Torchwood: The Blood Line

I HAVE FINISHED TORCHWOOD. This makes me so happy. I am thirty-one years old, and I will never watch an episode of Torchwood ever again. I’ve now seen them all at least once, and most of them twice, and that is more than enough times. This feels like a significant milestone in the latter stages of this project – from this point on, everything I watch will be stuff that I actually want to watch.

For what it’s worth, this final episode was slightly above the average – having taken so long to get everything in place for the end of the Miracle, they did a decent job of making it happen. Mind you, a lot of the big plot revelations we were waiting for came through the woman at the Blessing just telling Jilly everything for some reason. An attempt at excitement came through a quite extraordinary number of bombings – the Category One count is very high in this episode, with Jack and Rex happily snapping people’s necks willy-nilly to bring the total up.

It gets quite dramatic towards the end, and genuinely gripping in places as the upper hand flits between Torchwood and the Families. But the trademark Torchwood silliness is never far away. The climax of a season-long story being John Barrowman’s guts spilling into a gorge is clearly very silly indeed, and his face doesn’t exactly help you take it seriously. Also, I’m no doctor, but Miracle or no Miracle, I’m pretty sure you can’t just swap your entire blood supply with someone else’s and continue walking and talking.

Then there’s Oswald Danes. I’m still not quite clear what the point of his character was. If it was satire on the way the media works, or a parable about how dangerous it is to give terrible people a platform, then that still doesn’t account for why he had to join the team for the last couple of episodes. His usefulness to the mission was accidental – they found that suicide vest after they’d already broken in, it wasn’t pre-planned – and at no point could I shake the knowledge that there was a paedophile in our midst. Even as he sacrifices his life to seal off the Blessing, he reminds us of his crimes by recalling his “shoulda run faster” catchphrase. There is no redemption here.

Naturally, not all of the Torchwood team could survive the adventure, and it was Esther who drew the short straw. She did so fairly consistently over the course of the series, with her character being far less prominent or interesting than any of the others. She seemed entirely defined by her devotion to Rex, which is never a good sign for a female character. Speaking of Rex, him gaining Jack’s healing ability made me chuckle, but he’s the last person you’d want to live forever. He’s a tit.


Having finally seen this ten-part story in full, I’m left to conclude that there’s something seriously wrong with the pace and structure. In part one, a big mysterious bad thing happens. In part ten, they solve the mystery and fix everything. The middle eight parts were a series of diversions, dead ends and deviations, which would have been fine if they were brilliant, but they weren’t.

That leaves four fifths of the series looking suspiciously like padding. At times it was mildly entertaining padding, but it rarely did more than pass the time. It’s no surprise, but they failed to live up to the story-telling potential that the Miracle provided – too often it got bogged down with the latest relatively trivial problems befalling our heroes, leaving the big world-changing events to be conveyed via news reports and intelligence briefings, rarely impacting on the various characters we followed.

I suspect the whole experience would be much better if you just skipped episodes 2-9 and watched it as an RTD-penned two-parter instead. There’d be bits which didn’t make much sense, but probably no more than in an average Torchwood episode, and you really wouldn’t miss too much vital information. Crucially, it would have only wasted two hours of my life, not ten.

I like the way they left a sequel hook, with Jilly being informed that this was just the first part of the Families’ plan, along with the aforementioned Rex immortality. Nice try, but come on, the show was already on borrowed time. I stand by my earlier statement that Torchwood really ought to have ended with Children of Earth. Miracle Day concluded with a far more open path to new stories, but it left us with far less appetite to see them.

RATING: 6

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 5.1

  • Torchwood series watched: 4 of 4
  • Torchwood stories watched: 37 of 37
  • Individual Torchwood episodes watched: 41 of 41

TORCHWOOD DONE. Now, finally, let’s kill Hitler…

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Torchwood: Immortal Sins

It’s time to take a little break from all these Miracle-based shenanigans, as the seventh episode of this over-long story turns out to be a little cutaway that only ties in to the main plot at the start and the end. This is basically The Feast of Steven all over again, but worse because it’s Torchwood.

It very much feels like the old Welsh-bound version of the show, both in the style and subject matter of the flashbacks, and the fact that it barely features Rex and Esther, and for the second episode in a row there’s no Danes or Jilly at all. Half of the time it’s just Jack and Gwen being horrible to each other in a car, and the other half is just Jack on his own, but in the past.

