'Greeks Bearing Gifts' is typical of Torchwood, being as it is a rather silly episode that again highlights the dysfunctional nature of the eccentrics and misfits making up the team whilst it is at it. Unlike the sadistic 'Countrycide' however, 'Greeks Bearing Gifts' manages to be enormously entertaining from the intriguing opening scene set two hundred years in the past, to the ridiculously camp showdown in the Hub.
'Greeks Bearing Gifts' focuses on Toshiko, who after being scared shitless by rednecks in the previous episode, finally gets some much needed characterization. This is achieved through the dual mechanism of providing her with a MacGuffin that makes her telepathic, and partly by involving her in a lesbian love affair with a naughty but seductive alien. The former of these two devices works very well: writer Whithouse explores the issue of just how good telepathy would really be, as Tosh "hears" all of her friends thinking disparaging thoughts about her and ends up feeling lonely, miserable and vulnerable. This is an interesting tactic and refreshingly doesn't see her setting out to exploit her new ability except in order to save a woman and her son, although it does require the audience to accept the fact that everyone thinks in clear sentences (rather than say, images or emotions). The latter device is fine in principle, but this being Torchwood the lesbian love-affair in question is the sort that straight men fantasize about and therefore ends up seeming purely juvenile. The episode also shows Tosh become the second bisexual member of Torchwood, the first being Jack, and the second female member to be seduced into same-sex snogging by a manipulative alien. Somebody's either taking the piss or suffering from serious testosterone poisoning.
Anyway, Tosh gets some good scenes here, including when she excitedly talks to Mary about the letter that she found from an alien to his, her, or its family, which is quite charming. She also gets to bond with Jack both when he congratulates her on her "good save", and again at the end when he tries to restore some of her faith in human nature. She bonds with Gwen too, which given all the jealous sniping in 'Countrycide' is something of a relief, as the two of them seem to end the episode on the cusp of friendship, and Gwen tells her, "Love suited you".
This brings me neatly to the villain, with Daniela Denby-Ashe playing Mary, an arch lipstick lesbian who smokes cigarettes in a slightly filthy manner and seduces Tosh with ease. It's a camp and over-the-top performance, but it is highly entertaining, which is incidentally also true of Torchwood as a whole. She's cast as a temptress from the start, saying of the pendant, "It levels the pitch between man and God? it changes how you see people", a prospect that Tosh clearly can't refuse. By the end of the episode, she's openly gloating to the team to such an extent that she handily explains the plot, and it all gets very silly, as she sniffs Jack with an oddly gleeful expression and notes that he doesn't smell like the others before she suddenly gets whisked off to the heart of the sun by his trap.
Jack meanwhile gets another good episode, again being mysterious as Tosh fails to read his mind (and he is unable to explain why, although she does suggest that "it's as though you were dead"), and again sweeping heroically in at the end to save the day whilst casually recounting the story of his transsexual friend Vincent/Vanessa, before unapologetically killing "Mary" by reprogramming her transporter. Things are slightly spoiled earlier in the episode by the silliness of him again standing around pointlessly on rooftops, and chastising the Prime Minister down the telephone, but for the most part he works well as leading man here.
Gwen and Owen meanwhile have gone from finding comfort in each others beds at the end of 'Countrycide' to having a full-blown affair and giggling like teenagers at every opportunity. This predictably results in some comic relief as Tosh reads their thoughts and hears Owen thinking such thoughts as "I should have worn different trousers, I'm going to have to sit down until this subsides", but doesn't explain why Owen seems angry that Tosh has caught them out at the end when they have spent most of the episode openly flirting in front of her both before and after she got the pendant.
In the midst of all this silliness, the scene in which Tosh saves the mother and son from the mother's ex-husband is quite an effective dramatic moment, with actor Ravin J Ganatra making Neil both sympathetic and repellant at the same time, whilst Eiry Thomas makes Carol look absolutely terrified. The episode is generally well directed too, and the incidental music continues to just about underscore the action without swamping it, something that has resolutely failed to happen to date in the new Doctor Who. Still however, the series seems to lack proper script-editing, with minor fluctuations in characterization between episodes and lapses in logic, such as the sudden leap here from Owen's discovery of heartless corpses going back years to Jack suddenly knowing everything there is to know about the transporter and realizing that Toshiko is dating one of its occupants. Clearly it isn't just Toshiko who's telepathic then?
Filters: Television Torchwood