Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Combat - Torchwood 1.11

In which Captain Jack is pursuing a Weevil through the streets of Cardiff. Gwen is on a dinner date with Rhys and sees him. She runs to join him, much to Rhys' annoyance.  They are just on the point of capturing it when they see it being bundled into the back of a van and driven off. Tosh traces the van to a warehouse. When they arrive, they find a dead man - his body exhibiting wounds consistent with being savaged by a Weevil. His phone rings, and a man's voice warns them from investigating further. Another Weevil victim turns up at the hospital, but he refuses to say how he came to injured. The warehouse is found to belong to a local estate agency, run by a young man named Mark Lynch.
Owen has been depressed since the departure of Diane Holmes, and Gwen has now ended their relationship. He is talked into going undercover as a businessman seeking warehouse properties in Cardiff, in order to find out more about Lynch.

Gwen tells Rhys about her affair, only to then Retcon him. Jack decides to release their captured Weevil, which they have named Janet, in the hope that it will lead them to the abductors. The creature is captured, but they fail to trace the people who have taken it. Owen and Lynch have a drink together, and the estate agent invites him back to his flat once he realises that Owen is looking for some new excitement in his life. Owen has a look round the flat, and comes across Janet chained up in one of the rooms. Lynch takes Owen to a warehouse where a number of people are gathering. A large cage has been set up, and Owen discovers that men are paying to fight Weevils. Everyone puts down £1000, and whoever survives their fight wins the pot. Lynch explains that he and others like him who have wealth and influence are in need of more heightened experiences in their lives. The Weevil fights provide the ultimate thrill.

Owen refuses to join in, and is goaded by Lynch. He relents and enters the cage, at first refusing to fight the creature. It attacks him, but his colleagues have traced his location and arrive in time to rescue him. They break up the fight club, but Lynch enters the cage to show he has no fear. The Weevil attacks and kills him. Jack stands back and allows this to happen.
Owen recuperates in hospital, where Jack suspects that he was trying to kill himself in the cage. Back at work the next day, Owen goes to the cells and watches the captured Weevils held there. When they hiss at him he responds in kind - and finds that the creatures cower before him.

Combat was written by Noel Clarke, and was first broadcast on 24th December, 2006. Clarke was, of course, best known for playing Rose Tyler's boyfriend Mickey Smith in Doctor Who at the time, but he was already an accomplished screenwriter as well as an actor. Kidulthood had been one of the big British hits of 2006.
This is hardly the most original episode of Torchwood, as it shows its influence all too clearly. 1996 saw the publication of the novel Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk, which was filmed by David Fincher and released in cinemas in 1999. This also features a depressed individual meeting someone who draws him into a fight club whose participants are men seeking vicarious thrills in their lives.
The Weevils had featured in the very first episode of Torchwood, and publicity had suggested they would be that series' recurring monsters, but in reality they had rarely featured until this episode.
They will have a bit more to do in the second season, and the incident in the cells which forms the coda to this episode does prefigure Owen's apparent power over them after he has been brought back from the dead.

There's only one real guest artist this week, and that's Alex Hassell as Mark Lynch. Hassell is better known as a theatre performer, having played Caliban alongside Mark Rylance at the Globe, and Prince Hal / Henry V with the RSC. He played opposite Anthony Sher in the Henriad (Sher was Falstaff), and acted alongside him again in Death of a Salesman.
Overall, it is an exciting enough episode, designed mainly to set Owen up for the final section of the series. Gwen and Rhys get a couple of good scenes as well, moving them on a little, whilst Jack gets to demonstrate a real ruthless streak - first of all by allowing Janet to be used as bait, then allowing her to maul Lynch to death.
Things you might like to know:

  • Mark's company is called LynchFrost. This is a homage to Lynch / Frost Productions, the company behind Twin Peaks
  • Torchwood's low key story arc is in evidence as Lynch tells Owen about the darkness and something moving in it.
  • We never do learn anything about the Weevils and their origins. They are presented as a form of bipedal rat, of very limited intelligence, and yet they wear clothes - the exact same clothes, as though they were bred and maintained by some higher power.

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