The Book of Na'Lon

or rather, Inane Ramblings of an Expatriot

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Torchwood - some thoughts
Stargate
na_lon
The Marquis and I watched the finale of Torchwood yesterday, and I thought it might be about time to put some of my thoughts about the show's first season down in writing.


When Captain Jack appeared in the first season of the New Dr Who, I was very impressed. The character had something about him that appealed to me and intrigued me despite the fact that that 'type' of character doesn't usually have that effect on me. But there were some great moment with Jack throughout which intersected with my usual obsessions. So I was very chuffed when the character was going to be made a big part of Torchwood! Yay! (And all of that is not even mentioning that CJ is very decorative...)

So when I finally got to watch the first episode of TW, I was surprised to be rather disappointed. I like Gwen well enough, but CJ didn't seem quite right, somehow, Suzie being the 'bad girl' felt a bit cliched - she'd struck me as a character with some potential, Owen was just the 'guy with the funny mouth' to me, and Toshiko nowt but an ethnically diverse addition, and Ianto, while also decorative, seemed simply a gender-politically aware version of a secretary. I felt there was no sense of cohesion in the team - they didn't convince me. The thing with the Doctor's hand appealed to me inner Doctor Who appreciator (not really a fan, moi), but was cheesy and - excuse the pun! - a bit heavy-handed as a way of establishing that Jack is Mysterious (TM). In fact, lots of it seemed heavy-handed and in your face, rather than full of those adult themes we'd been promised. Torchwood as Doctor Who for grown-ups? Nah. More like Buffy without the lightness of touch.

I continued to watch. At first dutifully, then looking forward to each new episode, until Wednesday became T-day: watch the episode, then go and read what Parrot Knight had said about it, and perhaps comment. It was nice to find that I didn't have to work quite so hard at finding things I enjoyed about each episode. But I also never had to work hard to find bits I didn't like, or felt were too unsubtle. Like the sex stuff, for example. Most of this felt gratuitous and cheap to me, doing little or nothing to further the plot or development of characters. It seemed to serve an agenda of RTD's rather than anything else.

For me, the highlights of the show were probably Random Shoes and the second to last episode. Random shoes, because it seemed to have an adult message. The penultimate episode, because of the tragic romantic element. But even this was rather mishandled, to my mind - not that I couldn't buy Real Jack falling for TW Jack, not that I didn't think the dance was the most romantic scene of the whole series (topping even that of heart-broken Owen watching Diane leave in her plane) - but please! Do your research if you're going to do that sort of thing. In the war, that dance would not have been allowed to happen so undisturbed in a crowded room! If they'd danced in a private, dark room - my god - it would have been perfect. But the audience seemed hardly to react. They stopped dancing, but it seemed they'd done this in a way as to leave the dancefloor at the disposal of the bride and groom for the first dance at their wedding. Either way, I wonder if TW Jack has inadvertently taken Real Jack's life with that kiss: where could Real Jack turn after that?! How could he face his men? How fight the following day?

As for, um, lowlights... how about the sub-Buffy end of bloody days again finale? Which went on too long after the climax of Jack 'dying'. Again. Twice. Okay, fine, have the all make up and hug and kiss bits. Have the Tardis stuff and the 'right kind of Doctor' stuff, but have some pacing, too! And perhaps a villain with a believable agenda. I just have real trouble buying villains that release nasty CGI-demon things from hellmouths because they want to make the world end. It seems to pointless. Even the annoying cannibals had more of a motivation: people taste yummy. Grrr.

Hm. So. All in all, here's my verdict: Torchwood is good enough for me to want to watch more. But for the moment I am not convinced enough to consider myself a fan. I found things I liked in every episode so far, and things I disliked. What I'd like to see: the team actually working as a team and not just as consisting of a bunch of self-absorbed individuals whose relationships never quite make it into the realm of the believable. For example, don't spring Owen's and Gwen's affair on the audience without allowing them to watch it slowly developing. (That way we might actually buy it as more than a gratuitous sabotaging of Rhys and Gwen's relationship). Or give us an indication about why Tosh is the way she is in more than one somewhat plot-free, lesbian-sex episode. It's weirdly infuriating! All those TW episodes seemed to have either emotional resonance or plot. How about trying to combine both, RTD?!

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Frankly Twood is a lot sucky and more sub-Angel than Buffy. There are only two characters with any kind of consistency in it Jack and Ianto. Jack seems to be tripping on the whole secret/vague/enigma schtick which might be the character's motivation "Who am I?/What am I?/When will the Doctor return to help me find out?" And Ianto, unlike the others, has been fairly consistent, if a bit of an underling who does all the bloody cock-up fixing without any thanks or recognition, he hasn't really screwed anybody else about (apart from the whole secret cyber-girlfriend thing, which was just about him being blinded to the cyber-reality by his love for Lisa); unlike Jack who messes with everyone's heads. Owen seems to have shagged all the girls but when he falls in love, and she then leaves, thinks rashing the world is a good thing, Suzi natch, and Gwen who we thought was all 'so nice' and then starting shagging Owen and memory-pilling Rhys after puting all the emotional guilt and damage onto him. Tosh has messed the others about a bit but is essentially the team geek, shy, not socially adept and tokenist.

As for the finale, what was Bilis' motivation again?

I don't find TW that sucky. In a lot of ways I like it and have enjoyed it. But there just were a few things that I felt rather critical of.

I agree with you about the thing with Gwen giving Rhys the memory pill after confessing being very messy. On the whole I felt that the Rhys and Gwen thing was handled less than satisfactorily. I'd like to see a show once in which a relationship that's okay stays okay...

I think that the only logical explanation for the dance simply clearing the floor is that the others were simply too amazed to do anything and stood around with open mouths feeling too amazed and embarrassed to do something about it.

Oh and it made good TV, although it did show a pitifully poor knowledge of 40's attitudes, law and mores.

The series isn't as good as Dr Who, but is a lot better than a lot of the other rubbish on telly these days.

I like the idea of people being to gobsmacked to move, but I don't quite manage to buy it. I think there were too many things in TW that were a little unfinished around the edges - e.g. at the end of the show, supposedly half of Cardiff has just dropped dead, but nobody seems to care... Maybe they'll deal with it through the Doctor?

Anyway, it was indeed good TV and I was definitely rooting for the Jacks. Real Jack's salute at the end, too, was very moving. *sighs*

I am not sure I'd say Doctor Who was better than Torchwood - I think they are different enough to make a comparison difficult. But I guess I find DW a bit less full of little distractions than TW. Hm... Either way, those two shows definitely are good TV, and I enjoy both.

I've felt that TW got off to a bit of a rocky start, as many series do, but improved by fits and starts and finished well, especially the penultimate episode. I have high hopes of the next series. After all, Buffy wasn't so brilliant in the first series.

I couldn't agree more with what na_lon says about the dancing scene with the two Jacks - that made me cross, an anomaly in an otherwise fantastic scenario.

You are absolutely right that it definitely improved as it went a long - I certainly went from 'I'll give it another chance next week' to 'Yay! It's T-day.' I also thought the second to last episode was fantastic. There were a lot of really good bits there. And little details - like Toshiko worrying about Pearl Harbour.

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