From Out of the Rain

Posted in Episode by - July 17, 2018
From Out of the Rain

Aired 12 March 2008

When an old cinema re-opens in Cardiff, the nostalgic sentimentalism of flickering films and old carnivals quickly turns to horror as the mysterious beings on screen emerge to wreak havoc once more. Writer Peter J Hammond returns to Torchwood after penning ‘Small Worlds,’ a dark fairy tale that became all the more resonant by offering a look into Jack’s earlier life, and ‘From Out of the Rain’ follows in that vein by revealing that Jack at briefly appeared in one of these acts as a man who could not die and making the return of the mysterious Night Travellers all the more personal.

The opening moments of a traveling circus taking a young girl and then the performers ominously vanishing to leave nothing in their wake are wonderfully directed, and Ianto taking Gwen and Owen to the cinema that was once the site of rift activity as Jack catches a faint tune in the air that Tosh cannot hear likewise brings a certain introductory energy and flare that is much more natural and subtle than Torchwood often offers early in its episodes. The notion of a business celebrating the past to chronicle the progress of society is immensely intriguing, though one understandably that will appeal to some more than others as evidenced by the emotions ranging from Ianto’s genuine excitement and intrigue to the sheer boredom of Gwen and Owen that all develop naturally without being overplayed or becoming comical. Given the trouble the cinema staff experienced splicing together this film, it’s no surprise that the feature on display is not the one intended, however, and the brief appearance of Jack in the cavalcade of one-time stars proves to be all the incentive that Ianto needs to insist that Torchwood look into the matter further even as his colleagues initially refuse to believe him.

There’s a recurring commentary about how cinema killed the traveling act, and using this as a sort of basis for understanding why the Ghostmaker and the Mermaid continue to take unwilling souls lends an almost sympathetic air to their terrible actions. Interspersed with Ianto discovering that the film is changing as he continues to watch it over and over again, the Mermaid in particular proves to be shockingly effective at dehydrating her victims and soon convinces her colleague that they should focus on bringing the remainder of their troupe into the real world as well. Julian Bleach and Camilla Power do well as this dangerous duo fighting to stay alive, perfectly evoking a bygone era of villains and damsels that would in any other episode of Torchwood feel horribly out of place and disjointed.

For as strong as the direction is at meshing these two disparate times, ‘From Out of the Rain’ is an episode that very much relies more on lengthy dialogue sequences than action until the final few moments. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the information revealed is crucial to the plot and allows a degree of humour to be instilled as Jack refreshingly openly discusses his past, but it a more methodical episode as a whole as a result. Because of the significant exposition and the time needed for the tension and atmosphere to develop, though, Jack’s use of a particular phrase happening to trigger a bystander’s memory to lead Torchwood to the one person who escaped is a major narrative shortcut that undoes some of the underlying tension. The same unfortunately is true regarding how quickly Jack comes to the conclusion that the best way to defeat these foes is to film them once again and then to burn the recordings without any sort of evidence to back up this claim. The visuals of the Night Travellers stepping out of the screen are superb, and the deaths of those in the cinema are a stark reminder of the inherent danger they pose, but the fact that the resolution essentially results in the team running with the flask that holds the lost souls as these beings are filmed from so far away is one that fails to live up to the superb setup work that had been done earlier.

With Jack showing genuine fear in this episode and the team only able to save one soul out of the many that had been taken, ‘From Out of the Rain’ is certainly not afraid to present a clear and present danger that carries genuine consequences with it, exactly the type of threat that Torchwood needs to face without being able to rely on retcon or alien technology to rectify. However, given the momentous events shown in the previous episode, it does feel odd to have a standalone episode at this time, and the extreme speed and many shortcuts needed for Torchwood to emerge victorious after truly superb exposition very much make this a story of two halves that ends up feeling rather unbalanced and missing a little extra at the end to truly highlight this unique threat.

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