Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Dead of Night written by Jane Espenson and directed by Billy Gierhart


This story in a nutshell: The plot comes to a crashing halt…

Hunky Hero: Jack tried to convince Rex that Torchwood works alone and Rex throws that back in his face by reminding him of his dead friends that worked his way in the past. It’s like a slap around the face because Rex might actually have a point.

Welsh Babe: I’m pleased that Gwen is giving Rex a hard time considered he ripped her away from her child, arrested her and treated her like a criminal on no evidence whatsoever. There is lovely quiet moment between Jack and Gwen where they talk about Ianto and how small a team they are now that reminds me of the restrain this show is capable of and guess what – its pretty touching! Its clear from this scene that Gwen would choose her family over her loyalty to Jack and that day is fast approaching.

CIA Survivor: I’m still not sure if I am supposed to like this guy or flirt between that and finding him repulsive but I was definitely experiencing the latter when he was waving his gun sadistically in Friedkin’s face and prolonging his agony. I just think there are better ways to get what you want than throwing your weight around with a gun – oh gosh I’m turning into Sarah Jane! He’s even a complete bastard to his only friends, giving Esther a hard time because she wants to contact her sister who isn’t well.

New Girl: I can’t decide whether I find Esther a little useless because she panics and flounders in tense situations or brave because she throws herself into these insane Torchwood plans despite having no experience. Its quite an interesting mixture because one second you are groaning at her and the next applauding her. Her quiet admission to Gwen that she’s not sure if she can do this anymore is beautifully played and proving Rex wrong is just about the best reason I can think of for Esther to go on.

Daring Doctor: I wasn’t sure about Vera insulting a mans religion to his face (seems a bit playground bully to me) but her assertion that deformed babies that should have died in the womb being born being a mistake is a relevant one. I’m glad it was Vera who stated that we don’t deserve this kind of miracle because we’ll just screw it up – it’s a pessimistic view of the human race but a realistic one. I’m not sure why Rex and Vera couldn’t just be good friends but this being Torchwood naturally they have to jump into bed and screw each others brains out at the first opportunity.

Anti Christ: More offensive material as Oswald is harassed on the street and then beaten up by police officers. None of this is enjoyable to watch, its just violent, ugly television. ‘You should have run faster, Oswald…’

The Good: The direction continues to be inventive with Esther, Jack and Gwen all sliding across the screen in different locations in one continuous motion to suggest this is a team that is working together. I’m really pleased that Gwen kept hold of the alien contact lenses because they are the greatest innovation this show has provided and perfect for espionage.

The Miracle: The Soulless are a new cult preying on the consequences of the Miracle and the scenes of them flooding through the streets with their sad face masks on are some of this episodes most memorable moments. If a man tries to murder his wife to the point where she cannot function but thanks to the Miracle she is still alive they are reclassifying that as assault rather than attempted murder. We’re looking at half a million more pregnancies a day because the 50% of people that spontaneously abort are not aborting. Gwen wonders what all those poets are going to write about other than death.

The Bad: From the first episode I have been unconvinced of Wayne Knight’s portrayal of the head of the CIA. He just doesn’t have the gravitas and the performance errs more towards the comedic than the dramatic. Torchwood is usually filmed in the UK but for this series there is a majority of the production in Wales so wouldn’t it be hilarious if there were loads of gags explaining that the British and the Americans calls things different names. Um, no. Its called subtlety, look it up. The teaser is furiously paced and leads you to believe we are going to get to the centre of this mystery with some speed but then its half an hour of character building scenes that go no where and that is one of the biggest problems with this overlong series. There are moments, sometimes entire episodes that are punchy and dramatic and push the story forward but they are spread amongst moments of laxity and prevaricating that make the whole experience drag far more than it should. Dead of Night is probably the worst example but we’ll experience a few more pointless interludes as the story progresses. I don’t like to make unfair comparisons because clearly Torchwood has a far bigger budget than the Sarah Jane Adventures but when Sarah, Rani and the Brigadier infiltrated a secret facility and the camera pulled over their shoulder as they gasped with astonishment it was a high facility with spaceships and all manner of alien paraphernalia. When Torchwood does the same thing it is a warehouse full of drugs. Personally I prefer the SJA version. The sequence of Rex learning that he cannot even trust his closest friends is pretty redundant, surely he learnt that lesson when his entire organisation turned on him. The infiltration scenes are pretty blandly directed and didn’t we scenes of this exact nature featuring Martha is Reset and Lois Habiba in Children of Earth? Jack being violently beaten is extremely distressing viewing.

The Shallow Bit: John Barrowman tried to convince the audience that the sex scenes in Dead of Night were important to the plot but aside from proving that Jack has mortal needs (and like we ever needed reminding of that) they are entirely gratuitous. I find their inclusion pretty offensive and not because we are seeing intercourse in all its glory and sexualities. There is a time and a place for pornography (which is what this is) and as a ten part storyline is just getting going this not the right place for it. Its inclusion is just to remind people that Torchwood can do sex and hasn’t been censored by the Americans. Big whoop. It’s a shame that something as pant stirring hot as this sequence should feel so pointless and distasteful and insulting to its audience. The response ‘What for? Can’t die now, don’t need nothing in between’ to Jack’s question of protection is one of the ugliest things I have ever heard a character say on TV.

Result: After two genuinely dynamic episodes Miracle Day grinds to halt with Dead of Night and an episode that for the most part that feels entirely redundant this early in the run is a troubling sign. The pace is far too sluggish throughout with pauses for some gratuitous sex and bitch fights and the dialogue made me groan far more than it made me whoop (astonishing considering Jane Espenson is one of my favourite Buffy writers because of her dialogue). I’m not sure what is going on with the Oswald Danes storyline but it isn’t doing anything for me and all the interesting stuff surrounding the Miracle is pushed aside for some dull character building material. Its such a shame that this season couldn’t have been condensed into six episodes because with filler material like this excised I’m sure the audience would have grown rather than reduced. For the most part this reminds me of the worst of the first season of Torchwood; fractious relations between unlikable characters, pointless sex and violence which makes the show feel more immature than it does adult and some really unpleasant moments. After Children of Earth and the first two episodes of Miracle Day this feels like a massive step backwards for the series: 3/10

1 comment:

Ed Azad said...

I think RTD dropped acid while watching "A Streetcar Named Desire". This is the genesis of Torchwood.

In seriousness though, I get the impression that this show (and MD especially) was a self-exorcism. There's an undercurrent of post-Methodist guilt, and, I think, sexual guilt which the show is trying to confront.... But it's so tone deaf and mishandled, it doesn't feel like it's tailored to the viewer, particularly. Instead it's like we're watching the overwrought subconscious of Russel T. Davies. Does that make sense?