(Ep7 of Torchwood Miracle Day)
The past is another country.
Torchwood‘s past as a television programme has been a story of many changes.
Before Season 3 and 4 with their mega-stories, Torchwood was very much a “monster of the week” programme. (With 13 episodes like the then-newly-relaunched Doctor Who it didn’t even have two-parters, unlike the show it was spinning off from.)
This then is a return to traditional Torchwood, in more than one way.
It’s traditional in that it’s a (largely) self-contained story, the tale of Jack and Angelo’s relationship in 1920s New York. It’s also the “traditional” Jack we’re seeing in this flashback narrative, that is, a Jack that’s immortal (in contrast to his current state during Miracle Day). It’s set during the century that Jack waited between arriving on Earth, meeting 19th Century Torchwood, becoming Torchwood – and the Torchwood of the early 21st Century, with Jack still waiting for the Doctor. (The 1920s Torchwood mission he’s on features a spooky alien, the first of the season, but it’s very much in the background of the story.)
In others ways this is a wholly new style for Torchwood – there’s been a focus on relationships before, with the story of Jack and Ianto woven through Torchwood Children of Earth, but this whole hour is essentially Jack and Angelo, in the bedroom as well as out on the streets of New York.
The third episode of this season had bedroom scenes too, but with this episode these are shown as integral to the arc of the one-long-hour of story – the immortal sins of the episode title are what Angelo (originally) believes being with Jack in this way are: Jack is there to say it’s OK.
So Jack means Angelo’s life takes a turn for the better – Jack being in someone’s life (as Gwen knows all too well) doesn’t always mean good things though, and Angelo’s life is turned upside down when he sees Jack return from the dead.
The framing sequence for this flashback is Gwen taking Jack for a car journey – it has an echo of the Season 1 Torchwood episode They Keep Killing Suzie – in that story Gwen and Suzie manage to conjure great drama from “just two people talking in a car”.
The CIA – Rex and Esther are hardly in this episode, they do however help PC Andy move the plot along across the Atlantic, and are there when Gwen and Jack meet the mysterious woman.
Dane and Kitzinger aren’t in the programme for another week – you have to wonder exactly what’s going on what that plotline and how Danes being a new cult figure will affect the wider story.
Fulfilling the villains role of the episode (apart from virtually everyone else in this episode that isn’t Jack) are these three mob bosses. Do they have something to do with this triangle we keep seeing in the “present day” of the season? Is the collection of Jack’s blood significant, (collected as he dies and dies again)?
The scenes of Jack dying are hugely disturbing and all the more disturbing for Angelo’s role in bringing Jack to this desolate room.
Jack walks away from Angelo, ending their story of 1920s New York and this flashback. This Torchwood episode is one of the greatest, as much for what’s new about it as for how well it tells an “old-style” Torchwood story.
Quantity-ratings (click here for guide to rating system):
Episode Quality-rating: 5/5
Another Torchwood review this Thurday; Top 10 Doctor Who monsters countdown continues on Saturday with number 2, and the Torchwood reviews conclude next week (Tuesday and Thursday).