Sunday, November 12, 2006

Torchwood

I just had the pleasure of seeing the first four episodes of Torchwood, the new Doctor Who spin-off. It sees Captain Jack Harkness heading up the Cardiff branch of the Torchwood Institute, an extra-governmental agency charged with neutralising alien threats and collecting and investigating alien technology.

The first four episodes are all extremely strong. The show's main danger was coming off as a cheap knockoff of Doctor Who, Angel, The X-Files, or all three at once, and it avoids this trap with ease, immediately demonstrating a strong and unique identity.

As anyone who saw Captain Jack's run on Who might expect, the show's got an in-your-face sexual vibe, which is something that's certainly new to the realm of TV sci-fi. The sexuality of both of the leads are questioned within the first two episodes - are they straight or not? - to which Harkness replies, "You 21st century folks and your categories!"

The lead characters of Jack (John Barrowman) and Gwen (Eve Myles) regularly steal the show, but they're backed by a great supporting cast. The show is well written and well directed, and moves from horror to romance to mystery with grace and aplomb. It's an inescapably British show, but packed with a Hollywood sense of action and timing.

In the realm of service to its parent show, it toes the line well. The first episode has an oblique reference to the TARDIS and the Doctor; continuity from the new Doctor Who is maintained, particularly with regards to the events of The Christmas Invasion and Doomsday, and episode four features a no-holds-barred Cyberman. And yet the theme and tone of the show are a thousand miles from that of Who, and you could happily jump in without having the slightest clue what a Time Lord is.

This isn't your typical sci-fi, and it's not going to be for everyone. But any weaknesses it has are more in the audience than in the show, and it's definitely worth a look to make your mind up for yourself.

4 comments:

Julia B said...

Sold. I am very much looking forward to watching this. I haven't been watching much TV since I've been up in Perth, and almost all that I have seen has been free-to-air (lord help me). Very much looking forward to getting back to see some better TV.

Oh yeah, and visit you guys :-)

GregT said...

I'm in Perth 20 December to 5 January. And I'm sure Margie and her boy will be able to hook you up with some Torchwood if you polite threaten the lives of their families, or somesuch.

Anonymous said...

I've watched all 5 episodes now (thank you blessed Intertubes!) and I heartily agree.

The best way I can sum it up is: Imagine that the british had started the MIB... five years ago... in someone's garage.

I didn't like all of the characters initially. In fact, I still don't. But they are making it dark and gritty, and incerdible to watch. Each character is getting a chance to develop, leading to an interestinf unravelling of the background and world of Torchwood.

Episode 5 does a wonderful job of beong completely morally ambiguous and not really solving anything. I've never seen sci-fi done this way.

The only question I have is how the hell did Captain Jack get back to the 21st century? The other tie-in stuff is also very subtle and well done (like the hand that Jack saves).

Jey said...

I don't like Owen.
He shits me.
I also expected Captain Jack to be a little more amusing and in-your-face.

I love the queerness of it all! So very queer!

Does anyone know what it is rated?
My little bro was very much looking forward to it but I made the decision not to show him episodes 2&3. I'm a bit torn about episode 4.
I've had a browse on the BBC website but I can't find the rating.

IMO, it's not for kids.