The following contains MODERATE SPOILERS for “To The Last Man,” the third episode of the second season of BBCs “Torchwood.”
The Torchwood Institute was originally formed by Queen Victoria after her encounter with a werewolf and a wandering Time Lord. Since then, however, it has grown into a national organization responsible for protecting not only Great Britain but the entire world from the alien hoards being drawn to Earth.
In between the alien armageddons, though, are some brilliantly conceived character pieces focused more on the inner dynamics of Team Torchwood and their personal struggles than any external influences on the planet. Remember, The X-Files is perhaps more fondly remembered for its singular episodes than its long running mythology. And so should Torchwood.
As a young solider from 1918 is released from cryogenic suspension, To The Last Man is a wonderful story for Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori), the brains of the hub who holds a small flame for the 24-year old solder. Its nice to see Tosh happy for a change and not pining over a misguided and unrequited love for Owen (Burn Gorman) like last season, but the tragedy of it all is that her star-crossed love affair with Tommy is destined to end from the very beginning.
Two different times are not meant to walk together and her time with Tommy carries with it a tenderness that has since been missing from the series. Mori is an unmitigated joy from start to finish which only raises the question of why she hasnt had some more in-depth screen time until now. Whatever the reason, hopefully this is the beginning of a new chapter for Tosh. Because as a stitch in time Tommy has a destiny to save the future : in his pajamas no less. How daft is that?
The morning sequence as Tosh gets ready for work has a very typical and average feel to it: listening to music, making some toast and getting ready for the day ahead. But as a member of Torchwood her day is anything but typical and nothing she does in the morning will ever prepare her for the ghoulish events she needs to deal with on a daily basis. Particularly this day – the day Tommy is de-frosted from an alien cryo-freeze.
The era of the First World War is a historically romantic time. Not because of the war itself, but because due to the technological limitations of the period the world was a much bigger place and science (such as it was) could not explain the known never mind the unknown. And that is why 1918 is a fantastic setting for a ghost story – the people of that time were surrounded in the superstitions of the paranormal that fusing them with the here and now somehow captures the mythical feel an old fashioned haunting.
One scene worth particular mention is the you shouldnt be here moment as Gwen (Eve Myles) wanders the halls of the 2008 ward only to learn that she is being seen as a ghost by a 1918 nurse. The wails of the terrified nurse are chilling and the simple nature of the backwards-haunt is too good to pass up. The only thing missing is the Ghostbusters theme as the gang setup shop towards the episodes end.
For the third episode in a row, the series has proven that all the rinkles from the first season have been completely ironed out. The characters are stronger, the story threads are more closely knit and the series still remains a fast passed and witty adult series. And its only a small note but the new comms. system is far superior to the clunky Star Trek prop rejects of last season.
What Didnt Work
The renovations for the hub are still the most pointless addition to the series. In one swift motion, the briefing room completely becomes an Ikea dining room as the team share breakfast with a still defrosting Tommy. The Gallifreyan text on Jacks office window was a nice touch though.
Also, the use of Torchwood in the 1900s raises a few interesting questions about the history of the Cardiff branch. In Doctor Whos third season episode The Sound of the Drums Jack told the Doctor that he rebuilt the institute in his honor. That single line of dialogue carries with it many implications – was the Cardiff branch founded following the destruction of Torchwood One, or has it always been there under someone elses command? The series has also hinted that Jack recruited most of the team, meaning he was there for the old regime doing his bit for Queen and Country.
However the most unwanted surprise of all comes as the team bring some previously unheard of piece of alien clockwork out of the cupboard in the final hour to save the day. The technology is just a little last minute and a tad too convenient. Russell T. Davies has mentioned in the past his fondness of MacGuffins and it looks like Torchwood showrunner Chris Chibnall is too.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Torchwood” stars John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Gareth David-Lloyd and Naoko Mori and airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. GMT on BBC 1, and then on Saturday nights at 9 p.m ET on BBC America. “To The Last Man” was written by Helen Raynor and was directed by Andy Goddard.
Alan Stanley Blair is the assistant news editor for Airlock Alpha and its sister site Rabid Doll. Contributing from his home country of Scotland, he is currently studying for a diploma in freelance journalism and can be reached at anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org