Contains (tagged) spoilers.
It’s over. One of the most intellectually and emotionally challenging pieces of drama I have seen in a long, long time. I’ve only just managed to scrape together the detachment to throw together a few words about it.
It was a strange mix of factors that drew me into the show, but in the end it comes down to quality. The quality of the writing and the quality of the performances.
It did undoubtedly help that we got five instalments in daily doses; it would have been impossible to bear week long waits between episodes and momentum carried through as each day turned out to be even, impossibly, better than the one before. Having been out on Tuesday night I watched two episodes on Wednesday. Excitement overload.
And a peculiarity was that as the third season of a generally puerile show which had done little to develop the characters over the previous twenty-something hours, there were familiar characters that we grew to know far better than in the three years we’ve known them.
Then there was Ben Foster’s music: beautiful and exciting. Euros Lyn’s dynamic direction has been full of pace and frenetic action, but with moments of intimacy and the ordinary; the use of colour and the stunningly designed visuals have enhanced every shot.
But the writing: Russell T. Davies can be brilliant, but has rarely been this good, collaborating for one episode with James Moran. He manages those beautiful, heart-warming character moments so effortlessly, yet in other respects the writing has been unflinching. Almost all of the characterisation has been pitch perfect and even at its weakest, in the dialogue and motivations he has unerringly hit target. The collaboration in producing the pacing, structure and tone across the week has been impressive. And new to Who John Fay produced two outstanding episodes.
And the performances: so universally excellent, but notably Susan Brown, Ian Gelder and Paul Copley (whose technically accomplished performance was riveting). And Peter Capaldi. Wow. Peter Capaldi.
Sad and unexpected as it was, I still watched the end of Day Four with the kind of detachment that left me thinking about how well it had been written and realised, and whether Day Five could deliver the kind of ending worthy of the four hours preceding it.
25 minutes in, as Frobisher put his hand behind his back to hide the gun from his family, I was bawling like a toddler. I think I shall need therapy.
The plotting, characterisation and structure of the dramatic build up was so beautifully executed that even after that, possibly the most shocking moment I’ve seen in a TV drama, we then witnessed (on prime time BBC 1) the “hero” of the show murder an innocent child. I do not know, I simply cannot fathom, whether what Jack did was right, or even defensible. That was no easy ending and for me there is no easy answer.
Never mind the Doctor Who universe; besides being one of the bleakest, most brilliant political thrillers I’ve seen this was exceptionally good by any standard of television drama.
It stands alone.
So, on a slightly lighter note… Returning to the strange question of the show’s provenance, die-hard Torchwood fans have been abusing James Moran on his blog over the death of Ianto (which of course he didn’t write). Well, maybe not that much lighter. Apart from the peculiarity of the belief that emotional investment in a character gives you an entitlement to a continuing return, Ianto’s death was dramatically necessary. For me, it was no where near as upsetting as what was to come, but it set the tone for Day 5 by showing just how helpless Jack and Torchwood had become.
Will there be more? “I€™d like to do a continuous story like this again, I have to say.” RTD told the Stage.