Well, that did a great job of unpicking all the good work of the previous episode, didn't it? Last week, Torchwood’s 1920s-set segue featured a bloody crucifixion, an alien conspiracy theory and Jack’s relationship with tortured soul Angelo, who was now waiting for him in 2011.
Any hopes of a reunion, though, were cruelly dashed in tonight’s opening minutes as Angelo was revealed to be less like a silent-movie-era heart-throb and more like a cast-off from Cocoon. It wasn’t his fault that he’d failed to discover Jack’s secret of eternal life, but it set a tone of crushing disappointment that was to persist for the rest of the hour.
It seems that they’re very much running out of steam with this whole Miracle Day scenario. Talk of the Three Families didn’t add much in the way of menace and the reintroduction of Friedkin and his cronies quickly proved to be a wasted opportunity. As for Esther and the interminable telephone conversation with her sister - to be honest, I’ve had more fun being on hold.
But at least it wasn’t as nauseating as the subplot featuring Oswald Danes, who found out he’d gone from media hero to Category Zero. After failing to assert his normality with a prostitute (“legal age”, in case you’re wondering), he rowed and fought with Jilly Kitzinger, another character that the writers don’t seem able to get a hold on. Is she a careerist, Mephistopheles or merely at the mercy of other people’s plans? I think we’re all a little past caring.
At least there was some salvation in the form of John de Lancie, the narky CIA boss who appeared to be called Helen Shapiro. Turns out, if you read the credits, that his name’s Allen Shapiro, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a real shame. But the lean and mean Shapiro dished out some decent one-liners, in particular his Red Baron jibe to Captain Jack about Snoopy being stuck up his ass. Q was never that rude to Jean-Luc Picard.
However, you couldn’t help but wonder if Shapiro’s comment about Torchwood being “defunct” was exactly on the money. All the talk of morphic and null fields was devoid of tension and even the most dramatic scene – when the mysterious blue-eyed man shot undercover operative Shawnie – became just that little bit less so once you realised that she couldn’t actually be dead. When a programme’s main premise becomes a hindrance, then it’s in trouble. Torchwood has just two instalments left to prove that it’s not as obsolete as Shapiro is currently making out.