I think I preferred my foggy dream to the latest episode of Torchwood. Now, don't get me wrong, the episode was not an insult to sentient life like most of season one, nor was it brain-twistingly stupid, nor did it appear to be part of a completely different series to the previous episodes. The problems were more fundamental than that.
Picture the year 2106, for the one hundredth anniversary of Torchwood, where the BBC or whoever were to come up with a Torchwood episode that almost but not quite rips off lots of other episodes while trying to distill the essence of the show. It's be pretty much To The Last Man.
It's Out of Time, it's Ghost Machine, it's End of Days, it's Captain Jack Harkness with a lungful of Greeks Bearing Gifts as well. There's this guy who's travelled from the past to the present and suffers culture shock at the horrors of the present/future, there's a dark destiny foretold by a flashforward in the episode and incredibly unscary and uninteresting "ghosts", there's past and present getting mixed up thanks to rift manipulators, there's Tosh travelling back in time to a world war, and of course her falling in love with someone she's known less than a week clearly destined to be dead meat before the episode is out.
The plot: in 1918, Torchwood investigates a haunted wartime hospital and sees a future version of one of the patients with Tosh, telling them to get his present version out of here. The past version is cryo-frozen and woken every year in the hope that he will be on cue to be the future version, thus completing the time loop and stopping the universe from falling apart. Tosh has fallen in love with him since they met back in 2006 (right, so she was based in Cardiff at the same time as Aliens of London, right...) but Jack knows once the time loop is stopped, the patient dude will soon die in 1918.
Add angst and stirr.
This is the plot and it's established in the first twenty minutes and it's just a predictable waiting for events to finish up. Added with it are uninteresting and VERY unfrightening scenes of Gwen wandering into the deserted hospital in the present and being menaced by ghosts. Who don't actually do much but wander around the place. Occasionally they tell Gwen to piss off. Why is this supposed to scare us since we have had it explained to us AND Gwen that the hospital is loose in time and stuff like this happens? Do they think we haven't remembered it? Why hasn't Gwen, who stumbles into a soldier with one leg missing and acts like he should be in the deserted, due for demolition hospital? Has she been drinking retcon or something? Plus, Rhys hasn't been mentioned for two weeks, not even seen... why didn't she just dump him? It would be easier to cope with, since he's not been remotely connected with the plot. His sudden "big episode" next week makes this feel even more disposable.
This composite episode has the usual additions of gratuitous sequences involving the regulars. Despite the fact she's been de facto leader, Gwen is still completely clueless about the organization - surely she would have ransacked Jack's office to work out what was going on? Owen does medical stuff and shows once again he is rubbish at talking to people and better and ruthlessly raping them. Ianto is Jack's boyfriend. And Jack himself gets crap from everyone - including Doctor Who fans, can you believe. It seems we've become so conditioned to our central character being an amoral fuckwit he can't do anything without us seeing the worst possible light. If he needs to discover a sleeper agent's identoty with her express permission, it's condoning torture. Here, we have a typical Doctor Who scenario of a guy having to sacrifice himself to save the universe with no other options. And Jack, somehow prioritizing the fate of time and space itself over a guy whose life ended in 1918 is apparently now being declared a ruthless amoral bastard. Despite the fact we know from the story that this has been done, ergo must be done. If you get my drift.
And it's Helen Raynor. Woop-de-doo. No pretentions, subtexts, subplots or sidetracking for her. No characters she writes have a third dimension. They are good, evil or comic relief and they'll stay that way. No surprises in her stories, except the new plots she has to add when it becomes clear her 'absolutely no deviation' script ended twenty minutes early. In Ghost Machine, she hastily announces the straight forward emotion-replayer can play emotions that haven't happened yet, and thus we must stop the future. Here, it's even more ridiculous. Jack realizes time is falling apart and decides to travel back to 1918 and save it, even though he'll marooned in the past again... but Owen says instead they use a mind probe, some LSD and voodoo shit to send a psychic message into the past, so the ghost of Tosh saves the day.
What the fuck? Since 1918 and 2009 are fused together, they can easily run into the other room and do the same, or simply shout instructions through a window. But no. We need a completely different 'ghost' bollocks not a million miles ripped off from the Doctor saying goodbye to Rose.
So, To The Last Man is the weakest episode so far. Everyone seems to rave about it, probably because we've seen it ALL before and it's comforting and predictable. Too damn predictable. I defy anyone not to have predicted the British posh duo are part of Torchwood, or that Tommy the Tommy won't compare Torchwood to Field Marshall Haig for their sacrificing innocents. Er, sorry you retard, this is a TIME LOOP no free will is available here, and if they DON'T send you back the universe ends. It's not a mindless kamikaze attack against people just like you, we're taking the destruction of everything after 1917! Jack grabbing a guy's arm in this situation is apparently the kind of pure evil he displayed in Cyberwoman.
I'd have to say that this episode isn't as brain dead and rubbish as some of the previous series of Torchwood, but it doesn't mean it's very good. It's not bad, but it is worthless and feels like the latter half of series one, all those scripts RTD grabbed at the last second and thus were completely disconnected and with no coherence whatsoever. There's no Grey, no Sleepers, nothing that makes this vital viewing.
Cause we've seen it all before.