Log in

One · Thousand

Torchwood... went there?

Recent Entries · Archive · Friends · Profile

* * *

You know - I hate Torchwood. Or - that's what I would have said to you the day before yesterday. Now I’m eagerly anticipating the next season.

The BBC Sci-Fi television series ran for two seasons before returning for a recent third entitled Children of Earth. I watched most of the first season expecting the show to get good for some reason, and gave up around two episodes into the second, realizing that the shoddy writing wasn't likely to improve any time soon.



The UK series one, part one (Episodes 1-5) DVD box

Image via Wikipedia

It's not that I didn't appreciate what they tried to do, I did. Torchwood took a couple of characters from the recent Doctor Who revival, teamed them up with some new characters designed to fit into the same world to form a ragtag team of paranormal investigators based in Cardiff of all places. Furthermore - it was intended to be a show for Adults - and I fancied the UK needed to be producing some darker, grittier Sci-Fi.

I'm a die-hard Who fan, which means that I cling onto the franchise in the face of frequent lazily written crappy episodes because occasionally it hits - and it hits hard. I see Doctor Who more for what it could be - or the potential it has than what it generally delivers - but I couldn't feel the same about Torchwood because they never seemed to deliver anything.

Among the qualms I had with the show are the generally aimless plots and the fact that everybody in Torchwood seemed to be bisexual with the over-active libido of a thirteen year-old boy. I have nothing against showing any kind of relationships or sexual acts when pertinent or even incidental to the plot; but the writers never built up to it - it all just seemed to happen very suddenly - like a Sci-Fi series has no room for romance.

That and it always seemed unlikely to me that out of the five main characters - not one of them was insecure enough with his or her sexuality that they'd shy away from same-sex relationships. I also felt like the flow of episodes in Torchwood were persistently interrupted to show two characters (often only distantly related to the show's plot) getting hot and heavy. Where were the reluctantly tolerant homophobes? This is Britain - not everybody is the accepting open-minded person they should be.

From an early point I became aware that the show was somewhat ethically bewildered. In fact – in the very first episode, the character Owen is shown using an alien perfume to make an uninterested woman want to have sex with him, in spite of being in a relationship. That – to me – looks like a high-tech date-rape. I thought when I saw that – so we’re not meant to like this sleazy little guy then? But in the very next episode (aired on the same night) we see Owen track down an old man who had once committed a date rape – and treating him with utter contempt. That might have been his chance to grow as a character – but there was no introspection there – no difficult and overwhelming self-discovery. Nothing. Just a hollow non-plot with no real meaning.

Doctor Who

Image via Wikipedia


The producers of the show seemed to confuse the idea of creating mature fiction with creating immature fiction that happens to include sex and bad language. This wasn’t mature Doctor Who – it was just loud Doctor Who.


Anyway - bottom line - I didn't get it. The Sci-Fi was bad, as if to say; 'well it's really about character interaction' and the character interaction was bad as if to say; 'well what do you want from us? It's a Sci-Fi, not a Romanic Drama!'


BUT, the other day my friend Geoff Wessel and I were on the phone and he told me that the new series (Children of Earth) was really good - in spite of being a Torchwood series. I've been seeing advertisements all over New York City for it and dismissed it until now. I mentioned it to my wife - who had also heard good things, so we watched it.


I'm not sure why, or when it happened - but Torchwood got good. Really fucking amazing, in fact. I felt like they finally began to deliver the things that they set out to bring viewers. We watched in open mouthed awe as the creators took the show in unexpected and disturbing directions.

Instead of just being bad Doctor Who with sex and swearing, Children of Earth is its own deep and dark psychological and philosophical look at the Sci-Fi Genre, without all the boring Deus Ex Machina bullshit inherent in the previous seasons (and Doctor Who). There were in fact - no sudden easy ways out of the terrible quandaries put forth in this season, no miraculous machine or magic word that the main character remembers at the last minute employed to revert everything back to normal...

Every decision that the characters are forced to make are difficult, scary and eerily realistic - the kind of things that will have a lasting effect on the characters for a long time to come.

It seems to me that the show tried to borrow a little from Battlestar Gallactica, introducing a hitherto unseen political element to the throws – and edgier camera work to really bring the viewer into the scene. There also seemed to be elements of fictional works such as Watchmen, in that a similar large-scale ethical dilemma is posed. Finally I noticed that this show seemed to bring British Sci-Fi back to its roots, somewhat. It reminded me of shows like
Quatermass  , or old BBC dramas that weren’t even necessarily Science Fiction.

Quatermass and the Pit (film)

Image via Wikipedia



None of that is a bad thing – because it stands out as an original work of science-fiction, haunting, daunting and far more intelligent than anything I’d ever expected to see in Torchwood.


As for the character development – well that was superb too. Both the heroes and the new villains tend to be portrayed as interesting and well-rounded human beings. In fact – I felt like the new supporting-characters introduced were every bit as interesting and important to the plot as the main characters.  I also learned more in five episodes about the old cast than I ever did in previous episodes of Torchwood.


08/09/2008 09:49

Image by alun.vega via Flickr


Perhaps, again – as with Watchmen – the smallest characters tend to be the most interesting. Ianto’s family who attempt to defend a council estate from threats far larger than they are... a dim-witted policeman who just tries hard to keep up with the trouble… families, civil servants, doctors, politicians, they all bring refreshingly human undertones to this twisted story – showing that everybody from the top to the bottom of British society is rocked by the incredible circumstance they find themselves confronted by.


Furthermore, it’s accessible.


 New viewers don’t need to have seen anything to appreciate this – and disappointed old viewers (like me) can forget everything they ever learned about the show and start anew.


And it feels good to leave the past behind, because this is one of the best shows I’ve watched in a long time – and I’m truly looking forward to a new season.


Because, you know – I love Torchwood!




* * *