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Nov 05, 2006

Silver Lady

Another week, another ho-hum episode of Torchwood.

Where to begin? Well the good news is that I’ve finally given up on this spin-off being anything more than a novelty. With each new episode of Who I feel a genuine thrill as the credits crash in and we head off on another trip through time and space (okay, Cardiff and London these days. But you get my drift). Watching each new Torchwood fills me with about as much anticipation as those Monday nights watching Enterprise did. It’s just there; and for once in my Who-viewing life, it doesn’t make a jot of difference wither it’s crap or brilliant.

Which is a good thing, as for the second week - or is it third…frankly I’ve even stopped counting how many episodes in this is - running, this is about as derivative and predictable as TV sci-fi gets. Ooh, look it’s Alien one minute; oh now it’s ‘Dalek’ with less subtext and more gratuitous violence. Next it’ll be an episode of 24 as two of the principals point guns at one another and threaten to blow each other’s lack of brains out. There’s probably some drinking game you can play whilst watching Torchwood where you take a swig every time you recognise any television, film or even ballet homage and end up getting very, very pissed. But the good news is that you’ll wake up the next morning having forgotten everything.

So, having done little more than stand around looking enigmatic - or at least as enigmatic as Welsh people ever look- Ianto Jones is being given some ‘character’, is he? Well, if you consider character to be suddenly inviting over Japanese scientists from God knows where to have a gander at your former girlfriend who’s now dressed as though she’s appearing in the next Janet Jackson video he is, anyway. And of course, this being Torchwood, said scientist gets to fondle the bare flesh of this nubile Cyber-babe before getting mashed rather unpleasantly into some sort of makeover programme victim crossed with a box of Meccano. Cos’ apparently the Cybermen have taken to converting whole bodies with cybernetic organs, rather than the much more efficient brain-in-a-helmet method they used previously. And how - I cannot even begin to care - is this supposed to make conversion quicker and easier? Don’t ask me, as the episode itself comes to the opposite conclusion itself anyway.

There’s probably some drinking game you can play whilst watching Torchwood where you take a swig every time you recognise any television, film or even ballet homage and end up getting very, very pissed

And what is Ianto’s beef this episode, anyway? Is he really that grief-stricken that he’s forced to betray his colleagues and friends for the sake of saving his now 50% mechanical lady (which must be some sort of comment on the sex-toy industry)? Or is he just pissed at the rest of Team Torchwood for not letting him join in with the basketball games and bond like a bunch of freaking sitcom characters from some American abomination over pizza and 7-Up? Either way, his emoting in this episode was perhaps some of the worst blubbing from a boyo that you’d see outside of a Big Brother eviction night. Glyn to win? Not if this streak of principality piss was to have his way in the name of Cool Cymru.

So once Lisa the Cyber-lady goes postal it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing substitutes shouting characters for any attempt to build any real tension. And the genre clichés come so thick and fast that you’d be hard-pressed to jot them all down before the next one hits you in the face like some kind of Quentin Tarantino wank-athon. In fact with its cast of anonymous ciphers and cheap-looking setting - four episodes down and Torchwood is already resorting to bottle shows in order to keep the budget balanced - you can’t help but be reminded of the cheapo, straight to video films (usually starring the likes of Miguel Ferrer or Lance Henrikksen) that clutter up the Sci-Fi channel’s schedules at a similar time of night. Oh, and of course there’s the obligatory swearing and shoe-horned-in sex that has become this series’ only truly consistent quality. This week: Owen and Gwen share a where-did-that-come-from snog whilst Captain Jack tongues the life back into Ianto - in glorious parallel! So, does this mean that Gwen’s much mooted fling will be with Owen rather than the rumoured Toshiko (if so, at least she won’t be having to make passionate scenes with the human equivalent of creosote). And it’s only a surprise to find Jack not frenching the Cyber-babe into submission as she fails to electrocute his grinning arse into this side of next week.

Is Ianto just pissed at the rest of Team Torchwood for not letting him join in with the basketball games and bond like a bunch of freaking sitcom characters?

