Shiny Shelf

Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts / They Keep Killing Suzie

By Jon de Burgh Miller on 09 December 2006

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

We’re now more than half way through the first season of Torchwood and despite some shaky moments, it’s shaping up to be a bold, confident, crazy and clever show, neither serious drama nor camp slasher tomfoolery. The overriding theme of Torchwood is ‘what if the impossible was possible?’, and nowhere is this more in evidence than in these two episodes. Certainly two of the strongest so far, the first wonders what would happen if we could hear other people’s thoughts, and the second asks what would happen if we could bring the dead back to life?

In ‘Greeks Bearing Gifts’, geeky Toshiko – who the series has so far established has very little in the way of a social life – meets a girl called Mary who gives her a necklace which enables her to read the minds of others. Of course, in true sci-fi cliche style, the seductive lady turns out to be an alien wanting to use Tosh to get inside Torchwood, but the main plot is really just an excuse for a long series of gags as the thoughts of the Torchwood team, and random strangers in the street, are heard.

The episode explores the question of whether an ability like that could be used for good (Tosh prevents a murder) or for evil (she’s hurt by how snide and catty people are about her). It’s a fascinating concept which Toby Whithouse explores in a fun way. It’s a memorable one too. In the few days after viewing it’s hard not to listen to your own thoughts, and imagine what others would hear if they could read your mind. It does make you realise just how bitchy the human race is towards each other in the privacy of our own heads.

‘They Keep Killing Suzie’ is a sequel to the first episode of the series, ‘Everything Changes’, and sees a gruesome murder mystery result in Torchwood breaking their vow to never use the resurrection glove (or ‘Risen Mitten’ as Ianto dubs it here) again. This inevitably leads to the resurrection of former Torchwoodian Suzie Costello, and the mystery over who the killer is, why and how Suzie set up the murders and what her true game plan is gradually unfolds in a series of unpredictable twists and turns.

Suzie’s plot is contrived and as the episode unfolds it’s revealed to be and more and more elaborate. By the end it’s so reliant on ridiculous coincidences that very little of it stands up to scrutiny. While this may be down to lazy script-editing, the character drama is played so well here that one barely notices just how far-fetched the whole thing has become. The finale of the episode is particularly memorable, as Gwen slowly dies of a growing gunshot wound while Zombie Suzie comes back to life no matter how many times Jack kills her.

Exploring the theme of life and death, this is one of the first episodes to truly address Jack’s immortality, and takes the lack of an afterlife mentioned in the first episode to a new level. In one of the first scenes of the series, a man brought back to life saw ‘nothing’ after death, but now Suzie claims to see something moving in the darkness, something coming for Captain Jack. It’s a great twist on the afterlife debate and looks like something pretty intense is being set up for the end of the series.

Despite the far-fetched nature of Suzie’s plan and the improbable resolution to the ‘lock-down’, this is still one of the strongest episodes so far. Featuring the first real evidence of a building story-arc for the season gives a momentum to the episode that previous weeks have been lacking. If they keep this up for the next five weeks, then Torchwood is one show that will be on everyone’s ‘must see’ list by the time the inevitable second season rolls around.

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By Jon de Burgh Miller

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