The eagerly anticipated return of Torchwood

scooby_doo.jpg

And so Torchwood is back, on BBC2 now, and let’s see if they can get it right this time. I lost interest about halfway through the last series, having coasted along up till then on the show’s energy and on its wild eclecticism. It may be spun off from Doctor Who, but it also contains a huge amount of plagiarism of Buffy (the Hellmouth being relocated to Cardiff), a little touch of Kolchak for viewers old enough to remember that classic, and, as Charlie Brooker pointed out, more than a hint of Scooby-Doo, with our intrepid team of paranormal investigators zooming around town in their SUV. And for all that, it didn’t quite work.

So there are three things I want from a new series of Torchwood. First, it has to be funnier. I know it’s supposed to be the “adult” spin-off of Who, but that seems to have translated into being “dark”. Much as I love classic noir, and modern noir if it’s done well, I bloody hate this current craze for everything being “dark”. To take a comics analogy, Batman is dark and Daredevil is dark, but if you’re making the Fantastic Four dark then you’re missing the point. (Though tell that to Marvel, who seem to have thought turning one of their few happy-go-lucky heroes into Dark Speedball was a dandy idea. I think it’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.) But to get back to Torchwood, I suppose it’s lumbered with a noir visual style, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fair bit of humour. I mean to say, if you have an essentially panto character like Captain Jack in the lead, played by West End song and dance man John Barrowman, you’re on a hiding to nothing making him dour. You’re not making Taggart here.

Which leads me to my second point, that it should be gayer. Again, with the combination of Russell T Davies and John Barrowman, this should be a no-brainer. Part of my problem with Who these days is that it tends to be a little too camp, not least in the episodes Russell T writes himself. But for all the bisexual snogging in Torchwood, I detect a lack of gay sensibility. It’s good to have gay and bisexual characters, but a more overtly gay sci-fi show could be a lot more interesting.

And finally, it should be Welsher. You have the advantage of using the Cardiff setting, unlike Who which has to pretend Cardiff is really London. You have the fabulous Eve Myles as the female lead. You have some great Welsh accents. There’s really nothing to be lost by Welshing it up and using the local flavour, so it looks a bit less like a show set in a generic provincial city.

 So how did I like the first episode of series two? Well, I rather enjoyed it, not least because Russell T acknowledged his Whedon influence by bringing in James Marsters (Spike, of Buffy fame) as a rogue Time Agent. The plot was confusing, but the action was relatively efficient. The supporting cast, even if they still aren’t as fleshed out as I would like, had stuff to do. But what was best was Barrowman and Marsters bitching away at each other like an old gay couple, which it was implied was what they were. More of that sort of thing please, and less of the Reservoir Dogs formation saunters down dark streets. We’ve already established it gets dark at night.

More here and here and also here.

31 Comments

  1. Ed Hayes said,

    January 17, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Why does Captain Jack, who seems to whizz around in some sort of supersonic machine, carry a Webley? Also Cardiff is a rough old spot with lots of football hoolie types, so why don’t the Soul Crew make an appearence? Nice to see Splike back on TV, like a lot of Buffy characters I could never figure out whether he was English or just pretending to be, as the Yanks find those accents exotic. Unlike Irish acents, which to Americans sound like the policeman off Tom & Jerry. Then again Angel was Irish wans’t he?

  2. andy newman said,

    January 17, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Neither Alexis Denisof nor James Marsters are English, though Alexis did live in England for a while, Joss Whedon did I beleive go to school in England.

    Is this demonstrating an unhealthy depth of knowldege on my part?

  3. andy newman said,

    January 17, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    And Alxis Denisof even quite convincingly played an English aristocrat in Sharpe.

  4. flabbyamateur said,

    January 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    more bloody torchwood. everywhere i look bloody torchwood!

  5. Martin Wisse said,

    January 17, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    I guess it takes the same sort of obsessive personality to worry about obscure socialist grouplets and obscure comics characters…

    But if you thought Dork Speedball wasn’t very good, what do you think about Spider-Man making a deal with the devil?

