags and wandering aimlessly down corridors.  The stand-out performance of the episode, however, was Matt Smith.

Last week, I mentioned how much I like Matt Smith.  Hell, how much I love Matt Smith.  When he’s given material that allows him to take his time, and ponder, he’s simply outstanding.  The comedy here, for the most part, comes from the very alienness of Smith’s Doctor, stuck in a world of high-rise flats and disgruntled pensioners.  He got most of the good lines too, after being cheated out of them by Arthur Darvill as Rory last week.  The scene in which he was making a cup of tea was brilliant, faced with the disgruntled father, but carrying on as though nothing were wrong, adding “monsters are real” before requesting more jammie dodgers.  Similarly, the comment “I can’t just plump for Brian like I normally do” raised a good chuckle from me.  What was refreshing about this week’s episode was the lack of focus upon Amy and Rory – while they were both integral to the plot, they didn’t distract from the story, or Smith’s performance.  Unlike the past series has been Doctor-lite, this was definitely Companion-lite.  And thank goodness for that.

A major flaw with this episode for me was that the episode was so predictable.  It was essentially The Twilight Zone for 2011.  And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – if it isn’t transparent from the very beginning.  Within minutes of starting, it was obvious that George wasn’t a normal boy.  It was also clear that the outcome of the episode would be resolved through paternal love.  Yawn.  Whilst Gatiss had penned a creepy idea, the resolution was decidedly average.  A child with ESP, manifesting his fears somehow, would have been interesting and exciting and possibly creepy.  Instead, moments before the climax, we discovered that George is actually an abandoned orphan alien creature, a Tensa apparently?, who assimilates into the lifestyle of those who find it, fulfilling their needs – in this case, a sterile wife and her husband desperate for a kid of their own.

The concept of locking all of your fears in a cupboard was an interesting one, although again not particularly realistic given that the child must then sleep in the same room as all of the things which he was most terrified of – indeed, in the sequences in which he shone the torch around his room, watching huge looming shadows appear, I couldn’t help wondering why on earth he had so many creepy toys lying around in the first place?

Of course, the last scene had to remind us of the arc, with the Doctor once more looking at the date of his death with a pensive stare, followed by the comment about all being back together “in the flesh...” – A clue, no doubt, to the theory that the flesh Doctor and the real Doctor have at some point gotten mixed up again...

Friday, 2 September 2011

Torchwood – Episode 8 – End of the Road

It’s a Miracle!  A Blessing! Torchwood has finally begun to get somewhere, 8 episodes into its 10 episode run.  And it was actually quite good.  Whilst I try, on these blogs, to be as impartial as I can, my Torchwood blogs have been filled with disdain as, other than episodes 5 and 7, they have for the most part been formulaic in their approach, looking at only the surface of the situation, and not delving into the nitty-gritty as I’d hoped they would.  This week, however, everything was ramped up a notch, and it made some pretty good television.

Nana Visitor’s character, Olivia Colasanti, last week promised “I can take you to the one man who knows how the Miracle began...  Angelo,” and that was the hook not only for Jack to go willingly, but for the audience to continue watching.  Much has been made of this new series not progressing, and reviewers, bloggers, and fan-sites on Facebook have been filled with riled viewers – myself included – claiming that for too long now, Macguffin after Macguffin have been dealt to us, with distractions thrown in for good measure, whilst the Torchwood team potter around, not actually achieving anything.  Terminology like “The Soulless” and “Dead is Dead!” have been bandied around, with nothing coming to any kind of conclusion.  Another of these phrases with was thrown out there was morphic field.

Jack first mentioned morphic fields back in episode 2, on the plane.  It was then touched upon in episode 3, and has since been forgotten about.  But finally, in this episode, we are informed that Captain Jack was right all along!  It is a morphic field that’s responsible, at least in part, for the Miracle.  The discovery of the morphic field below Angelo Collasanti’s bed provided the crux of this episode, allowing the team to get a better understanding of what they are dealing with – but only vaguely.  And this is where I start to pick holes – Jack has, until this series, never been so bloody useless.  Even in Children of Earth, Jack had some clue – it took a very brief flashback, and he knew exactly what he was dealing with.  Yet here, in Miracle Day, he continues to wander about aimlessly with little or no clue as to what he needs to do.  The best he can come up with is to take part of the morphic field... and leave.

Angelo’s granddaughter, Olivia, informed us that Angelo was the one man who knew how the Miracle began – which is a lie.  A gigantic plain-faced lie.  Olivia spouts some nice exposition about jellyfish, and their ability to regenerate eternally, tells Jack that Angelo was watching him for years, and points out the ‘families’ who we saw last week, and that every single person watching had figured out were responsible.  But that’s all.  She doesn’t mention morphic fields, or alien technology, or anything else.  And that, to me, feels like a massive cheat.  We all knew that it was the families, despite the teaser at the end of the last episode which suggested Angelo was really responsible.  By turning that on its head so soon, it feels like Torchwood is doing a great disservice to the fans who have so far invested eight hours into watching the new series.  Along with all of the other empty plots and dead ends, we’re now being lied to directly.

When Jack says his goodbyes to Angelo, it should be a sweet scene.  It should be.  Instead, it feels like Jack, as always, is simply a gloating gay guy boasting about his conquests.  The mention of Ianto made my skin crawl.  And then Angelo dies.  In a world where that should be impossible.  Watching Jack screaming at heart monitors and IV drips was verging on ludicrous.  Barrowman hammed it up to the best of his ability, but it was ultimately an unbelievable scene which came to nothing.  His tender kiss goodbye to the “old man” was the one gentle touch of this scene – and what seems to have ultimately led to Angelo’s death.  Following the reveal of the morphic field below his bed, my idea is that, by entering the morphic field, Jack returned to his immortal state whilst Angelo was able to resume his mortality and fritter away into the ether.  This would also help to explain Jack’s apparent absence in next week’s episode, going by the teaser trailer.  With the alpha plate in his pocket, will this increase his longevity again, ensuring that whilst he has sustained a life-threatening gunshot wound to the stomach, he will die, as he always does, before coming back to life?  Also, the guy in the balaclava shooting at the CCTV cameras next week...?  I reckon that’s Jack...

