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TV Review: Torchwood – Episodes 1 & 2

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I thought that I would attempt to resume my blogging to coincide with the arrival of Torchwood – a spin-off of the recently revived Doctor Who – sort of like Russell T Davies’ Angel to his Buffy; that’s how it very much seemed to me anyway. 

So, I thought I’d get a review in before the Internet is swamped with them and here it is. I’ll say it now, I kept out as many spoilers as possible, so not to spoil your potential viewing experience. 

One quick bit I’ll get out of the way, relating to the many questions over the speculation of the show’s target audience, and many parents were asking over the Internet if they should allow their children to watch it. To clear things up, if I had children they would most definitely not be allowed to watch Torchwood. As I previously said, it's like Angel. And if anyone is familiar with the two shows, you’ll know that Angel was the much darker, much more adult version of Buffy.

That is very much what Torchwood is, except with maybe a bit more sex, and a tad more blood when blood is present, though I must make it known that these elements were not dominating the show. I must say, it is refreshing to see a science fiction programme that is adult in terms of sex, violence, and language. Not to mention, a lot of the sexual overtones were not just heterosexual in nature. That is bound to turn some heads, but once again, it is refreshing. 

With a show first starting out, I can never judge much on the first episode, especially when the creators have the arduous task of setting everything up and starting the ball rolling. That made a particular saving grace that the BBC chose to show two episodes rather than one. 

The two stories were fairly straightforward. Well I say that, and I became a little confused in the first episode, mainly due to its "twist"’ Anyway, the first episode set off with our main character. Much like Doctor Who’s Rose, Torchwood gives you Gwen Cooper as your emotional link to the show. The first episode basically informs the audience of who Torchwood are, what they do, as well as the main characters of the show, and it manages to do this effectively in about 20 minutes, while at the same time, setting up a series of mysterious murders. But these are put on the side for the main part of the episode. Long story short Torchwood gets an opening, and Gwen takes the job. 

Episode two: Gwen’s first day on the job, so of course she messes up as quick as possible, setting a parasitic-gas-sex-alien thing free from a recently crashed meteorite. The episode focused on Gwen’s role in Torchwood as their link to humanity. (Similar to in Angel how Cordelia always goes on about how Angel is so detached from the world, and needs to get back into real life.) Now, this episode in particular is where the show gets fairly adult. Did I mention this parasite has pretty much sex on the brain? It successfully takes control of a young girl and pretty much goes and has sex with a bunch of people, killing them in the process. It gave me the vibe of "Lonely Hearts" – coincidentally the second episode of Angel

The first episode was basically an introductory episode, and the second episode was good. The whole alien wanting orgasmic energy was a little iffy. And, if there is one thing the show did, was that it had good actors who successfully carried the show, unlike some programmes that we get over here in England. The first two episodes had rather interesting stories, most definitely showing that Torchwood is indeed much more adult than Doctor Who. (For example, there were thankfully no farting aliens.) On the topic of aliens, all those present looked rather good special effects-wise. I’m talking CGI and good old prosthetics here, especially the weevil whose face was amazing! 

With the dialogue in the show I must say I was a tad disappointed. Expecting the amazing stuff I found in Doctor Who, I came back a little empty handed. Nothing was really bouncing out at me. But, then I must also say that can be a good thing. While waiting for Torchwood to start I switched on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Stephen Norrington, 2003). Mr. Hyde had just been caught yada and he changed into Dr. Jekyll. I just thought ‘Dr. Jekyll at your service’ and right out he went and said it.

Sure it happens a lot, you can predict lines in films and television alike. But there’s something I find with a good writer and that is that you do not predict their lines, very much the case in Torchwood; writers like Russell almost create characters who are alive, not just hollow shells full of ‘writing clichés.' So, I really did like the dialogue in the show. 

The music of the show was nice; fairly contained and its low mechanical tones kept in with the mood of the show particularly well. The same can be said for the intro which is lovely and short. I must say though, that I am very bad with sound. I always end up getting so caught up in anything I’m watching the sound becomes insignificant so, sorry Mr. Composer. The acting is always a big priority. Not above the writing, of course, but either way, I must comment.

