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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Torchwood’ blogging: “From Out of the Rain”

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 9: “Something Borrowed”)
So, not my favorite episode of Torchwood ever. Oh, it’s atmospheric as hell, I’ll give it that: carnivals and carnival folk are always creepy, though I can never quite put my finger why they’re so menacing. And this represents one of the most original ideas Torchwood has deployed — cinema killed the traveling shows, and now the traveling shows are out for revenge — even if characters stepping into and out of film is something that Woody Allen did years ago, though with a completely different tenor, in The Purple Rose of Cairo. (And I’m sure it’s been done by others too, but nothing’s coming to mind at the moment.)

Totally sinister:

But the superb Twilight Zone-y feel doesn’t pay off in any way that feels Torchwood-ish. There’s been Rift activity around the old Electro cinema, but what does that mean? Are the traveling performers who walk down from the screen and shanghai poor random folks into their audience aliens? They don’t appear to be. And everything we know about the Rift so far doesn’t seem to indicate that it could have the affect of letting regular ol’ humans do things that, to all appearances, are magic, and not science.

I’ve been trying to articulate, just to myself, why this episode doesn’t sit right with me, even though it is so original and so moody, and I think I just hit on it there, as I was writing that previous paragraph: this all feels like fantasy, not like science fiction. The same story might have felt perfectly at home on a show like, oh, The X-Files, but it doesn’t work here. It’s not a satisfying Torchwood story.

Part of that lack of satisfaction, too, comes from how little our Torchwood characters are involved as themselves in the story. They don’t get to react in ways that feel rooted in what we know about them, and in what we know has happened to them in the past: they could be anyone. I mean, even Jack’s prior experience with the traveling shows:

could so easily have been tied into a previous Torchwood investigation in the weird traveling show that comes in from out of the rain and steals people’s breath. It almost seems as if the episode goes out of its way to disconnect the traveling show from Torchwood. I’m not suggesting that everything has to be neatly tied up or explained, but there’s an apparently deliberate attempt to avoid continuity that’s a little bizarre.

Random thoughts on “From Out of the Rain”:

• Is Owen the walking dead man really one to be dismissing as “impossible” the two not-dead women with heartbeats but no breath? I guess it’s cute, how delusional he is, how he appears to have forgotten that he himself is dead/not-dead. It might have been nice to beef up this episode just a little with some sort of deeper reaction on Owen’s part to their plight.

• Great quote:

“Your eyes are older than your face.” –old lady to Jack

(next: Episode 11: “Adrift”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
  • Les Carr

    Not my favourite Torchwood either – it feels like it was made out of the leftover bits of a much better show that they had actually filmed. Or like a jigsaw where the bits have been forced together and the picture doesn’t make sense. Still, Torchwood Rule #1 applies: poor Torchwood is better than no Torchwood.

  • Mimi

    I thought Jack’s earlier stint with the Night Travelers HAD been explained as an early Torchwood investigation… but maybe my mind just made that leap/assumption.

    I also wondered: where are the aliens? And decided that the Night Travelers WERE aliens who had taken advantage of the traveling sideshow format to do their Dastardly Deeds, and who got mad when this format became unavailable to them. Or something.

    Oh, the contortions I will go through to make it all make sense in my head. :)

  • Mimi

    Oh yeah, and now that I have somewhere to post this:

    http://www.shorpy.com/node/5584

    Gaaaa! The Night Travelers!!

  • NorthernStar

    This was definately the clunker of the otherwise consistently good and often excellent second series.

    It’s lovely to look at and everyone who worked on the sets and with the camera’s should be praised for their work. But with the Torchwood team seemingly replaced by imposters, it’s lifeless.

  • Rob

    I remember reading somewhere that this script had actually been a holdover from the first season and had been slightly retooled to fit into the second, which is why there is very little continuity but a passing nod to Owen’s deadness.

  • Matthew

    The writer, PJ Hammond, created a series called “Sapphire and Steel”, which ran from 1979 to 1982 and starred Joanna Lumley and David McCallum. It’s very much of its time (slow and stagey, with no location shooting) but for creepiness and suspense it’s utterly wonderful. Hammond’s Torchwood work (this and “Small Worlds”, from the first series) feels very much like a watered down version of his great Sapphire and Steel stuff. This episode in particular, borrows some of its ideas from the fourth Sapphire and Steel adventure – but the original version is far superior. Sapphire and Steel is available on Region 1 and Region 2 DVD, and well worth checking out, if you can find the time to.

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