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.



  • 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…

Torchwood: The Gathering

We’re so nearly there guys. We’re on the final disc of the complete Torchwood boxset. Thank Christ. The most annoying thing about this series is that it’s not complete and total shit. At least the first two series almost always gave me something to talk about, but there isn’t even anything to tear to shreds here. It’s mostly just about fine, but it’s pedestrian and tedious.

Setting this episode two months after the last one was a sure-fire way to lose the momentum of that cliffhanger. Oh no, Jack’s going to die, oh wait he’s fine now. They try to distract you from this by having RTD make a cameo as a newsreader, but this only serves to remind you that one of the finest TV writers of his generation is attached to this show, and even he can’t make it work.

The world has changed considerably in the two months we skipped; borders are closed, category ones are being rounded up, and Oswald Danes has got a job delivering bread. He was always going to become more central to the plot towards the end, and it seemed somewhat inevitable that he’d join the team. It kind of works with him as an outsider, pointing out where people are going wrong and making quips from the sidelines, until you remember who he is, and that Torchwood now has a nonce on their books.

After a brief interlude for Gwen’s dad to be incinerated, the gang finally got somewhere in their investigation, and it was fun to watch the pieces being put together. The stuff with Jilly being quite literally Shaghaied was fairly exciting too, although I was distracted by the location of The Blessing looking exactly like the alley where the Seventh Doctor was shot. The secret behind the Miracle seems to be a big hole down the centre of the Earth, running from Shanghai to Buenos Aires. What, is someone going to turn the planet into a vehicle and fly it through space?

By the end of the episode, we finally have everything in place for the gang to fix this whole Miracle Day problem, but there’s still quite a lot to be done in the final hour. We still don’t know what the Blessing does, who’s controlling it, or why, or how it can be stopped, all of which needs to be answered before Torchwood can start defeating the baddies and fixing the world. It’s a lot to ask to squeeze all that in and leave room for any satisfying exploration of the aftermath, or emotional resolution. What could possibly go wrong?


Torchwood: End of the Road

You know what’s really annoying? I could have watched Doctor Who tonight. The last few episodes of Miracle Day overlapped with the start of Series 6B, so if I was sticking to strict broadcast order, I’d be killing Hitler right now. But alternating between the two for a while would be a bit annoying, and I’d rather just get this nonsense out of the way once and for all, so I decided to crack on with Torchwood and get it over with.

My decision was instantly punished with quite possibly the dullest hour of television that Torchwood has produced so far. Perhaps I was in a bad mood with it because it’s not Doctor Who, but I spent the last fifty minutes taking in everything that was being said and done, and not one bit of it affected me emotionally or stimulated me intellectually. I’d have got an equal amount of enjoyment from reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, and it would have been much quicker.

The appearance of your man from Breaking Bad raised a smile, and your man from Jurassic Park blowing himself up raised an eyebrow. That was about it for the bulk of the episode. Angelo, like PhiCorp before him, turned out to be another red herring, and instead we’re introduced to yet another mystery in the form of “the families”, and only two episodes in which to explore it. We’re 80% of the way through, and the identity of those behind the Miracle is no closer to being revealed – we’ve always known it was some shady people in the background, and that’s still as far as we’ve come. All we learn here is that they were apparently responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis.

The worst thing was that Jack has got back into his old habit of withholding information from his fellow team-members – and therefore the audience – in order to look mysterious and brooding. When the one thing you want from a series is for it to answer some of its mysteries, it’s so frustrating when you know the answers are right there, but they’re arbitrarily choosing not to tell you. It’s also far less dramatic when you know for a fact that the situation could be resolved by one character simply telling another what he already knows – any jeopardy is false, generated solely by this wilful schtum-keeping.

Meanwhile, everyone’s favourite right-wing paedophile is back, and we get to enjoy watching him bully his female employee and intimidate a prostitute. We’re then seemingly supposed to feel sorry for him when he’s condemned to a new type of death sentence and forced to go on the run. I mean, I’m against the death penalty in all circumstances, but it’s hard to make that argument when you then see Danes slapping and punching a woman. Send the fucker to the module.

I’ll admit that I did have one moment of genuine surprise and intrigue: when (the now mortal, remember) Jack got shot. Not for the first time this series, it’s a great cliffhanger that serves to raise the stakes for the next episode and take the story in a new direction. It’s just a shame that you could have cut the preceding 48 minutes or so out and still got the same effect.


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.


Torchwood: The Middle Men

As is so often the case with Torchwood, just when you dare to hope that things are looking up, they swiftly take a turn for the shite. With the formula of the first few episodes well and truly out the window, this one effectively sees the four team members on four separate individual missions – four smaller stories happening concurrently, but with only two of them really impacting on each other. There isn’t even room for Oswald Danes or his PR woman, although that’s probably for the best.

The only issue is that these stories are all bollocks. Their main crime is being dull, but they all featured at least one thing that annoyed me, and all had a detrimental effect on the overall series arc. Let’s take them one by one.