It was inevitable from the moment Past Jack tackled Angelo to the ground that the two of them were going to end up shagging, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly, and I could have done without John Barrowman reading out bad porn while I was trying to eat an ice pop. When Jack later started to talk about Angelo as his new “companion”, I assumed that this was a death sentence, but it later turned out to be quite the opposite.

The companion stuff was part of a rare shoring up of the links to the main show, with what was the first reference to the Doctor himself this series. It was clearly trying to re-establish Jack as an equivalent figure, but saying “run” does not a Doctor make. But the reminder that this is all vaguely relevant to the overall project was welcome. There was even a reference to the Trickster, of all people, and an alien, again for the first time this series.

The fact that Miracle Day is barely recognisable as being part of the same show has been a big contributor to why it’s been such a slog, so in many ways it was quite nice to have an episode that was a bit old-school. Then again, I didn’t like the old show. But if you’re going to watch something that’s a bit crap, you might as well watch something that’s familiar and crap.

Thankfully, it did all tie in with the Miracle stuff at the very end, as I was conscious throughout that what was unfolding, entertaining as it was in places, might just be a complete waste of time. In that sense it wasn’t, but then again surely if the woman at the end had just told Jack in the first place that Angelo was alive, connected to the Miracle and wanted to see him, he would have come running. Kidnapping Gwen’s family, and thus the entire episode, was entirely needless. Ah well.

RATING: 6

Torchwood: The New World

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.

RATING: 7

Torchwood: Children of Earth

I remember sitting down to watch the first episode of this back in 2009, thinking “this will be shit, but at least it’ll be over by the end of the week”. I was half right. This mini-series does not make sense. The first series was garbage. The second series was only marginally better. I didn’t even make it to half way through Miracle Day before giving up completely. So how is it that Children of Earth is so gripping, thought-provoking, scary, intense and generally brilliant?

This is an adult version of Doctor Who done right, and if this is what Torchwood had been like from the start, my complaints would have been very few. Watching it back now, it’s clear that the new format is a huge advantage. Only telling one story over five hours allows time to deal with both character and plot development, whereas previously it often seemed to be a choice between one or the other. There’s also the necessity to raise the stakes higher and higher by the end of each hour, always pushing the story forward in imaginative and surprising ways.

There’s the new team dynamic too, although obviously this in itself would develop over the course of the story. The two worst characters are gone, and in their place is the ever-improving Rhys. But more than that, the story length means that the guest cast are around for long enough to really play a big part, resulting in an ensemble cast that was just as important to the narrative as the main team.

Basically, it wasn’t very much like Torchwood, and therefore it was good. This is an over-simplification, of course, so let’s go through the details one day at a time. I’ve been writing up my notes after each episode throughout the week, so here’s a recap of the story as it unfolded:

Day One

* Peter Capaldi appearing in a Doctor Who spin-off as a civil servant makes this exactly halfway between his two most famous roles.

* Wow, those screaming children are certainly very creepy. Although the unfortunate side-effect of their “we are coming” message manifesting itself one word at a time was that I couldn’t help but hear them shout “wee-wee” over and over again.

* Who’s this Rupesh, then? He’s being set up as a potential new recruit, but I don’t remember him at all, so – much like any time The Doctor offers to take someone on board, but you know they’re not a new companion – he’s doomed.

* I see the UK’s new Prime Minister is Mr A. Genericman. Still, I suppose it’s an improvement on Harold Saxon.

* Jack has a daughter! That’s a nice little twist, and a good opportunity to explore an interesting issue that his immortality raises: he’s her dad, but she looks older than him.

* Ah, so Rupesh is a bad un. Should have seen that coming, considering Jack’s tendency to walk into obvious traps. And look, his mate is the Hitchhikers woman off that episode of Peep Show. Oh, she’s not his mate. She’s killed him.

* Jack blowing up is hell of a cliffhanger. I can’t remember if they go into the gory detail of how his body resurrects itself when it’s been blown to smithereens, but I do hope so.

Day Two

* Ah, so Jack grows back bit by bit – an assortment of body parts in a bag can grow into a new Jack skellington. Shame, I was hoping the various chunks of him would make their way through the rubble to join together and slot into place. Having Jack wake up before his skin had grown back was pretty horrific, but not as horrific as the sight of his penis when he was fully recovered.

