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October 22, 2014

Torchwood: To the Last Man

by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 10th 2008 5:05PM
Torchwood - To the Last Man
(S02E03)
The adventure starts in 1918, featuring the Torchwood of its era. We get to see the future from the perspective of the past and the end of the episode from the perspective of the beginning. Confusing? Good. It's time travel, you're supposed to be confused. Torchwood continue its string of excellent episodes this run with this Tosh-centric installment. The inner struggles between team members seem to be a thing of the past, resolved while Jack was away, and what we have now is a real solid force that I can believe is prepared for whatever is coming.

Most of the "action" of this episode takes place in an old hospital, getting set to be torn down. This action apparently triggers a time shift back to 1918. The pivotal figure of this is Tommy, a young soldier extracted from 1918 by Torchwood and kept cryogenically frozen for the past ninety years only because Torchwood knew they would need him some day. Instructions regarding for what and how he would be useful were in a locked box.

There is a very well-handled juxtaposition throughout the day from Tosh and Tommy's sweet and romantic day out and about while Team Torchwood investigate the increasingly erratic events back at the hospital as the time rifts become more dramatic. Though it was a tad convenient that Tommy is unfrozen one day a year to ensure he's doing fine, and it was on one of those days that the shift started to occur and he was needed. That way we could see the growing affection between him and Tosh (they've apparently been growing close the past four years on his unfreeze days.

Tosh has always been one of the better characters on the show, a testament in large part to the talents of Naoko Mori. Here we get to see the "almost love" she clearly has for Tommy, and that it is only through sheer force of will and awareness of his situation and that at any moment he could be taken from her that has kept her from acting on her feelings. When it becomes clear that Tommy's time is now the two are given a very sweet overnight reprieve from destiny to pretend for one fleeting moment that maybe their relationship is normal.

As weird as it is to say, I think that relationship is much more healthy and sincere than whatever is lingering between her and Owen. And maybe it's because Owen still has a lot of growing to do as a man, but I think a union between him and Tosh would be a terrible idea. The sexual tensions between the characters does add to the overall drama of the series, but I find myself hoping that none of them ever end up successfully with one another. I think such a union would outdo Moonlighting as far as ruining the dynamic of a show.

"To the Last Man" is one of those episodes that doesn't do much to push the overall mythology of the series forward but still manages to capture what day-to-day life in Torchwood would be like. A non-stop adventure with huge stakes at every turn. Like an energetic, fast-paced popcorn movie. The X-Files did plenty of these between its "Mythology" episodes, and Torchwood looks set to do the same. With the way Cardiff and the time rifts have been set up, this formula can work quite well.

But that isn't to say that we're not given some kernels to think about. I'm still trying to figure out exactly how Jack's Torchwood was founded, and when, and what its relationship is to the original more sinister Torchwood, as seen early on in Doctor Who. Jack says at one point that Tommy has been there longer than any of the current team, which means Jack's involvement has been less than ninety years. And yet, the Torchwood of 1918 seems to be a direct antecedent to the current Torchwood, and thus unlikely affiliated with the other Torchwood. Were the two contemporaries for many years or has history been rewritten? I need to get a government grant to study these things.

As always, for the sake of US fans, I'll ask that we refrain from commenting on the events of episodes beyond the third in the comments below. Thanks!

I don't know that I can pinpoint what it is exactly, but this series/season, Torchwood has gone from a good show with some annoying qualities and some indefinable flaws to a great show with very little beyond minor things to complain about.


Who's your favorite cast member?
Jack78 (36.1%)
Gwen34 (15.7%)
Owen10 (4.6%)
Tosh24 (11.1%)
Ianto70 (32.4%)

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12 Comments

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Richard Leis

"One of These Mornings" by Moby

May 03 2008 at 5:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David LeDuc

I would like to know the song name & singer at the very end of The Last Man. It lasted only about 25 seconds .

Some of the words: (One of these mornings you will look for me & I will be gone)

February 27 2008 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gordon Werner

IIRC ... Tosh was a member of Torchwood in London ... same actress ... same role ...

Tosh, Jack and Gewn (sort of) are the only characters to play their roles in a Doctor Who episode

for those who do not know ...
Eve Myles played a character called Gweneth n the 2005 Dr. Who episode "The Unquiet Dead" who may be related to Torchwood's Gwen

February 11 2008 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

Not sure I'd call it "non-stop" action since the plot really lagged a lot in the middle third of the episode. Also, Torchwood continues to drop the ball on taking advantage of opportunities for some character exploration or depth. I wanted to know what it was about this guy that attracted Tosh and the appeal and connection they felt. Instead, it was short-changed a lot.

