Sunday, February 03, 2008

Torchwood

So now we've got the second season of Torchwood running on BBCA. Tonight's episode was a very good one, I think possibly because the story was a very human one, about the private agony of someone who wasn't one of the series characters.

The series characters are, basically, the problem with the show. When the focus is somewhere else, the series can be pretty good.

I've been enjoying the revival of Dr. Who, which is scoring a lot more hits than misses, even in the third season, when screenwriters usually start getting desperate. (Though I have to say that the episode featuring Daleks in the Empire State Building was pretty dire.) (I should also caveat, as General Haig used to say, that I've never watched Dr. Who before the current revival.) So when Torchwood started, starring a charismatic character spun off from Dr. Who, I was pretty interested.

The baleful revues from the UK got here before the series did, so you can't say I wasn't forewarned.

I knew, for example, that the executive producer was openly gay, and that the show featured an openly gay star playing a bisexual action hero. (At last, I thought, maybe I'll find out about this "Liberal Gay Agenda" I've been hearing so much about!)

I was amused, during the opening episode, when Captain Jack's subordinates openly speculated about their leader's sexuality. (Overuse of the eyebrow pencil should have been your first clue, guys.)

But problems developed. Which didn't have to do so much with sexuality, but with sexuality as a part of character. The characters didn't make any sense to me.

Most of the characters' s sexuality was pretty protean--- they would boink men, women, or aliens depending on what the plot required. And that's the problem--- their characters shift with the demands of the plot, instead of the plot coming out of the demands of the characters.

And, with the exception of Gwen and Cap'n Jack, the characters just aren't very attractive or sympathetic or interesting, and for me to care they need to be at least one of the above.

Not only that, they're not very bright. I mean, here they are in this super-secret alien-fighting organization that stands above the law and above the government, and I seem to recollect that every single subordinate found some reason to bring an alien menace through the elaborate security straight to headquarters. In one case they did this literally over Captain Jack's dead body.

And they did this utterly without consequences. You'd think they'd at least get fired.

I mean, let's imagine a CIA agent bringing a Chinese spy into the code room at Langley and inviting the fellow to have a look around. "Or we could have sex on the deciphering computer, after you've finished photographing the code book."

Don't you think the DCI might have something to say about it afterwards? Fire the fellow? Try him? Shoot him?

Not in Torchwood. Cap'n Jack is a forgiving sort of guy.

And what's with the two-parter finale of the first season? When they were fighting Belial, or Beelzebub, or Behemoth, or whatever quasi-Biblical entity that got conjured up? When did this become The Omen: the Series?

The strange thing is, Russell T. Davies is creating a lot more interesting characters over at Dr. Who, and doing it consistently.

I'm still finding Torchwood watchable, but I hope the series finds a consistent voice before Beelzebub comes back.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Christopher Weuve said...

A few years ago I watched all of the Space:1999 episodes in a two-day period, while assembling and populating seven bookcases. I remember thinking two things about it:
1) I'm darn glad I have a 1.5 speed on my VCR.
2) The writers seemed to randomly assign personalities to each regular at the start of each show. In particular I remember Alan Carter, within the space of two episodes, going from intensely loyal to challenging and insubordinate back to intensely loyal.

The writers really should decided who gets what personality traits, and then stick with them..

4:28 PM  
Blogger Thai McGreivy said...

Give me a Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis rerun over Torchwood any day of the week

5:13 PM  
Blogger halojones-fan said...

Torchwood?

Give me a damn break.

Why go for half-measures, people? Why not just call it "Pennistone Investigatiors"?

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Torchwood has appeal in part because Capt. Jack is teh hawt.

That said, some episodes work better than others. I liked "Cyberwoman" a lot.



Mark Wise
vandegraaf@earthlink.net

10:23 AM  
Blogger Dave Bishop said...

I have to say, Walter that I think that 'Torchwood' is, like most 'TV SciFi', execrable rubbish! There, I've said it! I've been dying to write or say that since I sat through the last appalling episode and vowed never will I waste my time on such trash again!

It's basically soap opera with undigested chunks of genre SF stuck on with wall paper paste. It's just an excuse for glamorous 30-somethings to rush around 'emoting' furiously and spouting gibberish straight out of the 'National Enquirer' Science Page ("Elvis clone found in wormhole!"). Russell Davies should be put up against a wall and shot!

...Sorry! Got carried away there ...

2:57 PM  
Blogger dubjay said...

Well yes, one has to make allowances for this being "media SF," which is only tangentially related to the real thing.

It's got a nice budget and an appealing star, I just wished I liked it better.

One reason that Dr. Who and Trek have lasted so long is the size of the sandbox--- they've got a lot of scope for stories. Dr. Who especially, with all time and space available.

With Torchwood, though, you've got to find a reason for aliens to invade Cardiff every week. You're bound to run out of excuses ere long.

Give Captain Jack some kind of alien transportation device, though, and maybe we're in business.

5:25 PM  
Blogger dubjay said...

Oh, and I've got to give them credit for one sly joke.

James Marsters spent howevermany years dressed as 1980s rocker Billy Idol on =Buffy.=

When he guest-starred on Torchwood, they dressed him as 1980s rocker Adam Ant.

Amusing, what?

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Ralf The Dog said...

The better the SciFi is, the sooner it will be canceled. Torchwood will drop in the ratings until the writers have a breakthrough. We will have 4 or 5 stunning episodes with multiple levels of conflict. We will start to see the characters develop in cool and unexpected ways. Then they will drop the show.

12:48 AM  
Blogger dubjay said...

Urk. Last night's episode was pretty sad. A pity, because the premise of the shellshocked soldier from 1918 who must return to his own time and die before a firing squad in order to save the world was a pretty good one.

The show lost focus at the end, when some alien technology was sprung out of nowhere to provide Toshiko with a method to telepathically communicate with her new boyfriend.

(Toshiko's relationship with the kid from 1918 was well developed, much better than her previous liaison with the Alien Lesbian Queen from Hell, and with her previous established fanch for one of the show's male characters, which went nowhere--- weird, considering how promiscuous =they= are)

In the meantime, we see Captain Jack in a liplock with Ianto, whose previous relationship was with a woman, albeit one transformed into an android. Where the hell did this scene come from? Why was it here? Will it matter in the future? (Probably not, would be my guess.)

This season's arc is pretty clearly going to involve an alien invasion. Only five stupid people with character traits chosen randomly each week by die roll will stand in its way! Stay tuned.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Ralf the Dog said...

dubjay, I think you have it figured out. They will all have alien implants that mess with their sex drives. Unfortunately, the prime component of these devices will be a random number generator.

The only way they can disable the implants is to all jump nude into a big hot tub with a giant Tesla coil. (That would be a shocking way to end the series.)

5:33 PM  
Blogger Dave Bishop said...

With respect to one of your previous comments, Walter, I'm at a loss to know why the aliens choose Cardiff to invade every week. Cardiff's one of the nicer cities in the UK - although it does appear to be in the process of being ruined by 'progress' so perhaps an alien invasion or two wouldn't hurt too much.

Now, Manchester - that would be a better bet! Perhaps the aliens could abduct our City council, subject them to some painful anal probing and deport them to the salt mines of Zorg - where they'd encounter plenty of 'Health and Safety' issues to keep them occupied ... Oh dear, I'm getting carried away again ...

5:22 AM  

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