Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two for the price of one

And now, ladies and gents, I bring you my thoughts on not just ONE but TWO episodes of Torchwood!! That's because by the time I got round to writing this, two whole episodes had already been broadcast! How shameful! Well, here goes, folks...

Random Shoes

What a silly title! And what a "Love and Monsters" rip-off! Once again, Old Cheeser was left with a distinct feeling of disappointment at the end of this particular episode. For those of you not in the know, "Love and Monsters" was a decidedly idiosyncratic story from the last series of Dr Who, which focussed on a character called Elton, a loveable geek obsessed with the Doctor . Elton belongs to a group who meet to discuss sightings of the Time Lord on planet Earth and other associated topics, with a view to eventually tracking him down. Somewhat similarly, this Torchwood episode was about a young man called Eugene (another name with geeky connotations) who is fixated on the Torchwood team and wants to get closer to them. And in an unusual move, Eugene is the central protagonist of the story, with only a small amount of screen time devoted to the regular Torchwood characters (again, like "Love and Monsters" in which the Dr and Rose hardly feature and Elton became the main focus of the action).

"Love and Monsters" was a highly experimental episode in terms of its shift away from the normal Dr Who format, yet I found it a very enjoyable and entertaining story, with some nice tongue-in-cheek reflections on the nature of "fandom", and terrific performances from its cast, especially Marc Warren and Peter Kay. "Random Shoes" on the other hand just didn't work for me.

The story begins with Eugene awakening in the middle of a road, realising that he a) is actually dead, having been hit by a car b) has become a ghost. The majority of the episode sees an unveiling of those events which led to Eugene's death (mainly uncovered by Gwen who takes it upon herself to investigate why / how he died). Although boasting a decent enough performance from Paul Chequer as Eugene, and some quite good humour, the episode as a whole felt inconsequential and, like the previous "Countrycide" was just not sci-fi / fantasy oriented enough. There was an attempt to introduce a sci-fi element in the use of a supposed alien eye, which had belonged to Eugene since he was a child, and was pivotal to his death. However the fact that it WAS alien was neither here nor there! We also had a supposed "life-affirming" ending in which Eugene saves Gwen from being run down by a car and then ceases to exist as a ghost - in transpires that he was "kept" on Earth in order to save Gwen's life and now the job is done, he can ascend to the afterlife. Mmm. Rather corny methinks. There was also a fairly cringe-inducing performance from Nicola Duffett (who once played Debbie in "Eastenders" and more recently the awful Cat in "Family Affairs") as Eugene's mother , with some OTT crying scenes and bad acting. Shove a sock in it, woman!!

So ... whilst not terrible and mildly amusing in bits, this still didn't really feel like a "proper" episode of Torchwood. Whatever that is. As you may have already gathered my opinion of the show has changed on a weekly basis and the quality rating of each story has been up and down more often than Owen Harper's trousers.

Out of Time

But wait! Suddenly we get another much improved episode. "Out of Time" (did the writer nick the title from REM?) had an intriguing concept: a small plane carrying three people from the year 1953 falls through a rift in time and ends up in Cardiff, 2006. The rift cannot be re-opened and the three - Diane, the plane's pilot and her two passengers, Emma and John - must remain forever in 2006. The Torchwood team help them adapt to contemporary life, giving them new identities and a place to stay. The struggle of the three characters to integrate into modern day society and the differing ways in which they come to terms with such drastic changes to their lives, formed the dramatic crux of the story and was generally strong viewing.

I found the episode opening a little disappointing. The Torchwood team, having been forwarned of the rift, stand on an airfield awaiting the arrival of the plane from 1953, as if this were a fairly everyday occurence (well, given the things they've dealt with so far, I guess it was). To me this was the wrong perspective to start off the story with. Would it not have been better to have portrayed things from the point of view of Diane, Emma and John in the world of 1953, as they board their plane and then, inexplicably, find themselves in 2006? The emotional impact of the change would then have been far stronger, I think. There also followed a rather unconvincing scene in which the Torchwood team take the 1953 trio to the Hub. None of them seemed particularly phased by what they saw, considering such technology wouldn't have existed in their time!

However from thereon, the episode got a lot better. The scene in which the team take Diane, Emma and John to a supermarket was amusing and pointed up some of the differences between 1953 and now. The trio are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of products on sale (they've just come from a period of rationing). Emma grabs handfuls of chocolate and they are amazed by the concept of CDs, not to mention pornographic magazines being so freely available off the shelf. And when Diane sees "Smoking kills" written on a cigarette packet, she asks "What does that mean?" (!)