  6. Mark P said,

    January 17, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Yes, the Angel character was Irish. David Boreanaz obviously isn’t, but his Irish accent, which was only evident in historical flashback scenes, was better than most. He was married to an Irish woman, so that may have helped.

    Dark Speedball is a mindnumbingly stupid idea, but not as earthshatteringly moronic as the Spiderman/Mephisto storyline. The latter, as with so much in mainstream comics, springs not from any kind of character based logic but is simply a marketing decision. The powers that be at Marvel have decided that having Spiderman as a happily married man somehow limits the stories that can be told about him. They would prefer him to be the loser-in-love teenager he was when he was for many years, and imagine that this will make him more appealing to new readers.

  7. Louise said,

    January 17, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Andy: “Joss Whedon did I beleive go to school in England.
    Is this demonstrating an unhealthy depth of knowldege on my part?”

    He did indeed go to school over here (the public school, Winchester College) and you are not the only one to demonstrate an unhealthy fascination with anything Buffy.

    But back on topic….I thought the episode was terrible. And that explosion at the end was pathetic with them flinging themselves in the air. If you can’t do good stunts, explosions and more stunts then you shouldn’t bother. And don’t get me on the dialogue and script.
    Spike (sorry he is still Spike to me) was supposed to be an ambiguous character: morally, and sexually but the script was so jammed packed that you didn’t get much time for his character to pan out and grow. All this ambiguity which shoulda added to the dramatic tension just ended up being turned into a mess.

    And if the acting was any more wooden it would have been mistaken for a forest!

    Just why do they bovver? If they want the “real thing” then get Joss Whedon over pronto!

  8. Ryan said,

    January 17, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    “Which leads me to my second point, that it should be gayer.”

    Well, that’s my favourite sentence of the new year.

  9. charliemarks said,

    January 18, 2008 at 1:49 am

    The socialist blogosphere is strangely obsessed with Torchwood. I thought the first series was awful. As for Doctor Who itself, the first of the new series was half-decent but without Christopher Ecclestone and Billie Piper…

    I don’t know if anyone else did this but I always made sure I was ever so slightly drunk before Buffy started so that I’d find it more enjoyable.

    And Splinty, for the following I must take you to task…

    “I detect a lack of gay sensibility. It’s good to have gay and bisexual characters, but a more overtly gay sci-fi show could be a lot more interesting.”

    What is this supposed to mean?

  10. Renegade Eye said,

    January 18, 2008 at 5:55 am

    Sounds like fun.

  11. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 18, 2008 at 8:40 am

    What is this supposed to mean?

    Well, for all the snogging there’s no real sense of gay identity or links to gay culture. Unless my dodgy gaydar is missing it.

    BTW, I’m glad some people know who Speedball is. While we’re on obscure comics characters, may I just say that Capt Jack’s inability to die reminds me of nobody so much as Mr Immortal of the Great Lakes Avengers. Now there’s a hero with street cred!

  12. seren said,

    January 18, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Eve Myles is a star… she already was in Wales due to a long-running drama called Belonging (pronounced Blongin). Sod the politics, sod the gayness, sod the sci-fi – more of those seductive Myles eyes is what we want.

  13. Martin Wisse said,

    January 18, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Making the Welsh lassie Big Bertha?

  14. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 18, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Well, I am glad to see Squirrel Girl now firmly in the GLA.

  15. January 18, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Talking of obscure comic characters, is that the lovely Jubilee in your avatar? Or should I say Wondra (yawn!). And they’ve turned my lovely Stacy-X into Ripchord! WTF!

  16. Starkadder said,

    January 18, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I liked this new episode. I admired the acting.
    John Barrowman is an engaging leading man. The sexy Eve
    Myles is good as the Everywoman transformed by her experiences. James Masters is a far more engaging villain than say, John Simm’s woeful Master. I liked the dialogue (Ianto to Jack:“You go to the roof, you like doing that”).

