Sunday, December 17, 2006

Russell T. Davies SUCKS.

The jury was still out on Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood - until today.
The episode was a brilliant idea - about a plane (a Dehavilland Dragonfly, actually) landing at Cardiff Airport 53 years after it left. The Torchwood team was responsible for reintergrating it's three passengers into a world that had moved half a century forward while they'd been gone.

At the end of the episode, the dashing, brave, loves-life-to-the-last Captain Jack watched one of the arrivals gas themselves to death with exhaust fumes. In his mate's car.

Click. Off went the television.

It an unsteady run, this episode was the one that killed it. Dead. Torchwood is crap.

Torchwood was created off the back of Russell T. Davie's brilliant reinvention of Doctor Who. I was lucky enough to catch a re-run of The Christmas Invasion today and I was reminded that Davies has taken ownership of the most compelling British TV series on TV at the moment. He's done a brilliant job, which is why Torchwood has been such a disappointment.

The seeds of Torchwood were laid throughout Doctor Who. A secret group responsible for scavenging alien technology to advance the human race. It was an interesting premise - a kind of X-Files for Britain - and I was interested to see what it would be like.

Even better, Russell T. Davies took one of the best things from Doctor Who - the character of Captain Jack - and cast John Barrowman as the star of the new show. At this point, I was excited. Captain Jack is like Doctor Who with edge. Brilliant, exciting, dashing - and he'll shag just about anything, male, female... Lock up your housepets.

If Captain Jack had been that smiling, brave and resourceful character from Doctor Who, I would have been glued to Torchwood. But in the interests of "character development" he has popped up again as a supporting character. Miserable. Lonely. Whatever occurred to turn him this way might have important ramifications for the Torchwood story arc, but it was out of character for Captain Jack.

Tonight, letting another man die just because he was "scared" to go on living, was a fairly firm indication that the script writers don't know anything about Captain Jack's character or what made him such a firm favourite with the fans.

It's a pity. John Barrowman is awesome and could have made this show.

There are other reasons why I don't like Torchwood. Russell T. Davies, who is gay, makes a big point of keeping his character's sexual orientation open. But instead of being progressive and innovative, the same-sex coupling that occurs each episode seems at best to be crow-barred into the story - or at worst just gratuitous.

Bisexual characters are fine, Russell. To be applauded. But the world in which Torchwood is set is not as progressive as your sexual manifesto and these same-sex relationships come off as contrived and totally non-believable. Only Captain Jack - who comes from a more enlightened time - could pull it off... But like with most of Captain Jack's compelling attributes, they've been firmly written out of the series.

Then there are the supporting characters - limp, unattractive, one dimensional and unbelievable. Then there's the sheer ram-our-face-in-it-Welshness of the whole thing. Doctor Who quite happily inserted Cardiff into many of it's storylines without being like an ad for the Cymru tourist board. Torchwood simply isn't subtle enough.

The swearing annoys me too. Russell, Mate. Saying "fuck" a lot isn't big. It isn't clever. It doesn't give the show any more depth. I'm as much a fan of the potty-mouth as anybody else (Goodfellas, one of my favourite movies, dropped the F-bomb hundreds of times) but it doesn't add anything to Torchwood.

And finally, it's just miserable. It's just a blood miserable show. At the end of each episode the characters are given new emotional scars (on their blank character canvas) and something depressing happens. Doctor Who was escapist and uplifting. Torchwood would have been better if it was too.

Basically, Torchwood had a lot of potential and didn't take advantage of it. It's helmed by Russell T. Davies and the man's bloody talented. But I think he lost sight of why Doctor Who was successful. He stayed true to his Welsh roots when he created Torchwood, which probably explains why it's raining in every episode and the characters are miserable.

Torchwood is on BBC3 at 10pm every Sunday. Bring Prozac.


Anonymous said...

Depressing. Yes! You've totally put your finger on what's so grindingly wrong about the show. The tone is pointlessly bleak throughout - no-one can do something uplifing even by accident.

Plus, the fact that Torchwood as an institution - well, this one at least - makes NO BLOODY SENSE WHATSOEVER. Who pays for the Pterodactyl grub? Who gets the alien technology they recover? Why can they forge a set of passports but not a pilot's licence? Torchwood are, as they like to remind us, "beyond the government", so who's calling the shots - or is it just a wee outfit doing naught but Jack's oddly random bidding.

My feeling is that the whole thing's going to prove a long, shaggy dog story to set up a punchline in eps 12 & 13. It'd better be a bloody good punchline, but I rather fear it won't.

ian B said...

couldnt agree more. in fact i was going to write much the same to the BBC who paid for this, sorry, we paid for it. Capn Jack should have been stronger with a bit more hinted at background. hid associates are nothing but a bunch of selfish kids with new toys to play with, the Dr's helpers had more to them than this. also using the same plot of him not being able to die and so giving an alien an overdose of life was real lame.

Anonymous said...

I am baffled by Torchwood. Some episodes have left me uplifted and deeply thoughtful but others just bored. The humour is cheesy and the characters rather flippant. The BBC could really use a deep series, at least one with the possibility of being interpreted on different levels - a little like Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. I'm sure Russell T. Davies has more than enough on his plate just now, but maybe some more thought into how Torchwood could do this might be good - and please don't loose Captain Jack - he's gorgeous.