Doctor Who #746: They Keep Killing Suzie

"What do you want me to say on the death certificate?" "Good question." "She had quite a few deaths in the end." "I don't know. Death by Torchwood."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Dec.3 2006.

IN THIS ONE... Suzie's back from the Void and she won't die!

REVIEW: You know, the Resurrection Glove didn't get much of a chance to shine as an "artifact that reveals something about the human condition" in Everything Changes, seeing as it was relegated to the B-plot as Gwen's discovery of Torchwood took center stage. So it makes sense to get back to it, and in that context, bringing Suzie back as a villain is just about perfect. And if she'd been an unwilling consultant, desperately clinging to her new-found (un)life, giving her insights into what lies beyond, as she first appears to be, it would have been an incredible episode. Making Suzie this supervillain who masterminded the events that led to her resurrection before she died makes me less sure. How believable is it? How long had Torchwood been fiddling with the glove that Suzie had time to retcon and reprogram her confidant to murder members of her Luddite support group so that Torchwood would inevitably be led back to her corpse? For it to work, she would have had to know beforehand how to use the glove to transfer (in this case) Gwen's life into herself before she started, but in the pilot, she was still experimenting with flies and her record resurrection was 2 minutes. So that's even before we start looking at whether Torchwood would really have felt Suzie was their only lead in the case (and it takes Gwen's pushing for it for Jack to even consider using the glove again). What I'm saying is, the story works without that crazy, convoluted plan, so why do it? Just find a way for Gwen and Suzie to make their escape without resorting to the poetry-triggered lockdown (after all, Gwen seemed to think they could drive off without the team immediately following), which would also have cut Tosh's ridiculous jumping to the conclusion that the ISBN number of the poetry book would reverse the lockdown, and the idea that an unpowered keyboard could sense the code input (I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she just knew how Suzie thought, but only just). These kinds of contrivances are part and parcel of Doctor Who, but ill-fitting with Torchwood's "real world" grit.

That said and plot holes identified, it's still quite a good episode and it does what I want it to do. Torchwood is never more adult than when it takes the time to frankly discuss adult issues. Is there an after-life? There is, and it seems to be the Void. Suzie was AWARE in the darkness and felt the season's big bad moving in Jack's direction. (Could be a lie to freak Jack out, but as an immortal, he'd be a magnet for anything that fed on souls.) This bleak vision doesn't invalidate Gwen's "primary school" Heaven, of course. Suzie was a very bad person, in fact even more psychotic than Everything Changes indicated, and the Void (which the Doctor called Hell) could be one of several destinations for life energy. So there's hope here too, if you wish to see it. And though Suzie is a villainous killer/vampire, she's also a sympathetic character. She kills her own father, but he was obviously at the root of her being so screwed-up, on the run, etc. Her holding on to life, desperately and tenaciously, also weighs her down with guilt and anguish. She obviously feels great shame about her actions, but lets her ugliest traits, anger and bitterness, drive them. Her contention that, seeing as there's "nothing" on the other side, life is precious and must be lived, is a positive message, though she's clearly corrupted it (her own is precious, others' are disposable). Mixed in with all this is the idea of how quickly one is replaced after dying, as a co-worker, as a friend, as a lover (oh Owen, everyone BUT Tosh, is it?), one of the more selfish anxieties about dying.

One of the things this episode does is start redeeming Ianto as a character. He's got to climb a very steep hill, you'll agree, but making him the resident quipster (the bits about naming the artifacts, for example, or reminding us that gloves come in pairs) puts him on the road to Series 2, and he even shows some resourcefulness when he ties his phone to the Hub's water tower. They get out of Suzie's trap specifically because of him. I'm less enamored with his change of attitude about Jack, going from "I hate you because you killed the love of my life" to "let's play bizarre sex games with a stopwatch". I don't even know what THAT'S all about. Weird dialog in support of an even weirder about-face. Cardiff's own change in attitude towards Torchwood feels a little more earned. The special ops group has been stomping all over town, taking over crime scenes and such, and now the coppers have stopped being resentful and have instead turned it into a joke. D.I. Swanson is the voice of the police in this, and gets to speak truth to power (seriously and jokingly). Even gets to help out. I'm a little surprised she never returned to the series (except in some of the books) because she makes a pretty good Commissioner Gordon type (that's a pretty appropriate allusion since the episode is about a threat created by Torchwood, a bit like how the Batman "created"/inspired his rogues gallery).

- The plot strains credulity, but the themes, acting, suspense, darkness and brief moments of humor all bring this one up to a higher level.


Craig Oxbrow said...

It was all going so well until the stopwatch.

Siskoid said...

Breath holding competitions, maybe? Of course Jack can go indefinitely.


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