Random Shoes

Posted in Audio by - June 10, 2018
Random Shoes

Aired 10 December 2006

Russell T Davies’s tenure on Doctor Who is famed for, among so many other things, establishing the recurring notion of an entire serial with limited appearances from the Doctor and/or companion in order to ease production schedules. In ‘Random Shoes’ by Jacquetta May, the majority of the Torchwood Three team is sidelined to focus Gwen Cooper’s independent investigation into the hit-and-run death of Eugene Jones and to follow Eugene himself as he watches the investigation while unseen and tries to regain his recent memory to piece together the circumstances surrounding his death as well.

Paul Chequer truly is the standout star of ‘Random Shoes,’ and he portrays an incredible range of true emotion as Eugene relives the highs and lows of his life as brought up during the investigation. Beginning with a flashback to a school competition in which he let down his team in the final and lost the respect of both his friends and his father, Eugene is instantly believable as a flawed and sympathetic figure, and the eye that his science teacher gives him as consolation that he claims fell out of the sky created Eugene’s undying fascination with alien life on the spot. Into adulthood, he continued to try to gain the respect of Torchwood, but everyone except Gwen completely ignored him. Even after searching his home and studying his collection of what Eugene believed to be alien artefacts, Gwen is the only one taking Eugene’s death seriously, and she decides to continue to investigate on her own.

Despite being a ghostly figure who cannot directly interact with the world, Eugene maintains some degree of influence over Gwen, imploring her to phone his friend Gary as she visits his frequent haunts. With Gary clearly not telling the complete truth about his recent conversations and interactions with Eugene, Gwen comes upon the sympathetic co-worker Linda who tells the story of how Eugene claimed he would raise enough money to send her to Australia by auctioning off his alien eye, the final bid coming in at a staggering £15005.50. In a brief moment of professional courtesy, Jack gives Gwen the weekend to look into the death when he believes that the eye may be a Dogon Sixth Eye that allows the Dogons to look into their pasts, and with the only path to follow stemming from the mysteriously large online bid after learning that Eugene’s father who so long ago left the family is working as a cashier nearby rather than in America as an important figure like he had always been told, Gwen traces Eugene’s last known location to a Happy Cook restaurant in which he planned to meet the alien he believed to be behind the bidding.

With Eugene’s memory returning, he remembers meeting his friends here, shocked to find that they had inflated the bidding price, though Gary did it initially to help Eugene’s confidence and decided to stop when Eugene told him his beliefs about the alien. Josh was greedier, though, and put the final £5.50 addition on top of a genuine £15000.00 bid, planning to pay Eugene £34.00 and then resell the eye for a tremendous profit. Swallowing the eye to keep it away from Josh and running away to escape, Eugene accordingly met his death, and the shift to his funeral in which he accepts his own faults and forgives his father is sweet and tastefully realised. With all of Torchwood gathered and Gwen holding the eye she had retrieved from the coroner, everyone is witness to a physical Eugene saving Gwen from a being killed, ascending into the sky in a glow of light. While this ending does go against the dark proclamations of nothing after death that Suzie espoused in the previous episode and the episode as a whole is quite distinct in tone from everything preceding it, ‘Random Shoes’ shows Gwen in her most human and empathetic light yet and is a gripping piece of human drama with a fitting ending for a man who remained so positive and optimistic despite so much darkness and sadness in his life.

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