Doctor Who #748: Out of Time

"Because when you take off together it's the next best thing to flying."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Dec.17 2006.

IN THIS ONE... Three people from the 1950s fly to the present via the Rift.

REVIEW: Three people from 1953 fly out of the rift a week before Christmas (a day after the episode first aired) and become Torchwood's responsibility. It's an atypical story, melancholy and filled with older music, one that's used to reveal an equal number of regular characters (sorry Ianto and Tosh, though the former does get to have fun showing the three displaced characters around a supermarket). Three time-tossed characters, three different reactions to the present.

The youngest among them, Emma, is seduced by our world. Yes, she missed her family, but is far readier to embrace modern trappings and attitudes than her fellow travelers. In fact, her personal drama is that parental figures keep trying to hold her back. John Ellis wants to impose his strict 50s values on her, and even Gwen plays mother (or to be kind, let's say older sister) to the naive 18-year-old. It's this relationship that brings most of the comedy. Surely, Gwen's attempt at the "sex talk" is up there with Captain Kirk's in "The Apple" if we give points for awkwardness. Gwen's expressive face reveals how damned she is whatever side of the debate she falls on. Her arrival in the Cooper household makes Gwen vulnerable to Rhys, who soon realizes Emma's cover story doesn't hold up. Gwen's lies are about to come home to roost. For now, let's just enjoy the relative lightness of this story strand and Gwen's sisterly pride when Emma goes off to her new life in London.

The oldest among them, John Ellis, is unable to adapt to our world. Ellis is truly a man of his era. He finds our attitudes shocking and distasteful, and can't imagine himself starting over. He's had a wife, a son, a business. He's fought in a war. His investment in the past is too large, and the present has nothing to offer him. He tracks down his son, now an old man with Alzheimer's, with which he can't quite connect. It's poignant and tragic. Jack too is a man of of time, one that's lived through the same years AS John. And they do bond on that basis. But this friendship isn't enough to keep John among the living, and Jack is forced to keep the man company while he commits suicide by car exhaust, giving John the dignity he requests. The idea that death is darkness and loneliness is invoked again, but we're left hoping - on Christmas of all days - that John's fate is closer to Eugene's than Suzie's.

And then there's Diane Holmes, who not only adapts to our world, but is hungry for more. This is the most amazing and memorable of the three strands, a love story to balance the comedy and tragedy, bringing a mixture of both and a healthy dollop of romance as well. Diane is a modern woman born already out of her time. A pilot like Amelia Earhart, she's self-possessed, sexy and passionate, believes in equality AND chivalry. That Owen would fall for her is no surprise at all. She's magnificent. But he can't keep her. She's too much for him. The only relationships he's comfortable in is with "friends with benefits", and his love vow to Diane manifests as an anxiety attack. (He's lost somebody, that one.) And while Diane does love him, her wings won't be clipped. She wants to see what else is out there. She's an explorer and must be true to herself. And I for one am really sorry we never saw the character again, somewhere, somewhen, in the Whoniverse. Cumulatively, the ending of Out of Time is bittersweet, like this part of the story.

REWATCHABILITY: High - As melancholy as a good Christmas song. Doctor Who has had notoriously few female writers, but Torchwood used three in its first series, all of whom produced brilliant episodes. Helen Raynor on Ghost Machine, Jacquetta May on Random Shoes, and Catherine Tregenna on this and the upcoming Captain Jack Harkness. She and Raynor returned for the second series.


Timothy S. Brannan said...

I rather liked this episode too.

These posts are reminding how good Torchwood was, and then how bad it got.

Siskoid said...

You mean Miracle Day? Yeah...


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