First of all, I know this series is one big story, and should really count as such in the totals. However, there’s no way I’m going to be capable of saving all of this vitriol up for ten nights, so I’m going to blog each episode as I go. I’m not looking forward to it. I gave up after about three or four episodes when it first aired, having made the conscious decision that my life would be better if I wasn’t spending an hour a week watching Torchwood. I’d sat through all of the first two series, so it must have been really bad.
This reboot feels a lot like the TV Movie, and not just because it’s set in America. It’s clearly aimed at bringing new viewers in, as they take the time to restate the basic premise and background info, and yet it still features characters from the “old” series and in-jokey references to past episodes that could baffle the newbies. Plus they spend a lot of time in hospitals.
The big blockbuster “welcome back” moment is the execution of a convicted child rapist/murderer. This show keeping it light as always. We learn that Torchwood has been erased from the world since the last series (if only), and that Gwen and Rhys have moved to the country. With a baby. And lots of guns. Sadly, fatherhood has made Rhys slot rather too easily back into the role of the guy who’s telling his wife what she can and can’t do, and getting angry and aggressive in the process. No matter how much progress is made by these two, they’re always on a knife-edge, ready to become unpleasant twats at a moment’s notice.
Meanwhile, Jack turns up like a ghost in an archive vault, which soon after gets blown up. He quickly finds himself back in the old groove, as if he’d never been away – there was no explanation of what he’d been up to between the series, and certainly no signs that he’s been affected in any way by that time he killed his own grandson. And he’s still drugging women who get in his way.
The retcon victim was a young CIA worker called Esther, who showed very few personality traits other than being good at relaying information to Mekhi Phifer. Hopefully we’ll get to know her a little better, given that she’s a new regular, because her boss didn’t have the most auspicious of starts. It obviously makes sense to have a member of the new transatlantic team be one of those who should have died on Miracle Day, which in itself serves as a great hook for the series.
However, in practice, it’s not a good idea to have your new action hero impeded throughout his first adventure by having a pole stuck through his chest. The sight of him staggering around hospitals and airports, convulsing as he moves and popping pills left right and centre, is far too comical to be taken seriously. I did find his chuntering about Wales and the Severn Bridge amusing, but overall I much prefer him as Eminem’s mate in 8 Mile.
With a strange sense of inevitability, the episode culminates in a helicopter chasing an open top Land Rover, with a baby inside, down a Welsh beach, until Gwen shoots it down with a rocket launcher. You can have as many swooping helicopter shots and sexy Americans as you like, but Torchwood will never shift its inherent silliness.
Nevertheless, this is a promising start – there’s obviously huge potential in the central concept of nobody dying, and Jack becoming mortal as a result is a neat reversal to add some extra spice. The question is not whether or not they’ll piss this potential away, it’s merely how quickly and how stupidly.