Archive for the ‘TORCHWOOD REVIEWS’ Category

Better Late Than Never

Friday, August 14th, 2009


At a point just over halfway through Torchwood Children of Earth my wife turned to me and said “where’s the Doctor in all this?” I didn’t know she cared. And yet in a way it’s this lack of the Time Lord that drives 2009′s miniseries, for although he and his interest in Earth’s survival is mentioned in only one episode, CoE is a production over which his shadow (as interpreted by Russell T Davies) is cast long. Glib, cloying, weepy – you could call the Tenth Doctor a lot of things, but by and large he is a hero, and a figure who has generous accommodation on the winning side. Not so his human counterparts in Torchwood, and therein lies the interest in this story. (more…)

Parting Shots

Sunday, April 6th, 2008


So this is it. After twelve exciting(?) episodes, it comes down to this. One man, one team, and one fridge. (They really should have a decent check of those things. Half of them probably contain Jack going one way or the other.) It’s typical of the series that it reveals “oh, this was worked in long ago, only no-one said anything”. How fortunate. It’ll part and parcel of the last episode that is Jack… I mean Torchwood. Although it really is Jack. This whole series is Jack, to be honest, with minor diversions, so it’s not too surprising that Jack is ultimately the cause of all the troubles here. Frankly, I’m surprised events haven’t been retconned into having that Jack was the reason Torchwood was created in the first place!

But aside from that plot which wraps itself up easily without real impact, we have the other plot of one man, one woman, and one nuclear power station. While it starts as a convenient ticking clock for the plot, it soon develops into one of the harshest character moments of all. Dear, dear Tosh and Owen. Although Owen’s been running on borrowed time, what did Tosh ever do to anyone? One could argue that without Owen, her character arc didn’t really have anywhere to go, meaning she was an easy choice for dramatic impact (and the Declassified does remake the point that no-one makes it past 35 in Torchwood, so someone will have to die sooner or later), I think we all know that the real reason Tosh was chosen was because they couldn’t kill Gwen and Tosh was the only choice left for a death the audience might care about. I’m sure they got their tears with that decision. (Owen’s death was frankly housekeeping, and should have happened several episodes earlier, but he probably had a contract to fulfill…) [In the Declassified Burn says that no-one wants a twelve minute syrupy death scene... just as well everyone threw out their stop watches in series one then!]

Basically, this episode was two plot lines, with Gwen, Ianto and Captain John shoehorned in (not to mention Rhys and PC Andy). Yes, it’s nice to focus on the characters, but once again Torchwood proves that the team is too large to really have an effective story involving all of them. Perhaps this is why it was whittled down. That is, if it stays whittled. If there is a series three, there is a little bird tweetering about who could be coming in, but if so that will be a huge change in style. The leading question for this might be: what’s more important, style or ratings? And then, will it really be Torchwood? Then again, seeing what we have, so we want this Torchwood anyway?

Yes, there have been some great moments, but this episode does prove that there is still some focusing of the series that needs to be done.


Back With a Bang

Sunday, March 30th, 2008


Here it is, all secrets revealed, the mysterious pasts unveiled. At long last, we find out what Ianto did with Lisa, why Tosh was at the hospital when the space pig was taken there, how Owen forced his way into the team, and where was Jack when he didn’t know anything about what Torchwood did at a hospital during World War One…

Oh, hang on, scratch that. We don’t find out any of those things, and we do find out negates most of those things! Well done chaps, anyone want to try again? Or, on second thoughts, considering that one of the creators couldn’t even get it right, don’t try again, and pretend this never happened. People complain about continuity and canon, usually in regards to the books, etc., but what happens when episodes from earlier in the current series are blatantly contradicted?

Leaving that point alone, what do we find out? Tosh was brilliant, Ianto is nearly capable (this is new!), Owen is a doctor, and Jack lived a long time and beats up on aliens… Uh, really detailed character histories there. There is the “show don’t tell” principle, but there’s nothing shown here that couldn’t have been told (and dealt better than way) in five words or less. And thinking about it, if Jack was really around that long, working for Torchwood (which might have been “outside the government, beyond the police, denied by the Queen” with those two in charge), he really isn’t saying what he knows and is pretending ignorance, so comes out tops for being revealed as a total twat.

(As for the only interesting member of Torchwood, namely Suzie, what do we get? Jack issuing an order, but interrupted before she could reply. Fine, the actress probably wasn’t available, or it wasn’t worth getting her back in (or the production team didn’t care), but it would have been nice to fill that out with actual real details. Maybe even a CGI appearance a la the pterodactyl? However, probably find out she really cared about life and never had a mean bone in her body…)

Finding out about people’s histories can be interesting, and some people have been asking “how did these people end up in Torchwood?” On the other hand, pretending to blow up people and then spending the episode finding out nothing happened (on any level) is just annoying. (To be honest, just watch the Declassified. A lot shorter, clearer about events, and far more interesting.) Anyone really up for a third series of this?


