Firstly, calling the *second* episode Day One is stupid. Secondly, so is absolutely everything else about this story. It’s the first contribution to Who canon of Chris Chibnall, and his stewardship of this series is the primary reason why I’m deeply concerned about what’s going to become of the main show next year. Not everything RTD and Moffat have ever done has been brilliant, but nothing they’ve done has ever been as bad as Torchwood.
Today’s episode: some sex. Fairly horrible, unappealing, Welsh sex, centered around a girl who looks slightly too young for that sort of carry on, but that could just be me getting older. I don’t like to second-guess the intentions of creatives, but having the second episode – the one that establishes the future tone and format – of your new “adult” sci-fi series be about a sex monster, who feeds off “orgasmic energy”, feels like a deliberate shock tactic. If the aim was to make it feel as different as possible to Doctor Who then job done, but you’ve got to ask yourself whether it’s a good idea to define a show as being not the incredibly accomplished and popular series that provided your entire audience.
As with last time, the problem is the childish attitude towards the supposedly grown-up elements, and this detracts from what could have been, on a very basic level, an interesting story about the struggle between the girl and the alien, the team’s skewed priorities and Gwen’s attempts to give them some perspective. That’s what I want from a more adult-oriented version of Doctor Who – taking the time to unpick important, complicated issues in a way that would go over the kids’ heads, not showing a flashback to a bouncer having a wank over CCTV footage.
For an episode that went out of its way to involve salacious sex scenes, it tried to have its cake and shag it in the sequence where Carys (filmed in what will be forever known in my house as Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Cam) is bombarded with sexual imagery, but the point it’s trying to make about society is dull, trite and over-egged. The real problem is scumbags like Owen Harper, easily the worst regular character ever to appear in anything Who-related. Just a disgusting, sleazy, misogynist wanker with no redeeming features in evidence so far – I wasn’t counting the revolting, women-hating things he said and did, but I will from now on, and deduct points from my rating accordingly.
On the plus side, Gwen is more likeable than I remembered, and she makes a much better companion figure than Jack makes a Doctor figure. He’s The Doctor but without the moral code or the real know-how, and he compensates for these shortcomings with self-conscious aloofness and a superficial air of mystery. But the problem is that while he’s an enigma to the other characters, he’s not to us – we know he’s a former Time Agent from the 51st Century, that he’s pansexual rather than gay, and that he can’t die because Rose Tyler fixed him with the time vortex, so what is there to keep us interested in him?
It all boils down to Torchwood establishing itself as a fairly conventional and formulaic police procedural, which is a fairly substantial step down from Doctor Who‘s format of “the show that can go anywhere and do anything”. I’m determined to try and enjoy it for what it is, but it’s hard when the show’s so dumb. Why do they have those big blue blinking lights up the side of their van? Why?