The guest cast list is impressive, as I’ve stated before, but it does at times hinder the progress of the story – enlisting Nana Visitor last week, Wayne Knight at the beginning and reappearing here, and now John De Lancie is like a who’s who in Sci-Fi.  But the characters are such pointless additions to the story that two of the three were killed off near the head of the episode – by killing off Visitor’s Olivia moments before Angelo died, it ensures that we will be getting nothing more in the way of information from the Colasantis.  Similarly, following the reveal that Knight’s Friedkin was a mole for the Families, whilst working for the CIA, you can’t help but think that they’d have kept a better eye on him, rather than letting him blow himself up like that.  Also, why did he wait until he was in the car?  He could have detonated the explosives in Colasanti’s bedroom and gotten rid of ‘those pesky meddling kids’...  I mean, the Torchwood team.

John De Lancie was something of a revelation though.  He clearly relished the role, and stole every scene he was in, with a gusto that was beyond impressive.  He was all bravado, shouting orders, decommissioning Torchwood and deporting Gwen at the click of his fingers.  I loved the deportation of Gwen most of all – simply because she annoyed him.  He threatened to do it, but was dissuaded, and then did it anyway – fantastic! 

The stand-out performance from De Lancie only further shows the weaknesses of our main cast, however.  Eve Myles’ Gwen did nothing but bluster, say “bollocks!” and cry.  A lot.  Myles, last week, was brilliant with a very under-stated performance – although again she did cry an awful lot.  In episode 8, though, she was redundant.  Sat in the wings for most of the story, and then bundled off by the CIA for being an annoying Welsh girl, seemed apt for this new side to the character that we were forced to endure for her thirty minutes of screen time.

Rex and Esther continue with the ‘dumb and dumber’ routine, although this week at least we got to see a slightly more human side to Rex – rather than the utter tool he has been for the last few weeks, we can now understand that his bravado is a mask to cover the fear he feels about his impending death, once the Miracle stops.  Esther, however, has become even more irritating and dislikeable.  She gave away the morphic field under the bed, and spent more time on the phone talking to her crazy sister...  and I just couldn’t have cared less.  The characterisation of Esther has been so generally sloppy that it’s difficult to give two hoots about her, or her sister, or her nieces. 

Speaking of ridiculous things, the negated space around the morphic field in Angelo’s house was a ridiculous waste of time – how could CIA operatives, watching Captain Jack and co under house arrest, not have noticed their muted gabbling, made even more conspicuous by Rex the Tool wandering away while Esther mouthed numbers at them?  While the three conversed within the null field, where sound could not escape, and chatted for about five minutes whilst making themselves “look busy” was beyond me, and truly did stretch my credulity to breaking point!  It was adding insult to injury that the two CIA men also didn’t notice – and then the Director of the CIA walked in, and also didn’t notice anything – and these people think they can solve the problems of Miracle Day without Torchwood?!

It was nice to see Bill Pullman and Lauren Ambrose return to the screens this week.  They have been a noticeable absence for the last two episodes, and I, for one, have sorely missed them.  Whilst they certainly haven’t been integral to the plot up to now, they have made a nice relief, and there have been some genuinely unsettling moments.  This episode was no different, as we first had to endure Oswald’s horrendous and bile-inducing dancing, and then he informed Jilly that he wants ‘a girl’.  When he looked her up and down, informing her that he wanted one of legal age, with red hair, my toes curled – as did Jilly’s, judging by the expression on her face.  Ambrose’s has been a restrained performance from the start, barely concealing her disgust at her ‘client’.  What did go some way to undermine this performance was that she willingly signed up to work for ‘The Families’ after she saw her intern, a CIA mole in reality, shot three times by the handsome stranger from the Miracle Rally.  Whilst I understand that she is eager to further herself in the world of PR, following a murderer, however gorgeous he may be, seems a little false to me.

Pullman’s performance was creepy, yet with a gentleness that, worryingly, made me feel for him.  Of course, I am not justifying his actions, but this man genuinely seems eager to find some redemption.  He is disgusting, and a criminal, but his conversation with the red-headed lady of the night was quite moving.  When he discovered that the government were putting through legislation to create a new category, Category Zero, which meant that criminals who should be dead would be cremated in the gigantic ovens first seen in episode 5, the rage was palpable, as he rooted through Jilly’s belongings before punching her square in the face.  What a guy.

Other side-plots involve the emergence of yet another mole in the CIA – conveniently, since their other mole died at the beginning of the episode – and more mystery surrounding a morphic field large enough to encapsulate the entire planet.  Added to this is the suggestion that Jack’s blood is somehow involved – an idea that I postulated upon last week, as I’m sure many fans did, but one which has been pooh-poohed by Jack himself.

So, with only two episodes, and still so much to discover about the Families responsible, the purpose of the alien technology recovered from the destroyed Torchwood hub in Children of Earth, and Gwen’s relocation to Wales for next week’s episode involving a mysterious man looking through cellars with a torch, searching for her father, we’re sure to have an action-packed penultimate episode.  I only hope it keeps up the momentum achieved by this week’s episode, and delivers some answers to the questions which it keeps throwing at us.  As Rhys said: “Where’s it all heading?”  Well, Rhys, we’ll soon see...