Doctor Who #791: Fragments

"I don't exist... and for a man of my charisma, that's quite an achievement."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.21 2008.

IN THIS ONE... Stuck under rubble, the team remember how they each joined Torchwood.

REVIEW: A clever way to tell each character's secret origin, Fragments tells four stories that are interesting, but ultimately a little slim. But given that Series 3 is short mini-series and that two cast members are about to leave, it's really now or never. The framing tale, a trap set by John Hart, has some harrowing moments, including the explosion itself, and certainly Owen face to face with a pane of glass about to decapitate him, but that's not really the central focus. The four stories are.

Jack's story: From the title card, "1,392 deaths earlier", to waking up with a bottle in his belly, to the fight with the Victorian blowfish, there's a lot of fun to be had in this "fragment". We see how early on he's strong-armed into working with Torchwood though he doesn't agree with their ruthless methods. The Victorian Torchwood agents make me wonder if there's something in the Hub that makes everyone bisexual, but otherwise, they're really caricatures. The immortal girl with the Tarot shows up, but her cards look anachronistic to me. This has always been an odd, and under-explored idea. I do like the transition to 1999 with an action writing montage, after which things take a dark turn with a murder suicide of the entire team because Torchwood isn't ready for the 21st century. This is where Jack took (and re-purposed) his slogan, and where he got control of the team. Whatever his leader Alex saw in the pendant he fondles, it was enough to make him commit a desperate outrage, so either he got visions of the Doctor Who TV Movie, which took place later that night, or most probably, the events seen on the series playing out WITHOUT the current team. Would Abaddon have won the day, for example, without their participation?

Toshiko's story: The weakest of the four tales, it's meant to show how brilliant she was even before the Torchwood training, and though she committed acts of espionage, she did so under duress. Thrown into Britain's (or UNIT's?) version of Guantanamo Bay, she's rescued by Captain Jack who asks for five years of her life in exchange for her freedom. That was five years ago, so her time is just about up. Foreshadowing.

Ianto's story: His is rather different because he was already a member of Torchwood, but interestingly, Jack wants nothing to do with the London branch and will not hire this pest who comes hat in hand. There's some nice banter and chemistry between the two, though Ianto is probably flirting with Jack because he's desperate to get the job and plug his cyber-girlfriend into a socket. It's also the pterodactyl's origin, its capture serving as Ianto's winning audition. It's all rather light-hearted, though once he's in - having promised to play tea boy - his smile turns to a mix of pain and relief.

Owen's story: He's Batman. He loses a loved one to an alien monster and so joins the fight to prevent it from ever happening again. That loved one is his fiancée, struck by a strange form of Alzheimer's that's really caused by an alien parasite. Cue the grand guignol with the poor girl dead on the operating table, her brain pan open with some tentacular horror squirming inside. Owen thinks he's gone mad at first, especially since Tosh has apparently worked her magic and removed all evidence of these events, but meets Jack later and is initiated into Torchwood's secrets. Now we understand his bitterness and refusal to commit to a relationship.

VERSIONS: The DVD includes a deleted scene featuring Toshiko talking to a creepy neighbor in the cell next to hers. I expect the woman's voice we hear would have been replaced by another actor's.

- Though each is well done and origin stories feel important in general, I was surprised to find the episode a little thin.


Lentilite said...

"Whatever his leader Alex saw in the pendant he fondles, it was enough to make him commit a desperate outrage, so either he got visions of the Doctor Who TV Movie, which took place later that night, ..."

You're killing me, man. :)

Siskoid said...

It doesn't have to be a dig at the TVM. Alex might have seen reality unraveling and getting sucked into the Eye of Harmony. Should have waited for the Doctor to turn back time...


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