* Torchwood, the organisation, is now *completely* fucked. No silly SUV, no Hub, no money, and they’re being hunted down by their own government. It’s still weird that the guy in charge of killing them is Peter Capaldi. The Torchwood team as powerless fugitives is an interesting new dynamic; maybe things were a little too easy for them before, when they had a vast array of alien tech at their disposal.

* Also, Gwen’s up the duff. As good as it is overall to have Rhys along for the ride, his function at times is to tell his wife what she can and can’t do. Obviously he wants to protect her, especially given her condition, but the connotations of this tie in to the old cliché about women not being able to have it all. Although admittedly, most careers don’t involve chasing down aliens, or being chased down yourself by government bounty hunters.

* Possibly the most amusing and joyful sequence in Torchwood to date was Ianto turning up in a JCB to steal a big block of concrete, and then freeing Jack by throwing the fucker down a quarry.

Day Three

* Did Jack’s daughter attract the attention of the police deliberately as some sort of gambit, or is she just a fucking idiot? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to springing traps, or indeed when it comes to a penchant for running around with a gun in a big blue coat.

* The 456 are probably the first Torchwood alien to be actually scary. It’s because they’re so bloody *weird*; we can barely see them, so all we’ve got to go off is them making the occasional guttural noises and vomiting on the glass for seemingly no particular reason. It’s another example of the new format being beneficial; they can afford to take the time to eke the mystery out, and therefore it’s so much more effective than usual.

* Ah, Colin McFarlane has turned up! No matter how many Batman films he’s been in, he’ll always be the token black guy on The Fast Show to me. Did you know he’s also the voice of The Cube? Also, I’ve just remembered that he was in Doctor Who recently – with Capaldi, no less.

* Turns out the team do have one bit of advanced tech at their disposal – those contact lenses from when Martha turned up. But is there any bit of alien kit that Torchwood won’t use for sex?

* Every bit of Capaldi’s interactions with The 456 is utterly superb; it’s a great performance from him, unsurprisingly. But the highlight has to be the bit where they repeat his line back at him in a sarcastic voice. I feel like the first two series would have milked that moment, but here they have the restraint to just let it linger in silence for a few seconds, completely unmentioned, before moving on. It becomes another aspect to the unpredictable weirdness that makes them scary, rather than being played for mood-breaking laughs.

* The gloriously resurrected prodigal son ups and fucks off again for most of the episode, leaving the team to figure out what’s going on without his help, which would have been pretty useful considering he already knows exactly what the situation is. Then he comes back right at the end, after Lois has put herself in danger and Clem has been traumatised, to tell them the thing that they’ve spent ages figuring out, with the added information that he once sent twelve innocent children to their deaths. I’m being facetious, mind; that scene was tense as fuck, and another great cliffhanger.

Day Four

* After four series and five specials of the main show, and two series each of Torchwood and SJA, it’s finally time to unveil Nick Briggs’s face. I like Nick Briggs’s face, and he’s very good. His character is the spin doctor who proposes selling a child cull as a measure against overpopulation. I don’t think even Malcolm Tucker would go that far.

* The political discussions are the main feature of this episode, and all of those cabinet scenes are just brilliant. They’ve stuck with me for all this time, as they’re disconcertingly realistic, even more so after seven years of Tory austerity. Of course they propose using asylum seekers. Of course the only thing they agree on is that their own kids shouldn’t at stake. Much like The Thick Of It, they don’t actually say which party are in power, but the ultimate decision to sacrifice the poorest and most vulnerable children makes it perfectly clear.

* Torchwood’s convoluted plan to take control is clever, and the reveal that they’ve done so is triumphant. This is a really good thriller. This is not like Torchwood at all.

* Ah, but their confrontation with The 456 is. Their big plan is to blackmail them into leaving, but why should The 456 give a shit about their ultimatum being made public? It’s of no political concern to them, and they can easily crush any resistance. And yes, Jack, they are also capable of developing bullet-proof glass.

* And then Ianto dies. Obviously I knew it was coming, but I’d forgotten that it was in the penultimate episode, so it did still come as a bit of a surprise. After being a bit nothingy for the first series, Ianto has grown into a far better character than any of the previous casualties, and will be a genuine loss to the show. It’s all very sad, but I’m not sure it warranted a shrine. Much less a shrine that’s been maintained for eight years and counting:

Me in Cardiff, February 2017

* It’s a bit of a shame that, ultimately, Ianto died for nothing. Jack’s plan comprehensively failed; the cabinet were in exactly the same position afterwards that they were before Torchwood’s intervention, and all they achieved was a sports hall full of corpses. Nice one, Jack.

