Saturday, January 06, 2007

Torchwood: season one

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't perfect - far from it. I've probably been one of its more sympathetic reviewers: not quite as enthusiastic as say Paul Burgin or Phil Edwards, but certainly not as negative as say Stu_N and I lack the incisive wit of MediumRob to nail some of its worst flaws with panache.

But overall it's been a solid B grade programme for me on a scale where E is Celebrity Big Brother and A is The Wire. Okay, so there have been far too many D moments, but it HASA had B+ and A- moments (particularly in the first episode, Small Worlds, They Keep Killing Suzie, Out of Time, and Captain Jack Harkness). Agreed, whilst Cyberwoman and Countrycide were superficially exciting, they were both pretty bad (I like horror stuff but Countrycide just sat uncomfortably with the series to that point, whereas the pseudo-gruesomeness of Cyberwoman just made me wince). And most of the other episodes were 'so-so' to 'okay', but - and this is the clincher for me - still better than a lot of what I might have to watch on terrestial TV (remember folks, this is a Freeview blocked and SkyOne free-zone: not by choice but by current circumstances).

What I liked:

  • for all his woodenness, it was nice to have Captain Jack back (though that may be mostly for the references made to The Doctor). And for the breath-taking final moments of the season where his (dead) eyes finally lit with some hope and joy.

  • Suzie was great. Indira Varma is still wonderful if sadly highlighting the acting limitations of pretty much everyone else in the series.

  • Ianto's character developed nicely from gopher to a more integral figure. Still can't think seriously about stopwatches without shuddering though...

  • What I didn't like:

  • Owen, Owen, Owen - quite possibly the quickest progression from acting potential (Bleak House) to get-him-away-from-my-TV-screen (Torchwood). Redeemed only by the characterisation in Out of Time, and even that was predictable, the figure of Owen was quite possibly the worst thing about the programme. I so wanted him to be die from Ianto's shot.

  • actors not being given anything decent to do a lot of the time. Eve Myles and Naoko Mori clearly have potential but are largely screwed over by the rubbish dialogue they are given and the pants direction. When done well, each can show some talent, but the programme is not settled enough yet to allow that.

  • So what next? Series Two is supposedly underway, and one can only hope that Jack gets back some of his verve with an injection of the Doctor. If we could only hope that Chris Chibnall were to be sent into some kind of void, Torchwood may develop into a much better series. Here's hoping for improvement.


    Skuds said...

    I think you take the right line - it was good TV and better than most of what is out there, but has plenty wrong with it.

    Actually I quite liked the Countrycide episode, though with the lack of any alien presence it could have been adapted for any TV cop show or Dog Soldiers/Descent/Creep sort of film.

    The one where Tosh got involved with the lesbian alien was good to - a genuine scary moment when she revealed her true nature.

    I found that it worked better when I tried not to make any sense of it in the context of Torchwood references in Dr Who.

    Anonymous said...

    I didn't mind Owen that much. He showed potential in 'Ghost Machine', but got overused at the expense of the other characters. His progression from quite happy-go-lucky to tortured and obsessive soul after a week-long relationship felt a bit contrived as well. I didn't buy him wanting to leave Torchwood and then shooting Jack - it felt like a writer sacrificing character for what they thought was a great "moment".

    Which neatly brings me on to the biggest problem with Torchwood: Chris Chibnall. I hate to be an armchair TV writer, I'm sure it's a tough job and I doubt I could do any better, but the man can't handle plot or character.

    If they can get some decent writers in (Steven Moffat - your country needs you!) and sort out the characterisation it could improve significantly, becoming the must watch (rather than must tape and then watch at some point) TV it should be.