Island of Lost Souls

Thursday, March 27th, 2008


I think it Declassified has taught us anything (and it tries not to) it’s that this episode is all about… of course… PC Andy! He just wants to be on the inside with Gwen, and who wouldn’t want to be with him. He’s just so cute and cuddly! He is… Ianto, done nicely! I have to say that I prefer him to Ianto, so could we swap one for the other please? He’s proven he’s capable and tries to stand up to Gwen, which immediately gives him two points over Ianto, with the third being he’s not involved with naked man sex with Jack (which we also get to see in this episodes, at least making the fangirls happy). He also has more comic potential, which the series needs (done properly, note!)… but is in complete contrast to the rest of the episode (what a segue!).

The rest of the episode is all gloom and hopelessness as Gwen finds out that the Rift can take people (which shouldn’t be all that surprising), spit them out again, and force Jack to cover it up. Because he’s never done that before. Just like he’s never done other stuff without letting the team know. (As Gwen points out, “he’s a law unto himself”.) The episodes do vary as to who is the star of any particular episode, but the series has always struggled with the overall focus being on either Gwen or Jack. In many ways, it opts for Gwen, as the way in for the audience, but this then forces Jack into the background, making him more shadowy as he knows more than everyone else (Seventh Doctor anyone?). This does give a struggle to Jack to be his charming likable self and this dark manipulator he has to portray due to the plot point of the week, and the writers are taking to dealing with this rather bluntly. Case in point: Jack has the island (a positive for him taking care of matters), but keeps the information to himself (a negative in that it gives the team another reason not to trust him). No half-way position allowed, such as telling the rest of the team. Since I’m sure the rest of the team would have agreed with Jack that these people can’t be brought back into society, he could easily have told them, and made for a nice character point, but then we can’t be having that in this forced story clash. If nothing else, this episode shows the rest of the team getting in Jack’s way, and his way is looking to be the right way, so the writers aren’t doing too well with sowing dissent.

If it wasn’t for the direct tie-in into Torchwood activities, this episode would be another filler in yet another series of them. As it is, a lot of the problems here could easily be solved by judicious use of retcon (which would nicely deal with Nikki’s lack of hope issue). Perhaps we could all just accept that Jack does know best and move on, eh?


The Cinema of Unease

Friday, March 21st, 2008


This was a great episode where Sapphire and Steel investigated children coming out of photographs… hang on… I mean, this is a terrible episode where Ianto and Jack investigate circus folk coming out of film (although I won’t say who was Sapphire and who was Steel). Yeah, what the hey? Is there anyone in control over at Torchwood productions? Were they so dazzled by the fact that “this is PJ Hammond!” that none of them went “hang on, didn’t we see this already?” [Certainly, PJH baldly states in the Declassified that he wanted to rewrite the S&S episode.]

Last time PJH wrote for Torchwood, it was a Jack-centric episode that revealed a past acquaintance. Now we have this new episode, centred largely around Jack, and reveals a past life as a circus freak (Something Borrowed already revealed a past acquaintance). Although I will admit that Ianto fills a significant role in this story too, so we do have a pair of leads (as for the rest of the team… what did they do again?). The split is the more emotive Ianto versus the more stoic and forceful Jack (no, I won’t say who is Sapphire and who is Steel), but it’s a good dynamic that’s developed that doesn’t revolve around either sex or tea (we can but hope they haven’t combined the two). In many ways, it’s like PJH is writing Jack not Torchwood. Perhaps someone should pass him a copy of the series bible.

Anyway… circuses! What is it about circuses that people think they are such a source of horror? I never did, don’t have clown fear, but will admit that Circus on Ice is pretty scary. That said, these carnies aren’t the usual sort. Not many people will let you stick their fingers down your throat, or give out tickets to your kid, so they are abnormal plus (water girl should have just sent everyone running!). But that isn’t what’s really scary about this episode. Consider that this is episode ten. Episode ten! And this is what we’ve got? Torchwood series two showed such promise, and yet we have crazy weddings, frightening carnie stereotypes and it looks like next week the padding continues! Perhaps we can defeat this if we expose the film to bright lights? Although I’m not sure it works for avi files or DVDs (that said, I’ve no idea why it should work for circus performers who escaped from film either).

If you’ve got nothing better to do that watch this, fine, but otherwise I recommend the original.


