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Review: Torchwood S2 06 Reset

Where we welcome Martha with a pretty good plot.

J. C. Wlsher wrote a good old-fashioned Detective plot through and through, well paced but it seemed everyone was a bit slow in their detective roles.  I'm sitting here thinking,"check the paper records, interview the families and friends" and nobody is doing it.  Our guys aren't the greatest gumshoes around.

A Weevil hunt turns up a dead body with no Weevil marks on it.  Why Torchwood doesn't leave it for the regular cops isn't clear.  Why Jack consults with UNIT abut it isn't clear either, but Jack gets sent their latest recruit, Medical Officer Dr. Martha Jones.  She's a welcome breath of fresh air not just for Jack, but also for the audience.

In this series Torchwood has been working as a close-knit family.  In almost all ways that's good.  But most families have agreements with each other not to discuss certain things.  Take the scene in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang where the Team ask Jack where he's been and he replies, "I found my Doctor."  Notice what doesn't happen next?  No one asks Jack who he means, and this is a room full of professional nosy people.  Look at their faces.  They all know Jack means "the Doctor", Torchwood's #1 target.  But this is Jack, their leader, their father figure, standing in front of them.  In all their minds Jack's needs come before some antique vendetta, so they say nothing.

Now look at the scene where Owen asks Martha how she met Jack.  She hesitates and tells him, "We were under  the same Doctor."  Owen asks no more on that subject.  Look at his face.  He knows exactly who she means, and in spite of his great curiosity the unspoken family agreement keeps him from asking more.

But Martha isn't party to any family agreements and can ask the questions the others won't.  Because of Martha's innate charm and because Martha is trusted by Jack, their father figure, Martha's questions are answered, and the audience learns things we would not have learned otherwise. 

Jack is giddy to see Martha again and she is nearly giddy as well.  He trusts her implicitly, but at the same time she is not part of his Torchwood family and not bound by the same agreements.  She is part of another family, the Companions' family, and he can talk to her about parts of his life that he doesn't feel comfortable sharing with the others.

He can also step out of the father figure role around her, and you can see this burden melting off his shoulders when she's around.  He laughs and jokes more often, and he's far more loose-tongued than usual.  He never, ever  does anything around the others to hint that he and Ianto are in a relationship -- it's another of those "things we don't talk about in the family" (as opposed to when he ditched them all and Ianto apparently talked to Gwen).  But he comes straight out and asks Martha for a red UNIT cap for his and Ianto's "personal use".

(I didn't read many spoilers for this story, but I'm glad I stumbled upon the one where Ianto tells Martha that Jack is an "innovative'' lover  and Jack tells her he wants to get Ianto a red UNIT cap.   The resulting mental images were so awesome they caused a braingasm which shut down all critical thinking skills for the rest of the day.   Ianto's contemplative expression when thinking about Jack's lovemaking threatened to do the same thing while I watched the episode.)

It isn't long before the "kids" are trying to pump Martha as well.  Literally the first time Jack turns his back on Martha Gwen asks her if Martha and Jack were lovers.  They both answer "no" and share a laugh before getting down to business.

And of course business is why Martha is in Torchwood.  She's not just here to show us a diferent side of our regulars, she is here to show us a different side of Martha.  This isn't Martha the med-student-turned-Companion, this is cool, confident, competent Martha-the-Big-Damn-Hero who spent a year a hunted fugitive on her own to save the world.  We didn't really get to see that Martha in The Last of the Time Lords and I doubt we'll really get a chance to see her in Doctor Who Series 4.  The Doctor tends to overshadow everyone else, so it's both wonderful and necessary that we get to see her here.

At the same time it's still the perky, bubbly Martha who can charm the birds out of trees, or even more impressively personal details out of Ianto.  It's a tribute to Martha's charm that she asks Ianto about his and Jack's sex life and actually manages to get *gasp* a verb and two adjectives!  And a faraway look!   With Ianto that's the equivalent of hitting "Tilt" on a pinball machine.

Back to the plot.  Someone's been wiping the medical records of certain people, then injecting their blood stream with a caustic substance.  It turns out the victims are all infected with an alien parasite gifted upon them by an shadowy research firm who then authorized their murders.

In her extraordinary novel-length fanfic Shades of Ianto  sarcasticbabble  wonders where the secret organization researching alien biology the same way Torchwood researches alien technology is located.  Now we have a canon answer.  Meet the Pharm, which prepares humanity for the future by kidnapping aliens and performing medical experiments on them, giving the results to their human medical research subjects, and then killing the humans in such a way as to remove all trace of what's happened.  Lovely bunch of people -- not.

My husband the molecular biologist  wanted to know where the laboratory animals were.  They should have had rats, rabbits and simians there to do trial runs on before they went to the expense and the risk of getting caught of using humans.  Maybe they were in another part of the facility, but still.  Their use would have given the Pharm more data to work with. 

Minor nitpick::  what about the hospital's paper records?  Have those all been destroyed as well?  It's not hard to do, I've had my own lost accidentally-on-purpose on more than one occasion, but that's still more legwork for the goon squad.  Also, it took an awful long time for anyone to start interviewing the family and friends. 