    I liked the way it was more humorous instead of trying to be “dark”
    (Old woman “Bloody Torchwood!). Chris Chibnall’s script
    was okay, but much improved from last year.
    The direction was much sharper, giving focus and energy to the
    story. All the team’s characters got to do something-especially
    the previously neglected Tosh. It also felt like there was more of
    a rapport between the team members, making them more likeable.
    The special effects were excellent, especially the two holograms and
    the fish-alien-it’s a pity we didn’t see more of him.

    I have to say though, that I don’t like Russell T. Davies
    either as a writer (how come nobody ever mentions he wrote rubbish
    like “The Grand”, the “House of Windsor” and “Revelations”?) or as a
    person. For one, he seems really arrogant (he said people who didn’t watch
    Big Brother were “idiots”-Christ, people have different tastes man.
    I love “Heroes”, but I’d never say people who didn’t watch it
    were idiots.) and another, he seems out of touch with the
    real world. In Doctor Who Magazine 387, he said gay & lesbian
    teenagers didn’t get bullied at school anymore (!).

    And I’m furious with Doctor Who’s production team for replacing
    the brilliant Freema Agyeman (Martha) with the likes of
    Kylie Minogue and Catherine Tate, who could not act themselves
    out of the proverbial wet paper bag.

  17. andy newman said,

    January 18, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Starkadder

    I was with you right up to the moment you criticise Kylie

    I think she was really good in the X,as special.

  18. Starkadder said,

    January 18, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Andy,I’m afraid we’ll have to disagree on that.I can’t believe
    in a TV drama if the heroine is a bad actress.
    Billie Piper was a good choice, as she is a good actress
    (anyone see the excellent “The Shadow in the North” over
    Xmas ?). But Minogue & Tate….I sometimes think I must have
    done something to annoy RTD, and he took revenge by casting
    my least favouite actresses in my favourite show.

    He’ll probably cast Pia Zadora as well, just to rub it in :(.

  19. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 18, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Yeah, it is Jubilee. Who sadly doesn’t get much exposure these days. Ah, for the old Generation X…

  20. andy newman said,

    January 18, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Kylie Minogue a bad actress!!!! I have never heard such nonsense.

  21. January 18, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    ” Barrowman and Marsters bitching away at each other like an old gay couple, which it was implied was what they were. ”

    Implied? IMPLIED?!!! They did everything except draw pictures. All washed down with a nice tumbler of amyl.

  22. Phil said,

    January 18, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    She was very watchable, what with being Kylie, but as an actor she was lost. It reminded me that she’d started in a soap.

  23. January 18, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    […] von entdinglichung am Januar 18, 2008 – Verschiedene BloggerInnen – Splintered Sunrise, Madam Miaow, Socialist Unity und A Very Public Sociologist kommentieren die erste Folge der […]

  24. Idris said,

    January 19, 2008 at 12:38 am

    They should make a Captain Britain movie or TV serial. Even a saturday morning animated cartoon.

    Question: where are the Irish superheroes?

  25. charliemarks said,

    January 19, 2008 at 2:00 am

    For all the snogging there’s no sense of a gay identity? I am confused Splinty… What could be gayer than men kissing?

  26. Phil said,

    January 19, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Idris – didn’t you ever see My Hero?

  27. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 19, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I take your point, Charlie. And I suppose we are talking about the guy who did Queer As Folk…

    Irish superheroes? Well, Banshee is dead now, but Siryn is still going strong in X-Factor. I’m not as well up on the DCU, but I’m sure there are one or two over there.

  28. Idris said,

    January 19, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Phil –

    I don’t bother with a telly, generally.

  29. Starkadder said,

    January 19, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Does Count Curly Wee count as a superhero?

  30. Phil said,

    January 19, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Idris – you’re not missing much, generally. To be honest all I saw of My hero was the trailers – and they were pretty dire. I just had an irrational urge to respond to your original question by citing Father Ted, and when I thought about it I realised it was the other Ardal O’Hanlon sitcom I was thinking of.

  31. July 9, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    They form an excellent gang


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