The story then "branches out" as we focus on the individual plights of the three characters from 1953 and how they deal with living in a different century. Emma, the youngest of the trio, find things hard at first and is desperate to go home, but aided by the caring Gwen, begins to accept her situation. There's a good sub-plot in which Emma learns out about modern attitudes to sex via Gwen. Their conversation, in which Gwen reveals that she's done it with lots of men, is funny. Eventually Gwen secures Emma a job in
London and it's a relatively happy ending for her at least.

John, on the other hand, finds it very hard to adapt and feels alone and isolated. He also has a son, Alan, from the 1950s, who he misses terribly and is curious to know if he is still alive in the present day. In a sad and moving scene, he tracks down Alan in an old people's home. Paradoxically, Alan is now older than his own father, and completely senile, not recognising his father atall or knowing who this "stranger" is, which reduces John to tears. Later on, John makes the decision to commit suicide, explaining to Captain Jack that he has nothing left in this world to live for now. After preventing him on his first attempt, Jack permits John to go through with it. There's a chilling scene in which Jack and John (they sound like a couple, goddamnit!) sit together in a car which is parked in a garage with the motor left running. John slowly dies from the exhaust fumes whilst Jack remains very much alive (the "gift/curse" of his immortality preventing him from going the same way as John).

Meanwhile, Diane gets the most raunchy storyline of the 1953 trio, as she gets it on with ... wait for it ... Owen "Toad-Face"!! Presumably she likes cockney wide boys. Would you adam and eve it? Owen and Diane meet up for regular liaisons. However in a surprising (and welcome) turn of events, the previously unscrupulous, libido-driven Owen actually starts to develop FEELINGS for Diane, admitting that he "can't do the f*ck buddy thing any more". Is the man finally discovering MORALS, for heavens sake? And then to crown it all, he declares his LOVE for Diane. This was somewhat unconvincing, given the short period of their relationship. But on the other hand it was good to finally see some emotional chinks in Owen's armour and to see him actually becoming weak and falling for someone else. However Diane is a liberated girl and a free spirit (quite unconventional for someone from 1953?) whose first love is flying . Not wanting to be tied down and missing a life of aviation, she elects to leave, flying off in the plane she arrived in, much to Owen's disappointment. Tough luck, Toad-Face!

All in all, an emotional, enjoyable and quite thought-provoking episode. Now according to the Torchwood Logic-o-meter, this means that next week's episode will be a pile of old poop again ...


  • At 2:27 am , Blogger matty said...

    Did this guy from Torchwood ever make it with sue ellen?

    (just kidding)

    ..I need to google this one. I don't know what it is.

  • At 3:38 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    I don’t think “Love & Monsters” was highly experimental at all, more a case of needs must in that Tennant and Piper were elsewhere filming “The Impossible Planet”. In the early b/w days of “Doctor Who”, one or other of the regular cast would be missing for whole episodes, when they took their holiday, but, by the Eighties, having the Doctor missing from an entire instalment of a serial was unthinkable and unnecessary due to the reduced number of episodes per season together with advances in technology. “Love & Monsters” was just a case of poor planning on the part of RTD, probably down to there being 14 episodes in season two, with “The Christmas Invasion”, instead of the previous season’s 13. Filming had to be completed in the same amount of time.

    I agree with you about Marc Warren’s performance but I hope I never see the Abzorbaloff again. Mr Blobby should be kept locked away with Noel Edmonds. How can fans complain about Ken Dodd in “Delta and the Bannermen”, which was terrific fun, and then say Peter Kay was good in this filler of an episode? I’ve nothing against comedy actors in “Who”, after all Hartnell appeared in the original “Carry On” movie. Peter Butterworth was the original renegade Time Lord, unless you count the Doctor himself, and Bernie Bresslaw the original Ice Warrior, Varga. Both good. Joan Sims was awful, though, as Queen Katryca in “The Trial of a Time Lord”. It remains to be seen whether or not Ms Tate is any good in “Who”. It depends on the script, performance, and viewer preference, although something is either good or bad regardless of individual inclination. It doesn’t matter whether you or I prefer the “Jupiter” Symphony or “Without You”, the fact is the Mozart is the better piece of music!

    Is Elton really a geek’s name, by the way? Mr John thought it was cool enough, otherwise he would’ve stayed as Reg Dwight surely?!! Eugene was so called possibly after a character featured in “The X Files” first season episodes “Squeeze” and “Tooms”.