Long-standing nitpick:  Jack's field interview technique stinks.  He can be both very charming and very intimidating, but when interviewing bad guys in their court he's neither charming enough or intimidating enough to get what he wansts.

The Pharm is run by "respected medical researcher" Dr. Aaron Copely, and we can score another victory for Torchwood as far as medical personnel realism goes.  Just like Series 1 Owen acted more like real medical students and young doctors I've met than any TV doctor I've ever seen before, Copely acts more like the research faculty at my husband's old med school than any TV medical researcher I've ever seen before, to wit:  arrogant, callous, and creepy as hell.  I didn't like Copley at all.  Usually there's something somewhat likeable about a high-class villain, but this guy was as unlikeable as the space whale butchers.

So Martha is sent in undercover as a future victim test subject.  She's ordered to get them into the computer network and scamper back to the safety of her room.  But Martha is a full-fledged graduate of Companion's Training, and instead of scampering she runs off to investigate, finds a Scary Monster, and gets herself captured.  

Meanwhile, whilst on monitoring-Martha duty back at the Hub, Owen "Clueless About Women" Harper finally realizes that Toshiko asked him for a date two episodes back.  He accepts, to her great disbelief, but says he's still going to flirt with other people.  Toshiko assures him that he can be "King of Flirts" if he wants.  (He'll have to take that title away from Jack first.)  It's an endearingly awkward scene, and the actors play it well.

Back at the ranch research facility, Martha's cover as an former time traveler has been blown.  I knew "Artron energy" was going to show up somewhere, in this case as "time-travel induced changes to the lymphatic system".  I couldn't help wondering what Sarah Jane's bloodstream looked like, or Jack's.  The Bad Guys pump her full of twice the dose of parasites, which somehow her altered body fights off at over 20 times the normal speed -- all very unbelievable to anyone with any science training at all, but this is Whoniverse science.

Team Torchwood rides to the rescue, saves Martha, nabs most of the bad guys, erases their data banks (why not just drain them into Torchwood's data banks?) and destroys the facility.  Pity Jack didn't secure  Copley when he had the chance, as Copley shoots Owen through the heart and kills him.  That scene surprised me even though I was expecting it, and completely shocked my husband.

When I said I wanted more character develpment, this wasn't what I had in mind.

I didn't understand the scene where Owen was shot the first time I saw it.  Why didn't  Jack shoot first?  It was only on rewatching it that I realized Jack didn't have his gun out and was at an awkward angle.  I still don't understand why Owen tried to appeal to Copley's humanity.  Janet has more humanity than Copley. 

I'm not happy about Owen dying, and less happy about him apparently being brought back to life.  One reanimated character/show is quite enough, thank you.  But we'll see how well they pull it off.

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
dr_is_in
Feb. 9th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
WHAT?!?!?!? Where? Omg, thats awesome.
crabby_lioness
Feb. 9th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC)
Eeeep! Sorry, I was trying to get a headstart on next week's two reviews. I didn't realize I hadn't locked my notes!

Yeah, that's from Promethea's latest.
elinor_godwin
Feb. 15th, 2008 11:06 pm (UTC)
Where did you see Promethea's latest? She hasn't posted to TWOP's TW UK forum in a couple of days, which mentioned she hadn't seen past Reset.
crabby_lioness
Feb. 15th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)
Look at the date. That was posted on the 9th. I accidently posted part of my notes while working on this.
elinor_godwin
Feb. 15th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
Ah... thanks :) And thanks for the story link, I'll check that out, too. Well written review. Will we see a red-cap story from you?
crabby_lioness
Feb. 15th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
If I find the time.
love_jackianto
Feb. 16th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)
'And a faraway look! With Ianto that's the equivalent of hitting "Tilt" on a pinball machine.' I loved that look :D

'I'm not happy about Owen dying, and less happy about him apparently being brought back to life.' Do you think they are going to use the other risen mitten? Gloves do come in pairs, plus they could tie up that plot thread from series 1.
fl_zed
Feb. 16th, 2008 11:22 am (UTC)
IIRC, the preview features the second mitten, both when Jack is cuddling/almost kissing Owen's corpse's hand (Jack's wearing the mitten it seems), and on the floor of somewhere before the place blows up.
love_jackianto
Feb. 16th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)
'IIRC, the preview features the second mitten, both when Jack is cuddling/almost kissing Owen's corpse's hand (Jack's wearing the mitten it seems), and on the floor of somewhere before the place blows up.' Thanks :D. I always seem to miss the previews.

Seems a very predictable to me, of course maybe what they show in the preview is just to mess with us and they're going to do something much more original. Although they did give away the plot twist that Grey is Jack's brother in the preview, so maybe it is what it looks like.
crabby_lioness
Feb. 16th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
The "who is Grey" bit in the intro wasn't added until the last minute.
love_jackianto
Feb. 16th, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
'The "who is Grey" bit in the intro wasn't added until the last minute.' mmmm... interesting.
mallochai
Feb. 16th, 2008 07:45 am (UTC)
I am NOT impressed in the least with the idea of them bringing Owen back. Don't get me wrong, I'm stricken that they killed him, but I'm completely with you on the "one resurrecting character per season" quota. I'm terribly worried that next weeks episode will be trite and over the top.