Altared States

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008


A constant question this series has been “is the comedy of episode one a one-off or a new series direction?” i.e. “Where is the comedy?” After watching this episode, the question is now “can we not have comedy again, please?” Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang shows that Torchwood can do comedy, but lightly. Something Borrowed is not light comedy, it’s a run-around laugh fest (according to RTD that is. And this is the same Declassified that had to pad out its own episode with two minutes of next week’s episode. Says it all, really.). Don’t believe me? Allow to say “Banana Boat” and dismiss your objections (not to mention Gwen’s baby nearly being born in a stable, not that Torchwood is into religious connotations or anything). But this isn’t to say that there aren’t worthy moments. Such as… nothing’s coming to mind, to be honest. No, this episode isn’t bad, per se, just that the moments that aren’t cringingly-comedic are merely… Meh.

Where it isn’t comedy, it’s going for “relation-ship dynamics”, which is this episode is mainly the Jack-Gwen-Rhys love triangle. Everyone watching knows that Rhys should even bother turning up (and next week’s episode puts paid to any ideas of an extended romantic honeymoon away), but this does give everyone a pairing, and we’re just one tasteless moment away from necrophilia for the entire team to be getting it on. This could be considered as a resolution to many of the character arcs, aside from the Jack/Gwen one (which will never be) and the Jack/Grey character arc (which I am presuming will be resolved by the end of this series – or provide a cliff-hanger). Some might see this as tying up loose ends, perhaps even a tying up of the series, but this is a very loose knot. If this is indeed the case, we could live with it, but I’m sure the producers could easily break the knot should further character development ever come to mind.

In a desperate attempt to find something deeper, we could parse “Nostrovite” as “Our life”. This is a couple who are bringing a new child into the world, and going to extreme length to complete their responsibilities. To this end, they interrupt the rather crazy world of Torchwood, presenting Gwen and Rhys a taste of life to come as they mature and raise a family. Unfortunately, this is then undercut by the need to have a monster-du-semaine, and so we are suddenly flashing back to the Buffy episode Hell’s Bells and recalling a far better attempt at this concept than Torchwood will ever be capable of.

As the “wacky zany wedding episode”, I wish they hadn’t. As a thought-provoking character piece, I wish they’d tried. Let’s just acknowledge that it could have been so much worse and leave it at that.


Post Mortem Ante Meridian

Friday, March 7th, 2008


Officer 565 is down, but not out. Like the famous bunny, he just keeps going and going and… sigh. Everything character based with Owen has now been neutered so why are we still suffering him? Does Burn have an unbreakable contract or something? His dramatic death has been completely undercut, so now his death status is just going to be a “fixture” of Torchwood that will be referenced occasionally… yep, he’s become the pterodactyl.

This raises the question of why? What’s the point? Why is he still around? The arc only has real impact if there is lasting influence, and his death and Martha being around now has no impact. If Owen had died and stayed dead, that would have been something, but no. If Martha had been killed, that would have meant something (extreme outrage from the fans for one…), but she was sidelined.

Has this whole three parter been as relevant as Random Shoes? Plotwise, no, as this arc was actually about the Torchwood team. But character-wise, it appears so. Stuff happened, but let’s move on and never talk about it again. Torchwood series two has built up some great character development, and I was really liking it, but now it’s just gone to crud. Hopefully the back five will pick up again.

But, hey, Richard Briers! Yay! Let us speak no more about Paradise Towers, as seeing him in this made for the one bright point in the otherwise doom-laded script (Joseph Lidster does seem incapable of writing anything else), and he gives a lovely performance that actually makes you like the character despite the sparse three minutes he’s on screen. I’d ask for more of him, but that might be a bit tricky (although we have now proved that death doesn’t stop anyone from staying the series…). But he is so wonderful he made it into the Declassified and we hear him talk about the part… go Richard Briers! (And the Declassified also features the Owen vs Cardiff Bay scene cut to a new soundtrack that’s just begging to be fleshed out into a YouTube video.)

Ugh. The arc is over, for all it doesn’t matter. Let us move on and try to forget about this period in our lives…


The Weevil Dead

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Dead Mand Walking
So in this episode Toby… I mean, Owen is taken over by Satan… I mean, Death and gains control over the Ood… I mean, Weevils. This is an entirely original episode with no links from any other episodes (*cough* Killed by Death *cough*), and the little girl doesn’t remind us of a certain creepy girl in Wolfram&Hart at all. Completely… 100%… original…

Expect for Owen, of course, as we’ve never seen anyone come back from Death before… *d’oh*! He’s peered into the darkness and seen something waiting… I really hope that that weeny Death wasn’t the real “big bad” that Jack saw (which was probably Abaddon anyway) as, as I said, that Death is really weeny and not worth the effort. Although points for spouting words from Thomas Covenant! (Shout out to Stephen Donaldson, best writer ever… although I didn’t recognise the words myself, it’s been a while since I read the books.) At least RTD… I mean, Matt Jones has taste in where he rips things from.

