Sunday, 5 July 2015

Something Borrowed written by Phil Ford and directed by Ashley Way

What’s it about: On the morning of Gwen’s wedding she wakes up heavily pregnant…

Hunky Hero: Proving his sexual loyalties to be divided he moves from Gwen to Ianto on the dance floor. Daring to publicly expose his love for Gwen is just wrong and hanging onto Ianto but pining after Mrs Williams makes it look as though the butler is jut a stopgap. Either way Jack comes off looking like a right bastard.

Welsh Babe: This is the week that Gwen is getting married so naturally something terrifying and otherworldly had to befall her. Heaven forbid this show attempted a straight drama at any point! Mind you Gwen’s reaction to her massive stomach is perfectly timed by Eve Myles so for once it’s a gag that is given some time to brew and is pulled off with surprising success. Personally given the amount of flirting (and we’re talking about the eye locking equivalent of dry humping) that Gwen and Jack have done over the past season and a half she doesn’t deserve to be tying the knot with somebody as fabulous as Rhys. Beyond watching the film Alien and panicking a great deal can you even imagine the psychological ramifications of having a giant alien egg incubating inside your stomach? Did I just write that sentence? I feel sorry for Gwen’s father having the knowledge of Torchwood dumped upon him on her wedding day. Surely there was a better time to have this conversation? Gwen and Rhys’ assembled guests comes to no more than 30…surely they know more people than that? Unbelievably Gwen looks shocked (but not in an unpleasant way) when Jack lives up to the cliché and comes rushing in to stop the wedding – was she hoping he would whisk in and sweep her off her feet? What a cow. I think it is supposed to be a boost for his ego Gwen’s speech about Rhys being the only man who is willing to marry her when the possibility of being impregnated by an alien exists makes it sound as though she has settled on the one man daft enough to see past all of her flaws. Of which there are many. The scene between Jack and Gwen in front of the mirror made me feel physically sick – how could she say those things to somebody else on her wedding day? She’s the sort of woman that gives marriage a bad name. Had it been Gwen who was the zombie I could forgive them but as usual the heroine of Torchwood is proven to be morally corrupt. It doesn’t matter that Gwen and Rhys get married and are smiling all over because this episode has proven that her heart is still alienated. Wouldn’t it have been nice if just for once this show could make an expression of monogamous love? Jack and Gwen are so apparently obsessed with each other they even have a moment together on the dance floor in front of all the assembled wedding guests. The idea seems to be that this is the two of them looking longingly into each others eyes for one last time before she heads off to her husband and never looks back. But all that should have been tied up long before the wedding. Its not bittersweet, it adds a touch of dirtiness to the proceedings. And that’s annoying when this could have been really heart-warming stuff.

Big Softie: Entirely selfless to a point, Rhys doesn’t care how much money they have poured into the wedding because he just wants to make sure that his bride is safe.

Jack’s Gang: Owen admits that weddings aren’t really for him but I think the truth might be that he finds it awkward being around Rhys given he was screwing his bride just one year earlier. He would do well to keep his distance, if only to maintain a modicum of respect. Tosh might be as dull as dishwater (is dishwater really that dull?) because any character who is as nice as she is isn’t exactly going to set the screen on fire but the writers have latched onto a sense of forlorn sadness that she will forever be a spinster in season two that does make you feel for her. Whilst she is congratulating Gwen on her wedding day there is a bitter sentiment behind the smile. I rather like that. 

