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September 2, 2015

Torchwood: Random Shoes

by Martin Conaghan, posted Dec 14th 2006 2:02PM
Gwen and Captain Jack(S01E09) It's been a fairly bumpy ride with Torchwood in recent weeks, what with Sam Raimi-style plots one week, and maniacal robots the next, only to be followed by sexually deviant aliens and sub-dimensional pixies.

However, this week's episode 'Random Shoes' was a series-stealer, on a parallel with the classic X-Files episode featuring the late Peter Boyle, Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose.

I can honestly say I almost had a tear in my eye towards the end; certainly, my wife was sniveling in the corner, rubbing her eyes and producing a heart-warming smile at this decidedly down-to-earth story of a young lad who simply needed some direction in life.
The episode opened with a young man named Eugene Jones waking up in the middle of a country road, only to find his hit-and-run dead body being inspected by the Torchwood team -- who can't see him, or hear him as he walks among them like a ghost.

Then, in true Sam Wheat fashion, Eugene gave us a potted history of his life so far, trailing back to the event of his youth where things went wrong; a mathematics competition at school in 1992 when he let his father down, but was given a consolation prize by his science teacher of a Dogon Sixth Eye, a device which exerts an influence on anyone who holds it (particularly if ingested), enabling them to look back over their lives with a fresh perspective.

Eugene's death seemed straightforward enough, but Gwen couldn't let it go, and started pursuing things on her own; following the trail of clues left behind by Eugene as she picked her way through the emotional trauma of the death of a relative nobody, finding herself strangely attached to the live of Eugene Jones.

Of course, Eugene's constant, if unseen presence continued to give Gwen subtle guidance along the way, and she soon discovered Eugene's intentions to sell the Dogon Eye on eBay, along with a mislaid plan by his so-called friends to cheer him up by increasing the bids.

All of which led to a tragic conclusion, when Eugene swallowed the eye to prevent his friends from selling it, only to find himself the victim of a freak accident when he ran on to the path of a speeding car.

If I'm being truthful, the only way to genuinely describe this particular episode of Torchwood is with the cheesy-sounding cliche of 'heart-warming'; but it was more than just a nod to the likes of Frank Capra; it was good old-fashioned science-fiction mixed with a healthy blend of corny sentiment. Sort-of like a like a straightforward Donnie Darko.

And it only came close to letting itself down once or twice -- namely, when Eugene's estranged father made a late appearance at his funeral and could only bring himself to strike up a Welsh rendition of Danny Boy (he salvaged it towards the heartbreaking line But come ye back when summer's in the meadow, Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow) and at the very end of the episode, when Eugene's life finally meant something in death.

I won't spoil the ending for you, but if you remember Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose as fondly as I do -- particularly this week, with the death of such a fine actor as Peter Boyle -- then you'll have a tear in your eye when you marvel in the ending of Random Shoes.

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December 14 2006 at 11:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Is it possible to watch this show in the US? I have DirectTV is carried on any channel that I can get?

December 14 2006 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It was enjoyable and having an episode told from the point of view of an outsider is a departure from the usual Torchwood style... which is exactly what I said about Doctor Who's "Love and Monsters". Is this a Russell T Davies hallmark, pausing a few weeks before the season finale to insert a story that turns the usual style on its head? "Random Shoes" was incredibly derivative of "Love and Monsters" from the geeky, outsider main character to the pop music soundtrack.

December 14 2006 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Adams

Anyone know if any of the US networks have picked this up?

December 14 2006 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was wondering when this week's Torchwood review would be up. Glad I wasn't the only one who thought that this was a high point for the series.

Engaging, engrossing, and wholly satisfying.

Torchwood has also been renewed for a second season, which will air on BBC2 (not BBC3).

December 14 2006 at 6:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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