Doctor Who #745: Greeks Bearing Gifts

"Speaking orally, using a pre-arranged and finite number of words, it's so archaic and kind of gross to look at."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.26 2006.

IN THIS ONE... Tosh gets herself an alien lover and some telepathy.

REVIEW: Toshiko's waited seven episodes before getting more than slimmest character development, and boy, what an episode. Tosh meets Mary (Daniela Denby-Ashe, who couldn't possibly be any sexier), a seductive (and highly literate, but I can see how a telepath learning language would respond well to poetry) "scavenger" who gives her a telepathic pendant and access to the Torchwood team's minds. It's all part of a plan to seduce Tosh and get inside the Hub to get her transporter and get off our planet because she's a centuries-old alien criminal. In the process, we discover who Toshiko is. She's probably the best soul in the team, in it for what one might call "the right reasons", finding hope in an alien letter to its family, counteracting the despair of finding so many weapons as well. But she's also lonely, heartbreakingly so. There's the unrequited love for the perpetually cruel and alienating Owen, and her refusal to admit to it or get between him and his current lover, Gwen. Seeing into her teammates minds only makes her feel more isolated, and even her relationship with Mary is initially tainted by shame. But by the time Jack kills the alien, it's clear she had fallen for Mary, and it's betrayal (Mary's) on top of betrayal (Jack's). Gwen's observation that Tosh was at her best when in love is the kind of accidental cruelty people commit because they CAN'T read your mind. My heart really goes out to her, and this is a rather personal observation, but "Greeks" makes Tosh the Torchwood character I most identify with.

Like Ghost Machine, this is about using an alien artifact to explore the human condition. How awful are we in our private thoughts? How unbearable would it be to hear everyone's? The episode represents human existence as an essentially lonely and isolated thing. Each of us an island, cut off from the rest. Even the playful Gwen-Owen relationship has the two of them question the other's commitment and their own. It feels like we've heard all these conversations, but no, we're cheating. They haven't expressed any of this to each other. Can we know, TRULY know anyone but ourselves? Jack is the loneliest of all, without even a mind to read. At first I thought, well, he's got some psychic training from his Time Agent days, but even he's surprised to hear he's not giving off anything, as if he were dead. As the Doctor figure in Torchwood, he's the ultimate outsider - an outsider among outsiders, you might say - a man out of time, unfixed in time and the normal parameters of human mortality, and ignorant of how his own existence can even be possible. This is why Mary's so seductive to Tosh (beyond the looks and outrageous confidence, I mean); she's a respite from the loneliness, someone who can actually BE with her on her "island" (a metaphor she herself uses to denote her exile). Tosh can be manipulated because when two people share island space, there's no telling who's idea is who's.

Granted, Tosh's gaylien encounter loses some of its shine because Gwen already did the girl-on-alien-girl thing in Day One, but that's really that first episode's crime. Here, the seduction is well played, the confusion, shame and elation all explored. Ianto is currently the only member of Torchwood that isn't sexually polymorphic, and we know that's gonna change. Must be all the 51st-century Jack pheromones in the Hub's confined space. Plot-wise, Owen's work on the dead body is a nice reverse-mislead, initially feeling procedural background noise (just like the PM taking phone calls from Jack), and then awakening a memory in him of Mary's past victims (she steals hearts, another metaphor with a literal sign), effectively justifying Jack's actions at the end. Writer Toby Whithouse has done well enough with Doctor Who, but this might be his strongest work for the Whoniverse.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A sexy guest star and some thematically sound writing help make me fall in love with sad Toshiko. I still cringe at the Gwen-Owen romance a little bit, and Ianto is a drain, so not quite perfect. But the show is definitely heading back up.

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