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October 7, 2015

Torchwood: From Out of the Rain

by Jason Hughes, posted Mar 30th 2008 1:36PM
Torchwood(S02E10) I guess everyone at Torchwood Creative was still exhausted from the Owen three-parter, because this episode was even more of a letdown than the previous one. While the notion of these "night travelers" somehow being able to step out of old film and into the real world is interesting enough, it seems a better fit for a show like Supernatural than Torchwood, which tries to explain everything away with the Cardiff rifts and space aliens.

It was cool to think of Jack exploiting his immortality by performing as "The Man Who Could Not Die" in a traveling freak show a hundred years ago or so. It would make perfect sense that he'd go into that line of work. But then we learned that he did so while investigating the "night travelers," but he wouldn't say for whom and why he was investigating. Another layer of the Captain Jack onion almost peeled.

So we almost got a point for the episode, but we didn't. What we did get, though, was enough about these "night travelers" to throw the whole episode into the land of non-Torchwood material for me. At least, maybe. Back in the 1920's Jack was hired by someone to investigate the "night travelers" and chose to do so by exploiting his immortality. While with his own troupe he indicated he traveled all around the UK performing and implied that the legend of these "night travelers" was existent even then.

Was the legend centered around Cardiff, though? We caught an early glimpse of the "night travelers" in action back in the '20s. But whereas later they were snatching away people's last breaths, leaving their bodies, in the opener they snatched a woman's daughter away completely. And managed to have their entire carnival disappear in the moment it took Mom to turn her head and turn back.

Unlike most episodes of Torchwood, we didn't seem to get much, if any, explanation of what the "night travelers" were. Usually everything connects in some way to the rifts. Are they rift aliens that had escaped back in the '20s? What did Jack learn about them back in the day? Who was he working for, and was he investigating rift activity back then as well? How did he dispatch of them? Were they originally destroyed by being filmed? For some reason, a portion of their souls, or essences or whatever you want to call it, were preserved on the film.

So they got out when a kid and his dad spliced together old film clips to capture how Cardiff life was long ago. Only the kid swears the footage of the "night travelers" wasn't originally on the film. Nevertheless, two of them escaped and began to steal last breaths. The premise and the possibility of the concept they were working with here was had potential, that potential was just never fully realized.

  • When Joshua, the escaped ringleader "night traveler" tries to steal Owens' breath away toward the end and acknowledges that there isn't a breath in Owen's body. Who knew being dead would keep being so handy all of a sudden (it helped him infiltrate a security system that sensed body heat as well).
  • The fact that these "night travelers" were supernatural and evil even when they were just legends. Did Pearl, the escaped mermaid, steal moisture from people back in the '20s like now? Did Joshua steal last breaths, or are these activities byproducts of their resurrection from celluloid.
  • No explanation is ever given as to why Jack, and at one point Tosh I think, were able to hear the traveling show's music at various points throughout the episode. Hell, Jack even heard it at the end when a kid and his dad bought some old film reel. Does that mean this was the first time the "night travelers" had an opportunity to escape the films they were on in the last 90 years? Or did some outside force trigger this new ability? Does this mean Jack, and Tosh and whoever else I guess, will hear old circus music periodically for awhile now.
  • The logic of Jack being able to destroy the "night travelers" by filming them and then ripping the film out of the camera is a little fuzzy for me. It just seems an incredibly easy way to get rid of them. If he were to reel up that film and play it, could they escape from there? If so, would they be a film copy of a film copy? Maybe they'd wind up mentally retarded like the "copy of a copy" of Michael Keaton in the movie Multiplicity. That'd make for a great episode of Torchwood.
  • I'm failing to understand why Owen is going off on missions while Toshiko is staying behind. Owen is in a dead body that will not heal from any injuries, as we learned a few episodes back. The finger he broke to make a point to Tosh is still broken, as is the gash in the palm of that hand. Wouldn't his fragile state make it pretty dumb for him to go off alone in the theater to find the "travelers." Sure, the fact that he had no breath saved his un-life, but was that just a convenient plot twist. Joshua still could have pushed him down the stairs or otherwise caused him serious injury. Seems reckless to me is all.
It was disappointing to me that there was virtually no development in any of the characters. Usually, each episode of Torchwood focuses on one of our fearsome five, delivering insight into their personalities or tidbits about their past and lives outside of Torchwood. Unless they're going to try and convince me that learning that Jack was a traveler without learning why he was investigating the "night travelers" or anything else about it was our deep insight into Captain Jack Harkness. Every good series has filler episodes, and we've apparently just hit one for Torchwood.

It's unfortunate, because for the most part I've learned that while US shows are teeming with filler episodes due to the long seasons and the tendency to put everything important in only "sweeps" episodes, UK shows seemed immune from these advertiser driven tendencies. They're more likely to put a show on the air for 8-10 episodes if that's all they need to tell their story, whereas in the US they need to pump out more new episodes of a popular show for the ratings, even if they have no real story to put in them.

Still, I have faith that the train will be righted. After all, we're nearing the finish line of Season Two, so there's got to be some kind of big pay off coming? Hopefully not as lame as the giant demon monster payoff of Season One, but surely there's something dramatic coming up. And important to the overall story? You know, the exact opposite in every way to what this episode was.

Do you mind these "filler" episodes?
Hate 'em39 (29.1%)
Doesn't matter either way71 (53.0%)
Love 'em24 (17.9%)

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It seems the reviewer has overlooked the whole Doctor Who/Torchwood dynamic since both shows use a similiar story arc scheme. The 2006 season of Doctor Who threw in teasers of the Harold Saxon backstory, which didn't really became a major element until the last half of the 2007 season.

Even if the episode seems like a 'filler', it should always be kept in mind that perhaps there is something there that is a clue for what will happen with the remained of the season or even perhaps be a story arc for the following season.

I agree that the Night Traveler episode is far from perfect but it still contained a degree of originality that most televisions shows are scared to tackle.

April 12 2008 at 7:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with everyone above, pretty much: I kept waiting to find out what the alien connection was. I also thought that Jack's having worked at the carnival was simply gratuitous; it didn't add anything to the story that they didn't learn from the institutionalized old lady. I also thought that Jack's method of destroying them was WEAK, and there was absolutely no set-up to get us to believe that it would work. Same thing with the captured breaths in the silver flask--how DID Jack know that they had to stay in the flask in order to be preserved, and that the flask needed to be held to the victim's mouth/nose in order to revive him?

It was just sloppy writing, on top of not being a good fit for the mission of Torchwood. I don't care who PJ Hammond is; if "Sapphire and Steel" was so great then I'd expect more coherence here.

March 31 2008 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"From Out of the Rain" is the second 'Torchwood' ep written by PJ Hammond, best known (in the UK, at least) for creating 'Sapphire and Steel'; he also wrote season one's 'Fairies'. He's a bit of a "get" for 'Torchwood', which is why the production team isn't quite so concerned that his material is quite different in style, tone and internal logic. In particular, his willingness to let the unexplained *stay* unexplained doesn't allow an investigative team like Torchwood to provide a satisfying resolution.

On a style-over-substance basis the episode offers a couple of good scares, some creepy scenes and many attractive visuals. The story, sadly, is maddening -- as mentioned above, it's full of inconsistent and illogical behavior.

March 31 2008 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim Nelson

Um, if Owen doesn't have any breath, how does he talk?

March 31 2008 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eric Cotton

Jack's resolution of filming the night travellers reminded me of Reaper: Camera = vessel-of-the-week

March 31 2008 at 9:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My main problem was that this had potential, and I liked parts of it... but it was disjointed and incohesive. I did enjoy the massive amounts of Ianto in this episode. I'm pretty sure next week's episode will be better-- I can't believe the season is almost over!

March 30 2008 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I like a good stand-alone episode (aka filler episode), but this was my least favorite episode of the entire series (including season 1); and for all of the reasons set out in this review (you read my mind). It didn't work with the "rift" premise, it didn't focus on any of our characters and it had tons of plot holes. The lack of internal consistency drove me batty; little logic problems literally jar me out of the story, too many and I just can't get absorbed in it.

March 30 2008 at 7:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You know, I actually liked this episode. It's probably because I have a thing for 'Something Wicked This Way Comes.' I'll admit, I didn't find the mermaid all that scary, but if I ever see the Ringmaster anywhere, I'm so running. Since the Rift opens up a hole in, say it with me now, 'time and space', it's possible that these mystical travelers could've gotten trapped somehow. Admittedly, they didn't fully flesh out how they were trapped/released/re-trapped. And, I thought the fact the trapped spirits didn't return to the bodies because they weren't 'poured in', slightly inane. I would've loved to see more on the history of the travelers, as opposed to the mermaid/Ringmaster love story, or see a TT member interact with them in the 20s, but I don't think the writer(s) took the time -

March 30 2008 at 5:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I misspoke. I was talking about Episode 12. But Episode 11 is pretty good too.

March 30 2008 at 3:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dont' worry next week's episode is going to be fantastic beyond words that it should more than make up for this episode.

March 30 2008 at 3:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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