Doctor Who #783: Meat

"Well, this is unprecedented. The fiancé finding out." "Mainly because we're all sad and single."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.6 2008.

IN THIS ONE... Rhys learns the truth about Torchwood in a case involving alien meat.

REVIEW: There is one thing that works quite well in Meat and that's Rhys finding out about Torchwood. In the first act, he sees Gwen rockin' it on the job, which inflames both his suspicion that she's been lying about her police work and his jealousy at all the hot dudes she's surrounded by (one Captain Jack especially). It's a bit Comedy of Errors too, because his following Gwen around leads the team to think he might be involved in the nefarious alien meat plot. He confronts her and I love that particular fight. For one thing, it gender-reverses the usual cliché of the man wanting to protect his woman, which ultimately leads to condescension. Then there's the flow of it. She lets it out that she catches aliens. Beat. And the row goes on until her sincerity can't be denied. In Act 2, Rhys is shown around the Hub, compares yardsticks with Jack (amusingly, the latter thinks it's homoerotic), and is surprisingly resilient to these life-changing revelations. He's definitely been underestimated, and yet Gwen is still adamant that he must be protected from this world. There's that creepy bit when she makes out with her fiancé while staring at Jack as if forcing a promise from him nothing will go wrong. And in the final act, yes, Rhys gets taken hostage, but so does the otherwise badass Ianto (words I never thought I'd write during Series 1), and he proves his mettle by taking a bullet for Gwen. I think it's a great move to screw with the status quo by not retconning Rhys, though Gwen has to put her foot down. Had she not been Jack's favorite though...

I say favorite, but the episode does seem to imply something else. If you hadn't seen Series 1, you might be led to believe Gwen's untoward relationship was with Jack and not Owen. There's no awkwardness with the latter, but tons of it with the former. It's like the show has seriously been retconned. Jack HAS changed since the Doctor's visit - he loves his team more and shows an incredible amount of empathy towards the "Cash Cow" - but given that he seems to be in a relationship with Ianto at the moment, all these scenes meant to imply he's in love with Gwen don't really work. He's much better keeping it light, flirting with Rhys' secretary or laughing with the future Mr. Gwen Cooper in the lorry. While we're on the subject of relationships, they're really pushing Tosh' unrequited love for cruelly oblivious Owen in this one. One scene maybe, but there are at least three, which is rather ham-fisted. Owen ignores her for most of the episode, but their final moment together is actually quite nice. Out of options, Owen is forced to kill the creature, which takes its toll on him - there really is a proper doctor under there - and Tosh offers a welcome personal contact. It's a mirror of the comfort he brought her in the previous episode.

The plot serves its purpose, which is making Rhys' truck-driving life converge with a Torchwood case. Not sure about the premise though. A kind of cutesy alien whale - sentient, apparently - is being cut up for meat by street-level criminal entrepreneurs, who consider it a gold mine since it continually grows and regenerates. In the practice of it, there's a lot of disgusting blood effects (it's this season's Countrycide) and repetitive CG pans across the huge being. By the last act when we're dealing with all this, things slow down considerably. Or perhaps we've all seen that kind of action before, with someone a hostage and everybody putting their guns down, etc. The creature moans a whole lot, all the goons get tasered... it's not without its moments, but I kept looking at the clock wondering when we'd get back to the personal stories. Did I catch a musical cue from Doctor Who in that sequence? It creates an expectation that the creature could and would be saved, only to dash those expectations on the warehouse floor. I don't mind feeling gutted by this show, but the heaviness here is repellent instead of seductive.

VERSIONS: A deleted scene on the DVD shows some banter between Jack and Ianto, discussing Rhys' hotheadedness and competition with Jack.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Catherine Treganna's weakest Torchwood script, it still does a great job with Gwen and Rhys.



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