Doctor Who episode 755: The Fires of Pompeii (12/4/2008)

‘We’re in Pompeii and it’s volcano day.’ Unlike Rose, Mickey and Martha, Donna has already passed the audition before her first trip: this is more about emphasising why the Doctor needs a companion, and why Donna in particular, playing back into the point that, ‘Sometimes I need someone.’

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Doctor Who episode 754: Partners in Crime (5/4/2008)

‘You just want to mate?’ The annus mirabilis begins with a story reuniting the Doctor and Donna, a partnership so successful it’s being resurrected for Bad Wolf’s new series. Even at the time, this felt like a good move: Catherine Tate was an established TV star (whereas Rose felt more like a breakthrough role for Billie Piper, better known for other things) with broad appeal and – importantly – an excellent onscreen rapport with Tennant.

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Torchwood episode 26: Exit Wounds (4/4/2008)

‘It’s always the same: nobody cares until you tie them up.’ On the one hand, it’s much better than End of Days, with some genuine stakes that flow from story ideas seeded through earlier episodes: Jack’s relationship with his brother; Owen and Tosh, even Rhys and Andy. The return of Captain John provides a link to the beginning of the series, and Marster’s performance is more impressive as he takes John from being a sniggering chaos monkey to something more nuanced and sympathetic.

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Torchwood episode 25: Fragments (21/3/2008)

‘There are opportunities here, with the Institute.’ A portmanteau explaining how each of the team came to join Torchwood Three, wrapped in a framing narrative reintroducing Captain John in time for the series finale. It’s a neat enough way of spending time with the whole team before writing two of them out, but like most of the vignette episodes none of the individual elements has the time or character development required to make it anything more than passable.

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Torchwood episode 24: Adrift (19/3/2008)

‘Why are you doing it? What are you trying to protect? What are you fighting for?’ A script that plays to the show’s strengths, with a focus on Gwen and Rhys’ relationship impacted by Torchwood; Gwen putting her police skills to practice to solve a mystery, and real lives intersected by the Cardiff rift. The result is easily Chibnall’s best work for the series, and a template of sorts for Children of Earth, with Jack’s involvement in a longstanding cover-up.

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Torchwood episode 23: From Out of the Rain (12/3/2008)

‘All those acts performing for us. Part of history, trapped on film forever.’ P.J. Hammond’s second Torchwood script feels more like Sapphire & Steel than his first, with creepy circus acts stepping out of fading silent movies to hunt the living. Ideas of film capturing living history even as it supersedes it (the point being, travelling shows lost their audiences to the picture houses), and film being a medium where the past and present collide and allow malevolent Time to break through are exactly the kind of mystery medium atomic weights might have been assigned to investigate.

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Torchwood episode 22: Something Borrowed (5/3/2008)

‘Get back, you ugly bitch!’ The season’s comedy episode sees aliens crash Gwen and Rhys’ wedding, with the twist that Gwen’s heavily pregnant with one of them. The ensuring farce balances between comedy and soap opera, with an unwelcome return of Jack and Gwen’s unlikely romance plus Tosh’s tentative relationship with Owen, Thematically, it’s very loose – “relationships” include a cheeky hook-up with an alien shapeshifter, and Tosh having to bat away the unwelcome advances of Banana Boat.

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Torchwood episode 21: A Day in the Death (27/2/2008)

‘You’re a very violent doctor, I’ve been watching you.’ What Torchwood can do, more so than either Doctor Who or The Sarah Jane Adventures, is small, personal stories. It usually prefers to file off the serial numbers of US TV shows, but when it’s on form, as it is here, it can forge a distinct identity, not focused on world-ending threats or monsters out of myth, but something darker and richer.

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Torchwood episode 20: Dead Man Walking (20/2/2008)

‘I’m not the same, Gwen. I came back different. Hollow. Like I’m missing something. And I do not want to be like this.’ Series Two’s riff on Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues with an episode that’s two parts Bargaining and one part Killed By Death. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s not like the show hasn’t played with supernatural fantasy (as opposed to science fiction) before, but this is essentially a fairy story with Death defeated by a man with nothing to lose.

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Torchwood episode 19: Reset (13/2/2008)

‘So, End of the World Survivors Club.’ Martha Jones arrives in Torchwood and the dynamic shifts. Suddenly Jack is a little closer to his cheeky Doctor Who character, Owen gets excited that he has another doctor to talk to, and everyone else has to take a slight step back to give her some space in the plot. Her background is handled in a strangely coy way: I can accept that there were Torchwood viewers who didn’t watch Doctor Who, but if anything the cryptic hints and winks at the audience about ‘a bad experience with a politician recently’ and ‘we were under the same Doctor’ are surely more annoying than a brief recap of the events of Last of the Time Lords, particularly as Martha’s TARDIS travels and consequent ‘really quite extraordinary’ lymphocytes are so important to the plot.

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