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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Torchwood’ blogging: “To the Last Man”

Torchwood blogging is back! Haul out your Season 2 DVDs and get watchin’. (Before commenting, please read the intro to my Doctor Who blogging; the same caveats apply to Torchwood.)

(previous: Episode 2: “Sleeper”)

Talk about wibbly wobbly, timey wimey: If Torchwood had never taken Tommy the tommy from the 1918 hospital in the first place, they wouldn’t have needed to send him back, right? We barely have the vocabulary or the verb tenses to discuss this, but, I mean… it was only because Tommy had been pulled back from the about-to-be-demolished 2008 hospital that he had to be removed from the 1918 hospital bed and taken to the Hub and frozen in the first place, and it was only because he had been taken from the 1918 bed that he had to be sent back from 2008. Each of these two events is both the cause and the effect of the other. How can that be?
Of course, it’s just my puny human mind and my shocking lack of education in temporal physics — which all kids in civilized parts of the galaxy are exposed to as a matter of their most elementary schooling — that I’m getting all bent out of mental shape by this. But still… my head wants to explode. My puny uneducated human head.

Surely Jack, as a former Time Agent, understands all this stuff, and his head doesn’t want to explode when he says things like, “This time tomorrow he’ll be back in 1918.”

This poor soldier kid! He’s seen the entire 20th century pass by him in a matter of months (from his subjective time). He’s seen the horrors of it compressed into a timeframe to0 terrible to contemplate… but we should, though. Watching news of the Iraq war (“It’s not really a war,” Tosh tells him — so what is it, then?) on TV, Tommy is stunned, because for him, WWII was only two months ago, Korea was six weeks ago, Vietnam was only a month ago, the Falklands were three weeks ago, the first Gulf War was two weeks ago… In fact, it looks to him as if the 20th century has been nonstop warfare. As, indeed, it has.

Poor Tosh, in love with a frozen guy! (“He’s a frozen soldier from 1918.” “Well, nobody’s perfect.” Reminds me of one of my most favoritest ever movie lines, Mia Farrow in The Purple Rose of Cairo saying of her perfect man, Jeff Daniels’ movie character, “He’s fictional, but you can’t have everything.”) Owen knows what she’s going through, sort of, what with his thing with Diane-from-the-past. Something starts happening between Tosh and Owen in this episode, just tiny hints of something to come — she’s always had a soft spot for him, god knows why, which seems to get softer after this, and he starts thawing out just the teeniest bit now, I think…

Random thoughts on “To the Last Man”:

• Frankly, 1918 Torchwood rocks:

Tthey all die young at Torchwood, and they’re all gorgeous? I want more stories about that.

• Ooo, the temporal lock:

Very Harry Potter.

• You can tell this is a Doctor Who spinoff, because there’s corridors:

Very useful for running down.

• Is it me, or does Gwen seem unnerved and spooked out by the empty hospital to a far greater degree than she should be? Is that supposed to be a representation of the “psychic trauma” Jack mentions as being carried through the Rift (or perhaps even magnified by the Rift)? Or is she just a girly girl suddenly about deserted old hospitals?

• I love how Gwen and the 1918 nurse are ghosts to each other. It’s like a reinforcement of the cause-and-effect-and-cause thing.

• Great quotes:

“Jack, have you got any more of those pretty boys in the freezer?” –Gwen

“I’ll be saving the world in some pajamas — how daft is that?” –Tommy

(next: Episode 4: “Meat”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
  • Mo

    I’ve long had this theory- and I don’t know if it’s only me or not- that in the Doctor’s universe where time can shift around and rewrite itself, time loops have a way of collapsing from something particularly wobbly into something stable and self-sustaining.

    So the whole series of events would have started with something totally different, and then the future changes the past which changes the future again and so on until future, past, cause, and effect are indistinguishable, while the original cause is long forgotten.

    Anyway, it’s just one theory. It keeps me sane, at least. And yes, I do spend way too much time thinking about these things. ;)

    I wonder why these time loop what ifs always have to be so sad, though.

  • Alison

    The ’cause and effect’ thing presented in this episode always gets me thinking about the situation in the first ‘Terminator’ movie. Son sends guy back to save his mom, without whom, he wouldn’t have been born to send guy back to save his mom…

    I love this stuff.

  • Mark

    It’s worth going and (re) reading Heinlein’s All You Zombies for one of the classic treatments of uncaused-cause loopiness.

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