Monday, July 13, 2009

Torchwood 3/5 - Up The Ante! (oo-er)

Feeling sensations
That you thought were dead?
No squealing - remember:
It's all in your head!

I ain't happy, I'm feeling glad!
I got sunshine in a bag!
I'm useless - but not for long
The future is coming on...

Last episode ended more on a dramatic peak than a cliffhanger per se, with the mysterious alien 456 due to land tomorrow and with Torchwood on the defensive, with no allies, base or technobabble to help them. Good, the bastards need taking down a peg or two. James Moran has joined writing duties (well, I've finally noticed him in the credits, anyway).

As Mal Loup/Trinity Wells and other newsreaders hype up the arrival of whatever the hell it is speaking through the children as today is the day they're due, Jack, Ianto, Rhys and Gwen find themselves a new base - an empty warehouse once used by Yvonne Hartman and Torchwood 1 as... well, a warehouse. Getting out a sofa and setting fire to some rubbish is all that's needed to make the place feel a bit more homely, and Gwen has to tell off our heroes for their Chathamesque laziness when the apocalypse is due any freaking minute. This however leads to a predictable fight when Rhys discovers that Ianto and Jack knew about Gwen's baby long before him, the father (presumably...), found out. Gwen defuses this with a suggestion that since they've become criminal fugitives, they might as well start acting like them - a plot twist which reminds me of a generic Goodies episodes, as our heroes take up totally ludicrous and random approaches to things. But they were being funny, whereas Gwen is doing her not-blinking-creepiness.

The new PM declares an under-18 curfew which the Joneses immediate turn into a get rich quick scheme ("10 Quid A Kid," their motto as they babysit for worried but working parents), Torchwood begin a crime spree that combines the simplest of Hustle with the most embarrassing Chaser stunt - Ianto the waiter nicks people's credit cards, Rhys nicks briefcases while Gwen distracts people with her teeth, Rhys and Ianto pick a fight in the middle of the street while Gwen pickpockets people, Jack steals a car... yes, boys and girls, these are the upstanding moral guardians you're supposed to trust. I didn't see the Doctor go klepto when similar crap happened in Sound of Drums, did he? Torchwood immediately put these funds to good use - coffee, toilet paper and expensive clothes, including a ridiculously convenient bit of army surplus to get Jack his coat. Yes, I agree Ianto would have wanted to get one for Jack, but the idea he would have succeeded begs the imagination. It would have been far more realistic for him to go, "Sorry, I tried..."

Meantime, Aunty Terrorist has discovered Jack's daughter Alice (despite her cunning use of other people's mobiles, Jekyll-style, to deflect the conspiracy). Lois meanwhile - the token black chick hastily written in when it became clear that Freema Agyeman was too good for this subSpooks shite - is given Martha's hand-me-downs: the funky contact lenses you can text through. Lois may be a moron, but she's not so stupid that she thinks being Torchwood's Judas Goat is a particularly good career move.

Her misgivings are not assuaged as we see, back at "Hub 2", Ianto and Jack musing that "the world's always ending" so they might as well take the day off and get some kinky gay sex going - only held back by the fact that Rhys is unintentionally being a gooseberry and forcing them to do actual WORK that might save lives. And so they discover that the other people assassinated on Monday were actually people Jack knew back in the 1960s, when poor Matthews and the other kids were abducted by aliens. Deep dark scary crap is occurring... but to be honest I'm more interested in the fact that Jack's dues ex machina Vortex Manipulator was destroyed along with his original clothes. No more Time Agency for him, huh, unless he manages to bump into Spike again. Which would, admittedly, be cool.

With Lois' blind luck allowing her truly cretinous plan ("Can I go to the secret lair? The boss fancies me!") to work, Gwen uses PC Andy - who is impatiently waiting for Godzilla in a spaceship to arrive - to allow her to rescue Matthews from the police when his random sniffing/licking/shouting in pubs got him arrested. Just then all the kids are possessed and, across the planet, all point their little digits in the direction of Thames House (not far off the Nestene, er, London Eye). A pillar of fire smashes through the overcast sky, skewers said building and floods the alien gas chamber on Floor 13 while Mr. Frobisher sensibly... er... puts a comfy chair in the lift. Gah what now? I can't think of any way that would help at the best of times, let alone during Armageddon - does he think the 456 get tired easily and need to sit down in lifts?!

The 456 remain obscured OOV in the gas chamber. Is it to make them appear more alien? Or is it just cheap? I think it's cheap as they communicate in a mixture of Nestene bad wolf squawks and Krillitane screeches and sound oddly enough just like Nick Briggs in a deep voice. Didn't see THAT one coming, did we? One think I didn't see coming was them sneezing all over the inside of their chamber. Mind you, the green snot gives the impression they look disturbingly like one of MLock's avatars, you know the Evil Bird Demon?

PM Green (is that it? What a dull name!) is getting his bollocks roasted as UNIT, the USA and the UN demand to know what in the name of Slitheen buggery Britain is doing, forging secret deals with alien ambassadors... yet again... and whoever was lucky enough to replace John Winters as President of the USA isn't happy about this either. Well, NO ONE is going to be pleased that potential assassins are having tea and biscuits with the nation who got your predecessor killed, rogue Time Lord or not, are they? Cunningly, PM Green somehow manages to convince the nations of the world to let him keep putting Frobisher in the front line of negotiating while the British leader gets the hell out of here. Um. OK. Maybe that will make sense when I'm older.

Maybe not.

Jack meanwhile phones Frobisher - Jack was part of the operation in 1965 when the 456 first visited Earth and left promising not to return. But now they're back. Jack demands to be allowed to see them or he'll blow the truth to the civilized world. Frobisher points out that they've captured Jack's family. Jack points out that he can do the same to Frobisher's. "You won't do that, you're a better man than I am," says Frobisher cunningly - but without a certain pinstriped time traveler present to be his moral compass, is Jack REALLY so reliable?

As Day Three draws to an end, Gwen goes apeshit escaping the traffic jam London has become (gratuitously namechecking a similar RTD episode as she does so) and returns to "Hub 2" with Matthews, who immediately causes friction by calling Ianto "a queer". Lois meanwhile finally puts on the contacts in a painful-looking manner that makes her eyes bloodshot disturbingly quickly. As Torchwood find their amazing technology is, of course, shithouse (they can't hear what anyone is saying, Gwen keeps mispelling her instructions, Lois writes notes in shorthand only Ianto can understand), the 456 get rather annoyed at Frobisher's attempts to lighten the mood and soon Kroll-like tentacles are wapping against the glass walls as copious amounts of green snot fly everywhere and the Nestene squeaks get real old, real fast. Then it starts that Midnight-repetition-shite for no apparent reason.

Nevertheless these wierd beasties keep to their promise not to tell the world they did a British tour once before, claiming instead they chose London at random to be "middle men". In return for towing the party line, they want recompense: "your children, 10% of the offspring of the human race." A point made with more thumping tentacles and projectile snot.

Matthews is freaking out - it's just like what the 456 did last time in 1965, and he was lucky to escape the hoarde of children sent to the aliens by a sinister man. A sinister man by name of Captain Jack Harkness...

Next time: just guess...
Torchwood fight back. Expect massive civilian casualties, interplanetary war and lots of explosions. And either Erato makes his Torchwood debut or RTD is really letting the sexual frustration get to him...

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