Tuesday, 14 April 2015
They Keep Killing Suzie written byPaul Tomalin & Dan McCulloch and directed by James Strong
This story in a nutshell: Suzie is back...
John Barrowman somehow manages to out-camp himself in each successive episode in season one. Every time they try and make him look butch or like a leader I just walk away with the impression that he is some kind of pantomime baddie, jumping on stage in tights with his hands on his hips. It's so peculiar because I never got this impression at all during any of his appearances on Doctor Who. It is the extremes of characterisation they give him on Torchwood, I think.
Jack’s Crew: It takes Gwen who seems to be the only character this season to have a couple of brain cells at her disposal (no morals mind) that these murders are because of Torchwood and so the organisation is responsible for doing something about them. Jack saying ‘Torchwood’ one last time to set the psycho off again for no reason isn’t clever or funny. It's like he honestly doesn’t give a shit about any of people they come into contact with in the world. The fact that the writers seem to think that that is some kind of punch the air moment goes to prove who badly they misjudged this episode. When Gwen calls him on this issue and suggests that he never bothers to get close to anybody or figure out how they might feel about being given access to such incredible technology is valid. They’ve taken a charming, rougish character from Doctor Who and turned him into an arrogant, one dimensional bully. I’d hardly say that is a step in the right direction. Barrowman gives an exceptionally weak performance here, stressing every word as though it was his last and growling and snarling at the oddest of moments.
What is all this nonsense about Ianto and his stopwatch? Because he likes and instrument that measures time does that replace any need for him to display any character? Once RTD took a good long look at Torchwood and realised it had a hugely dramatic birthing trauma and decided to pull it into shape, the Jack/Ianto relationship would turn out to be one of the more satisfying relationships on the show but there is no escaping that at this point, given what we have been told about these characters that the relationship lacks any believability. Ianto has been set up as the token straight man in this series, he got angry with Jack when he flirted with him earlier in the season and had a nervous breakdown when the love of his life was turned into a Cyberwoman and eating by a pterodactyl (no I’m not joking). He even told Jack he would get his revenge on him for trying to force him to kill her. And now all of a sudden Ianto is bisexual and wants to go down on the very man he was swearing bloody vengeance on a few weeks ago? Are they making this up as they go along? I refuse to believe that everybody in this ludicrous organisation has such loose morals that they can jettison any feelings they might have had for a lost love so quickly and change their sexuality in a heartbeat. It is just more farcical titillation that might appeal to those who want to use this show as cheap softcore porn but for those of us who think with the brain in our heads it doesn’t make any sense and lacks consistency.
The Good: The massive hole in the back of Suzie’s head is as preposterous as the rest of the episode but it is the one moment when the episode made me smile – it was a touch of black humour that actually worked.
‘If it's someone we’ve pissed off that narrows it down to…ooh four or five million!’ ‘And that’s just the humans.’
‘Ee’s got Retcon in his blood!’
‘Hey what if they all become psychotic?’
‘Like you said…I’m the boss!’
‘You’re locked inside your own base!’
‘I’m going to kill you Suzie Costello! Once and for all!’ ‘But would you do that? When there’s a part of me that’s her!’
‘How much more of this do you want?’
