Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts
You might not like it, and you especially might not fancy it where sci-fi is concerned -- but Torchwood seems to thrive on the notion that adult audiences fancy a bit of girl-on-girl action in order to reel in the numbers for a show which would otherwise probably only attract nerdy types with unkempt facial hair and poor personal hygiene.
Oh, sure, it certainly gets your attention in the trailers, but it often seems an unnecessary -- and Torchwood is no exception -- but for once, the steamy action formed a genuine part of the central plot (which probably owed more to M. Night Shaymalan's Unbreakable than anything else).
This week's mystery centered around a centuries-old skeleton and a strange metal contraption unearthed side-by-side in a field, all linked to a pre-credit sequence involving a beautiful young woman called Mary from the 1800s who seems to have survived the test of time.
When the young woman befriended Toshiko, or rather, bedded her, then bestowed a gift on her in the shape of a telepathic pennant, the otherwise stiff and somewhat shy comms expert soon found herself eavesdropping on the thoughts of those around her -- in particular, those of her Torchwood colleagues.
Naturally, the burden of hearing the innermost thoughts of the people around her became difficult to bear, and while Owen, Jack and Gwen continued to mull over the mystery of the skeleton with the hole in its ribcage, Toshiko continued to develop her sexual relationship with Mary.
In an interesting series of twists, Toshiko overheard the thoughts of a maniacal character who was planning to murder his estranged wife and son, but not before she could intervene and save the day. And then, when Jack confronted her about the heroic exploits, she was unable to read his thoughts or explain her behaviour adequately, arousing suspicion in the enigmatic team leader.
Mary's motives quickly became evident, and in a scene which I feel the episode could have largely done without, she explained her origin as an alien from a telepathic species millions of light years away.
Of course, her back-story was a lie, and in stepped Captain Jack yet again to save the day when a stand-off ensued at Torchwood HQ.
I'm starting to get the feeling that while the quality of Torchwood's scripts are improving in plot terms, it's still struggling over the direction of its own identity, and can't seem to settle on a specific style or theme; one week it's Evil Dead-style horror, the next it's a Narnia-style fantasy thriller. This week, it felt like a mixture of Species and Unbreakable.
Having sneaked a peek ahead to the episodes heading our way over the coming weeks, I feel fairly reassured that the past is largely prologue, and the major story arc is yet to reveal itself -- but this show really needs to drop the self-obsession with sex and controversy, and get on with the hard-core science-fiction drama.