By DJ Forrest
Written by Helen Raynor
Directed by Andy Goddard
Reviewed by DJ Forrest
Broadcast 30th January 2008
In the usual complicated way that Torchwood and Who writers tell a story, such as the story of Captain Jack Harkness, this is a story of Thomas Brockless a man brought from 1918 to the present in order to be used to save the universe from impending doom at some point in the future. The story also tells of Toshiko’s love for the defrosted soldier and how deeply emotional the final few scenes were when they had to say goodbye.
Friday the 20th was circled as the day of the thawing out of Pvt. Tommy Brockless yet it puzzled me as to why they hadn’t stated which month this was, although given the level of stories from the tie in novels, I suppose giving a month threw it a little for the writers. So I decided for my own piece of mind, as after an extensive search of the internet for matching Japanese art calendars drew a blank that the only other option was to find out when the episode was originally filmed and count back. So I did. And I’m satisfied enough that I have the correct date for the episode. The episode itself was broadcast on the 30th January 2008, but the actual filming was 9th May 2007, coincidentally the same day as much of the filming for ‘Adam’ was done. So if anyone on the set owned a Japanese calendar, given that not many people tend to keep back used calendars, then the only other possible month available for Friday the 20th was April 2007, 19 days earlier, as it happens.
There is also a continuity flaw with this episode that was blindingly obvious and I’m surprised nobody noticed before editing, or perhaps it was but it was too late to do anything about it and they hoped nobody would notice. Sorry guys! It was the scene where Tommy chases Toshiko along the Penarth pier and she drops her shoulder bag, but in the next scene which is when Tommy grabs her and lifts her off the ground, she’s suddenly got the bag back around her shoulder, yet there’s no way she would have had time to pick it up and do that.
The story itself is centred round Toshiko Sato and Tommy Brockless. For Toshiko this was the highlight of her year, for when she wasn’t trying to gain some kind of recognition from Dr. Owen Harper, she was choosing what outfit to wear for the thawing out of British soldier Pvt. Tommy Reginald Brockless. And given her track record for relationships, this one wasn’t going to be putting the world in danger....oh wait....hang on, maybe.
Tommy was brought from the past in order to save the future and each year when he’s defrosted he learns something from that time, such as when the war to end all wars ended, when the next one started and so on. He learned also about fashion especially the women’s so when the mini skirts became fashion, he obviously enjoyed that period a lot!
Towards the end of the episode it did make you think how you would react, either as Toshiko or as Tommy. For Toshiko had fallen in love with Tommy and although in years past he would return to the chiller for another 12 months, this time he would cross the threshold and never return, he could never write her a letter and they would never ever meet up again.
For Tommy, the thought of returning to 1918, back to the hospital, knowing that the recent memories would return him back to the shell shocked soldier, (try saying that with a mouthful of marbles) destined to return to France and the trenches must have been terrifying. You could sympathise with his reasons for not wishing to return, but there was a double whammy, he had to go back, because if he didn’t, the chain reaction of the time shift would mean more of the past would erupt into the present and it would never stop.
The scene in the Radiology room of St Teilo’s hospital for me was possibly the saddest part of the story, as I put myself in Tommy’s shoes, a terrified young man desperate to remain in the present, where he could start a life with Toshiko.
But what if Torchwood couldn’t return to 1918 using the psychic projection, what if once Brockless had crossed the threshold that was it? Could they really stand to lose Captain Jack Harkness who was intending to return to the hospital if Owen hadn’t have stopped him, and who might have been one of those soldiers who were shot for cowardice during that time? He certainly showed levels of disgust and emotion during the time he spoke with Toshiko about the contents of the instructions that Torchwood 1918 had left.
Even in the hospital ward with Gwen, Jack held deep feelings about the War, and we’re aware of his conman days, so there were levels of time within both wars, that Jack was a part of, as we remember the conversation on Malcassairo in ‘Utopia’ with the Doctor. ‘World War One, World War Two....’ so was Jack a soldier then? Or had he been in love with a soldier who had faced one of Haig’s firing squad? I guess we’ll never know.
I can think of no greater madness than to run across No Man’s Land where you’re cut down by gunfire from the opposing side, I don’t blame anyone who wanted to turn tail and run away from that.
Tommy, despite using the Rift Key, recovered enough to be sent back to France, to the front line, where sadly he suffered from shell shock again and was shot by firing squad. Although it wasn’t stated in the episode, it is written in the Torchwood Encyclopedia that Pvt Thomas Reginald Brockless was posthumously pardoned in 2006, which prompted me to look into this a little further.
During the Great War, 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers suffered from shell shock and were shot by firing squad. Britain was apparently one of the last countries to still label soldiers suffering from shell shock as cowards. John Major back in 1993 had emphasised in the House of Commons that to pardon the soldiers would be an insult to those who had died honourably on the battlefield.
In 2007, the Armed Forces Act 2006 was passed. It allowed soldiers to be pardoned posthumously although in section 359 (4) it states that the pardon “does not affect any conviction or sentence.”
By coincidence we reviewed this episode in November, and in light of Remembrance Day, we will always remember those who lost their lives, not just from the enemy but from their own side.
We will never forget.
©BBC Torchwood 2006
Torchwood The Encyclopedia ISBN 978-1-846-07764-7
The Definitive Guide by Gary Russell
Cover art by Nikki Forrest