As for THIS episode, it took me on an emotional roller coaster, which always pleases me. There were a lot of scientific pitfalls, but the character acting was superb in every aspect. I can forgive bad subplots when it comes to convincingly emotive characters, almost every time.
love_jackianto
Feb. 16th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
'I'm stricken that they killed him, but I'm completely with you on the 'one resurrecting character per season' quota. I'm terribly worried that next weeks episode will be trite and over the top.' I second that.

'I can forgive bad subplots when it comes to convincingly emotive characters, almost every time.' Oh yes. Great acting really can make up for bad subplots.
crabby_lioness
Feb. 16th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
Good acting can cover a multitude of sins.
antelope_writes
Feb. 19th, 2008 05:26 am (UTC)
You pointed out in "Meat" just how small Torchwood is. Here, Jack all but says it when he comments that UNIT tends to be a bit more organized, and Torchwood is "ad hoc."

(I didn't read many spoilers for this story, but I'm glad I stumbled upon the one where Ianto tells Martha that Jack is an "innovative'' lover and Jack tells her he wants to get Ianto a red UNIT cap.

There is a GREAT fic on jackxianto called Naughty Soldiers Must Be Punished. If you haven't already, you might like to read it. After the kids are in bed.

She's not just here to show us a diferent side of our regulars, she is here to show us a different side of Martha. This isn't Martha the med-student-turned-Companion, this is cool, confident, competent Martha-the-Big-Damn-Hero who spent a year a hunted fugitive on her own to save the world.

Martha was wonderful in this episode. I think the bit I loved the most was Jack asking her if she missed the Doctor, and Martha saying essentially yes but she'd moved on. We saw a taste of Martha the Hero in the end of LOTL, and I wanted to shout "you go girl!" If you watch DWS2, you really see how the Doctor's companions will go to hell and back for him, and half the time he won't even take the time to say goodbye. Martha figured that out, and took control of her own life rather than waiting on him. It took Rose being trapped in another dimension, Sarah Jane being completely replaced, and Jack being left for dead for them to get the hint. Even K-9 got left behind.

Also on Martha: aside from a few comments to Gwen in KKBB, this is the first episode where Jack openly starts telling stories about what happened when he was away. Gwen and Owen pump Martha for information, but Jack starts volunteering stuff himself. "I'd trust her at the end of the world. As a matter of fact, I did."

THANK GOD the authors finally stopped making Tosh a whiny little woman! I loved the scene where she finally came clean to Owen that she'd been asking him out, and REALLY loved when she suggested using a dead man to drive (and the look on Ianto's face...good on both NM and GDL for pulling that scene off).

And why didn't Jack give Owen a kiss of life? Oh yeah, less material for future episodes.
crabby_lioness
Feb. 19th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
There is a GREAT fic on jackxianto called Naughty Soldiers Must Be Punished. If you haven't already, you might like to read it. After the kids are in bed.

It's all right, but not how I see things going.

I loved the scene where she finally came clean to Owen that she'd been asking him out, and REALLY loved when she suggested using a dead man to drive (and the look on Ianto's face...good on both NM and GDL for pulling that scene off).

I know. If Tosh weren't so stuck on Owen, then between Ianto and Tosh Jack would really be in for it. ;)
duikermeisie
Feb. 19th, 2008 08:44 pm (UTC)
I know. If Tosh weren't so stuck on Owen, then between Ianto and Tosh Jack would really be in for it. ;)

And oh the fun it would be.

Seriously, it is so nice to see Toshiko being the utter cosmic badass we saw in CJH and CC, and not the one-dimensional prop she was in KKBB and Meat.
veejean45
Feb. 24th, 2008 07:05 am (UTC)
I just want to say how much I enjoy your reviews and insights into Torchwood. I agree with you on how Jack was acting around Martha--he seemed younger, more light-hearted. The scene with her and Ianto was priceless--what exactly is a UNIT cap? Dr. Copely was utterly chilling, in many ways the most evil character Torchwood has ever shown. Personally, I think bringing Owen back is a mistake--much as I'll miss him, the dead should stay dead...except for Jack, of course.
crabby_lioness
Feb. 24th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
UNIT caps come in two flavors: the peaked officer's cap with the red striep in the middle and a red beret. I assume they're talking about the beret actually. You can see UNIT troops in the hostpital where the pig-man is being held Aliens of London, and under the Tower of London in The Christmas Invasion, and in the Second, Third, and early Fourth Doctor stories, although in the Classic Who the caps were grey.
veejean45
Feb. 25th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
Hmm, just a hat...the way everyone was talking about it I started to think it was some kind of sex toy. Oh well...
crabby_lioness
Feb. 25th, 2008 07:35 pm (UTC)
My dear, anything is a sex toy when viewed in the right light. ;)
veejean45
Feb. 25th, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)
That is so true (laughs wickedly). Now all we need is the right story...
angelamakes
Mar. 5th, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)
I just found your reviews last night and really enjoyed your analysis. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the season's.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 5th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )