Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Reset written by J.C. Wilsher and directed by Ashley Way

This story in a nutshell: Martha joins Torchwood!

Hunky Harkness: What has happened to Jack? Martha coming to Torchwood has an astonishing effect on the usually surly, violent and unpredictable head of the organisation – suddenly he is bursting with charm, cracking jokes and very personable. I like him much more this way. He is still struggling to conquer his shyness, it’s the jaw line; once seen, never forgotten. There’s a scene in this episode where Jack tells Professor Copley that Torchwood usually goes where it likes – typical Torchwood bullying tactics and Jack basically gets told to go and jump with the backing of Whitehall! Jack says he has had a bad experience with a politician of late and he doesn’t really listen to the law anymore but that doesn’t stop him retreating with his tail tucked between his legs.It's refreshing to see him this sheepish. He would rely on Martha if the world was ending and in fact he has. I did smirk when Jack suggested he was once intimate with Chris Isherwood especially given Matt Smith surprised all by embracing the role in every way a few years ago. It's great to see Jack with a conscience, considering the treatment the aliens are getting at the Pharm, which is tantamount to slavery. Although it does make him something of a hypocrite because those were exactly the sort of tactics he was using in the first series. 

Marvellous Martha: Freema Agyeman, never the worlds most accomlished actress but a performer with a great deal of charm and enthusiasm which counts for an awful lot in this business. I would certainly take her bouncy puppy act over Amy's stroppy mare. She really scores on making the leap to Torchwood by showing just how much Martha has grown up since leaving the Doctor. She’s now the chief medical officer for UNIT, a role that she walked into thanks to a recommendation for the role by an impeccable source. She is now a full-blown Doctor; specialised, professional and detached. Once the introductory scenes are out of the way you would think that Martha had been a part of the Torchwood team since the beginning she fits in so effortlessly. And that is a testament to how much more likeable the cast is this year too. Martha sometimes misses the Doctor but then she comes to her senses and remembers that she made the choice to leave him. She puts herself forward as a test subject for the Pharm reminding Jack that she has been in far worse places. As a human being who has travelled in time and space she now has a unique immune system and manages to stay alive longer than any of the other test subjects incubating the insect larvae.

Jack’s Gang: Gwen and Martha must be the only two ladies in the world who haven’t ridden the Harkness bike! It’s wonderful to watch Owen and Martha working together, they dance around the laboratory doing all the sciencey bits smiling and grooving to some great music (Owen cracking a smile and enjoying his work is something of a minor miracle so we'll have to put that down to the Martha effect). Owen is a huge fan of Professor Copley and his research helped him to pass his exams so it is ironic that he had should be the one to pull the trigger and end his life. Jack and Ianto dabble as the latter discreetly puts it (goodness knows why they are so discreet talking about it, we see them happily banging each other in the office in a few episodes time) and Mr Harkness is innovative and borders on the avant-garde in the bedroom department (hardly a surprise given the practice). Tosh is quietly jealous of how well Martha and Owen are getting on and shyly asks him out on a date to which he surprises us all by saying yes. Isn’t it astonishing how much more enjoyable these guys are to be around in their second year? Everybody seems to be showing the right amount of concern for one another and there seems to be some real effort going into their development. Bravo. 

The Good Stuff: Bringing Martha to Torchwood is a fantastic idea. You might think that playing this card so soon and anchoring this show to Doctor Who in such a bold way might be harmful to this shows unique identity but it had the reverse effect for me. Finally I had a reason to get involved. UNIT are described as the acceptable face of intelligence gathering on aliens. Owen scaring the shit out of Ianto with his surgical scalpel is really funny (Gareth David-Lloyd’s reaction is priceless). That is exactly the sort of character comedy that the first season was screaming out for. Reset cures diabetes and AIDS, an alien larvae incubating inside human bodies and creating the ultimate magic bullet and restoring the body to its factory settings. The bugs spewing from Marie’s corpse is a wonderful shock moment – who saw that coming? Alan Dale brings some gruffness and seriousness to what could have been quite a forgettable role as Copley. And frankly the man has turned up in every single cult TV show going and it would have been very remiss had the Doctor Who franchise (taking in SJA and Torchwood) had been forgotten). I really want some of those camera contact lenses with the texting capability. How awesome are they? Having the team typing to Martha as she is infiltrating is a great way to create tension. There are some very inventive camera shots in this episode - watch as we dash along the corridor towards Martha as the guards approach. The giant bug shows how sophisticated the CGI in this show can be when they give it the appropriate amount of time (I seem to remember this being held back slightly to make it as good as possible whereas series one was rushed out and we had effects as lame as the troll fairies in Small Worlds). Maybe the police should all use Weevils as an intimidation method during interrogations? I screamed out loud at the exploding gut. You see, gross scenes can be effective on this show! The final set piece has been set up very well, showing the dangers in the previous gut exploding scene (plus Owen’s inability to work the surgical scalpel) which leaves Owen desperately trying to get it right as Martha’s stomach bulges disturbingly a very tense climax. For once I was literally on the edge of my seat. You really feel for the captured Mayfly, forgetting that it is a special effect as Gwen presses her hand against the glass in sympathy for its torture. So often people are shot at in these programmes and we see negligible effects in the next scene so trust Torchwood to do it for real and really kill off Owen. They manage to have their cake and eat it – keeping him dead and letting him play a major role in the rest of the season. I was hungry to watch the next episode after the final shocking twist.

Result: Reset is a packed episode that handles all of its elements with poise and a whole lot of style. Martha slips effortlessly into the Torchwood team and they are all working together extremely well here – it’s a brand new style of amiability and co-operation amongst the regulars that is extremely welcome. Then you’ve got intriguing medical breakthroughs, industrial espionage, awesome giant bugs and even a gross out exploding stomach! Ashley Way’s handling of the episode is spectacular, it's one priceless moment after another and the pace is extraordinary. My one complaint is that the story could have done with 15 minutes more to explore its ideas more but that is not a luxury afforded to Torchwood so we get a rushed ending that still hits all the right notes. A stylish thriller a perfect demonstration of the shows growing confidence, this was exactly the sort of episode they were fudging in the first series: 9/10

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