Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Random Shoes - Torchwood 1.9

In which a young man who has been obsessed with Torchwood for a number of years gets the opportunity to join the team as they investigate a death. Unfortunately, it is his death they are investigating... Eugene Jones finds himself lying in the middle of the road, with no memory of how he got there. He spots the Torchwood team, and when he goes to speak to them he finds that they don't seem to notice his presence. He then sees his own corpse, victim of a road traffic accident. Only Gwen seems to have any feelings about his death. The others reveal that they always found him a bit of a nuisance. Jack thinks there is nothing to investigate here, but Gwen decides to delve deeper. Eugene decides to tag along. At his home, his mother is very upset. In his bedroom they find a number of items which he had collected which were supposed to be of extra-terrestrial origin. These prove to be fakes, but one of the items is missing and Eugene realises that it is his supposed alien eye.

Eugene recalls the circumstances surrounding his acquisition of it. He had taken part in a school maths quiz but had blanked on the final question. His father was deeply disappointed, and walked out on his family soon after. Eugene was given the eye by way of consolation by his teacher, who had claimed that it was alien. Eugene accompanies Gwen to the Hub, but faints when she begins his autopsy. She senses movement momentarily. The next day, Gwen discovers that Owen took a rented DVD from Eugene's room. She takes it to the shop, hoping to learn more about the young man. As the shop is closed, she goes to a cafe, with Eugene in tow. He automatically orders his usual breakfast, and Gwen finds herself ordering the same. Looking through Eugene's phone, she calls one of his frequent contacts - a man named Gary. She also comes across some photos of random shoes.

At the DVD shop, the young man behind the counter - Josh - tells Gwen that he knew Eugene, and that he was one of life's losers. She then meets Gary, who proves to be a work colleague. Another colleague named Linda agrees to speak with Gwen, and tells her of the alien eye. Eugene had been convinced that if he advertised it on-line then its owner might come forward to retrieve it. The price had shot up just before Eugene's death. Gwen later learns that Eugene's father did not start a new life in America as his family claimed. He works in a petrol station only a few miles away. Gwen discovers that Josh, Gary and Linda had been playing a trick on Eugene. He had gone to a motorway service station to meet the alien buyer - only to find that it was a set-up by his friends. This was when he took the photos of their shoes. Eugene had swallowed the eye to stop his friends taking it, then run off - which is when he was struck by the car.
Eugene's father attends the funeral, where the mortician hands Gwen the eye in a paper bag - having removed it from the body after it was cremated. Jack recognises it as a Dogon sixth eye - capable of allowing someone to see their past and re-evaluate their life. Eugene has been kept on Earth by its presence in his body, and is surprised that he is still here now that it has been removed. Distracted, Gwen is almost run down by a car, and Eugene pushes her out of the way. Suddenly everyone can see him. He had stayed on in order to save her. Eugene then finds himself hurtling into the air and off into space...

Random Shoes was written by Jacquetta May, and was first broadcast on 10th December, 2006. May was relatively new to writing, but had been an actor for a number of years. She had played the regular character of Rachel in Eastenders between 1991 - 93.
It is an unusual episode in that it focuses on its guest artist, with only Gwen investigating. Jack hardly features at all. There is no enemy / threat involved.
The reason for the relative absence of the others is that this episode was double-banked with another - Captain Jack Harkness - in which Gwen did not feature heavily. The use of flashback narrative and voice-over by the guest artist is reminiscent of Love & Monsters, another double-banked episode of the parent show.
The guest actor is Paul Chequer. His mother, Bronwen, is played by Nicola Duffett. Josh is Steven Meo - the only Welsh actor not to have appeared in Doctor Who, it seems, though he provided a voice on "The Infinite Quest" animated adventure. Gary is Celyn Jones, and Linda is Robyn Isaac. The teacher - Mr Garret - is Roger Ashton-Griffiths, who featured in Robots of Sherwood.

Overall, you either love this one or loathe it. Some dislike the fact that it is a character piece with no alien threat. It is certainly a touching episode. In fact, it appears to have been given the entire emotion-allocation for the whole first series. The emotion is laid on a bit thick with the funeral section, however.
Things you might like to know:

  • Everyone was a bit confused when the title came up on screen, as that week's Radio Times said that this episode was to be called "Invisible Eugene". The story title was only changed a couple of weeks before transmission.
  • The producer, Richard Stokes, saw the classic Christmas movie It's A Wonderful Life as an inspiration for this episode.
  • The DVD which Owen "borrows" is the BBC Sci-Fi serial A for Andromeda.
  • The Doctor Who franchise usually uses fake websites, but Eugene sells his alien eye on eBay.
  • The Dogon are a tribe from Mali. Not to be confused with Dagon - one of HP Lovecraft's ancient gods.
  • Strangely, the Irish Film Classification Board gave this episode an 18 certificate. The UK board, on the other hand, gave it the lowest rating of the season.
  • Paul Chequer played DI Dimmock in the Sherlock episode The Blind Banker in 2010, and returned to the role for The Six Thatchers in 2017.

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