And this Death can intimidate the Weevils! Or was in Owen, following on from Fight Club… I mean, Combatand now coming to the fore again? Probably the writer was just trying to make DeathOwen impressive, by going up against a lot of Weevil. A really big lot of Weevil. All with their own outfits… which come from where, exactly? Do they have their own denim supply store back in their own dimension? Are the Weevils fashion conscious? And presumably there’s the matter of laundry… these questions must be answered! Or not thought about, that works too…

Aside from bringing Owen back, the rest of the episode is a lot of a fizzler. Here’s hoping the arc can only get better.


Martha Knows Best

Friday, February 22nd, 2008


Torchwood is currently also being screen in a “family friendly” format, in which all the icky bits are cut out, but it’s looking like not many shots will be missing from this episode (maybe some of the woman carking it) as Marsha brings not only a touch of pure British ak-sent but also associated Doctor Who values of family-niceness. At least visually, there is still the more mental horror of various races being exploited for medical purposes and random experimentation. I’m sure that’s what the producers are hoping families are sitting around and talking about (which is a serious topic – medical malpractice – see recent Stuff articles…). (That all said, consider that most Torchwood watches are sourcing the original episodes via ‘mad l33t skillz’, there is the proposal that safening the series is as an aide to not horrifying the kids. Or for wider appeal and more ratings. It’s a complex process.)

But… visually, yes, it’s now a safer series. Although I largely mean metaphorically as Martha-cam was really annoying to watch (and a lot steadier than her own vision would have been). I’m not sure who’s idea that was, but the directory should be shot for implementing it that way. At least the cgi-nteraction was better this episode. And a reference to UNIT (Considering Martha works for UNIT, does that make her the 21st Liz Shaw?)! And we all know that UNIT is really big in NuWho… only it isn’t. In fact, why bother? (Just a reminder for DW series 4?) Clearly UNIT aren’t that memorable in Wales, so either they’ve fallen on hard times (important people were wiped out by the Slitheen) or there are plenty of other societies. Better not be, ‘cos I’m sure Torchwood wouldn’t measure up well against them, and then we’ll be asking ‘where’s their spin off series?’ Better go for it being a series 4 reminder then.

Anyway back to Martha and her boyfriend. Yeah, like that’s not a reference to the Doctor. Poor Tom, not much in it for him. (Or is there…? Is that a ring on Martha’s finger in the new series preview?) Oh the character development! Speaking of, poor Tosh being set up by those heartless writers. Bet she was gutted at the end! (Oh wait, wrong one!) They keep saying Torchwood is a dangerous place to work, so Owen does a Gan… nice one, mate!

This could be (yet another) turn around in the life of Torchwood, and one, as long as Martha is there, that I like. It can’t last…


About a Boy

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


It’s all about Jack. This whole episode is a setup to explore Jack’s past, Boeshane Penisula and explain about Gray (the same Gray Captain John mentioned). Almost a shame they have to include the other people really. But at least we get whacky Torchwood in which people have been reimagined courtesy of Adam… well, in which Tosh and Owen have been reimagined… well, in which Tosh and Owen have had their personalities swapped. Yeah, thanks Adam. At least Owen had the balls to actually ask Tosh out. I did like “assertive Tosh”, but “geek Owen” deserved a good slapping (even more so after he reverted back to normal).

I do have to inquire as to how Adam managed to infiltrate Torchwood: if he came from the Void, he still had to touch them to get into their minds, but he wasn’t Adam then, so… clearly Tregenna just wanted to get to Jack’s past and didn’t stop to think about important things like ‘coherency’. Adam himself was suspicious from early on, as soon as you have “this chap the audience has never seen” you are looking at Adam shiftily. Fortunately, the writer and director manage to flatten this impression into mere “probably, not definitely, evil” as the episode goes on until the Ianto moment. From then on, it was all downhill, but props to Tregenna for using the obvious camera footage. (Touches like that might suggest Tregenna should give Who a go.)

It all gets very religious at the end, with Jack (the episode is about him, after all) becoming the team’s saviour. He takes their deepest confession and hands out the Eucharist… I mean, retcon, and forgives them their sins. (But it does raise a point that if Gwen didn’t remember Rhys, and professes love for Jack, why didn’t she make a move on Jack?) However, one wonders what Rhys will spill when he gets his normal Gwen back. (Although he can only explain “there was this guy Adam” that probably won’t cause too much trouble.)

In many ways, this episode is an excuse for Jack’s backstory to come out (the Time Agent stuff might have to wait until Captain John returns, oh what fun the production team will have then). Clearly the production team are going all-out for the character stories, although I would like to see a decent plot-based episode. So far, series two has been superior (for most episodes) to series one. I wouldn’t mind if series one disappeared, but we aren’t done yet, and the series may yet completely fall over…