24.10.06

Torchwood

Yesterday saw the premiere of Torchwood, the spinoff from Doctor Who conceived by Russell T. Davies. It was a well-publicised premiere, and BBC3 (an all-digital channel with a narrow subscription base) which aried it saw its best ratings ever with the premiere of the show. So? How was it?

It took a day and a bit for me to finally get around to watching it, mostly because I wanted to avoid dealing with crummy xvids one normally finds on torrent sites and the like. Rather, I waited for nice MPEG-2 versions to surface, and while I didn't actually look at any of the xvids available (despite downloading about half a dozen xvid versions of each of the two episodes), I'm sure the wait was worthwhile. At least, it *always* had been with Doctor Who over the past two seasons.

So, onto the show. Since this is a UK-based show, I can't imagine many people in North America will watch it or care about it. Heck, it's unlikely many (aside from Doctor Who nerds such as myself) have even heard of it. As such, I'm not going to worry about hiding spoiler-ridden remarks.

The show opens with a corpse lying on the ground during a rainy Cardiff night. The police are there, and we meet Gwen Cooper, one of the protaganists of the series. Before long, a group of "special ops" people stop by to overtake the crime scene. Our introduction to Torchwood (at least outside of the events in Doctor Who) is this group of people questioning the corpse after they've revived him. He's got two minutes to live (again, sort of) before expiring (again).

This leads Gwen to wonder what Torchwood is and who these people are. She stumbles upon their secret hideout and eventually learns all she needs to know; however, she's been drugged and is at peril of not remembering anything!

I'll just stop there. This series was hyped a fair bit, not the least of which by the Doctor Who community. I'll grant there are some valid reasons behind the hype: The action scenes are good, the music is fairly decent (if a little overused), and there are some neat twists to each of the characters that make you want to learn more about them. The show was billed as an adult (read: non-kiddie) series, unlike Doctor Who, with grown-up themes and such. Well, so far it seems far more like a soap opera with the addition of action scenes and whizzy helicopter shots and what not. The series (already!) is oozing with sexual innuendo and plenty of adult situations. There's a very good reason this is on at 10:00pm. Still, all that might be a little too much. It might be too heavy-handed in a series that really ought to be about Torchwood, an organization spawned by Queen Victoria whose mandate is to deal with whatever alien technology falls to the Earth in order to defend the planet. All that (already!) seems to be secondary to the series.

Russell T. Davies likes his sexual humour and innuendo. I'm not sure if it's due to him growing up gay and feeling the need to repress sexual feelings in his youth, or if it's just a puerile tendency he has in general. He also likes to copy things, and wow are there ever a load of copied things in here. Some of it I'm sure can be chalked up to coincidence or strange timing, but not all of it. A couple examples are one of the main characters going to a bar and copping off with a man and a woman at the same time (with the character of course being bisexual). Well, this has happened on "Rescue Me," Denis Leary's wonderful series on FX, already; a second example is the series of cells in the basement of the top-secret HQ of an off-the-books organization which is remarkably similar to the short-lived CBS series "Threshold" with the yummy Carla Gugino.

I'll keep watching the series, if for no other reason than I dig the Captain Jack character, and have since the very first appearance of him last year on Doctor Who, as well as I'm curious to see what Doctor Who references are thrown about in Torchwood. For starters, the first episode had three distinct references that I noticed: the mention of where the TARDIS landed, the mention of the rift in Cardiff, and the mention of the Cybermen at Canary Wharf. The second episode only had one further reference that I caught, which was a framed picture of the original Torchwood property seen in the Doctor Who episode "Tooth and Claw."

I've been quick to pick on the series, and I think rightly so (especially given how long series tend to last nowadays, with so many of them never getting past 3-4 episodes; in other words, you get in the habit of striking early since there may not be a later). At the very least, we know 13 episodes will air on BBC3, so that leaves a fair amount of time for things to improve, and I'm very hopeful the show can change my mind by the end of the first series. Goodness knows Doctor Who got better by the end of the first series, considering "Rose" was among the three crappiest episodes in my ranking of the new series. (For the curious, the other two of the three crappiest of the crappy were The Christmas Invasion and New Earth... and no, it's really no coincidence that all three of the worst three were penned by Russell T. Davies. And no, I don't completely hate his work as I rank The End of the World and Army of Ghosts among the top episodes of the new series.)

If all else fails, at least we get to watch the scrumptious Eve Myles, who'd give a dog a bone (to borrow a phrase), and has done so since her early appearance in Doctor Who. Shame about the teeth, but pobody's nerfect.

Oh, and as a final note, it's prognostication time: I'm guessing the severed hand so worriedly guarded by Jack in episode 2 is the Doctor's severed hand from The Christmas Invasion.

(The best line so far: Owen Cooper talking about "rat jam" - I laughed my ass off at that one.)

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