‘They said you were the devil, but other people said you were a blessing.’ Jane Espenson’s third script this series is the first to focus on Jack’s immortality, taking the plot back to 1927 and his encounter with an illegal Italian immigrant, Angelo Colasanto. It’s a smart move, as by the end of the episode it’s not hard to guess the root cause of the Blessing – leaving the final third of the season free to tie together the various strands threaded through earlier episodes. It also gives this a hint of previous Torchwood-in-history episodes, like Captain Jack Harkness, which is generally a good thing.
‘Someone is playing the system right across planet Earth with infinite grace, beyond any one person’s sight.’ This one is about the infrastructure of evil. It isn’t just one villainous mastermind but a whole network of people “just following orders” as terrible decisions become homeopathic, diluted in bureaucracy and transport networks and requisition paperwork. This is the reality that faces Jack when he confronts PhiCorp COO Stuart Owens (it’s Winston from GhostBusters!), and Gwen, as she tries to save her father. These sequences are chillingly powerful: which of us would risk losing our jobs saying no when it makes no difference to the machinery of extermination.
‘Instead of dead or alive, there are now three categories.’ The analogies – of categorising human beings, confining the “wrong” categories to camps with massive crematoria – are pretty blatant. So too is the idea that the face of evil is banal. Maloney, camp commandant in L.A., is a pathetic, budget-conscious middle manager, over-promoted and fully aware of what he’s doing, but too dully compliant to question it.
‘I don’t want to live forever, especially like this.’ Exchanging the dark, rainswept streets of D.C. for the broad, sunlit vistas of California, and having the team bedding down in a cosy beach house rather than a grim apartment gives this episode a fresh feel heading into the middle of the series. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that it has a fresh impetus and sense of purpose as the new Torchwood team effectively works together to infiltrate a PhiCorp facility, following a smart operation to get the biometrics of the one man able to break through PhiCorp security.
‘Rex doesn’t like men in their forties acting like they’re twenty.’ The first proper indication that this was going to be a slow burn compared to Children of Earth. Luckily, it’s by Jane Espenson, who’s good enough to make something of an episode which, in itself, is a shapeless connector between the first two episodes and the rest of the series. It suffers in the same way as many later Buffy episodes: you can’t simply Friends-title it “The One With…”. After “The One With Torchwood Reuniting” and “The One With the Plane” this is… the one where everyone wanders about chatting, or hides in a derelict building and uses the video contact lenses like in Children of Earth.
‘I’m Welsh.’ Less consciously epic than the first episode, but still a step up from much earlier Torchwood. This focuses on Jack and Gwen’s eventful extradition to the USA, where released child-killer Danes is now becoming a media darling following a dramatic TV apology. Like a lot of Torchwood, there’s a studied edginess to some of this – can a paedophile be rehabilitated and transcend his crimes? But so far it’s interesting.
‘He’s the second one tonight. DOAs who just won’t die.’ Torchwood’s transfer to the US Starz network comes with a visibly increased budget (and Bill Pullman) which not only leads to better effects (the grisly aftermath of the suicide assassin) and action sequences (the helicopter battle on a Welsh beach), but an international flavour and a greatly increased sense of scale. Amusingly, given Doctor Who’s own experience of becoming a US co-production, it also begins with a character being rushed into ER and miraculously surviving death.
‘This is the Battle of Demon’s Run. The Doctor’s darkest hour. He’ll rise higher than ever before and then fall so much further.’ I really disliked this when it broadcast. Moffat keeps coming back to the idea of whether the Doctor is a good man: ‘Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.’ Fresh from having killed Flesh-Amy to prove a point he massacres a fleet of Cybermen then puts together a hit squad to raid Demon’s Run and rescue Human-Amy and her new baby. All because he’s very, very angry.
‘I needed to see the Flesh in its early days. That’s why I scanned it. That’s why we were there in the first place.’ Might as well acknowledge up front that the end of the episode is darker than anything the seventh Doctor did to Ace. In the previous scene the Doctor made it clear that ‘The energy from the TARDIS will stabilise the Gangers for good. They’re people now.’ So, the Doctor murders a person that is perfectly capable of living as Amy to prove a point. Once again, somehow, there’s a lack of judgement on the part of the production team. I guess it’s meant to be set-up for the Doctor, in his fury, becoming a villain, an idea that is strong in the next episode and that they keep flirting with through the rest of Matt Smith’s run and Capaldi’s first series. Here, it’s about as good as Old Sixie throttling Peri.
‘I feel everything she has ever felt and more. I’m not a monster. I am me.’ This channels Season 22 complete with a horror movie setting and aesthetics, acid baths, inappropriate period music and an interest in body horror that encompasses references to Frankenstein, The Thing and Aliens. It also plugs into Moffat’s fascination with memories making the man, and ‘What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if one day our dreams no longer needed us?’