Dr. Moo is bloody freezing!
What’s this? A good episode of Torchwood? I’m stunned! No, not by Torchwood making a good episode but by whom this is written by: Helen Raynor. Her previous contribution to Torchwood was the awful Ghost Machine while her one and only Doctor Who effort (and “effort” really is the right word) was Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks. Yet here she has written something good. How did she do that? Even more shockingly, this is a good episode even though it focuses primarily on Tosh. Tosh is by some margin the least interesting of the five members of present-day Torchwood so having an entire episode devoted to her was always going to be a risk.
The story is that once every year a former soldier named Tommy is woken from his cryogenic sleep for a single day. Having been frozen in 1918 and this being 2008 he has some adjustments to make, although, save for relative newcomer Gwen, he’s familiar with the current Torchwood team and their methods. The idea that Tosh always looks forward to seeing him is a nice touch and it’s clear that there’s some strong emotional connection between them both. The way their relationship develops over the episode into some kind of Lost Love Affair storyline looks horrible on paper but it works itself out well in the actual episode. It doesn’t feel contrived even though it could so easily have done. The chemistry between the actors Naoki Mori and Anthony Lewis certainly doesn’t hurt matters.
We also get a good glimpse of Torchwood’s former operatives from 1918. This leads to some nice opportunities for interactions between two versions of Torchwood at different times in history and if I have a complaint it’s that this concept isn’t explored as well as it could have done. What we do get are some brilliant ghost-like appearances as the two eras collide due to the Cardiff rift acting up (when doesn’t it?) in a very “timey-wimey” sense. It’s just a shame that the two eras coming together doesn’t get as much exploration as it could’ve had.
What does get explored is the idea of having a limited time left to live. Tommy only has a few hours of life left in him and the episode discusses what he can do with his remaining time. Fall in love with Tosh, it turns out. But all good things come to an end and before too long he has to go back to 1918 in order to avert the time paradox and stop the time slips. Poor guy, he saves the world and then gets executed for no good reason; executed because of shell-shock from his experiences in WWI reminding us all of the brutal mistreatment that people were given for acting like humans. This episode discusses the futility of war and the after-effects of it on the combatants in a touching way and clearly takes an anti-war stance on it but never does so in a preachy manner. When Tommy goes back and saves Earth his life will be the cost. He goes out like a hero in an act of self-sacrifice and his bravery is commendable.
Overall there are certainly much stronger and more solid Torchwood episodes out there than this one but To The Last Man delivers some interesting time-travel concepts, a welcome glimpse of Torchwood past and a tearjerker of a relationship drama, all the while managing to discuss complicated subjects with some stellar acting too. This all makes it a good episode. One which is worth another watch.
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The
Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the
latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.