Torchwood is explicitly set in Cardiff and they aren’t making out it's London, which is great fun because all the actors are actually Welsh. I love Welsh accents. Scratch that, I love any of the UK’s accents! But yes I digress; unlike Afterlife (which I’ve been watching) which is made with actors from all around the UK, I find that occasionally the guest stars can be a bit stale. Torchwood seems to have gotten a hold of the cream of Wales in my opinion. So I’ve gotten that little rant out the way. The guest stars were good, but what about the main characters? 

Captain Jack Harkness is one of the most fun characters to emerge from Doctor Who. He had everything, and then he was ‘kicked’ off in the first season, but then given his very own series. I must say from watching Torchwood, I miss the old Jack. It's understandable he is now far less trusting, and you can vaguely see the old Jack in there, but he doesn’t seem as fun.

What the show now needs, if you ask me, is an episode to delve into each character. By that I mean, each member of Torchwood, although it probably won’t be doing that any time soon. Gwen’s character seems fairly well-rounded, and Eve (from being host to the Gelth in episode three of Doctor Who 2005) seems to be doing a fairly good job as cop-come-Torchwood operative. The same can be said for Barrowman and the rest of the Torchwood gang. 

Fun was definitely had. I was hoping for a few more laughs. I love when something in a show makes me laugh out loud. Doctor Who gave me that every now and again, but Torchwood didn’t have anything laugh out loud funny. Both ‘dark’ situations and humour fit very nicely into Angel, which is what I loved about the show. So I can only hope to see more humour in Torchwood. That's not to say there was none evident in these first episodes; there was and some rather funny situations, but nothing overbearingly funny. 

You may have noticed that I keep referring to Angel. Here is where you find out why. Littered throughout Torchwood were tens of thousands of high aerial shots of Cardiff at night, not to mention how everyone seemed to end up standing on roof tops looking rather reflective. Now this just screamed Angel to me — granted none of them were progressive, but still I must have it known, and hence have mentioned it. 

So what can I say? I enjoyed Torchwood, it kept me watching. There were thankfully no ‘Oh-my-god-I-must-roll-my-eyes’ moments, and the acting and writing were both pretty solid. I can only hope for the show to get better. Reflecting on the show, I am actually glad that it is not as comical as Doctor Who was and that it is not as boring as Spooks. I find there’s something about action/adventure/serious science fiction that I can never get into when it comes from the UK. 

Just a small rant: I adamantly refused to watch the ‘next week spoilers’, because it is effectively a spoiler! Why must they show them? If I watched the show and enjoyed it, then I’ll tune in next week. But don’t spoil the episode for me. Next thing I know, television programmes will start copying Battlestar which just gives you the whole episode at the beginning of the show. Why do that? So I hope to see more great looking aliens (although I think next week is a ghost story) and more Angel-esque stories.

Now it will probably turn out that I am the only person enjoying Torchwood or something. I’ve been following the BBC’s recent Robin Hood as well, and even though it's not as amazing as some people thought it should be, I’ve found it entertaining. Sometimes I feel that I can watch anything and still get something from it, though personally Torchwood seemed miles better than Robin Hood

Torchwood is on Sundays on BBC3 and repeated a lot on that channel. It's also on Wednesdays on BBC2

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  • http://madammiaow.blogspot.com/ Madam Miaow

    Shame Torchwood is still derivative, shrill and not as sexy as it thinks it is.

    I know Joss was a genius at the the extreme character arc, turning evil villain Spike into the loveable hero of later Buffy and Angel, but last night’s season finale of Torchwood … Call that a character arc? More like a deus ex machina last minute lurch up itself. You could practically smell the rubber and hear the squeal of brakes as James Marster’s Captain John did a 180 degree turn that had everything to do with script expediency and nothing to do with character development.

    What a waste of the lovely James. Full review at mine.