* Still, eh? Susie, Owen, Tosh, Ianto. Gwen is still pretty much the new girl, and yet other than the immortal one, every single member of the team that she joined is dead. Torchwood is an institute that desperately needs to revise its health and safety policies.

Day Five

* Ah, The 456 are off their tits on child-smack. That certainly explains their unpredictable behaviour, and the random bouts of vomiting.

* Frobisher’s downfall is the darkest that any Doctor Who-related series has ever been, and likely ever will be. I mean, fucking hell. I had to pause it and compose myself – I wasn’t crying, because I was too stunned, even though I knew what was coming. It’s yet another incredible performance by Capaldi (possibly the only Doctor to have turned in so many incredible performances before he was actually The Doctor), and brilliantly directed. No need for words, just gestures, expressions and four gunshots.

* Well, I say that’s the darkest it’s ever going to get, but it’s not often that a plot is resolved by the protagonist killing his own grandson. While he was obviously in an impossible position, and even taking into account the logic of sacrificing one child to save millions, after everything that happened in the 60s and with Ianto, Jack doesn’t come out of this story particularly well.

* It’s good to see the PM get his comeuppance in the immediate aftermath, but the godawful woman who advocates culling the poor gets to take over? RTD predicted the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

* As with the last finale, zero time was taken to explore the consequences of the catastrophic events. The story ends the second The 456 disappear – the army immediately stops trying to capture the Welsh kids, despite not having received any orders to do so. How the hell does society come back from this? From having parents watch as the government round up their children at gunpoint? Because you can bet it’ll never be mentioned in proper Doctor Who or Sarah Jane, despite supposedly taking place in the same universe.

* Either way, off Jack fucks, leaving the people of Cardiff completely undefended from whatever comes out of the Rift. With only a heavily-pregnant Gwen left (presumably the pterodactyl died when the Hub exploded), Torchwood – the organisation – is effectively over now. Really, Torchwood the TV show should have been too. Much like how Del Boy and Rodney walking off into the sunset was the perfect ending to Only Fools And Horses, I can’t think of anything more apt to round off Torchwood than the complete dismantling of everything it ever built, against a backdrop of harrowing death and destruction.

So perhaps elements of the conclusion prove that no matter how much Torchwood changes, it still can’t quite escape from its main pitfall: being Torchwood. Nevertheless, it’s a truly spectacular piece of television, standing head and shoulders above everything that came before and after. For one brief, glorious week in 2009, Torchwood was the best show on TV. Two thousand words later, I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, but I’m very glad it did.

RATING: 9

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 9, I SUPPOSE.

  • Torchwood series watched: 3 of 4
  • Torchwood stories watched: 27 of 37
  • Individual Torchwood episodes watched: 31 of 41

Torchwood: Exit Wounds

It has become apparent over the last couple of weeks that I can’t have been paying much attention to Torchwood in early 2008. There have been so many details and plot twists that I’d completely forgotten about, which has pleasingly meant that I’ve been able to watch the stories unfold as if it were the first time. And I have to say that yes, I was duped into thinking that John was doing all this just to spite Jack. I guess it’s because I found the character so unappealing the first time round, I was prepared to believe that he’d be capable of such ridiculous behaviour.

I should have clocked something was up when the stakes were raised to ludicrous proportions – taking over the Hub and unleashing the odd Weevil is one thing, but blowing up half of Cardiff is a bit of an overreaction. Destroying a city is an expensive business, which is presumably why we never got to see any of the actual destruction, just the insides of a police station, a server room, a hospital basement and a nuclear bunker. It’s such a shame that it was all left to the imagination, because it really didn’t carry the weight and impact that something like the utter annihilation of the UK’s eleventh largest city ought to.

Then came the reveal that this wasn’t Jack’s ex doing it out of spite, but in fact it was Jack’s long lost brother doing it out of spite. Grey does admittedly have the excuse of being driven insane by torture as a prisoner of war, so this is better. But despite his ability to survive such horrors, and then to capture John, turn him into a bomb and force him to carry out his extraordinarily convoluted evil plan… he’s a fucking idiot for not realising that the ring John throws into the grave is going to end up being relevant to the plot.

