Saturday, 30 January 2016

Rendition written by Doris Egan and directed by Billy Gierhart

This story in a nutshell: On the way to America, Jack realises he is all too mortal…

Hunky Hero: Jack really must feel like the bad penny because every time he shows up something awful seems to happen to his friends. Making him mortal is just about the most interesting thing that could be done with his character because the audience has become so adjusted to his immortality. Suddenly he is the only man on Earth who is in danger of being killed, it’s a fascinating role reversal but oddly still doesn’t make him any less reckless! Every bug in existence is out to get him, the only man who can get sick and die. He tells Gwen he went a long way away after the events of Children of Earth but cannot answer her question of it helped.

Welsh Babe: Irritated by the fact, Gwen has been missing Jack and since it has been so long she was starting to wonder if her time with Torchwood was a fairytale.

Holding the Baby: When Rhys is defending Jack from Gwen’s bile you know there has to be something wrong with the world. Whilst the cuts back to England did begin tire by the end of this season Rhys (for me) is the most likable and engaging character left in this show and as the ordinary bloke the only one I can truly relate to. Gwen barking orders on the plane is hilarious, its probably Eve Myles’ best scene to date because she gets to play comedy and drama with equal vigour. Her scream when she found the orange wire and cut it regardless as whether it is important to the function of the plane they are flying in or not made me punch the air.

CIA Survivor: ‘The more you struggle the more he enjoys it’ and clearly Rex is getting some kind of perverse pleasure out of ripping a baby from its mother and taking her across the world which might not be the best creative decision considering he is supposed to be our new hero. Mehki Phifer grows into the role (and the style of the series) very quickly but these first few instalments see him playing Rex as a twitchy, nervous sort of guy. I understand that he has suffered a pole through his shoulder and risen from the dead but it comes across as the actor unsure of his place within this world and not the character.

New Girl: Esther is about to get a severe reality check as 50,000 dollars is wired into her account and she is set up to take the fall for her nosing into all affairs Torchwood.

Daring Doctor: Vera is by far the best new character this season and she’s played with real charm and gusto by Arlene Tur. Her assertion that they are handling this emergency the wrong way around is inspired. They shouldn’t be dealing with the major injuries first because those people aren’t going to die. It’s the people with the minor injuries that should be a priority because they need to bed space for the long term patients that aren’t going to get better. She is smart enough to recognise that they cannot assume anything except that things are different now and they have to handle the situation on a day by day basis.

Anti Christ: In the grand scheme of things I am not certain I understand the purpose of Oswald Danes with regards to the series because he becomes nothing more than the punch bag that everybody can take their anger out on in the last handful of episodes. His character spec still bugs the hell out of me – I’m not sure why Torchwood always has to go to such extremes and making Danes both a paedophile and a rapist is so distasteful that even suggesting we should ever sympathise with such a man feels dirty. I like it when shows push me into uncomfortable grey areas but this is not one of them – its asking the impossible. And yet his ascension to some kind of dark messiah and voice of the People feels oddly believable.

Public Relations: A character that gained more importance and interest as the series continued (so the antithesis of Esther who got less appealing as the show continued), Jilly Kitzinger is a firing redhead out for herself in this mess and willing to make a deal with the devil (twice over it turns out) in order to profit from the Miracle. Lauren Ambrose is the surprise hit from this season as Peter Capaldi was in Children of Earth and she plays the character with a giddy, twitching self confidence that hides a darker distaste for what she is having to do to make a name for herself. When she is on screen my eyes don’t look anywhere else and that is a sign of a actress who can make something out of an incidental part.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If the devil himself walked the Earth he’d need representation’ ‘If the devil himself was walking this Earth he’d definitely be working in PR.’
‘What if your big success is one Welsh woman and a dead body?’
‘If you’re the best England has to offer…’ ‘I’m Welsh!’ 

The Good: Oswald Danes’ death turning up on You Tube with a comedy video over it is exactly the sort of perverse nonsense net nerds get their kicks out of and it really feels as if the show is representing the now. I think it is astonishing in hindsight that there is so much emphasis placed on the Miracle itself in the first half of the season when that turns out to be massive red herring to what the is really going on (reorganising the planet and ensuring it is controlled by the right elements). It frightens me to think that forcing Oswald Danes to confront a photograph of the young girl that he raped and murdered live on television is exactly the kind of sensationalist stunt that would pulled by today’s media to shock and excite its audience. Esther’s escape from the CIA is nicely paced and claustrophobically directed, its smartly done to keep the character looking intelligent whilst also feeling as though a hand is closing around her. I love action scenes in cramped plane cabins and this is one of the best I have seen with Gwen literally ripping up the floor and smashing the galley to find what she needs to save Jack. Its furiously paced, beautifully performed and very exciting. I don’t know if Vera’s plan is medically sound (I assume that it is) but it is certainly the most dynamic way of curing somebody from arsenic poisoning that I have ever seen. The cuts to Vera and her team trying to help reminds me of the scenes in World War Three when Jackie and Mickey are menaced by a Slitheen and the Doctor works furious to figure out their weakness, it has that same furious velocity.

