« Scooti and the Beast | Main | Murray Christmas »

Nov 19, 2006

Chaps With Wings There

Torchwood: Small Worlds

Things are getting strange, I'm starting to worry
This could be a case for Mulder and Scully

And indeed it was. You had Spooky Jack and Gwen the sceptic with Catatonia's Welsh lilt and a plot stuck together with bits left over from The X-Files. And Angel. And The Outer Limits. Freak weather conditions from The Claws Of Axos. Police drama a la T** B***. Dark secrets from Harry Potter. For at the third or fourth time this series, they threw half a dozen other recognizable programmes into a blender, and hoped the resulting concoction would still be palatable. Hidden agendas. Failed romances. Mysterious past lives. Heavy-handed moral subtext. ENOUGH already!

What Torchwood really needs - or needed, it's probably far too late now - is to ditch Eric Saward's evil Kamelion twin and bring in a proper nuts-and-bolts script editor; someone who knows that events shouldn't happen just to be 'cool' or to advance the plot, one who will stand up to Russel and say "no, this jumble of different concepts isn't going to work", and put a red marker pen through all the extraneous twaddle. Imagine the writers' brief for a series where the premise is just so overcomplicated and so wrong that every episode has to be The Five Doctors. I'm pretty sure we're looking at it now. Where's Terrence Dicks when you need him?

"Imagine the writers' brief for a series where every episode has to be The Five Doctors. I'm pretty sure we're looking at it now"

There is quite a lot to like in this episode, but it's mainly in dribs and drabs instead of as a satisfyingly whole. PJ Hammond gave it his best shot, and I'm loathe to place any blame directly at his feet, but you can see how the need to tie so many elements together proved too much even for him. The bulk of Small Worlds is perfectly acceptable within its own episode microcosm, but put it anywhere near the rest of Torchwood's own 'continuity' and it INSTANTLY falls to bits. Let's face it, unless there's a later episode with Ianto's head on a spike with a basketball net in his mouth, logcal running order is never going to be restored ever.

I can also see Hammond watching the finished programme and tutting at the numerous little things that would have gelled so much better had the production team taken a little extra care to visualise them properly. For instance, why did the fairies kill everyone on the boxcar except Jack? Unless they somehow know already he's immortal, there's no reason for them not to be completely indiscriminate, and it would have been so easy to have Jack spit out a few rose petals and let that carry the whole scene. What exactly were the fairies' motives anyway? Unless I read the confusing explanations wrong, they're all the souls of dead children, so why go through the whole 'Chosen One' rigmarole in the first place? Why did they wantonly kill off Jack's aged love-interest, if it wasn't simply to foreclose the intriguing mystery subplot once it had done its job, in EXACTLY the same way The Ghost Machine did? Was it to protect the fairies' sanctity? Then why reveal themselves when gatecrashing the party? (And wasn't that completely unnecessary anyway? They were far more sinister as indistinct shadows; first rule of horror, sudden death is scarier when you can't see it. Knock it off with the whole 'Back off! We've got a CGI station and we're not afraid to use it!' attitude, and spend that money overcoming the ridiculous limitations the show enforces on itself.) And what happens to all the witnesses, once Torchwood has buggered off and left them without staying to clear the mess up? I could go on and on and ON.

And that ending. Hnnngh. If it were a Twilight Zone episode, or some other anthology series, I'd have said it was brilliant; particularly for that pure Hammond final shot that confirmed they were never going to win, because the evidence proved that the timeline was preset and events had already happened. As a Torchwood ending, where the supposedly high stakes are repeatedly thrust in your face every week, it absolutely wound me up. It was Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, where the big twist you'd lead yourself to believe turned out not to be a twist after all, and the dark mystery had been played out absolutely straight. With all the piecemeal knowledge Jack decides to divulge bit by bit over the course of the episode, I half-expected some mythical Seventh Doctor Macguffin to be pulled out of a hat at the last moment; but oops, nope, can't deal with it, sorry. It was all a MASSIVE chicken-shit fakeout. Why did Jack feel the need to keep shtum and jeapordise the team's chances even more? Why not just tell everyone in advance that they're a bit fucked instead of messing with their heads for fifty minutes? Besides the obvious reason of not having a show then, I mean. If I were Gwen I'd be doing far more than just glowering at the end - he might not be able to die, but I bet Jack could still feel the bruises from a bloody good collective kicking.

"The only source they haven't yet liberally pilfered from is Douglas Adams, and somewhere Oolon Colluphid is penning a new book entitled 'Well That About Wraps It Up For Torchwood'"

Torchwood 3 really is a Mickey Mouse outfit, isn't it? We empathize with Mulder and Scully when they fall from grace, as every failure takes them one step closer to the ultimate truth. I'm just not getting that with Torchwood. Why are we watching this bunch of complete losers? Five weeks in and there's still no reason to like any of them when they repeatedly accomplish nothing, and half the shit they bring upon themselves. We don't want our heroes to predictably win every week, but we expect them to at least try. Cowardice might be more realistic human behaviour but it makes for spectacularly bad telly. Where's the conflict and drama if your group cops out at the first sign of real foreshadowed trouble with over half the series still to go?