Instead, he heads back to the Hub, shoots Tosh and then gets distracted by a mysterious knocking sound and runs head first into his eventual downfall. Thus proving that the inability to spot an obvious trap is a familial trait. I did like the twist of Jack having already been rescued by a previous Torchwood team, but it’s rotten luck that they didn’t set the timer for two minutes earlier, before Tosh got shot.

Yes, this is the episode that kills two ever-problematic characters with one stone. Now that their stories are complete, I can conclude that Owen did improve significantly in the second series, but not quite enough to redeem his earlier behaviour, and that while there was some fleshing out of Tosh’s character, it was still pretty thin on the ground and most of it revolved around her feelings towards Owen.

I couldn’t decide whether to be pleased or baffled by the decision to use some of Tosh’s precious final moments to resolve the question of why she was pretending to be a doctor in Aliens of London – I’m a fan of continuity tie-ups, but it felt tacked on, and it was hardly a question that was begging to be answered. Other than that, their deaths were both well realised and suitably sad, but neither character will be a huge loss to the show. There’s a reason those two don’t have shrines. (I mean, there’s no reason for Ianto’s shrine either, but more so for those two.)

So endeth the series, and indeed the first incarnation of the show’s formula, with the team 40% lighter but resolving to fight on. Which is all well and good, but meanwhile Cardiff has still been destroyed. Actual present day Cardiff, setting of many of Doctor Who adventure, completely fucked. And Jack has spent the best part of two millennia screaming and choking and dying in agony, over and over again, countless times, seemingly with little to no psychological effect. I feel like I’m far more aware the scale of the damage that’s unfolded than the show is – they barely seem to acknowledge the enormity of what’s occurred, and it makes for a flawed, but still fairly fun, finale.

RATING: 6

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 6

  • Torchwood series watched: 2 of 4
  • Torchwood stories watched: 26 of 37
  • Individual Torchwood episodes watched: 26 of 41

Ahhh. I have enjoyed the second series a lot more than the first, but I’m still nevertheless extremely glad to be getting back to Doctor Who – it’s been wall to wall spin-offs and specials for so long now that the relative normality of a regular series is increasingly appealing. Even though I’m not a fan of the series in question, I’m looking forward to re-examining why.

Torchwood: Adrift

I’m extremely surprised to discover, during my customary post-viewing Googling, that this is widely regarded as one of the better episodes of the series. I don’t disagree with much of the critical response – that it’s good to explore the emotional impact of what happens to rift victims and their families, and that it was interesting to present a situation that had no easy solution – but it left me completely cold, in spite of those things.

A lot of the reviews talk about how this is a great example of sci-fi and what the genre can do, which leads me to ponder how weird it is that I don’t consider myself a sci-fi fan particularly, despite my two favourite programmes (Red Dwarf and Doctor Who) being sci-fi. But I fell in love with those two shows on the strength of other elements – character comedy and the brilliance of the lead character, respectively – the sci-fi was almost incidental.

So while I obviously have an affinity with and fondness for the genre, I need something extra on top if I’m going to really enjoy it. With Doctor Who and associated programming, I’m often in it for the characters, the way they work together and how they love and care for each other. Therefore, an episode which is essentially a complicated cycle of people being complete dicks to each other is going to struggle to get me going.

I don’t like Jack keeping secrets from the rest of the team – I thought they’d got past that with this series. He’s supposed to be all-knowing, compassionate, always-in-the-right Doctor substitute that we gravitate towards – how are we supposed to do that if we can’t trust him? We’re told that Gwen and Andy are great mates, but she’s horrible to him throughout, and he can’t stop making digs about her husband. Speaking of whom, seeing a man scream “I fucking hate you sometimes” in his wife’s face is not a pleasant image.

We were supposed to be on Rhys’s side during that argument, as he points out that nothing’s more important than everyday people’s everyday lives, but The Doctor he ain’t, and the point he’s making gets muddled when he says that Gwen’s work doesn’t matter. What Torchwood do is important, and he doesn’t get that Gwen is sacrificing her own everyday life for the sake of everyone else’s. He comes across as a selfish manbaby, petulantly complaining that his woman isn’t giving him 100% of her attention.

Gwen’s self-sacrifice is about doing what’s best for the greater good, which feels like it should be the theme of the episode, but the dots are never quite joined up. Jack is keeping the victims hidden away from their loved ones so that they don’t have to witness their suffering, and their memories of them are preserved. That’s great, and I can see why that’s the right thing to do, but why exactly does he have to keep it a secret from the team? Why doesn’t he just explain his reasoning to Gwen, rather than allowing her to bring Ruth Jones to the island to see her mutilated son screaming for 20 hours a day? He’s ruined that woman’s life just so that he can say “told you so”.