The Miracle: One thing that really impressed me this year was how many different ways they managed to explore the Miracle and what it meant on a sociological, theological and medical level. The idea that you can’t kill your enemies is having an inflammatory effect, a Hutu village was destroyed in Rwanda with men, women and children having their brains bashed with hammers, thrown into a pit and bulldozed over. 80% of India is Hindu and reincarnation is no longer on the table with nothing to keep peoples behaviour in check. Esther predicts the most likely outcome is war with Pakistan but to everybody’s surprise the Indian Prime Minister announces his desire to reconcile with Pakistan since now they only have one life they have to make it count. Does suicide even exist anymore? If you can’t kill yourself now it will have no effect but the intent was there – what does that mean on religious level where such an act would ordinarily prevent and place in heaven? Hospital beds are filling up because those who should heal aren’t including people with infections, they are becoming germ incubators. Germs will stay within the livings bodies and the more antibiotics they get they will become resistant and within six months drug resistant organisms will be everywhere. This is fantastic, very clever observations using this premise to its fullest effect.

The Bad: Coarse sexual humour is a real bug bear of mine when done badly (go and watch the Inbetweeners to see how it can be really funny) and Rex’s ‘I’ll let you feel me up’ to the air steward (who has to be gay) is a little tasteless. ‘I’m American too! Can’t I contribute to our global cultural hegemony with a nice frosty cola?’ is a truly dreadful line and the sort that was excised in Children of Earth. The fight at the airport should have been far more hard-hitting rather than the kung-fu panda moves that are on display. At least Gwen looks embarrassed about the moment when the CIA bitch stands in front the taxi with her head on the wrong way – its not a bad idea in theory but the realisation sucks.

Result: At this stage of the game the Miracle is still an thrilling new concept and the first half of the episode is devoted to throwing up some very interesting and unusual developments around the world as the human race refuses to die. Then with a suddenly acceleration of pace the second half of Rendition explodes with excitement as Jack is poisoned and Gwen fights to save his life and Esther realises how much danger she is in. If there is any material that lets this episode down it is the unsubtle approach to the Oswald Danes plotline but that is handled within two or three uncomfortable scenes and doesn’t hamper the good work being done elsewhere too badly. Both Vera and Jilly make their presence felt are by far the most appealing new characters and the set piece on the plane deserves a round of applause for its ability to make you laugh and gasp in equal measures. Two episodes in and Miracle Day is bubbling with fresh ideas and excitement and the show feels as though it is truly on its way to being an international epic. Only the last few painful minutes after the plane touches down drag this down from a 98/10


Anonymous said...

Hello Joe, I know this has nothingto do with your review,but... Which Big Finish audio Doctor Who spin offs would you recommend me? I would like to sink my teeth in some Who related audios but there are so many of them that I don'tknow where to start!
Thanks! Love your reviews!

Felix Ashworth said...

I know I'm not Joe, but Jago and Litefoot are by far the best spinoff BF have done, IMO. Plus, the first box set is permanently reduced, so it's a great range to start on.

Yvo said...

It seems that Joes doesn't reply to comments any more. I would go for Gallifrey and Jago and Litefoot

Joe Ford said...

Yvo, that's a little unfair. As you know I have been living in Colombia for the past three weeks doing volunteer work with children and it has left me absolutely shattered in the evenings. So please forgive me if I haven't given the blog my full attention on my one day of rest. I was planning on answering all queries when I got home on Thursday.

As for the spin offs that I would recommend - Jago & Litefoot definitely, Dalek Empire if you are looking for something more muscular and the recently released Torchwood stories if you want a consistently string fresh range to get your teeth into. If you consider them spin offs then the companion chronicles tops them all and there are very, very few I wouldn't recommend.

Urlance Woolsbane said...

If I may put in my oar, I heartily recommend Counter-Measures. I've listened to the first two series thus far, the first of which is quite enjoyable (even if it does take two episodes to really find its groove) and the second of which is absolutely astounding (even more remarkable when one considers it's a sophomore effort. Even Jago & Litefoot fell prey to the curse of the second inning, IMO.)

Also, I'll second the recommendations of Jago and Litefoot, Dalek Empire, and the Companion Chronicles.

I'm not sure if it's strictly a spin-off, but the Unbound range is well worth checking out.

@Joe Keep up the good work! Much as I enjoy your blog, I'd hate for it to get in the way of either that or your well-being.

Cool tattoo, by the way!

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your suggestions, I will try Jago and Litefoot since it seems to be the option everybody recommends. I have seen Joe's good reviews of this series and that is a guarantee :)

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