Just as Reset finally proved that Torchwood was about a bunch of totally unprofessional egomaniacs (and not badly-written worthy defenders of the Earth), The Missing Link shows that Alex Drake is not supposed to be some kind of audience identification figure. She's a bloody nutter with no concept of subtlety and the self-control of Ben Chatham in an absinthe distillery. The moment that proved it to me was when Ms. Drake Snr was giving a sickeningly cynical and unconvincing speech along the lines of "I hope my child will grow up with a desire to change the world and do better." Alex hasn't even been arsed to get her hair done! And when you think she's so desperate to fight the illusion, she doesn't say, buy different clothes and make herself look the way she did in the future?
I cannot think of any character I could not replace Alex with and have them LESS convincing and realistic behavior. As I mention, she's once again stalking her own family and doing pretty much everything except wearing a T-shirt saying "I'M YOUR DAUGHTER FROM THE FUTURE!", nipping out in the middle of an interview to raid her past self's bedroom and constantly saying "I remember that!" whenever Little Alex is mentioned in any way whatsoever. Just watch a scene with them and ask yourself, "If it was Richie and Eddie interviewing them would they do a better job at hiding that?"
The answer, of course, being yes. For some reason, despite her fundamental belief this is all a dream, Alex is unwilling to simply tell people this. She never outright says "this is all a dream" but acts like she has and everyone knows this. Yet when her mother - hypocritical slag rapidly threatening to topple Sylvia Noble as Bitch Who Must MUST Die 2008 - upsets Alex to the point she's foaming at the mouth with righteous anger, does our psychologist let rip? Why is she keeping it secret when she keeps telling everyone she wants to change history? And how can she not have suspected that maybe she's becoming part of it?
The Missing Link, curiously enough, feels rather bored of Alex. I'd say she is in this less than the other episodes. Lougi, for example, has dialogue and I am amazed to discover he is Happy Italian Man from Turn Left. He is similiarly cheerful and friendly this week, unlike the broken-souled miserable bastard of the previous episodes. Shazza, Raymondo and Chris get a bit more interaction this week, and Ray continues his stratospheric rise. When Gene leaves instructions that if he isn't back in eight hours, Ray is in charge, I actually felt reassured. Yes, Raymond has achieved borderline enlightenment. He's not as charismatic and obvious-main-character as Gene, but he gets the job done - instantly working out what's going on from the same clues, cracking the case and being as blunt and disgusting as ever.
It says a lot that when Ray puts up a nudie picture in the office and Chris tells him to take it down, I sided more with Ray. Yes, true, as Chris points out it's offensive and degrading but at least Ray is honest enough to admit he enjoys looking at it. Once agin, Kamelion Chris has sucked up another personality, this time a 1980s feminist which leads him spouting all sorts of mispronounced bull crap - "Shazza, I don't want to buy you a chocolate bar, because it simply reinforces gender stereotypes. Get it yourself". While the scenes where he completely fails to get what the feminist is trying to tell him may or may not be amusing, it's hard to credit him as the bloke from Life on Mars, given his bloody stupidity.
Barry the Evil Clown of Doom barely appears this week - he has a five second cameo in an LSD flashback locking someone in a toy chest, but he's not half as scary as Alex's mum ripping the chest open and shouting "BOO!" at the occupant with the deranged grin that so often appears on her daughter's face. But out-scaring both of them is Michael Sheard Lookalike, a moustached, spectacled little man who represents the Dark Side of the Establishment. No screaming "WE ARE COMING FOR YOU ALEX!!" and clown make up for him. He's cut from the same cloth as Benjamin from Jekyll.
Some plot. A man called Kennedy is found dead and in his possessions is the telephone number for Alex's mum. So Alex steals the number, wines and dines Evans, then comes round to her place and practically gets on her hands and knees and BEGS them to tell her it's all a coincidence and not a conspiracy. Typically, all her brilliant subterfuge is pointless as Gene, Chris and Ray have discovered evidence Alex NEGLECTED to steal and worked it out on their own. And it quickly transpires that Kennedy was spying on Alex's family, and has full-page glossy photos of Evans and Alex's Mum doing the horizontal mambo. Alex loses it, much to the embrrassment of her colleagues. But should they be taking Alex's paranoid rantings that the government are spying on them seriously? Is there a conspiracy? Why the hell does Alex care? You're in a coma, luv, what the hell are M15 going to do to you? Wake you up?
Meanwhile, a bunch of radical feminist socialists with berets and scarves are screaming that Reagan has a neutron bomb designed by Terry Nation himself and Thatcher is letting them test it in British soil. And Kennedy's body has gone missing - last seen in a lead-lined coffin...
I was generally impressed by this episode, which uses Alex more as a plot device rather than a central character. Everything she does advances the plot - like, for example, her ever-increasing acid-trips lead her to lock herself and Gene in an airtight vault in the confused belief she's actually in a toy chest hiding from Barry The Evil Clown of Death. Gene isn't too fussed by the possibilities of suffocation... until Alex starts doing that scary impression and whispering that she... cannot... die!
(My dad found this sequence totally unrealistic, as any vault would have at the very least an air valve to allow fresh oxygen inside. It would also have a phone for such poor schmucks caught inside.)
The suggestion that this huge Edge-of-Darkness-style nuclear conspiracy will culminate in Alex's parents being blown to smithereens gives a bit of clarity to the series, even as Shazza shows herself to be more intelligent than anyone else in the show, Viv contributes to the plot and Raymondo more appealing than the central character. Alex is a much more bearable character this week, even though she - for once - forgoes dressing up as a hooker and instead acts as the most suspicious and nervous undercover operative I can remember. The Second Doctor and Jamie are straight out of Spooks in comparison.
Next Week: "Is this you in your doo-dally captain-of-the-upper-fifthy way of telling us that Neary deserves to go down?"
MORE flashbacks, this time with interesting new visions of Alex on the mortuary slab! They're undercover (cause that NEVER goes wrong) dealing with a bunch of hot gay gangsters and as Chris's IQ continues to plummet to Baldrick levels, it is up to Raymondo to save the day. Alex is busy having dinner with her mother and being cryptic. Bless.