RATING: 5

Torchwood: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Oh, yippee. I’m about to spend another fortnight on a guided tour of Cardiff’s rooftops. Yes, Torchwood is back, but is it any better? My memory says that there was indeed an improvement for Series 2, but that it was still prone to occasional bouts of stupidity and unpleasantness. In fairness, the show now seems to be acknowledging the element of ridiculousness at its heart, with the old woman who mutters about “bloody Torchwood” as they pursue a giant blowfish driving a sports car.

This pre-titles sequence, and indeed the episode as a whole, seemed designed to re-establish the idiosyncrasies of the series for new viewers, while also reassuring old ones that there’s been some development. Jack appears to have returned from his sabbatical in a much better mood than before, and even resembles the Doctor Who character of the same name at times. I hope this is permanent, although the foreshadowing about mysterious fellow Time Agents seems to suggest that he’ll have plenty to be miserable about as the series goes on.

There’s an attempt to nail down the characteristics of the rest of the team too, which is more than can be said for the entirety of the first series. The time they spent without Jack has allowed room for a spot of character development to take place, and they all seem a lot more confident and assured than they were last time. Ianto has a certain swagger about him suddenly, and Gwen’s engagement has presumably put a stop to her nauseating infidelity – it looks like she’s going back to being the caring, empathetic one, or so we’re told.

The other two characters have always been trickier, and it’s telling that when the blowfish goes through them all one by one, Tosh is defined by her coldness. But she did seem to be a little cheekier than before, and less prone to blend into the background, in the admittedly short amount of time we saw her. With Owen, they now seem to be painting him as some tortured anti-hero, absolving him of blame for his past actions, which I’m willing to accept on the condition that he stops being such a prick from now on.

In this episode, he was able to leave the borderline sexual assaults to Captain John, who was like Captain Jack, but as cool as Captain Jack thinks he is. I wasn’t a fan – this will be blasphemy to many, but I’ve never seen much Buffy, and so the James Marsters factor isn’t enough to distract me from the dickishness of many of the character’s moves, and the accent that seemed to travel between various parts of England.

Despite the slightly refreshed and improved team, and the palpable promise of a new beginning, the plot still relied on the team’s incompetence. Jack knows that John is a con man, and let’s not forget that he’s a con man himself – it takes too much of a suspension of disbelief to accept that the entire team would fall for such an obvious trap. Again. Until Torchwood gets past the necessity for its stories to be driven by its characters’ shortcomings, it will never be great, but in the meantime, this is an improvement on the first series, just about.

RATING: 6

Torchwood: End of Days

The nightmare is finally over. The relief is comparable to when I finished my last recon, slightly tempered by the fact that there’s more Torchwood to come within a month or so. But for now, I’m finally free, and like Bilis Manger, I spent much of the last hour willing the team to hurry up and open the rift already, just so it would be over. But actually, it wasn’t too bad – it still had the trademark Torchwood stupidity and complete lack of joy, but it was fairly exciting and suitably ramped-up for a finale.

I hit it off with this episode early on, when Jack made the point of publicly bollocking Owen for breaking the world and generally being a twat. The glimpses of the chaos outside were good, but you could tell that they didn’t have the budget to show too much. The sequence in the hospital was great, but it was just a vignette – you could have had a whole episode about how to contain an ancient disease, but it was no more significant than the Roman soldier or the spaceships over the Taj Mahal.

The meat was in the visions the team experienced, and they were pretty effective. I may not have enjoyed any of the things that were back-referenced at the time, but I liked it all being brought back and tied up. It’s one of the few times this series where it’s felt like there was a coherent plan from one episode to the next; I think the show would have benefited from being as serialised throughout as it has been for the last few episodes.

Not that everything lined up neatly, of course. When Jack got shot, I was distracted by how long it took him to come back to life; it’s previously happened in seconds, but here they had time for a whole opening-the-rift montage. Also, I don’t really see how opening the rift prevented Rhys from being killed – fair enough that the people who’d been displaced from time just pop back, but his stabbing was merely something that happened at the same time as all this rifty stuff was going on, it wasn’t part of it.

