Tony grabs a hankie.
Awww. It’s the day nobody really thought would ever come, what with Gwen feeling the feels for Captain Jack. And snogging a hormone-addled female prisoner. And romping with Owen before he was a dead man (because afterwards? Eww!). Yes, it’s the Torchwood Wedding of the Season – Gwen and Rhys are getting married.
Well, except did you catch the part where it’s a Torchwood wedding? Obviously, there must be terror and death and mayhem before these two Welsh darlings are allowed to stroll off into the sunset. In this case, writer Phil Ford marries (ahem) terror, death and mayhem with a nine-pound dose of comedy, in as much as after a hen night preceded by a nostrovite hunt (feel free to see the Alien reference there if you like), Gwen wakes up very very pregnant on her wedding day.
Annnnd cue titles.
Something Borrowed is Torchwood more or less written for fun, with pre-wedding and wedding day hijinks, people turning into shape-shifting aliens (full marks for whoever decided Nerys Hughes should be one of the people to get the Nostrovite treatment), provincial – and possibly especially Welsh – attitudes to propriety, but with a solid runaround story, a couple of dick jokes, and an idea later recycled for a season of Doctor Who, where a leading character is suddenly heavily pregnant, and still has to do a fair share of the running around and saving the world. But there’s more to Something Borrowed than just the Benny Hill style run-around-and-shoot-it plot, with dickish, blokeish characters like Banana and the self-deluded but ultimately hapless Mervyn. Along the way, it gives Gwen the chance to show how much she genuinely loves Rhys, her determination that her unusual job isn’t going to interfere with their wedding verging eventually on the pig-headed, though understandably so – Torchwood consumes your life if you let it, and most conspicuously of all the Cardiff crew, Gwen has always been adamant that it won’t do that to her, since she has more of a life outside the Hub than most of her colleagues. Her furious push-back against its interference in her day is pure Gwen, and also a statement of a decision conclusively made. No matter what stumbles she’s made along the way, whether starstruck by Jack’s exoticism or desperate to share a stress relief with someone who understands the pressures of her job, she has chosen to commit to Rhys, for better, for worse, and to the best of her abilities, with no further secrets.
The episode also gives us a chance to see why Rhys deserves such commitment – an ordinary bloke from the Valleys, he’s nevertheless good at his job, resourceful, and goal-orientated. And the biggest goal of his life is to make sure Gwen’s all right, and safe, and happy. When she’s in danger of letting her determination to prove herself to him get in the way of her own health, it’s Rhys who tells her ‘It’s my wedding too. That means I get a say.’ It’s just the right amount of backbone Gwen needs in her man, and his willingness to postpone the day if it means keeping her safe is just the latest in a long line of reasons why even though he might drive her mad sometimes, Rhys is absolutely the man for Gwen.
There are other conclusions here too – having taken a solid right hook for insulting Rhys’ mother, Jack stands in as a kind of second father for Gwen, ‘giving’ her to Rhys, almost as though it’s his place to do so, but ultimately in an acknowledgement of her choice, and her right to make it. Owen, who for so long was the spiky, sarcastic urchin of the team, comes on remarkably in his personal development post mortem, being nice to Tosh, improvising like his patient’s life depends on it (which it rather does), and also, ultimately, deferring to Rhys when it comes to saving Gwen’s life. This idea of both potential alternatives to Rhys handing over any claim they might have had on her affections to her husband on her wedding day is subtly done, but helps give the episode a heavier, more meaningful anchor than all the running around after black-blooded alien mommas.
And it doesn’t even end there. While Rhys’ parents are there mostly as arch comic relief, the kind of posh Welsh couple that can turn a line of passive aggressive speech into properly poisoned daggers (there’s a word for them, you know – the posh Welsh are known as the Crachach, though if you’re looking for pronunciation, things are going to get messily Klingon or even Gelf), both of Gwen’s parents in this episode get a chance to show their soft, accepting sides – a distinct positive as we go on to spend some time with them in Miracle Day. The two sets of parents give us both sides of the scandal, the outraged and the close and caring, allowing us to both have the cake of our fun at the idea of a heavily alien-pregnant Gwen getting married, and eat it too, by showing the depth of the loving connections between Gwen and Rhys, and Gwen and her parents, however much of a pain they might sometimes be.
And watch Tosh go in this episode. Naoko Mori seems to relish the opportunity this episode gives her to be more hands on, understanding Gwen on a level none of the other Torchwood crew seem to, showing a self-realisation in their discussion of her prospects with Owen that gives credence to her cleverness, and makes her seem warm and real – something difficult for Mori to get into her performance too often, due to Tosh’s frequent ‘Hub-based techie-twiddler’ role. Tosh is also more Charlie’s Angels active here, going armed into danger, breaking down doors, throwing admittedly slightly geeky insults at Banana. It all helps to round out her character on the way to the end of the series, increasing the impact of that ending in the process.
Yes, Something Borrowed is Torchwood for fun. As such, it delivers plenty of laughs and ongoing humour. But it never sacrifices the realism of its characters for the laughs, and so ends up being an episode of world-endangering drama that is remembered fondly for all the right reasons – characterisation, love, warmth, dick jokes, and both Tosh and Rhys kicking more collective arse than they’d done in a series. Give it another spin today, but don’t try and catch the bouquet - ’s’probably got bits of Nostrovite all over it.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk