Torchwood: To the Last Man

You may remember Torchwood’s original run had three standout episodes – Small Worlds which featured scenes of Jack in World War One; Out of Time which saw Owen fall in love with a strong willed female pilot from the 1950s; Captain Jack Harkness, in which Jack got the hots for the man whose identity he stole many, many years before.

All of these episodes have one thing in common; the past. Each of them stands head and shoulders above those that came before and after, and the same is true of To the Last Man; it’s almost as if we’re more gripped by the idea of the past, its hold over us, desire to change our mistakes, right wrongs and even of course travel to it, than we are by the lure of aliens wandering the streets of Cardiff.

To the Last Man succeeds where the previous two episodes fail – Naoko Mori as Tosh shines, main guest actor Anthony Lewis as Tommy Atkins is excellent and quite believable as the “Tommy out of Time”, the script (by Daleks in Manhattan’s Helen Raynor) is snappy and punchy and even the direction is of the quality that you would expect from serious, quality drama, with minimal choppy-changy-shakey-zoomey.

There’ s little to disappoint, but sadly disappointment is there. And you know, I hate to dwell upon it, but it’s really beginning to bug me.

In Small Worlds, it was revealed that Jack’s “father” (in reality the almost immortal Jack himself) was the lover of a woman called Estelle, back during World War Two; this relationship was accepted painlessly by the audience.

For all its faults, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang showed us an aspect of Jack’s past in the shape of Captain John – and it was no surprise to see them lock horns both as rivals and as ex lovers.

But what on earth are they thinking? Jack and Ianto?!

It just doesn’t work. In fact it works so badly that Helen Raynor felt the urge to shoehorn the references to the Jack/Ianto affair into To the Last Man with such abruptness that she must have been embarrassed to view it.

My viewpoint has nothing to do with sexuality. It has EVERYTHING to do with realism. Fantasy and sci fi do not work in a contemporary setting unless there is a solid base in realism. Jack and Ianto’s relationship dances firmly in the realm of the psychedelic.

Cute observations regarding John Barrowman – whose televisual ubiquity is quickly becoming tiresome – and a “kissing quota” in his contract aside, exactly what tension, electricity, magnetism, excitement and lust can be seen between Jack and Ianto? There’s nothing there, and 30 seconds with Gwen in To the Last Man proved just how empty, pointless, false, misleading and ultimately insulting to the viewers the Jack/Ianto perv-off is, and proved that Chris Chibnall has introduced the empty subplot to fulfil his own wank fantasies.

Strong words indeed, but then why shouldn’t I? Torchwood has so much potential, and to see it held back in such childish, immature and frankly boring fashion just to tick a few boxes and fulfil a few fantasies is making me thump my desk in anger.

Chris Chibnall, you have turned an otherwise mild-mannered, reasonable human into the Revd Ian Paisley of Doctor Who fandom!


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