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

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Toad in a hole

'ere! Who's been spreading strawberry jam on me chest? B*stards!!

Yes, proving that Torchwood CAN do continuity, the two most recent episodes of the sci-fi/fantasy prog, “Dead Man Walking” and “A Day in the Death”, mainly concerned what happened to Owen “Toadface” Harper, after being shot dead by Jim Robinson at the end of the previous “Reset” (well at least it wasn’t Harold Bishop wot did it). And quite involving and well done they were too. So much so that after “Dead Man…” I switched over to BBC3 to see “A Day…” rather than do the usual of waiting another week for the next instalment (which at any rate has already been shown on BBC2, such was my delay in writing and posting this…tut, tut!)
In case you hadn’t guessed, Owen doesn’t actually stay dead (at least in the conventional sense) for very long. Foolhardy Captain Jack decides to revive him with a resurrection gauntlet i.e. glove, similar to the one used to bring former team member, Suzie back to life, in the last series. But things go badly wrong. Owen is brought back to life with no pulse or heartbeat and worse, becomes possessed by the spirit of Death itself! You would have thought Jack would have learnt after the last disaster with Suzie…
First off, this is an interesting concept and one that looks set to run and run i.e. Owen’s state of living death. How often do we have a regular character who, to all intents and purposes, looks, acts and speaks like a normal living person, but is in fact, dead? The first episode “Dead Man Walking” had some genuinely unsettling moments, particularly the bits when Owen finds himself in a strange black void and his eyes then totally black out and he mutters in a strange voice (reminded me of when Sapphire was possessed in Sapphire and Steel). There were also comic/sick bits, like when Owen does some lovely projectile vomiting, Linda Blair style - as a dead man his digestive system is kinda messed up you see - in a police cell. Things come to head with Owen’s decision to literally face the demon within him, leading to a climactic fight in a hospital in which he has a scrap with a skeleton.
“Dead Man” was not a bad episode at all – even though the skeleton-death figure did look a bit too CGI/fake – and there were some good dramatic moments. More significantly, this episode sent T-Wood on an interesting new trajectory i.e. Owen’s situation. What was refreshing and different was that Owen DIDN’T suddenly and miraculously spring back to life at the end, in contrived fashion. Nope. Despite successfully warding off Death himself, Owen remains very much one of the living dead, leaving our Toad in a definite hole. And this situation continues into the next episode, with Jack making the decision to relieve Owen of his position as Hub medical officer. Well, nice for Martha I suppose, although her three episode contract was shortly drawing to a close so she didn't have that long to relish it…
I actually thought that “A Day in the Death” was better than “Dead Man” as it delved even further into Owen’s state of living death as well as his inner psyche. Relieved of his job, he’s sent home but has nothing meaningful to occupy him and sits around in a state of permanent ennui. More significantly, as someone who is meant to be dead, he can’t touch, he can’t feel, he can’t taste, he can’t eat…All sensation just isn’t there, thus leading to a massive state of alienation for Mr Harper. Toshiko comes to visit but she’s so caught up in talking about her own problems, it makes him feel even more isolated. Even an attempt to drown himself in Cardiff Bay doesn’t work – how can you die when you’re already dead?
I know I have slagged off his character in the past, but Burn Gorman was excellent at conveying all of Owen’s angst and frustration at his situation, and this new slant on the character opened up lots of previously unexplored avenues, not to mention giving Mr Gorman the chance to portray previously unseen facets of Owen’s persona. The smarmy charmer of old was gone, replaced by a bleak and hopeless attitude (although by the end of "Day" he's a LITTLE bit more positive about his plight) and in general Owen has become a much more reflective individual. Amazing what dying can do to/for you.
This was compounded by quite a well-done sub-plot in which Owen meets a young woman called Maggie who is contemplating suicide after the death of her husband in a car crash (he died just hours after their wedding!) But he manages to talk her out of the doing the deed by showing her an alien device that is a reply to the messages sent out from Earth in search of extra-terrestrial life. Heavy, man.
And the device itself forms the rest of the plot – before Owen gets his hands on it, it’s being horded by a reclusive millionaire and collector of alien artifacts, Henry John Parker, played by none other than Richard Briers! Nice little cameo from Mr B as Parker, who is now looking considerably older than in his “Good Life” days and you kind of felt pity for his character - Parker mistakenly believed that the device was keeping him alive when in fact it was in danger of exploding and killing people and it takes Owen to make him realise the truth. What is even more ironic is that when Parker has a heart attack, Owen is unable to give him the kiss of life to resuscitate him – as a “dead” person he doesn’t have any breath!
So…how long will the “Owen as walking dead” plot line run on for? Looks to be interesting…
Meanwhile after a promising return in “Reset”, Ms Martha Jones was somewhat underused in these two episodes I felt, functioning as little more than a glorified medic. She needed a bigger slice of the action, for sure. Oh well, we'll soon be seeing her again in Dr Who.
But all in all, two quite decent episodes! Yikes! Am I damning Torchwood with feint praise?!
And in this week's instalment: Gwen finally gets hitched to Rhys! Will it be a “Hello” magazine style wedding? What’s this about her declaring her love for Jack? (Oh WHAT a surprise). When it gets to the “no cause or just impediment” bit will Jack pipe up? Or Owen perhaps, alluding to his and Gwen’s past? (Mind you, it’s a bit hard to take the rantings of a dead man seriously). And Nerys “Liver Birds”/”Kinda” Hughes even gets to appear, even though she must be pretty ancient by now. Hoorah!

(Screencaps courtesy of time-and-space.co.uk)

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  • At 7:26 am , Blogger Steve said...

    I must admit, killing Owen seems to have been an excellent move for both Torchwood in general and Burn is particular. I really like hos his character has evolved as a consequence and it's given rise to some failry decentg exploratory writing on the part of the script writer's too... could Torchwood be on the up and up at last?

  • At 11:19 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    Richard Briers was looking a little bit older than when he appeared in the "Doctor Who" story "Paradise Towers", too, just over twenty years ago!

    How many more collectors of alien artefacts are we going to meet in RTD productions and how many more times are we going to visit hospitals?!!

  • At 12:50 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Steve - Yes odd that, but the "death" of Mr Harper has made for more interesting viewing! Although it was a bit more downplayed in last night's wedding episode (well gap-toothed Gwen had to take centre stage, didn't she?)

    You're right though, it does seem to have lead to a rise in quality ... who would have thought it! Can they keep it up?

    Tim - Good to hear from you again! Like the Pertwee avatar by the way. Maybe it's time for me to change to another DW one...

    Ah yes, I forgot about "Paradise Towers"! Not one of my favourite stories I have to say.

    Mmm you're right, hospitals do seem to play a fair part in proceedings!

  • At 1:14 am , Blogger matty said...

    Yes, I'm actually less concerned about the sweet jam on your hot chest than I am about the fact that you appear to be lying on an autopsy table!

    Run, Cool Old Cheeser! Run!

  • At 1:04 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Matty - Welcome back!

    Well...the autopsy table might have something to do with the fact that he's dead (you never would have guessed that, eh?)

    By the way any comments on my "gay characters in soaps" post?

  • At 2:34 pm , Blogger Tenon_Saw said...

    With regard to

    'Owen is unable to give him the kiss of life to resuscitate him – as a “dead” person he doesn’t have any breath!'

    How is that that Owen can talk and be heard? Magic vocal folds?

  • At 8:33 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Hello Tenon (interesting name!) Thanks for the comment. You are of course right - as Mr Spock would say, highly illogical!


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