Tuesday 15 May 2018

Dead Man Walking - Torchwood 2.7

In which Captain Jack decides to bring Owen Harper back from the dead. As the rest of the team, including temporary member Martha Jones, mourn, Jack makes his way to a basement cafe full of strange characters. One of these is a young girl who plays with Tarot cards. Jack owes her a favour, and so she points him towards St Mary's, a derelict and deconsecrated church. She is left holding the Death card from the pack as he departs. Inside the church, Jack finds it full of sleeping Weevils, surrounded by items they have scavenged over the years. He makes his way to the altar area where he carefully removes an old casket. Back at the Hub, everyone is shocked to discover that the casket contains a metal gauntlet - the partner to the one which had brought Suzie Costello back to life. Jack is warned about what happened on that occasion. He intends to bring Owen back, but just for a couple of minutes so that everyone can say their goodbyes. When Owen wakes, Tosh tells him she loves him - whereas Jack is only interested in the code to a safe which Owen knows. When the two minutes have elapsed, however, Owen is still alive.

There is no evidence that he is drawing energy from Jack, but it must be coming from somewhere. Martha runs tests on him and finds that his body is changing at the cellular level. Something is taking him over. He suddenly finds himself in a black void, and his eyes turn black. He begins to speak a strange language. He sneaks out of the Hub and goes on a pub crawl, but finds that he can no longer get drunk, or to make love. He may be alive, but all of his bodily functions have shut down. Jack finds him and the two fight, ending up in police custody. The only way he can get rid of the beer he has drunk is to stand on his head and let it flow back out. He makes his peace with Jack. Once released, Jack and Owen are on their way back to the Hub when they are attacked by a horde of Weevils. They find themselves cornered, but the creatures then bow down to Owen. Again his eyes turn black and he utters the strange language. The team discover that a girl was brought back to life by a priest in the parish of St Mary's back in the 14th Century - at the time of the Black Death. Death Incarnate then appeared. It claimed 12 people before it was stopped by faith. Legend has it that had it gained 13 souls it would have been released onto the Earth forever. To prevent this from happening again Owen insists that he be embalmed. Before she can begin the procedure, the glove attacks Martha, sucking the life-force from her. Owen destroys the glove, but Martha is left an old woman.

Death then materialises as a cloud of darkness, within which can be seen a skeletal figure. It attacks and kills Jack before leaving the Hub. Martha is rushed to the nearest hospital, but Death - really an entity named Duroc - has also come here - tempted by the number of people close to death. A large number of Weevils are drawn to the building, waiting outside. Duroc claims 12 victims and pursues the thirteenth - a young cancer patient named Jamie. Owen saves him then locks his colleagues outside, so he can face Duroc alone. Ianto had worked out that it wasn't religious faith which had stopped the entity before - but a girl named Faith, the one who had been resurrected. Owen is the only person who can fight Duroc, as he is already dead and can't be hurt by it. He starves it of its energy, banishing it back to its black void. Martha is returned to normal.
Back at the Hub, Owen finds that the energy keeping him alive is slowly dissipating, but it could take years before he dies. He asks Jack if he can return to work, feeling that he owes something to the 12 people who died because of him.

Dead Man Walking was written by Matt Jones, and was first broadcast on 20th February, 2008. Jones had previously written the Series 2 Doctor Who story The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit.
This episode forms part of the Martha Jones Trilogy, though the three stories are as much about Owen and his death and resurrection. Martha only stays on with Torchwood to carry out Owen's autopsy, and then to study him once he comes back.
One of the problems with the series is the lack of resolution to mysteries which are set up. This is mainly down to the format being totally revised for the third and fourth seasons, then the show's seeming cancellation (at least on TV). For instance we never got to find out about Jack's missing years - stolen from him by the Time Agency. Here we get to meet the strange young girl who, despite looking about 12 years of age, is obviously far older, and has some history with Jack. We never do learn much more about her or the others who frequent the cafe where she holds court.
At least the odd behaviour of the Weevil in the cell from Combat is explained, as it foreshadows the power Owen has over the creatures when he is being possessed by Duroc. It must have already latched onto him back then. The black void which Owen finds himself in was first mentioned by Suzie Costello.

The two-hander between Jack and Owen, when they argue in the bar then end up locked in a cell together, makes some light of Owen's new predicament. He was always sex-mad, but now his equipment doesn't work, and he can no longer get drunk. The scene where he has to vomit out copious amounts of beer, standing on his head, is quite funny. Have to admit his wrestling with the CGI Duroc is also quite silly. Next time, we will concentrate more on the bleakness and horror of his situation.
No guest star this week - but we should mention Skye Bennett as the girl, and Ben Walker as Jamie.

Overall, a strange episode, which only works as part of the trilogy. Some lovely dark imagery - such as the Weevil nest in the abandoned church and the Tarot playing child.
Things you might like to know:

  • Last week Jack mentioned meeting writer Christopher Isherwood. This week, he has met Marcel Proust (1871 - 1922).
  • The title of this story had previously been used for the making-of documentary for Series 1 story Random Shoes.
  • The language that the possessed Owen speaks is not made up gibberish. It is actually derived from the Thomas Covenant books, by Stephen R Donaldson.
  • Could the Tarot girl be the Faith who was resurrected hundreds of years ago?

1 comment:

  1. Re: the Thomas Covenant books. They wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny now, as leprosy is curable these days, with a combination of antibiotics. The (anti) hero of the books would have been right as rain and would never have become an outcast in our world in the first place, so there would have been no half-handed hero to fight the evil Lord Foul. Who presumably would then have conquered the Land in Book 1, shortening the trilogy to a one-off and negating the need for second and third trilogy. And no doubt shrinking Mr Donaldson’s bank account balance considerably. Just sayin’.