I obviously enjoyed Owen being sacked – he didn’t deserve it on this occasion, but it’s like Al Capone getting done for tax evasion. I wish that just one person other than Jack had been able to spot that the whole thing was obviously a trap – I know that they’d all had their minds messed with by Manger, but surely this is exactly the sort of thing they ought to be trained against. But no, they have to go and Torchwood it up by doing the thing that they’d been told to never do, and what’s the result? A bad one. (Abaddon).

Yes, Abaddon, who’s The Beast from The Satan Pit, but without any of the interesting philosophical debates, or any of the tension in the build up, or just anything other than being a big stompy monster. It was all dealt with in around three or four minutes, which felt like a hell of an anti-climax and kind of undermined all the stuff about how catastrophic opening the rift would be. Pretending that Jack was dead-for-real-this-time was the very definition of false jeopardy – you know the whole way through that he’s going to wake back up, so why bother getting emotionally involved?

The excitement of the very ending, when the hand starts bubbling and we hear that oh-so-familiar noise, was extremely apt and made me empathise with Jack more than anything else this series – after hanging around with the Torchwood team for so long, I can’t wait to get back to The Doctor either. The strange thing is, looking back, that it doesn’t quite tally with the start of Utopia – it’s heavily implied here, with the paper flying around and the clear indication that Jack didn’t leave via the doors, that the TARDIS landed in The Hub and picked Jack up. Which would not have been as good an opening as Jack running over and clinging to the outside of the TARDIS as it dematerialises. Honestly, they can’t even tie in with the main show properly.

RATING: 7

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 4.92

  • Torchwood series watched: 1 of 4
  • Torchwood stories watched: 13 of 37
  • Individual Torchwood episodes watched: 13 of 41

Torchwood: Day One

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?

RATING: 3

Torchwood: Everything Changes

Oh, Torchwood, there you are, with your big silly SUV and your big silly shots of people standing on tall buildings for no reason whatsoever. I remember being full of hope prior to the launch, and a big group of us wound up at mine to watch it at the end of a rather boozey weekend. It was a double bill, but having rewatched the first episode tonight, the last thing I want to do is watch another.

My memory is that Series 1 is pretty much an unmitigated disaster, then there’s a handful of good episodes in Series 2, Children of Earth is surprisingly fantastic, and I didn’t even get to the end of Miracle Day. I’m determined to keep an open mind though, and to try and reap some enjoyment out of it even if it does turn out to be, as I suspect, a load of complete shit.

That said, let me talk about what’s wrong with it. It’s very self-consciously “adult”, but it misunderstands what that should entail. It’s not enough to just pepper in some incongruous swearing and make everyone bisexual – it’s like a teenage fantasy of adulthood. The CSI bloke at the beginning suddenly dropping the fuck-bomb seemed to be a statement of intent, and it is, just not in the way they were aiming for.

The Torchwood team are simply not very good people, are they? There’s nobody questioning the morality of bringing a murder victim back to life for two minutes of constant abject terror. Later, they appear to be just hiding in the cordoned-off area of the hospital while Gwen chats to the Weevil, and they don’t think to intervene until that poor porter has been brutally killed.

By far the worst of the bunch is Owen, who’s a weird octagon-faced little robot man, whose chosen alien superpower is Red Dwarf‘s sexual magnetism virus, but when he uses it, it’s essentially a date rape drug. The similar connotations of Jack slipping a retcon pill into Gwen’s drink seemingly didn’t occur either. And yes, the obvious way around that particular problem would be to just write things down with a pen and paper, so that the tea boy (God rest his soul) can’t delete it with his big delete button.

There’s so much stupidity on show that I was indeed reasonably entertained. The cut to the aforementioned shots of Jack on a big building made me laugh almost as much as I cried yesterday. I’d forgotten about his line earlier, when Gwen asked him about the missing WWII soldier: “Well, that couldn’t be me… could it?”, delivered like every parody of The Twilight Zone you’ve ever seen. Hilarious.

Then there’s the infamous (amongst my friends, anyway) line from Susie: “Weevils and bollocks and shit.” Oh my! This is only the second time I’ve ever seen it, but I remember it as clear as day. As laughable as it is, I now realise that Susie’s speech about how there must be beautiful things out there, but all you ever get with Torchwood is all the shit stuff, kind of undermines the entire series, right there in the climax to the first episode. Well done, everyone.

I must admit that the twist of killing someone off after they’ve been billed as a series regular is a stroke of genius. It’s just a shame that Susie’s presence wasn’t the only aspect of the pre-launch hype that proved to be misleading.

RATING: 5