It's A Crazy Zombie Rave On Torchwood

Here's the whoah-trippiest moment from Wednesday night's trippy new episode of Torchwood, the wackier spin-off from the BBC's Doctor Who. Remember how we said last week that this episode might make us change our minds about thinking the show was finally on the right track? Well, it wasn't as bad as we'd feared... but it was cheesy and nonsensical, even by Torchwood standards. Click through for the damage.

Okay, so the reason we were dreading this episode is because we'd heard Owen becomes the king of the Weevils, those Buffy-vampire lookalikes that skulk around Torchwood's version of Cardiff. And this did happen, but luckily Owen didn't vamp out or start wearing a big purple crown and toting a sceptre. (I seriously wouldn't have put a sceptre past this show.) Instead, it was fairly low-key as coronations go.


Instead, this episode was sort of Torchwood's tribute to Flatliners, everyone's favorite Kiefer Sutherland-won't-stay-dead movie. Owen died at the end of episode seven, so Jack decides to bring him back to life using another resurrection gauntlet thingy. Instead of just bringing Owen back for a couple minutes, it resurrects him for good, but he's a sort of zombie and he's slowly turning into a kind of gateway for death itself to enter the world and kill everybody.


Like a lot of Torchwood episodes, this one had a promising first half and a horrible second half. The first half was just about ZombOwen, angsting about being undead. In the clip above, he goes out on the town and finds out the hard way (sorry!) that he can no longer get an erection. Shortly afterwards, he realizes he can't digest all the alcohol he's been drinking, so he has to get it out in the most disgusting way possible. One thing he still can do is fart, so he does that a lot in a very emotional scene with Captain Jack, where he laments the fact that soon even farting will be beyond him. He will fart his last fart. (Did Russell T. Davies, creator of farty-pants aliens the Slitheen, step in and write that scene?)

It all falls apart in the second half, when death breaks through into our world and tries to claim the thirteen souls it needs to walk the Earth forever. Luckily, death is incredibly wimpy, so even though it pops up into a room full of five people, it doesn't claim any of them. Instead, it trots across the town to pick off people who are already dying of cancer and angina and stuff. It makes perfect sense! Death looks like a CGI skeleton in a gust of smog. Owen heroically sacrifices himself to stop Death, except that he survives. In a show that's not known for plots that make sense, this one made even less sense than usual.

I honestly think I only liked this episode because the Weevil King aspect had lowered my expectations to the cretaceous layer. Plus, Burn Gorman did a good job with the undead Owen and actually made me care what happened to his character a bit, which I'd never have expected. And the trippy elbow-dancing with death early on in the episode was actually a tad unsettling.

As for the other usual standards by which you'd judge Torchwood: there was no gayness. Except for Captain Jack nattering about how he dated Proust. (Captain Jack is turning into a queer Jon Pertwee.) We got some forward motion on the Tosh-loves-Owen subplot, but it was mostly a forwards-then-backwards foxtrot thing. Owen did kiss Tosh, so that's something. There was no sex, except for the limp-dick grope in our clip.


Finally, the meta-question this episode raises is, is Torchwood even still science fiction? Can you possibly explain all the Seventh Seal stuff in this episode using science? I mean, Doctor Who has had some loopy plots too, but I can't remember ever seeing anything quite this nakedly supernatural.

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Charlie Jane Anders

@Seth L: I thought the alcohol purge and farts were awesome.