But before I even mention the laughingly predictable bit when Lisa the Cyber-lady begins to question this ‘human thing called…love’, I’ll try and be kind for a few nano-seconds and mention one or two moments that I did like. Such as the rather gruesome post-conversion shots of the Japanese scientist - Torchwood actually taking advantage of its post-watershed slot in the right way for once - and the continuing peeling of the onion that is Jack’s background. Honest to God, it’s only Jack that keeps me watching each week, as the faceless goons surrounding him seem to get more and more bland the more we know about them. How is this possible? Perhaps Chris Chibnall has actually nailed the art of making characters less interesting than what’s on the page; and how’s that for a good Season Three omen, eh?

At least the Bride of Frankenstein denouement made me giggle. Poor Ianto - left as bereft as Big Brother’s Glyn on the first day he tried to boil an egg all by himself - trudges off to pick up bits of his former girlfriend before fading away once more into the brickwork. ‘Put the kettle on will you, there’s a cariad, eh?’

I’m not even going to bother saying that next week’s looks like it has potential, as I’m getting just a mite tired of being proved wrong. Oh well, where’s that copy of ‘The Invasion’ that send-it.com kindly posted me two days early..?

(The Bumper Book of ‘Torchwood’ Facts has this to say about Cyberwoman: in a discarded sub-plot, the Cyber-conversion equipment was to be used to fill the gap in Gwen’s teeth, thus saving the Mill millions on continuity)

Comments

"With each new episode of Who I feel a genuine thrill as the credits crash in and we head off on another trip through time and space (okay, Cardiff and London these days. But you get my drift)."

I used to be like that with Who Sean until series 2.

Now I find it difficult to summon up the enthusiasm to watch much of series 2 again and even to get excited about series 3.

Okay- sorry if the later part of this post seems like it belongs on the Restoration Team site, but here we go anyway.

So far I've seen very little of Torchwood- a mixture of a total lack of enthusiasm and time has not made it a priority I'm afraid- season 2 of Who saw to that.

For me "adult" means something like "Edge of Darkness".

To my eyes Torchwood seems far to close to those adolescent fantasys all aspiring writers seem to turn out at the later end of their teens. An approuch to sex, violence and use of language that is simply be there to prove this is not for kids!!!

Any way all bitching of this kind aside this post was motivated by a small technical issue.

"Cyberwoman" (smart titles are really not a new Who/Torchwood speciality are they) looked horribly like it had been shot as interlaced video- rather than the deinterlaced "film" look that is now universal to BBC dramas including new Who.

Now Who is shot on Standard Definintion while Torchwood I believe is being shot on HD so there maybe some technical issues- but I'd be surprised if this was the case.

Even the prosumer HD cameras now shoot in a progressive filmic mode. Having only seen a few minutes of Cyberwoman I was posting to see if anyone else had noticed if this was the case with the episodes I've missed so far.

Now given the choice I'd be rather be stuck with the crappy video look if they took away the blue and red lighting gels from the DPs and showed them sci-fi can be lit using white light like any other show!

Cos’ apparently the Cybermen have taken to converting whole bodies with cybernetic organs, rather than the much more efficient brain-in-a-helmet method they used previously. And how - I cannot even begin to care - is this supposed to make conversion quicker and easier?

When you don't have access to factories and other capital through someone like John Lumic, cybermen will have to make do with what they can get perhaps.

The ones from Mondas ran out of metal so they had to use a lot of rubber and sticky tape to keep their conversions together.

Daniel, maybe there's something up with your digital set top box? Looked fine to me.

I'm not using a set top box!

I caught a trailer for Cyberwoman eariler in the week and noticed it then.

I'm a editor by profession so I deal with these issues on a daily basis. The effects of Interlaced video are a lot subtler than it used to be, but is still a strange choice for Torchwood.

Daniel -- the wierd look is because of the down mix from the HD recording -- I saw the first episode at a preview and it looked like a film (to my eyes). It is awfully distracting and I think hurting people's enjoyment of the series.

Thanks for that Stu, that was something I'd considered, I just wasn't sure exactly how the BBC are treating programs sourced from HD material.

It is distracting and damaging to at least the "perceived" quality of the program.

I'm not keen on the look or Torchwood or Who for that matter in general with regard to lighting but to throw this into the as well does it no favours.

"The ones from Mondas ran out of metal so they had to use a lot of rubber and sticky tape to keep their conversions together."

And on that note, I hope that jawpiece of Lisa's wasn't supposed to be metal. I SWEAR I saw it stretch when she talked..

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