  • At 6:27 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Matty - No John Barrowman didn't make it with Linda Gray - BUT! Oddly enough I recently read that he played Victoria Principal's (Pam Ewing) son in a mini series, or something like that!

    Time Warden - an in depth response as always, ta for that! But wouldn't you agree that the whole focus of "Love" was different to your average Dr Who episode with it's major focus on Elton and co rather than the Dr and Rose (even though the "search" for the Doc was one of the central themes)? I don't think it was just poor planning, surely?

    And I loved Peter Kay, thought he gave a great sinister / comic turn. Although once was probably enough. And as for Ms Tate, we can all reserve judgement until tomorrow, can't we?

    Well, Elton is definitely an ... unusual name put it that way.

    Have a good Xmas!!

    OC x

  • At 8:40 pm , Blogger Boz said...

    If Ianto doesn't get more airtime in the next series, I'm demanding my licence fee back. Fact.

  • At 9:28 pm , Blogger Lubin said...

    Thought those were 2 good episodes on the whole though the time travellers one didn't seem to "go" anywhere. We're missing tonight's because we're in a hotel and they don't have BBC3!

  • At 1:19 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    But, why is it ok to give a "comic turn" in new "Who" while it is frowned upon in the 80s? The only difference is that now it's deemed cool to feature crass jokes, unsuitable for a family audience, whereas then, while admittedly not the finest "Who" ever, it was, at the very least, not in-your-face but entertaining. "Love" is my least favourite episode of all-time.

    The irony being, I enjoyed "Random Shoes" despite its similarity to "Love"! Maybe because the series is still in its infancy, still finding its feet. I prefer "Torchwood" when the focus IS off the leads probably because they're all so wooden most of the time.

    "Out of Time" I thought the best episode yet. Simple but terrific concept exploring not only the difference half a century makes but the generational differences between each of the travellers' responses. No bug-eyed monsters, Jack was able to hold John's hand without any sexual overtones, and no unnecessarily gratuitous violence! A truly intelligent episode.

    And, after what looks like more blood and guts this week, the penultimate episode, being by the same author as "Out of Time", will hopefully deliver another thoughtful episode as that story's concept is turned on its head when Jack and Tosh find themselves "out of time" back in the Blitz.

    Hope you have an enjoyable Christmas.

  • At 2:24 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Howdy boys!

    Apologies for the slow reply, I have only just returned from my excursion to York and finally have a bit of time to respond ... hope you all had a faberoony Xmas.

    Boz - I agree, Ianto has been sorely underused in the current series. With the exception of "Cyberwoman" we really haven't got to know much about him atall and he needs another proper episode of his own, or at least a bigger slice of the action rather than continually playing the part of glorified doorman. And I would love to see a bit more "dalliance", shall we say, going on with him and Jack ...

    Lubin - I guess "Out of Time" was a bit "plotless"; it was more character-based but I enjoyed it all the same. Well, having seen "Combat" on my Mum's TV (they have BBC3) you haven't missed much - not in my opinion anyhow. It was a pile of old ca-ca and once again proves my theory about the Torchwood Logic-o-meter.

    Time Warden - well I think you and I must agree to disagree on that one! For me I think Peter Kay struck just the right balance between humour and seriousness, with the humour only really coming to the fore once his true alien form was "revealed" at the end. Admittedly, I would hate to see a monster/character of the calibre of the Abzorbaloff in every single episode, it just wouldn't work and would lower the tone overall. Comedy can be overplayed, for sure.

    I agree that most of the leading characters in Torchwood are still quite wooden. Certainly after 11 weeks I still can't properly engage with them and they're hard to warm to as people. Okay, Eve Myles has been generally convincing as Gwen, although some of her actions have been made it hard to fully sympathise with her e.g. her cheating on Rhys with Owen and drugging Rhys so he wouldn't remember her confession of adultery.

    John B as Jack has been generally okay in an enigmatic and detached sort of way, but interesting hints and comments aside, we still haven't "pierced the shell" to see what's going on underneath with him. I far preferred him in Doctor Who.

    And we agree on "Out of Time" - yes, definitely one of the best episodes in the series so far.

    I really didn't enjoy "Combat" and found it pretty mindless and pointless overall. More on that later. I'm hoping the Blitz episode will be better. Ah well, now according to the Torchwood Logic-o-meter it will be ...


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