After two remarkably strong episode in a row, I was let down by Greeks Bearing Gifts. It’s written by Toby Whithouse who was responsible for that amazingly good School Reunion during David Tennant’s first season, so I had high expectations. That’s the problem when a series has some super-strong episodes: a little setback can feel catastrophic. And it’s not really fair, because Greeks Bearing Gifts is not a bad episode in and of itself. It just sits in the shadow of bigger, better things. Which is not to say it doesn’t get a few things wrong…
It starts early on with Gwen and Owen acting like college kids all hot and bothered by the other and kicking the plug out of Tosh’s computer. These two work for a top secret, ultra-sensitive organization and they regress to children. The way the story is written, and focusing so heavily on people’s innermost thoughts, I could not help but feel like this was a teenager’s hot fantasy about one of the two actors. The writing was sophomoric and knowing how amazingly Toby delivered School Reunion, I had a hard time coming to terms with this. Then after Tosh learns about Mary’s alien nature, Tosh tries to convince her to go to Torchwood. Mary adamantly says no because she’ll be dissected, blah, blah. blah. But a short while later, Tosh cries, “it’s all too much… tell me what to do” to which Mary says strongly (with the camera panning in dramatically) “Get me into Torchwood!” What, if we wait for a dramatic moment, no one will dissect you? And to make the episode that much weaker, Mary smokes. A lot. (Maybe the script called for a “smoking hot blonde” and someone misunderstood?) She’s far too attractive to have her smoking through the episode and it was hard to watch. But it’s made worse when she just says how gross it is to watch humans mouths right after she changes back from her alien form… and then she lights a cigarette. So… it’s gross watching people talk but sucking a stick wrapped in burning paper is somehow acceptable? At least offer a comment like “although these taste nice”, or something to draw attention to the disparity in a way that might excuse the action. But no… nothing. What would prompt the alien to desire cigarettes if it feeds on human blood/hearts?
What stinks, besides the cigarettes, is that the point of the episode focuses on the curse of telepathy and how knowing what people are thinking is not necessarily a good thing, which it does a superb job of conveying despite all the sex-thoughts Owen and Gwen are having. But even then, it doesn’t go for originality. It instead takes a page right out of M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable with Tosh standing in for Bruce Willis as she listens to people’s thoughts to know who is doing bad things. She’s better looking than Bruce, but she’s no superhero, and Toby sells us that. It has potential but fails to deliver.
And that says nothing of the opening where a soldier smacks a woman a few times for being a prostitute. She then rips his heart out. Am I supposed to see her as the villain? He started beating her, then he shot her! Frankly, I would have accepted it if she tortured him a bit before killing him. Speaking of ripped out hearts… Owen is struggling with a corpse for days trying to figure out what was going on when he digs back through the records and finds a pattern. The murders started 200 years ago! Didn’t ripped out hearts make the news? Maybe develop a conspiracy theory? Something?! Why would it take so long for Owen to piece it all together?
Like I said, a lot of this just rubbed me wrong. Mary is stunningly pretty and she was easy on the eyes to the point where I was willing to let some things go, but you have to do more than give us bedroom scenes between her and Tosh. And no, I don’t mean hints of Jack’s “otherness”, which we do get with a little “what are you?” “I don’t know!” But that’s far too little, too late. Even Jack’s reprogramming of her ship is very strange and his rationale about a friend having a sex change felt very out of place. And his cavalier attitude about sending her to the center of the sun (which shouldn’t be hot because they sent her at night), just brought Jack down a few pegs from where he was just one episode earlier. (And let’s face it, an alien who feeds once a year seems to deserve a bit more leniency than a town full of psycho-cannibals who torture and eat people, if you ask me!)
Despite my complaints, it’s a very watchable episode if you don’t think too much about it. If you’re hoping for greatness, rewind and watch the previous two episodes. Or just get ready to hit pause on Mary periodically to make the pain a little more bearable! (Just don’t do it when she’s smoking!) ML