You know what I thought about creepy Bilis the first time I saw this episode? I thought, Is he the Doctor? Is he some deranged future incarnation of the Doctor?
Cuz he says things like “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” which the Doctor says all the time. And things like “It’s a curse… I can see the whole of history but I don’t belong anywhere within it,” which sure sounds like something a bitter old Doctor who’s been grieving too long for Gallifrey would say.
And when Gwen asks Jack what vision would have tempted him to open the Rift, like the rest of them have been tempted, he replies: “The right kind of doctor,” and we know he means the Doctor, capital-D. So wouldn’t it be ironically perfect — in a storytelling-dramatic sense, if not in the sense of our desire not to see characters we love so hurting — if Bilis actually were the Doctor?
I’m still reserving judgment on whether Bilis is a far-future Doctor or not. Just because he engineered the unleashing of a thousand-foot tall life-eating demon doesn’t mean he can’t be the Doctor. That would just make this hypothetical future Doctor’s downfall all the more tragic… and dramatically interesting. What could possibly bring him to such an end?
I don’t think we realized before quite how much Jack is yearning for the Doctor’s return. The Doctor’s hand there, right out in the open in the Hub… didn’t Gwen or Owen or Ianto or Tosh or anyone wonder just what the hell was up with this freaky bit of business? Cuz it ain’t normal, keeping a severed hand in a jar. It’s weird.
Or maybe they’re barely paying attention, because — man! — the angst and upset and bitterness and resentment that comes pouring out here. Jack tells Owen all this time-splintering stuff is his fault, Owen think Jack is being ungrateful for being rescued from WWII, Gwen is raging at Jack, Jack is raging at them, full of contempt for their weaknesses… It’s exhausting, listening to them and watching them do what they do, yet it’s completely plausible too… which makes it even more exhausting, because you get so caught up in their upset.
Gwen tases Rhys? Sure, it’s easy to explain that she does it out of love — and certainly her grief when he dies is spectacular and not at all faked — but still: she could try explaining stuff to him, couldn’t she, instead of treating him like a child and “protecting” him from the truth? (I mentioned early on that their relationship has flipped the usual gender norms, and here it is again: usually it’s the guy doing the “protecting” and the gal who’s kept ignorant for her own supposed good. Not that that’s ever a good idea, and here it comes back to haunt Gwen, and taunt her, and hopefully teach her to be nicer to Rhys in the future. But probably not.)
Owen shoots Jack? Fuuuck. It’s harder to argue that he does this out of love, as much as we know Owen loves Jack, too, in his own way. Though I think Owen is maybe a little jealous of the special attention Ianto is getting from Jack. Who wouldn’t be?
Random thoughts on “End of Days”:
• The crawls along the bottom of the screen in the news reports on both Doctor Who and Torchwood always demand to be watched in slo-mo and freeze-frame:
If you can tear your eyes away from the UFOs over the Taj Mahal, you’ll learn frorm the crawl that the “Beatles [are] on the roof of Abbey Road studios” and that a “Samurai warrior [is] on the rampage in Tokyo subway system.” How awesome is that? Perhaps Redcoats and George Washington’s rebel soldiers are materializing on Gun Hill Road in the Bronx (which is so named because colonial troops hauled canon up that hill in a 1777 battle)?
• The religious types are calling it “judgment day,” but honestly, is there anything that doesn’t make them think the Rapture is upon us?
• Andy the cop asks, What rights does a Roman soldier have? How sweet of him! And, you know, that’s an excellent question.
• So, Jack has direct lines to UNIT and the CIA, huh? Interesting…
• Is it merely a coincidence, or a result of the broken-glass metaphor, that the fracturing of reality on the Torchwood computer screen looks like thye Doctor’s explanation of multiple universes when he fractures the glass at Torchwood-Canary Wharf?
• Re the 14th-century plague patient in the hospital: wouldn’t most of us be immune to the Black Death? I mean, we all came through that genetic bottleneck, which means we’re all survivors of people who were immune. Although maybe that only applies to people with European heritage…
• Damn, I’m feeling sorry for a weevil again. It sounds so sad, crying in its cell in the bowels of the Hub. Poor thing…
• All the car alarms going off as Abaddon stomps through Cardiff: That’s what the end of the world is gonna sound like, every damn car alarm screaming at once.
• Jack and Abaddon are the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, aren’t they? Somehow, I’m suddenly wondering what would happen if Jack met Duncan “Highlander” MacLeod…
• Ianto smelling Jack’s jacket… and I told myself I wasn’t gonna cry…
• There Jack goes, running off into the Doctor Who episode “Utopia.” What draws the TARDIS to Earth? Is it all the Rift activity?
• The Rift “is gonna be more volatile than ever,” says Jack? Oh man…
• Great quotes:
“You people love any story that denies the randomness of existence.”–Jack
“Under any other circumstances, an exuberant Roman soldier would be my idea of a perfect morning.”–Jack
(next: Season 2: Episode 1: “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”)
[Torchwood screencap from The Institute]