Typical for Torchwood...

February 11 2008 at 10:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen

I agree with Anita, and I'll take it a step further. Why did they need Tommy at all? They kept him cryongenically frozen because future-Tommy told past-Torchwood to take him. But why? When push came to shove, he didn't know what to do. And he wouldn't have done it at all if Tosh hadn't gone back and forced him to do what he needed to do. And why did he completely forget who Tosh was as soon as he got back to his bed in 1918? And if he HAD forgotten completely who Tosh was in 1918, why did her saying he was her wonderful hero (which he'd said in 2008 would make him do anything) cause him to trigger the key?

I liked the relationship between Tosh and Tommy, but I have to say I thought there were flaws in the story.

February 10 2008 at 11:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Karen's comment
Nathaniel

Karen, I can address all your issues. Yeah, they needed Tommy because of a self-causing time loop, in which Tommy tells them to take him. Weird, but it works.

They said he would revert to his old memory when he went back, so that's why that happened, but somewhere, deep down inside, he still had some sort of connection to Tosh, and that helped.

February 11 2008 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anita

One quick thing, I never understood why Tommy was the key to the rift, as opposed to say, the nurse or the legless man -

February 10 2008 at 11:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anita

I really liked this episode because of the Gwen-Tommy connection. I also loved the creep factor a la 'Blink'. I never understood why someone so smart and attractive as Tosh was so desperate and insecure. So, I'm glad to see this side of her. I almost wish a Tosh-Owen match up would happen as it might, hopefully, stop Owen from being so mean to her. Admittedly, I love their recent 'friend' connection, but I fear the writers might regress it to their old dynamics -

February 10 2008 at 11:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Toby OB

There were at least four branches of Torchwood - the main one in London at Canary Wharf, the Cardiff branch, one strange man in Glasgow, and the fourth had disappeared (a la 'Babylon 4').

What Jack actually said about Tommy's time in the Hub was that he was there "longer than any of us... any of you", correcting himself. Since Jack returned from the GameStation to 1869, he may have been involved with Torchwood right from its very beginning.

I'm hoping we see other Torchwood teams from different eras - from the 1930s, the 1880s, the fifties, the sixties. (I wonder if the London branch got involved with the Jack the Ripper investigation?)

February 10 2008 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dukemang

I remember Jack saying he re-established Torchwood in Cardiff after the cyberman incident.

This was a great episode as it again exposed yet one more character a little deeper. I like the fact that in most episodes the humans have to stay human to offset Jacks zeal for saving the day no-matter-what.

February 10 2008 at 9:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rebecca

A bit about Torchwood history from "Doctor Who" that I think answers a couple of questions above. Skip if you think this is spoilerish, but you probably have to watch Doctor Who to find this stuff out.
Torchwood was founded by Queen Victoria in an episode of Doctor Who called "Tooth & Claw" (series 2). The Doctor didn't know about her deciding to start it at the time. Queen V found Torchwood at the end of the episode after he and Rose left.
Queen Victoria didn't like Doctor Who and keeping an eye out for him was one of the reasons she formed Torchwood. (This despite The Doctor having saved her from the alien-spawned Werewolf in that episode.)

In the final episodes of Doctor Who, series three, Jack told the Doctor that he took it over after the Cybermen incident. (I think he said was one brief version in-between run by some weird guy.) Jack said he took it over to make sure that it wouldn't turn into the same type of organization that it was at the Cybermen time. (Rather fascist I believe, not to mention out to capture The Doctor.) Jack's version is much smaller than the version during the time Torchwood accidentally brought an army of cyberman and some daleks to earth endangering all mankind. Fortunately they managed to capture the Doctor during this time and he saved everyone except most (all?) of the people at Torchwood who died. Strangely, although everyone on earth had a cyberman at their home holding them captive for a while, most people still scoff at the idea that aliens exist. Go figure.

February 10 2008 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rebecca's comment
Nathaniel

I don't remember Jack saying anything about taking over Torchwood after the Cybermen incident. I've always been under the impression that Jack was running the Cardiff branch of Torchwood before the Canary Wharf incident. He had his own ideas about running his branch, but I'm pretty sure he had his branch before that.

February 10 2008 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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