Wildly behind time and mostly written on a train, my very late review of Everything Changes:
RTD is an expert in audience manipulation. He showed his prowess in the regeneration scene last year (impossibly poignant) and again this July with Rose’s departure. The only trouble is, his cheap tricks don’t stand the test of time whereas subtlety does. I’m not trying to debate whether programming should be for posterity but the validity of such a shock ending. It plays with expectations – Suzie had been presented as a regular both on and off screen – and I was constantly wondering whether this would turn out to be the final test of Gwen’s suitability. Even Suzie’s slightly fumbled search for her gun looked staged. When finally she decorates Cardiff with her brains it is shocking. It would have been better had we known the character but the aim was clearly to hook the audience, and that it did. Personally I loved it the first time I saw it, but after more consideration I saw it was...well, cheap. Not a brilliant way to kick-start an “adult” drama.
The episode bears a strong resemblance to Rose, but thankfully there is little attempt at a full-blown story, just a small occurrence drawing audience identification figure #1 in. Thanks to this, the extra five minutes and the short titles there’s far more room to play with. In the future, however, this extra room could weigh heavy on the hands of flimsier plots which would have been lost in a 45 minute slot, never mind 50.
The scattering of small references is fun, especially the hand – notice the swell in music as it hoves into view – but the real moments are in the dialogue. Captain Jack has been turned into some stand-up comedian it seems for he’s forever spouting witticisms. Still his performance does seem, as others have noted, a lot more sedated. In many ways older and wearier; he doesn’t seem happy about his immortality. It rather sucks any possible tension out of future episodes but Gwen is the only one to know so perhaps there could still be an interesting dynamic seeing what risks his colleagues will let him take.
The rest of the team haven’t really been explored in any detail but they’re clearly no Firefly troupe. But then, who is? I’ve become a convert to the doomed programme very recently and I’m not sure anything could compare. In all the character profiles the Jack Pack (©Jon Clifford) were mostly described as genius bastards and, while there was plenty of the latter on display not much of that genius has shone through. There’s been a lot of heated debate about the now infamous date-rape scene but I think the real point is Owen isn’t presented as a hero nor is his behaviour lauded. We don’t get to see much of Tosh but she seems the nicest of the group and certainly took home the best toy. Suzie does get a scrap of development - the little scene with her bringing a fly back to life was beautifully done. Of Ianto...very little has been revealed and he does seem to just look good in a suit.
Gwen’s ordinary life is very well done – her boyfriend is just the kind of chap who’ll end up being killed off a few episodes in and his theories about the alien incursions are perfectly typical. Psychotropic drugs in the water indeed.
The budget has been well spent: the Hub is a fantastic set and everything in it too. Very bat cave. I recognize those rolling doors from Attack of the Graske, but then I’m sure the same style has appeared in many places. The props are all stainless steel and sexy. Those aliens sure are stylish – just look at the pheromone bottle. Cardiff looks amazing too and the only blot of the landscape is Gwen. PC uniforms are not known for their flattering shape and I’ll be glad to see the back of that vest.
Overall, I think it would have been a perfectly inoffensive episode were it not for the shock ending which insulted a lot of people. I think it’s a difference in expectations and, essentially, an age difference. When Torchwood was marketed as “adult” drama I expected, well, adult drama but what they really meant was “teenage” drama. It has all the thrills and coy little immature flirtations with sex and swearing they could want and the kudos of being on at ten o’clock, too. This generation expect the whole deal with the publicity machine as part of the deal and RTD is simply manipulating that tool. I can just slip in that age barrier so I imagine I can enjoy Torchwood a lot more than some but can’t Doctor Who cater for the same group? When it was aimed at the “intelligent 14 year old” some of the best serials in its history were created and there was no need for “f-this, f-that”. If Torchwood had been aimed at the people who are getting a raw deal, the actual adults, then perhaps we wouldn’t have needed the gratuitous Day One either and there would have been the intelligent 14 year olds enjoying it too as something challenging and more exciting than the sort of cheap thrills you can get on any number of programmes.