Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Random Shoes written by Jacquetta May and directed by James Erskine

This story in a nutshell: Gwen investigates the death of a man whose dreams have all been shattered…

Jack’s Crew (Gwen): It's really interesting to see how outsiders look at the Torchwood crew because they seem to look at them in precisely the same way as the audience, a bunch of selfish, narcissistic, ill moraled creeps. At least Gwen says hi to Eugene when he tries to contact Torchwood, all the rest just push him away and drive off. It almost feels as though Gwen is trying to make up for how she treated Eugene and it is to her credit that she responsibly wants to investigate his death even though all the others think it is a waste of time. Owen turns on her and shouts out that she thinks she is the only one with a heart – I’m really glad that somebody has pointed this out because a pulse is what is so often lacking in this organisation. Owen tries to convince that the rest of them are human as well but there is little evidence of that in the first season. It's really rather lovely that a romance plays out between Gwen and Eugene without her even realising it and as such it doesn’t leave an ugly taste in the mouth like her casual shagging with Owen does. Her reaction when Eugene saves her life is so exquisitely performed by Eve Myles it gives me goosebumps every time I see it.

Geeky Genius: Speaking as somebody who has disappointed by his own father and lost him because of it I found the scene where Eugene fudges up the maths contest on film with his father bellowing ‘Don’t let me down boy!’ deeply uncomfortable. Paul Chequer gives an outstanding performance in what turns out to be an unprecedented move in Torchwood, a character that is completely likeable. Eugene is a dreamer, he looks to the stars to make his own dreary life more exciting which is honestly what a lot of us do but wont readily admit it. When Eugene comments that life can be such a let down and his discovery that his father isn’t the powerful man he thought he was but a complete failure and that he wanted nothing to do with him I wondered if this script had been drawn entirely from my experiences. He’s very keen on Gwen but cannot touch her which makes his quiet obsession all the more touching. The eye has given him the chance to look back on his life and see it for what it really was. He realises his dad wasn’t superman, just an ordinary bloke. His last message to the audience that life is amazing and that it flies by so quickly is even more magnificent than Elton’s summary in Love & Monsters because it is being relayed by an even more subtle character. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘All those cars. All those lives moving through space.’
‘The average life is full of near misses and absolute hits, of great love and small disasters. Its made up of banana milkshakes, loft insulation and random shoes. Its dead ordinary and truly, truly amazing. What you’ve got to realise is its all here, now. So breathe deep and swallow it whole because, take it from me, life just whizzes by, and then, all of a sudden its…’

The Good Stuff: I absolutely love the juxtaposition of David Bowie’s Starman and our whizz through the solar system from the point of view of little Eugene. If there is a better example of a child staring in wonder at the universe (outside of a Paul Magrs book) I have yet to see it. The scenes of Eugene’s mum grieving are heartbreakingly observed and her line ‘that’s his tea, there’ is the most devastatingly normal thing a mother with a broken heart could say. There is a scene where Gwen visits the café and Eugene realises that someone that he sees everyday doesn’t even know who he is, an eye opening moment realising how selfish people can be. Josh is such a vile bit of sleaze who is always looking out for himself regardless of anybody’s feelings and lacking charm or subtlety, I’ve met plenty of guys like him. It's funny that the two episodes where Gwen takes on a personal mission, Random Shoes and Adrift, are two of the most profoundly moving in Torchwood's canon. The story of how the Eye was sold in Ebay is wonderfully done (the music is phenomenal here)… so good Psyhcoville nabbed it for one of their more blackly funny moments. The scenes where Eugene realises his friends have been preying on his desire to meet an alien and shatter his dreams so cruelly just to make some money are unbearable. Imagine if the last time you saw a friend they looked into your eyes and realised you had betrayed them? The funeral scene really chokes me up, it's never played sentimentally (like, say, the excesses of Father’s Day), it just feels real. The last scene in Random Shoes is easily the most uplifting an eurphoric moment I have seen on television in a long time, I can watch it over and over and it will always make my eyes prickle.

Result: I was thinking of giving up on Torchwood and Random Shoes single handedly restored my faith in the series, at last producing something I considered to be exceptional drama. It dwells on the moments that make life worthwhile whilst at the same time exposing the utter banality of everyday living. The performances are of an extremely high standing and Paul Chequer is far more likable and pleasant to watch than any of the Torchwood crew. Random Shoes is capable of moments of choking depth and this episode makes extraordinary comments on family life and obsession. So many emotions beats hit home for me in this gentle, heartfelt episode, easily one of Torchwood’s quietest efforts and one of the best. The ending never fails to make me want to hug the TV: 9/10

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