Saturday, 16 May 2015

Dead Man Walking written by Matt Jones and directed by Andy Goddard

What’s it about: Owen wakes up from the dead…

Hunky Hero: John Barrowman hasn’t quite mastered the gift of understatement and leaps onto the scene of Owen’s autopsy (which oddly the rest of gang have gathered around to watch) screaming ‘Stop! Nobody touches him until I get back!’ Calm down dear. I get that Jack wants to be able to say goodbye to Owen but seeking out the glove once again proves how dangerous these people are messing around with the natural order. When it turns out he brought him back for the code to the alien morgue it makes him seem more heartless than ever. Jack dated Proust for a while and he found him really immature.

Dark Doctor: Imagine being woken up from the dead and being told you have two minutes left to live? What on Earth would you fill your last two minutes with? Owen getting up and feeling for his own heartbeat and finding none there must be chilling. Is the a difference between a dead man walking and Death itself? Sleeping, drinking and shagging are his three favourite things and he can’t do any of them anymore and so he would rather sacrifice himself than continue dying like this. This is pretty surface characterisation in comparison to what comes in the next episode and proves that Owen was as shallow and as crass as we all imagined. What a shame to revert to this after all the efforts to make him a more rounded character this season elsewhere. 

Jack’s Crew: Tosh takes the opportunity to tell Owen that she loves him and she always has which makes his continued consciousness…awkward. Clearly Tosh does love Owen but he makes it easy for her by telling her that she didn’t actually mean what she said and she was just trying to cope with her grief. Martha is desperate to know what is beyond death and as a woman of medicine I can understand the need to understand it. She demands to know why Jack had the power to bring back the dead and didn’t share it with UNIT.

Sparkling Dialogue: Is it still necrophilia if I’m conscious?’ – the usual Torchwood sleaze talk given a dark imaginative yank.
‘My hunger will know no bounds but I keep getting redirected to Weight Watchers!’

The Good: Either they junked a real church or they built a massive façade of one in the studio but either way that is an extremely impressive set for only a few minutes of footage. Love Jack tippy toeing through the Weevils that are using the church as a squat. I’m glad that the writer mentions the events of They Keep Killing Suzie because they are remarkably similar. Something in the darkness beyond death waiting for you…that is a terrifying idea. I love the idea of Owen and Jack being jealous of each other because one might have seconds to live and the other has forever. The Weevil make up continues to impress and their supplication before Owen is effective. Something from the other side of death using Owen as a gateway to Earth, another scary concept. Owen puking out the black gas is a pretty stomach churning effect, if lacking in subtlety. Oddly the most affecting scene comes when Tosh lives up to her clichéd nature and screams at Owen as he closes a door between them and he heads off to give Death a bop on the nose.

The Bad: Just when the episode is playing it subtly for a change with the chilling sequence of Owen trapped in the dark void it drops a clanger when he returns to the Hub with the campest black contacts I have ever seen – they’re huge. The direction of the scenes when Owen is wobbling all over Cardiff nightlife is distractingly embarrassing. This episode is trying to too hard. We could really have done without the scene where Owen fails to get a stiffy because he no longer has blood running through his veins but in typical Torchwood style in it goes. Jack and Owen fighting and screaming in the nightclub is symptomatic of this episodes penchant for overdone melodrama. Puking up his beer upside down and farting in the cell – I was starting to lose the will to live at this point. ‘I’m going to miss farting! And sex!’ ‘Sex more than farting I hope’ – typically bull in a china shop dialogue from this show. Fortunately when Owen turned evil for a few seconds he looked straight at the CCTV cameras. Did they not think that killing off Owen twice earlier in the season might blunt his actual death in the finale? The Resurrection glove on the rampage is more funny than it is scary but everybody plays the scene with deadly earnestness which makes it even more funny. There are two more examples of ‘we’re Torchwood so do as we say’ in this episode which makes you want them to fail…frankly the destruction of the Hub and their massive egos in Children of Earth cannot come soon enough. Given their track record and general idiocy, I cannot imagine where this sense of egotism has come from. Bloody skeletons in the hospital beds – this episode has really missed the subtlety bus. Spare me the scenes of the young leukaemia patient alone in the hospital being pursued by Death and who reminds Owen that life is worth living. Has Matthew Jones been taking lessons in character subtlety from Paul Cornell? Rather awkwardly the living embodiment of Death seems to be a CGI skeleton that really needs to give up smoking. Owen waltzing with Death (I’m not exaggerating, it actually looks as though they are dancing together!) is really, really funny and I truly don’t think that that was the reaction they were aiming for. Martha gets a magical reset, Star Trek Voyager style, by the end of the episode so her ageing lasts one scene and makes me wonder what the whole point of it was. 

Result: The weaker of the two episodes dealing with Owen’s sudden death, Dead Man Walking is a silly and unsubtle piece for the most part with the odd moment of potency. Basically Owen discovers that he can no longer have sex and so decides to see his death through before having a fight with a manifestation of Death itself, neither of which convinces in the slightest. Jack screams and shouts, Gwen can’t stop crying and Tosh hangs onto her one character thread offering moon eyes at Owen from a distance. Oh and Martha’s there but completely wasted in her second appearance. After running on the spot for half an hour the episode tries to throw in a couple of surprises in the last handful of scenes and wastes the idea of Martha ageing and death stalking a hospital because there isn’t the time to explore them. The episode tries all manner of creepy tricks to suggest the wrongness of Owen’s return but the result is an unrestrained and embarrassing affair. To see how this sort of thing should be done with sensitivity, imagination and real character insight stick around for Joe Lidster’s A Day in the Death:3/10

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