Jack – Six episodes in, PhiCorp has a face, and it’s the face of Winston from Ghostbusters. We’re first introduced to him as he accidentally causes his Japanese colleague to commit suicide by jumping off a tall building. Sidebar: would a news report broadcast detailed instructions on how to commit suicide? Well, maybe in America.

Anyway, Jack stalks Winston from Ghostbusters‘s secretary/bit on the side, and then confronts him in a restaurant, destroying his marriage in the process. But it was all for nothing, as it’s revealed that PhiCorp isn’t actually behind The Miracle after all, thus rendering this plot strand redundant.

Gwen – Still trying to bust her dad out of hospital, in what ends up being the slowest rescue in television history. When it’s all done and dusted, Gwen has the brilliant idea of preventing the overflow centre from burning people alive by… blowing the place up. Thus incinerating a load of soldiers, medical staff, civilians and Category 2 patients, as well as the Category 1s she was hoping to save, in addition to rendering this plot strand redundant.

Rex – He spends much of the episode vlogging from inside the overflow camp, rather than doing anything useful. He is, however, proving himself to be a true Torchwood member by being absolutely shit at his job. He manages to steal a soldier’s uniform to escape, but is then immediately captured after he walks directly into a smoking area full of actual soldiers. Then our new friend Colin comes for a chat, and Rex manages to hand the evidence he spent so long gathering directly to the person who it implicates, thus rendering this plot strand redundant.

Esther – Her story obviously ties in with Rex’s, but not before she takes care of a bunch of admin while waiting for the action to start. She’s keeping an eye on Colin, who’s just about the highlight of this episode as he begins to fall apart from the guilt and stress. Then she “kills” him (although obviously she doesn’t, actually) and proves that she’s not a true Torchwood member by displaying emotion afterwards. On the one hand it’s nice to have someone who acts like an actual human being, but on the other, why is it always the young women who are seen crying? Regardless, Colin’s out of the picture now, thus rendering this plot strand redundant.

Then the team all come back together in the end, having successfully blown the whistle on the whole “the government is burning people alive inside concentration camps” thing. But alas, in scenes that might have been far-fetched when they first aired but seem horribly realistic now, nobody particularly gives a shit and so the government happily stand by their policy. Thus rendering this plot stand redundant. Are you beginning to see my problem with this episode?

It feels like everything that’s happened since the miracle has been a red herring. Over the course of this episode, we were also given a new angle in the form of “The Blessing”, whatever that turns out to be. Then it all ends with a cliffhanger that comes out of nowhere to halt the current plot in its tracks and take the next episode into a completely different direction. It feels like parts 2-6 of this ten-part story counted for nothing. There’s no masterplan at play here, it seems like they’re making it up as they go along. Rubbish.


Torchwood: Escape to L.A.

Four episodes in, and I’m already running out of ways to say “it wasn’t terrible, but not much happened”. There’s taking your time to eke a story out, and then there’s dawdling, and it’s hard to keep up with all the tangents that have been introduced. This was the first occasion where we’ve learned anything significant about the two newbies’ lives, but his daddy issues and her sister issues felt like a distraction from the more interesting stuff that you still feel they’re holding back on.

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the female Nigel Farage, a Tea Party extremist who wants to round the undead up because they’re taking all our jobs and women or something. With another added element of the assassin tracking the team, it seemed like there was too much going on, and that the show was spreading itself too thinly. But then a different assassin takes fascist lady’s car to the crushers and forgets to take her out, so that’s one less character to keep track of.

Instead, her story was a means of moving Oswald’s forward, after a brief interval while he weirdly listens to the sound of soda bottles opening. He uses the presence of his right-wing rival to set himself up as a saviour figure for the living dead. In a few short days, this convicted child-murderer has basically become Zombie Christ, and nobody even minds when he scoops up a baby girl for a photo op. At least the scenes in the hospital / internment camp mean that we’re actually being shown the consequences now, rather than just told about them, although the frequent news montages are getting a little tired already.

This series is clearly not sure what it’s trying to do, as all of the extra-curricular bits are playing out slowly like a serial, but the stuff with the Torchwood team themselves is becoming increasingly formulaic. Each week they set up a new base, find themselves a mission, get everything in place and then pull of some sort of heist or espionage action, which inevitably goes tits up. There is effectively a self-contained story per episode, but they never seem to move the bigger story along enough.

Add in the other-worldliness and the whole thing feels like one of those vaguely spooky procedurals that came out in the aftermath of Lost, which is probably because that’s exactly what it is. And it shares the same problem as many of those shows, in that the juicy info we came for is being released frustratingly slowly. We were just about to find out who the secret triangle people are, when Rex comes blundering in and shoots the guy in the throat. Never before in the Who oeuvre (or Whoeuvre, if you will) has a plot moved so slowly, not even in the 60s. Just get on with it.

And as if things couldn’t get any worse, Piers Morgan gets a namecheck. There’s no need for that.