I sat through four episodes of Doctor Who Weakly to get this far and really wanted Small Worlds to turn the whole shebang around. But despite penning undoubtedly the best instalment of the series thus far (turning a deaf ear to the 'not much contest' line from the Greek chorus), if the man who gave us Sapphire & Steel can't elevate Torchwood beyond a thematic and structural mess with his trademark brand of extra-dimensional weirdness, I don't honestly see what hope is left for it, unless someone is prepared to take the bold step of turning it into genuine black comedy. That would be brilliant. As it is, the only source they haven't yet liberally pilfered from is Douglas Adams, and somewhere Oolon Colluphid is penning a new book entitled 'Well That About Wraps It Up For Torchwood'.

Next week: Not Cardiff. Gabriel Woolf just skated down the road.

The Bumper Book Of Persistent Torchwood Stains has this to say about Small Worlds: The forthcoming CD of Murray Gold's Torchwood music includes the tracks 'I Saw Remembrance Of The Daleks Once', 'ZOMGWTFDRAMA', and 'Emote, Damn You'.

Comments

You're rigt about the fifth Harry Potter book, it's naff. It really builds up the prophecy, and all the adverts and reviews included the passage "Sit down, Harry, I'm going to tell you what really happenned sixteen years ago" or something to that effect, and we learn bugger all.

But enough of that. I was talking to a friend about Douglas Adams writing, and I was saying that it was brilliant because it never relied on emotion. True, he mostly wrote comedy, but I mentioned the ending of Mostly Harmless, where it has a shock, unhappy ending. I love that ending, because it doesn't need emotions, it doesn't even need the characters, it simply needs the event. Imagine in a TV show, someone is going to die. Say, the house is blowing up. Do you a) stay with them until they expire, or b) watch the house? For me, it's always the latter, because cold, hard facts can be so much more powerful than emotion.

I'm not so surprised at Colin's reaction, I mean you did slate his work... He is only human. Maybe the raging Colin & the few fans who cheered him on hopefully knocked you down a few pegs. I really enjoy this site but crikey, like RTD himself and even Doctor & Rose in season 2, you guys are getting a dash cocky. This seeming 'I know best mentality' mixed in with a hint of arrogance and a sprinkling of vitriol can get annoying. Anyhow, that is how it's coming across in your reviews at times.

The first episode of Torchwood I have really enjoyed.

To clarify a couple of questions you had...


why did the fairies kill everyone on the boxcar except Jack?

They said when the forest is gone they will go back in time to find the chosen ones.

The zooming of the photo at the end to show Jasmine's face in a photo in the past.

So when they encounter Jack in 1909 it is after the incident with Jasmine. They know he will give up Jasmine in the future so spare him.

What exactly were the fairies' motives anyway? Unless I read the confusing explanations wrong, they're all the souls of dead children, so why go through the whole 'Chosen One' rigmarole in the first place?

Nope, the children are very much alive. Jasmine goes and joins them and becomes a faerie.

In some Celtic folk lore, faeries and other creatures steal human babies and replace them with their own, changelings. It's an update of that myth.

'They said when the forest is gone they will go back in time to find the chosen ones.'

Which in turn begs the question; if the fairies are capable of unstoppably destroying civilization as Jack believes they can, what's to stop them wasting enough of it to serve as a dire warning and keep all the forests and Chosen Ones they want free and safe for all time?

For every circular-logic loophole that closes, another seems to open up.

the fairies are capable of unstoppably destroying civilization as Jack believes they can, what's to stop them wasting enough of it to serve as a dire warning and keep all the forests and Chosen Ones they want free and safe for all time?

Because they're children and children are stupid.

Or to put it nicely, children and elemental spirits are focused on their petty desires of the moment, hence faeries are capricious and play cruel practical jokes but can't forsee the consequences, because they can't see beyond the moment.

They are only focused on their present desire which is Jasmine.

To put it another way, faeries are flighty creatures prone to flights of fancy.

You have explainined these points to me clearly, concisely, coherently, and twenty times better than whenever the episode actually bothered to.

Why aren't *you* the script editor?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Categories
Doctor Who: Series One
Doctor Who: Series Two
Doctor Who: Series Three
Torchwood: Series One
Torchwood: Series Two
The Sarah Jane Adventures: Series One
The Eighth Doctor BBC7 Audios
The Eighth Doctor Novels
The Tenth Doctor Novels
Stripped Down Series 1
Stripped Down Series 2
Stripped Down Series 3
Stripped Down Series 4
Stripped Down Series 5
Stripped Down Series 6