Doctor Who #886: The Blood Line

"The future can change. It's being written right now. But one thing I do know, I've seen the stars. I have seen the universe. I have seen the human race become vast, magnificent and endless. And I wish you could see it, Oswald. I wish you could see that too. Cos then you'd know how small you've made your life."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.9 2011.

IN THIS ONE... The Miracle is reversed by pouring Jack's blood into the Blessing. Esther dies. Rex becomes a fixed point.

REVIEW: It's the big finale and despite the blood-sucking rift running through the Earth, it's really the kind of thing "24" used to do. Simultaneous action. Things exploding. Double agents. Beat-up protagonists having to make sacrifices by letting their allies or loved ones die, though they are just as likely to show up alive later. Very "24". Torchwood hasn't been about hunting alien artifacts in a good while. There's a lot of nonsense required to end this story the way they want to end it, of course. Because it's got two poles, it stands to reason(ish) that mortal blood must be introduced at both ends for the cure to immortality to work. The CIA has a mole problem and tracking that traitor's phone is quite possible, but they're waiting for permission (what?!). Why not just inspect everyone's phones to see which ones have a spinning triangle? Rex's intravenous ploy just about works, though one might accuse the production of not playing fair with the audience. Rex and Esther are only ever competent when they're pulling a fast one. In other words, they're only as clever as the writers need them to be. And in this case, it's like the heroes know things before it's explained to them.

Character moments are much stronger than plotting (it's RTD, no surprise there). At the core of the episode are a couple of dazzling speeches. In the first, Gwen pays tribute to her father, bringing home the fact that she's about to write his death sentence, and that of all the Category 1s on the planet. The other is Jack's (quoted above), reducing Oswald down to size lest he become too "heroic" in his villainy/redemption. These are good pieces of writing, but are stronger for having consequences later. Having said goodbye to her dad, and made her peace, Gwen is steadfast where others doubt. Esther's been shot and Rex doesn't know what to do anymore (see what I mean about the CIA characters' competence?), but she keeps him on track, and I kind of love the smile she and Jack share before she shoots him. She must do a terrible thing, but it's a good thing too, and both go into it willingly. And while Oswald may have been cut down to size, the Blessing gives him power again, and not in the way we might think. As a suicide bomber, he gives Torchwood the bargaining chip they need, but his self-sacrifice is totally unnecessary, and that's the point. He gives himself the importance he craves, and this isn't redemption, not when he threatens to chase his long-dead victim to Hell. It's a dark and perverted ending for this character, but though poetically consistent, I'm still not sure he's someone I wanted to follow for ten episodes.

From the epilogue material, it's obvious they thought Torchwood would return. Jilly survives and is contacted by the Families who are plotting an even worse Plan B. The blood transfusion apparently gave Rex Jack's powers, something that's played as a punchline and lots of characters going "What?!" just like the Doctor used to in RTD's other finales. Because no Series 5 materialized, these are strange loose ends, and leave the audience unsatisfied. If the show had continued, I imagine (or wish?) the CIA strand would have been abandoned. Esther and the actually interesting CIA characters (Charlotte, Shapiro) have all been killed, after all. But had they known they were facing cancellation, they might have been better able to provide closure. It feels like Gwen should be reunited with Rhys and their daughter at the end there. Perhaps a montage showing Jack restarting the organization proper. As is, it's a reasonable finale, but not a good ending.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Torchwood Web of Lies (AKA Missing Day) is a motion comic first distributed online in several chapters, then edited for the DVD, removing the interactive puzzles (which makes for sometimes limp story telling). There are two intercut stories. One in 2007, featuring the voices of Gwen and Jack on a day thereafter missing from their memories. In this, a Family member kidnaps Jack to kill him over and over again and harvest his blood. The assassin is defeated in the craziest way, but that's the high point of the story, so it's no complaint. The other story takes place during the Miracle as a character played by Eliza Dushku tracks her Category Oned brother's paranoid clues to vats of Jack's blood (which weren't thrown into the Blessing? I don't get it). This is where all the puzzles come in and are glossed over. Neither story is bad, but the animation is sadly horrendous. As a standard comic, fine, even if the likenesses are extremely variable. But it's a motion comic that causes motion sickness, using bad morphs to warp the characters into the right movement. Lots of blurred figures, dead eyes and difficult-to-follow action. To make things worse, they don't even have a single artist working on the shorts, and the style changes drastically across the half-hour. Ultimately, it ALMOST tells a story worth telling - that Jack was bled, possibly multiple times, after the 1920s - but without the interactive elements that were part of the original design, it's all a bit limp and anti-climactic.

- Serious plotting problems, but several worthy character moments keep the finale afloat.



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