Torchwood: Dead of Night

Ah. I’d forgotten exactly when it was that I decided to give up on Miracle Day the first time round, but I think I’ve pinpointed it. It’s to do with Oswald Danes, who I must say Bill Pullman plays excellently, but was certainly a bold choice for a recurring character. The problem is that I don’t believe the speed at which his public perception is changing. Even in a world where Trump can become President, I simply don’t buy the idea of people starting to see a paedophile as a cult leader.

It’s never made clear exactly what those masked chaps in the street are protesting about, nor what exactly Danes has done to earn anyone’s respect. Meanwhile, the show wants us to feel sympathy for him when he’s harassed in the street and beaten up by cops, but that’s a hard sell. And besides, if he’s still at the stage where people want to see him lynched, why in God’s name do the big scary pharmaceutical company want a convicted child murderer as their spokesman? It’s nonsense.

Meanwhile, just as I was saying how this is nothing like Torchwood, they bring back two old favourites: the magic contact lenses, and really long, tedious sex scenes. Rex manages to get in on the act in his first full episode as a team member, and then Jack decides to follow his nookie with getting a bit melancholy and blubbing about Ianto. He ought to find himself a nice tall building to stand on, get it out of his system.

The rest of the episode concerns the discovery that the aforementioned big scary pharmaceutical company might be behind the whole thing, and also Rex going off in a huff then coming back again. This is what’s so frustrating about this series so far – there’s so much story to tell, but the plots they’ve chosen move so slowly that you can summarise each episode in a couple of lines.

They’re not doing anything more than pay lipservice to all the wider implications of the miracle. That should be where the juicy stuff is, but they’re not showing us any of it – there’s just a scene or two per episode where a bunch of scientists or news reporters tell us about what’s happening around the world, but this stuff never impacts on the main plot. It feels like these are cutaways to pad the thing out, whereas the unfolding situation should be driving the action.

For reasons that are not thoroughly explained, the climax of this chapter involves Jack confronting Danes, and as soon as the latter started talking, I identified the moment I decided to stop watching. It’s him describing in great detail what he did to the girl, and why it was the best moment of his life. It’s not that it’s offensive, it’s just a deeply unpleasant reality to be confronted with, and it’s not as if the rest of the show is entertaining, clever or enthralling enough to compensate. I didn’t see the point of putting up with such discomfort when there’s little or no reward.


Torchwood: Rendition

On the version of the DVD I’ve got (bollocks to forking out on the Bluray for this), each episode is preceded by a minute-long introduction from John Barrowman and RTD. I don’t even want to watch Torchwood, let alone some people banging on about Torchwood. More amusingly, it seems that the episodes themselves now start with a bit of introductory text that says: “One day, no one dies. The next day, no one dies.” The next day, no one dies. The next day, there was the incident with the pigeon. The next day, no one dies. The next day… I mean, I could go on.

As you may have already gathered from my choice of subject matter, this episode was really boring. It wasn’t egregiously bad, but it’s just a lot of talking, most of which was done by people we don’t know and who don’t seem to have much about them. It’s no longer a series about a bunch of Welsh people fighting aliens once a week, it now seems to be a show about how various American institutions – the CIA, the healthcare system and the media – deal with a crisis, shown through the microcosm of bureaucracy, brainstorming sessions and nonces.

I mean, I wasn’t opposed to ripping up Torchwood‘s format and starting again, but this episode felt so far removed from the old show that it might as well have been called something else. It’s certainly even further removed from Doctor Who – more so than ever before, this feels like an unrelated interruption to my watch-through that must be overcome, rather than a part of the whole.

Nevertheless, document it I will, and whatever the fuck this is, it featured a woman from Dollhouse as a bad CIA agent, and Claire from Six Feet Under as a dodgy PR woman, who is presumably setting herself up to be a regular character. She doesn’t seem to be a very good PR woman, judging from her statement that “you were trending on Twitter, and the hashtag was ‘forgive'”. Yes, because each trending topic is allocated a hashtag apiece by way of a summary, which is democratically chosen by the userbase.

This brings us on to the subject of Oswald Danes, the new supporting character who also happens to be a paedophile. It’s been proven time and time again that if you put terrible people on TV shows and give them the opportunity to show off another side to themselves, it humanises them, and that’s when they become really dangerous. We’re told that Oprah is apparently complicit in giving Danes a platform, which makes her the Jimmy Fallon of this scenario.

The rest of the episode mostly concerns Esther getting ghosted out of the CIA by your man from Jurassic Park, and Jack being poisoned on an aeroplane. This was clearly supposed to be the big dramatic centrepiece, but it was just faintly annoying – he’s obviously not going to die in episode two of ten, so all you’re left with is Gwen shrieking on a plane, and some tonally-strange quips about the air steward being secretly gay.

I’ll admit the woman from Dollhouse coming back, post neck snap, with her head on backwards was quite good. That’s about it. I can’t call it an awful episode, as it’s nowhere near as low as the lowest points in Series 1, but it was just plain dull. My only hope is that so far, they’ve just been getting everything in place, and now that the new gang’s together and on the run, like in Children of Earth, things will settle down and the proper storytelling can begin.

It’s the hope that kills you.


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.