After the dark, rain drenched start of episode one, Torchwood's second episode seems a strong contrast. There's an atmosphere of happiness as Gwen and her boyfriend are out bowling and having a good time. Presumably, they're celebrating Gwen's transfer to Special Ops. Things are cut short when a meteor of some description strikes Cardiff, and Gwen receives a single-word text message: Torchwood. Time to go to work.
"Day One" is even more a statement of intent than Torchwood's first episode, concerning itself with a gaseous alien life form that has traveled to Earth to feed on the orgasmic energy of sexual climax; the Timelords never encountered anything like this on tea time telly! Within ten minutes of the start of the episode, a man has been reduced to a pile of ash during a quick bonk in a night club, and later Gwen gets involved in a little girl-on-alien-possessed-girl snogging action.
I was surprised by the reaction to the first episode of Torchwood. I expected nothing more than a continuation of the idea that began in Doctor Who; I expected the tone to be the same – I thought this would be Doctor Who with some late night themes. As a result, I've enjoyed what I've seen so far. However, a lot of people seem to have been put off; they can forgive the unmistakable whiff of sci-fi cheese when they're dealing with wholesome, family-focused Saturday evening TV, but when it comes to grown up shows they want something a bit more serious and substantial.
Episode two is unlikely to convince the doubters, and it might just go so far as to alienate – if you'll pardon the pun – a few more viewers. There's no escaping the fact that this has all been done before. It's not given any real new twist here – the show returns to the tried and tested "save the innocent" formula for its finale, rather than exploring the alien sex tourist angle – and while it's moderately entertaining there's no escaping the fact that "Day One" is weak filler material. Which isn't what a series at this stage needs.
Gwen spends most of the episode being irritatingly apologetic, and is portrayed at times as being fairly useless. Why Jack would want to recruit her onto his team is something of a puzzle, based on her performance here. Still, at least she's not a serial killer. I had hoped she'd be a stronger female lead, rather than spending the series looking confused. Time will tell.
Episode two shows us some more of Torchwood's technology, including some neat vehicles with modern looking blue strobes on the front window, and lots of IT equipment on board. There's also a neat force-field generating alien pebble device. It all looks very Doctor Who and once again enforces the link between the two shows, when perhaps it would be best to start putting some distance there.
And we get more mysterious glances at Jack. While the audience know slightly more than his team, nobody is really certain where he came from and, more interestingly, how he got to be where he is. I seem to recall series creator Russell Davies stating that he wouldn't explain how Jack came to be in modern day Cardiff this series, so anyone hoping for an answer to that one might be let down. I suspect anyone looking for a reason as to why Jack likes standing on the edge of tall buildings will be similarly disappointed.
Jack is also responsible for one of the most inadequate and laughable fight scenes in recent TV memory. Whilst trying to detain an escaping alien, Jack arms himself with a wooden sword and attempts to look manly. It doesn't work – Barrowman is very capable of acting camply smug – or is that smugly camp? – but there's some doubt over what other emotions he can actually pull off. Based on the comments I've heard from viewers so far, it seems that Jack's attitude isn't terribly endearing either. Personally, it makes me chuckle.
Doctor Who fans might have noticed the good Doctor's hand in the jar – at least, he's the only person I know who's lost a hand in recent months, so it surely must be his – and again, Torchwood uses this to cling to its origin. Admittedly it doesn't wave the hand in your face, and it never mentions the Doctor, but it's a link that perhaps the show could do without. If Torchwood isn't going to include Daleks, Cybermen, and any other Doctor Who staples, then there seems little reason for it to continue to keep the connection alive, especially this early.
All of the above sounds quite negative, but I enjoyed this episode. There's some great humor, and I thought there were a couple of fantastic lines in the episode. Maybe it's just my juvenile sense of humour; who knows? Maybe it's the lack of any form of British sci-fi for so long affecting my judgement? Maybe I'm just a fanboy?
"Day One" is an episode that seems to be attempting to make a comment on society's obsession with sexuality, but that fails to really make its mark in that sense. It does manage to achieve the dubious accolade of being a lightweight sci-fi tale about an alien that reduces men to piles of ash after sex, that isn't ludicrous and hugely uninvolving.
I'm very curious to see what other people thought of the second episode, and I'm even more curious to see how the series is received further into its run; are people likely to stick with it and see if it picks up, or will Torchwood be abandoned as a result of taking aim at a target audience that just doesn't exist? If I am just a Doctor Who fanboy, do enough people stand with me to make Torchwood a success?