The Good: The zombie attacks are very nicely directed, the film sped up to give it a real sense of frenzied violence. Gwen’s mum and dad (with understated performances from Sharon Morgan & William Thomas) are so damn normal. I was half expecting them to be as wild and melodramatic as their daughter. Nerys Hughes turning up was a surprise (can you imagine more ideal casting for Rhys’ mother?) and the unspoken rivalry between the two sets of parents is beautifully observed. The gag of the alien baby acting like a ticking time bomb that threatens to go off during the ceremony provides a number of moments that are both tense and funny – not the easiest of combinations to pull off. Bodies with guts ripped out discovered, a zombie attacking the wedding party and leaping through a window, Gwen packing a gun away in her bouquet and blowing away a zombie version of the mother in law - just a normal day in the life for Torchwood! Its all completely gaga but for once that’s okay because this is a comedy so everything being turned up to madness factor ten is expected, rather than a nasty surprise. Jack screaming ‘get back you ugly bitch!’ at Rhys’ mother shouldn’t be funny but it really is. The alien scalpel has been well established earlier in the season as being about as reliable as a chocolate teacup which makes Rhys’ attempts to cut free the alien baby at the climax very anxious.

The Bad: Most shows would open on a sexy and stylish night club to introduce Gwen’s hen do but not Torchwood. As if to accentuate that Wales isn’t a hip place to hang out we wind up in a cheesy wine bar with a tiny dance floor with a wealth of middle aged women grooving their thing to some pretty horrendous music. Yes this is sexy stuff. Upon closer inspection the make up for the pregnant stomach is decidedly rubbery looking. Talk about immaculate conception – how could anybody (least of all those who saw her only the night before) buy into the idea that Gwen has suddenly fallen heavily pregnant overnight? Its one thing to ask the cast of Torchwood to believe in these truly bizarre concepts (like the many sex-obsessed aliens out there) but quite another to expect the periphery (let’s say ‘normal’) characters to do so as well. Its exactly the same venue that Sarah Jane had her (almost) wedding at but I better not start comparing the two shows again because it might expose my favouritism between one show and the other (hint – look at which section of the review this sentence is in). I realise her hormones are unbalanced but Gwen telling her father that the baby isn’t Rhys’ is one of the stupidest things she has ever done. Are they saving money for something spectacular at the end of the season because Tosh and Banana Boat are bonded together in what looks like a web of black refuse sacks. Rhys going at his zombie mother with a chainsaw is insane, almost as crazy as Jack blowing her up with a gun the size of Wales.

The Shallow Bit: A lot of sentences in these Torchwood reviews start with ‘only Torchwood would…’ Only Torchwood would have one of the grooms guests seduced, have his hairy blamange of a gut exposed as a gorgeous babe kisses him all over and then have said babe turn into a zombie and literally eat into him. Bleugh. Although it is odd for Torchwood to shy away from the guts on display as it does here. Don’t tell me this show is developing a sense of good taste?

Foreboding: Did the handling of Gwen’s pregnancy here encourage Russell T Davies to have her experience the real thing in the next season?

Result: A Torchwood comedy? Aren’t they all? Actually there is something enjoyablyShaun of the Dead about this black comedy featuring zombies crashing Gwen’s wedding that helps it to pass muster. My only real complaint is the lack of subtlety in any respect (which can be found even in the best of zombie features, especially The Walking Dead) but then why change the habit of a lifetime when that is this shows modus operandi? I’ve noticed that I write these Torchwood reviews with a really sarcastic tone but in many ways I think that is the only way you can approach a show that happily features a bloodbath on the lead characters wedding day and turns the mother in law into a slavering zombie. Phil Ford’s record is decidedly schizophrenic; he’s the meat and potatoes writer on Sarah Jane, occasionally producing magic but more often than not turning out solid, if unspectacular scripts that are buoyed by confident directors and his one joint credit on Doctor Who is perhaps one of the strongest ever adventures since the series returned (The Waters of Mars). I had no idea what to expect from his Torchwood scribblings and to his credit he has tried to do something very different and quirky whilst still remaining focused on a tone that is undeniably Torchwood. The pregnancy storyline defies belief but there are some fun moments along the way (especially involving the duelling parents) although the dialogue is nowhere near as witty or clever as it should be for a wedding episode. Everything bubbles along quite understatedly for the first 30 minutes (or as understated as an episode with this premise can possibly be) but all hell breaks loose before the end and soon we are back in madder than a box of frogs Torchwood territory. Above average Torchwood, which makes this pretty middling television for any other show: 6/10

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