Doctor Who #744: Countrycide

"Let me question him. I have to understand. I want to know why. Otherwise this, this is too much."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.19 2006.

IN THIS ONE... There are cannibals in the Welsh countryside.

REVIEW: Cyberwoman was Chibnall's bottle show, this is his all-location episode, and it's not QUITE as much of a misstep. But I wouldn't recommend it regardless. It does feature at least an attempt at character development, with Tosh's unrequited love for Owen showing, and his cruelty deeply wounding her. Unfortunately, Chibnall also uses this as a sequel to Cyberwoman's objectionable character bits. This is where Gwen's affair with Owen ignites, and it at least moves away from violent sex and towards a sort of kinship, mutual respect and maybe even a certain amount of warmth. But I still can't get behind it. When Gwen says the job is changing her, yes, of course, it would, but the WAY she's changed isn't earned, in my opinion. And then there's the moment Gwen's campfire game thoughtlessly brings up the whole Lisa issue for Ianto, something we hardly need reminding of. It's a good thing Ianto goes on to headbutt the lead cannibal, because otherwise, he looks like a proper Torchwood agent, but does a lot of whining and scared acting. Chibnall definitely has him on the slow track (just compare him to Gwen). And what's this about Jack being a master torturer now? Jeezus, it's Harkness, not Bauer!

Of course, everyone's freaking out in this episode, and yes, man-eaters are unsettling, but the show plays them as a supernatural threat, which they aren't. For some reason, eating human meat makes them super-strong and super-stealthy, able to get the better of trained, armed Torchwood agents while snarling like animals. The production's just not playing fair with the audience. Just look at the scene where Ma Cannibal gets Ianto and Tosh out of storage as an example. She plays scared and is utterly convincing. That's because we're not allowed to realize the threat isn't alien after all. When you know the mystery's solution, the first half hour feels especially cheap and manipulative. Even when you don't, it take way too long to show its hand and becomes a collection of sequences where characters run around, open creaky doors and find gory body parts or corpses. With the reveal, we're left wondering why Torchwood even went to the country, outside of rift's usual influence, and how they can be such rubbish when facing a non-alien threat, from leaving the keys in the SUV to getting Gwen shot. Good thing Jack was there, though the American action hero moment with the shells flying was fairly cheesy. Ironically, it's the case that's most "police work" that sends Gwen flipping over the edge.

If the episode is saved from ignominy at all, it's thanks to Owen Teale's performance as the lead cannibal. Unfortunately, he shows up really late. Can that last moment where he tells Gwen he ate people because it made him happy, as surprising, creepy and somehow poignant as it is, redeem Countrycide? Well, that's up to you to decide. I like the moment, but hardly anything that comes before. It's just too early to pull the un-supernatural twist on the series, and the hicksploitation angle wouldn't be so bad if 1) Owen didn't have that whole rant about the country, implying all country folk are barbaric hicks and 2) the Welsh weren't the butt of the UK's jokes (just as the people of Newfoundland are Canada's, or the Belgians France's). It's a slick city show taking cheap shots. It's all too smug for my tastes.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Much suspense about nothing. Teale rescues it from the Low column, just.


Madeley said...

I'm glad I'd stopped watching by this point, because from the sounds of it the Backwards Cannibal Hick portrayal of rural Welsh people would have sent me off my nut. I'd add the fact that Torchwood's status as a BBC Wales production underlines the fact that sometimes we the Welsh are pretty good at punching ourselves in the face.

Siskoid said...

Common of ridiculed peoples the world over. You get so used to the joke, it becomes something you say about others in your ethnic group.

But I think we're out of the woods now (literally), because my memories of the show are that the worst is behind us.


Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Orville The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine