Torchwood 2RP.1: Asylum review

Review

Asylum

PC Andy: So, what’s going on?

(Originally broadcast 01 July 2009 – available as a BBC Podcast download and on iPlayer as described at this link e.g. click here.)

The girl who fell to Earth!

Well, water. The water that “Frieda” arrives into with a splash is actually one of the more interesting elements of the play, a motif that runs through the story in a subtle way, much more subtle than some of the clunky elements. The loss of memory from the Rift (slowly regained over the episode) for “Frieda” is similar to the memory plot device for Eugene from Random Shoes, and it allows her (like Eugene) to solve the mystery of self: the main plot of this story.

The return of PC Andy! Now that Team Torchwood are a trio, it makes sense that some of the more peripheral regular characters are making an appearance. Jack and Ianto are in the background for most of the episode, leaving Andy and Gwen to deal with “Frieda”.

In the small amount of scenes he is in, Captain Jack seems to be the “nasty cop” that he was in Sleeper, advocating zero tolerance of aliens and so on. I flippantly said when reviewing the episode Reset that episode was a continuation of “the idea that Jack bizarrely only feels sympathy for aliens if they look like animals (whales, wasps, whatever).”

The actual main metaphor that forms the central story isn’t exactly subtle and contains most of the clunky elements that I mentioned (part of the story seems to echo a famous/infamous line from Ace in Doctor Who: Ghost Light!) An admirable message of tolerance from both stories, but clunky.

The most enjoyable element is the Riddley Walker-style futurespeak and the poetic repeating of the imagery of fire and sky and (mainly) water. There is an enjoyable intense atmosphere created that wasn’t there with the previous Torchwood radio play, Lost Souls.

Early in the play there seems to be a continuity shout-out to Out of Time when “Frieda” comments on the Torchwood accommodation and this story is quite similar in resolution with the young female character from the Rift – okay, Torchwood now has an “Asylum policy”, though as to what that actually means is opaque.

After the motif of water being associated with confusion (at the start of the episode) and death (the middle) the metaphor is flipped and the episode ends on some poetic water imagery which seems to suggest life not death – the ongoing river of life – what the actual last scene really means is ambiguous and much more interesting than the overly spelled-out allegories of the story.

Quantity-ratings (click here for guide to rating system):

WordbuildingWorld-map3/5
GoreWeevil-chomp1/5
DancingCarys1/5
AngstTear-stained-pizza4/5
AliensPhiloctetes3/5
Episode Quality-rating: Grin3/5

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