October 22, 2006


TV image
3 out of 5 stars

So, the well-trailled Dr Who spin-off aired tonight, though what with the teasers and the bus posters and the web site, I kind of felt as though I’d seen it already. Billed as an adult drama rather than a childrens’ show, it promised… what, exactly? Something in the style of the X-Files? Strong language? Adult situations? Sex and violence of the sort that Dr Who has always eschewed?

As it turns out, the answer is yes to all of the above. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. There was blood, there were acts of violence, there was plenty of sex, but it was all done with a sort of gratuitous, heavy-handed obviousness, as if the makers had a checklist of things they wanted to include in the first episodes just to prove that they could: spurting blood? Check. Characters saying “Fuck” and “Bollocks”? Check. Gay kissing? Check. Gun shot wounds? Check. The show wears its “adult” label a bit too blatantly on the sleeve of its dashing military overcoat.

The X Files is an interesting comparison; way back at the start of that show, before they had to invent ever more ludicrous plot convolutions, we were presented with charismatic leads, and a storyline which hinted strongly that there was More Going On than Met The Eye. It was intriguing enough to draw you in; Torchwood, by contrast, rushes to explain everything as quickly as it can, achieving ambiguity only by omission (how does Captain Jack come to be in Cardiff, given where we saw him last in Dr Who? Where and when is he really from?). Maybe future episodes will introduce more elements of mystery, and perhaps some arcs which span more than one episode, if the makers can get past trying so hard to prove their grown-up credentials. As it stands, Torchwood is a bit like a teenager who wants to be cool and grown-up; it wears lots of black and hangs around moodily, but it hasn’t yet quite grasped that swearing and trying to shock aren’t really the key to the thing.

- 5 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Brilliant review!

    23 Oct 2006, 00:09

  2. Pierre Schramm

    Indeed it is a brilliant review. Not having digital television, I had to wait until yesterday night to see it on BBC Two.
    Actually I enjoyed it, despite this unnecessary willingness to shock. There were some other flaws, however, like John Barrowman’s acting. I don’t think it’s his fault, though; I think the creators didn’t tell him enough about his “pre-Torchwood post-Doctor Who” background: I have read in many papers “Captain Jack is back. And he’s angry” (at the Doctor for leaving him behind), but some scenes (like the Hand scene) show he’s not that angry. His cheeky remarks don’t have the same ring as in Doctor Who.
    Another thing: What happened to good opening credits?
    And lastly: I liked the Doctor Who reference “Run for your life” :)
    Anyways, I’m gonna keep watching it.

    26 Oct 2006, 12:49

  3. John Waller

    I too only saw it last night and think your review is spot on.

    Also, thanks to whoever in the BBC decided to run a Torchwood trailer at the end of CBBC yesterday morning, so alerting the younger audience that something Dr Who related was on later that day and that it might be worth pestering parents to be allowed to watch it.


    26 Oct 2006, 21:44

  4. I’d agree that the first few episodes seemed to be trying too hard to be grown up, but this week’s ep seemed to be getting the balance right. Maybe it just takes time, and a wider range of influences than just RTD, for it to find its feet.

    I found this blog entry just by typing in Torchwood into Google. I think it was ranked about sixth! If you have time, check out this website http://www.torchwood.org.uk/html/index.shtml There’s some very entertaining bits in there and seeing photos of Splott juxtaposed with manuals on handling alien artefacts and orgone energy is not something you’d expect to see every day.

    13 Nov 2006, 23:33

  5. steve griffiths

    i watched last nights episode – the ‘cannibals in the valley’ story and have to say it was so blatantly a rip-off off texas chainsaw masacre [allbeit there was no chainsaw] even to the point of the local policeman being part of the cannibal ‘gang’. another recent american tv show was guilty of the same [forget which one]. no doubt the spin doctors from the bbc will call it an ‘homage’!

    the x files made the same mistake after a couple of series whereby they robbed the plot to quite a few classic 1930’s/40’s horror films.

    p.s. a friend of mine calls torchwood a ’’kids programme with sex and swearing’.

    20 Nov 2006, 10:31

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