Even the pre titles sequence seems unbelievably ropey in these post Children of Earth days – ‘Outside the government, beyond the police…’ – oh fuck off and have a penis reduction already because the autonomy the government allows you is clearly going to your head. Hilariously Torchwood turns up in the first scene in their gigantic SUV with big, bold music wearing ray bans and long flowing jackets and parading up to the police in slow motion. I have honestly never seen a more ridiculous, overblown, cartoon bunch of regulars in my entire life. How the actors took this at all seriously is beyond me. I am almost willing to bet that they thought they would wind up coming across as the ultimate expression of cool...until the rushes started coming in. Finding the word Torchwood smeared in blood on the wall by a pair of corpses with their throats slit is a gruesomely memorable image but all the pomp and circumstance around it blunts the impact. The episode should have begun without Torchwood even present, panning across the room slowly, past the bodies and onto the wall to reveal the message. ‘Your name written their blood…you did this Captain Jack Harkness!’ - the sublety bus missed this town. As soon as it transpires that murders are being committed in their name the government should have immediately have shut down this operation, in season one that would be no great loss. An amnesiac pill called ‘Retcon?’ Really? Of all the names at their disposal couldn’t Davies and his team come up with something less fanwanky than that? All the shitty dialogue about naming the resurrection gauntlet belongs in a school playground. Did this dialogue really go through an editor (‘What about the risen mitten?’)? It feels as though resurrection is dabbled in purely to upset the religious aspect of the audience (probably a very small percentage) rather than for a creative motive. It always seems to be raining in Torchwood, have you ever noticed? Jack suggests that Gwen’s whole life will be packed away and go unnoticed after she dies because she was a part of Torchwood? Why? What a horribly cynical point if view. How could she possibly be any danger after she has died? What about all those assistants of the Doctor’s walking about having witnessed all kinds of aliens and advanced technology? Why doesn’t the Doctor retcon them? Oh yeah because he isn’t a complete moron trying to pretend that the life he offers them is something so powerful that they cannot be trusted with the knowledge. It shows little faith in your employees. There’s this massive drama about bringing Suzie back to life but she wasn’t exactly scary in the first place…merely a mild annoyance but this is Torchwood so WE’VE GOT TO TREAT EVERYTHING SERIOUSLY. I’ve seen Indira Varma in other programmes (she took part in a dramatisation of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls and she was astonishing) but saddling her with the character of Suzie gives her nothing to play about with. It's a dreary performance for a dreary role without a hint of charisma or screen presence. I could feel my lust for life ebbing with every second I spent with the character. Apparently a nightclub full of hot sweaty kids dancing is the height of cool. Not on my watch. The beefy bloke that goes nuts in the Torchwood cells is beyond funny, what a truly dreadful performance he gives. Owen only discovers that Suzie is leeching life energy from Gwen because he checks the revivals recordings…why exactly? There’s no logic behind any of this. Scenes of the police laughing at Jack and his idiot staff locked in their own base was written with such a puerile sense of humour I was banging my head on the desk. Suzie suggests that there is ‘nothing, just nothing…’ after death which is about right for Torchwood’s bleak look at life. ‘If words caused the lockdown maybe numbers reverse it! Try the ISBN!’ – what the hell? Where is the logic in that? Where does Jack get his staff from? I’m not sure how but despite being so overblown throughout the race against time conclusion that this episode sports manages to lack any drama whatsoever. Putting Eve Myles in daft contact lenses doesn’t convincingly suggest she is being shot in the head slowly. It goes from night to day in about two minutes. Of course Suzie can’t resist giving Gwen a kiss on the lips before she goes because everybody is bisexual in Torchwood. Jack pumping bullets into Suzie is a horrible ending to a horrible episode.Hang on, hang on, hang on…Suzie set all this up from beginning to end under the assumption that she might die at some point and would need some kind of method to get herself brought back to life? She set up a revenge plan for somebody who she hasn’t even met yet? This script is such mouldy old dick cheese. It is so badly written it has me physically attacking my keyboard. Apparently if she dies and doesn’t see Max for three months he becomes a ticking time bomb and her orders kick in…he follows Suzie’s programme and starts killing and the whole chain of events forces them to bring her back from the dead and then she escapes. All so she could kill her abusive father. How does Suzie know that death is such a terrifying concept so she has to set up this bollocks if she hasn’t died yet? It's the most convoluted load of fanny fluff…it is so full of holes and implausibilities it isn’t even worth discussing. I give up.
Result: Another season one disaster; a stupid, camp, specious mess of an episode that lacks any conviction or style. It's not a script that follows logical narrative progression but one that takes massive leaps, either ridiculous (bringing someone back from the dead to get the next clue, Suzie’s impossibly brainless plan) or so painfully simple it is cringe-worthy (the code that stops the Torchwood shut-down is an ISBN of Susie’s favourite book). The Keep Killing Suzie leaps from one illogical set piece to another, drowning in melodramatic dialogue, abysmal characterisation (don’t get me started on that last scene again), lacking any kind of morality or decency of tone and poisoned with a depressing, moribund, almost unwatchable atmosphere. I’m not saying it’s not quite the nadir of televised drama (because that’s Cyberwoman) but if you had to point at something and say it is as bad as TV gets at the moment my finger would be heading towards this episode. I remember when I first watched this with my hubbie and we were both on the verge of giving up on this terrible show that promised so much and had delivered so little. This was almost the last straw. Had Random Shoes not been as good as it was I doubt I would have continued to have had a relationship with Torchwood:1/10