Dead Man Walking

Posted in Episode by - July 15, 2018
Dead Man Walking

Aired 20 February 2008

Death is rarely a permanent condition in science fiction, Captain Jack Harkness providing the perfect example within the Doctor Who universe as a man who once died but now finds himself unable to no matter what circumstances befall him. With Owen dead from a gunshot wound and Martha about to perform his autopsy, Jack demands that she stop, retrieving the second resurrection glove from a Weevil-infested church and bringing Owen back to life with unintended results completely different from those that occurred with Suzie Costello.

Owen’s resurrection scenes superficially give his team members the chance at giving him a proper goodbye, but Jack also uses the opportunity to ask about morgue’s codes that only Owen knows. Almost inevitably, the intended plan for a brief resurrection goes wrong as Owen retains consciousness, and the team quickly checks Jack to ensure that the glove has not created some sort of life force transference like that that formed between Gwen and Suzie initially. Using her medical background, Martha finds that Owen’s cells are changing and becoming less human, and when he starts exhibiting irregular behaviour it seems clear that something is not quite right. Owen’s been no stranger to bars and various women before, and it seems only natural that he would revert to his familiar actions to try to cope with what has happened to him, but with no ability to digest or have sex, he finds little motivation to try to find meaning in this constant state of death after seeing nothing beyond, an aspect that Burn Gorman plays quite well.

With the realisation that Owen’s body is somehow acting as a conduit for death to enter the world and earning him a certain deference from the Weevils, he is thus accepting of the proposition that his body could be embalmed to stop its spread, but the attempts at doing so are cut short when the glove exhibits some form of protective consciousness and goes after Martha as she attempts to being the procedure, aging her decades in a matter of seconds. With legends telling that death needs thirteen souls before it can fully return, the hospital that Torchwood takes Martha to proves to be death’s perfect feeding ground and point of final confrontation. Although the visuals completely let down what should be a terrifying presence, there is no denying just how powerful and effective this figure is as a threat, and the death count quickly mounts before the team even has a chance to formulate a plan.

The attempted comparison between Owen and the child suffering from leukemia as two people who should both be dead doesn’t fully resonate, but it thrusts Owen into the sympathetic hero role, and Gorman gives one of his strongest performances to date as he boldly confronts death as a figure of death himself to save everyone around him. It’s quite easy to understand how Jack could feel responsible for the deaths that have occurred as a result of his actions, but John Barrowman convincingly plays Jack as a man who truly does care about each and every person on his team even if some of his actions seem to suggest otherwise, and the struggle of Owen trying to adapt to his new position of being unable to die but also unable to truly live should continue to provide Gorman and the rest of the cast an intriguing source of drama to explore. The true fallout has yet to be felt, however, and as such ‘Dead man Walking’ feels more like an episode that prioritises style over substance and that fails to fully explore why certain of Owen’s body parts continue to work normally desipte the intriguing premise.

  • Release Date: 2/20/2008
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