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Nov 27, 2006

Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

Tedious, juvenile and very, very predictable. But then I guess you already knew that.

Like most here, I’ve pretty much given up on Torchwood. From an exciting, dynamic pilot to one of the most bum-numbing fifty minutes of television in just five short weeks: now that’s groundbreaking drama for you. I really feel for Adam Stone: the lone voice who still manages to get something out of this show which promised so much and yet - like a politician’s promises - delivered so little. Well, good luck to you Adam - it’s us who are losing out, not you after all.

I can just about recount the plot to tonight’s episode, but I’m not sure that author Toby Whithouse could, or would even want to.  'Greeks Bearing Gifts' was so badly plotted it resembled 'School Reunion' but without the nostalgia hit.  Alien nasty inveigles another of Team Torchwood’s seemingly endless supply of naïve, social fuck-ups into their hair-brained scheme to…well, what exactly? Take over the world? Submit human lackeys to their will? Piss down the side of the Millennium Centre for the sheer thrill of it? I neither know nor more importantly care. It’s about as much as I can take to watch these episodes once, let alone twice as I usually do with Who before each review (and, as in the case of ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, actually notice the final twist that eluded me first time round). Oh God, I actually watched Moffat’s slice of genius for the umpteenth time again today and struggle to believe that some of the same creative talent that produced that also make this sorry excuse for either a sci-fi show or indeed any kind of ‘adult’ drama. I’ve decided the best way to view Torchwood is as a little girl who breaks into her Mum’s wardrobe, daubs herself with more make-up than there are colours in the rainbow and puts on a dress that would have embarrassed even E.T. And still calls herself adult.

From an exciting, dynamic pilot to one of the most bum-numbing fifty minutes of television in just five short weeks: now that’s groundbreaking drama for you

But of course the biggest crime of tonight’s episode is that it takes one of Buffy’s best - and most notorious - stories and turns it into a pale imitation of something which had wit, pathos and resonance far beyond anything that this show could ever produce. Where ‘Earshot’s impact on the zeitgeist of late nineties American life - teenage isolation, despair and the constant spectre of the gun - led to its postponement for fear of stirring up issues that our transatlantic cousins would have found just a little too close to home, ‘Greeks Bearing Gifts’ is little more than a thinly-veiled device for allowing Torchwood’s creators to show how grown-up they are in having two women snog each others’ faces off while throwing in dialogue that would shame even the writers of Footballers Wives. And the biggest irony? A plot device that allows the protagonist to hear peoples’ innermost thoughts in a show which is about as subtle at conveying the way people really talk as a frying pan in the face is to subtle comedy.

Okay, yeah so Tosh finally gets something to do other than spout pseudo-techno bullshit and look like she’s still pining for that pig spaceman she once had in her care. But don’t ever, ever mistake character development which sees someone who is supposedly on the rebound from someone else (who has absolutely no interest in them anyway, remember) as an excuse to turn lesbian and bitch and moan about how no-one likes her. Anyway, didn’t we have all this shit just a few weeks ago with Ianto? It’s a poor sign of a show as rudderless as Torchwood that it’s recycling its own episodes as well as other peoples so soon into its run. And at least ‘Cyberwoman’ had a sort of car-crash appeal that this episode doesn’t even begin to have. The only vaguely - and no doubt, unintentionally - amusing concept is that everyone’s inner thoughts are so clear and discernible that they sound more like someone reading the opening chapter to a Helen Fielding novel than they do to the sort of stream of consciousness noise that we would all recognise as the constant buzz in our own heads. At least Buffy - again - got this bit right. Tosh’s experiences of mind-reading are more like those of Mel Gibson in What Women Want (a comedy, allegedly) and are completely lacking in any subtlety - as is most of this sorry mess of a show - or any subtext. Couldn’t this have all been given some parallel to schizophrenia to at least suggest that the writer knew something about allegory?

Then there’s the disturbing depiction of a lesbian woman as a predatory mind-rapist who uses her telepathic mojo as a means of getting into another woman’s knickers - if this weren’t so inherently offensive it would be funny; but then it is so it isn’t. Mind rape leading to physical rape? Maybe I’m taking this all a bit too seriously, but I’m getting a bit sick and tired of dramas in general - and Torchwood in particular - portraying non-heterosexuals as pseudo-men acting purely on their libidos. Recast Mary’s part with a male in the role tonight and you’d hardly have to change a single line, from the post-coital swagger as she ridicules Tosh’s shame and self-disgust to the manipulative manner which got her there in the first place. Fourteen years on from gays and lesbians picketing Basic Instinct’s less than complimentary take on same-sex relationships, and it seems we haven’t made that much progress after all.

It’s a poor sign of a show as rudderless as Torchwood that it’s recycling its own episodes as well as other peoples so soon into its run

Which leaves me just to round up the by now oh-so familiar faults which pepper this episode like those shotgun pellets did Gwen’s torso last week. The Angel steal in having a pre-credits set in the nineteenth century. Owen and Gwen’s completely implausible ‘affair’ (just what does any supposedly intelligent woman find attractive in a man who blatantly belittles another member of her sex with little or no provocation?). The annoying direction (Colin Teague points his camera as though he’s on a centrifuge at times). How even the scavengers know about Torchwood. The tabloid-style inspiration for the storyline (after all, we all think of nothing but sex all day, don’t we..?). And last - but hardly least - Jack Harkness’ character becoming less and less recognisable as the weeks roll on. He’s even got a freaking direct line to the PM now! At this rate, surely the Doctor will have as much trouble spotting Jack as Jack will the Doctor come Season Three’s climax.

Coming Next: the resurrection glove is back! And so’s Suzie. I bet we all - like Tosh probably did with Owen and Gwen in this week’s episode - saw that one coming…

(The ‘Torchwood’ Book of made-up so-called drama facts has this to say about Greeks Bearing Gifts: the skeleton in this episode has got laid more times this year than Burn Gorman)


Sean thanks for your kind comments :-) My review to follow later this week and yes i enjoyed this weeks as well.

The moment that we saw Suzie being stashed away in the freezer after seeing Jack "surviving" being shot in the head was a dead (ahem) giveaway.

Are there actually any "scavengers" or was that something Mary just made up?

I must confess I enjoyed this episode, like all the others. I thought it was dark, well acted and was a good starring role for Tosh. The cgi effects of the alien were spot on I thought even though a little shortlived.

Yes, I guessed it played the 'I'm a grown-up show, look two women kissing!! card', but again, it was so tame, it's not really anything to get excited about especially compared to what you could see in Emmerdale these days. The whole arguement that "ooo they said a swear word, they think they must be so grown up tirade' is a tired one now. Surely you must accept the remaining episodes will feature this lovely trait. Best get over it now or not watch. Being to serious could be spoiling the viewing enjoyment for you?

Bizzarely, what I am getting tired of is that no member of the team are challening Jack about his choices i.e. killing the alien among other select choices. I wish some of them had some balls and said "actually Jack NO!". But hey, perhaps they will deliver an episode soon.

I'm personally looking forward to a series 2 of Torchwood. Adam, I do enjoy your reviews and I am glad I am not the only one who enjoys the show, heck I would feel lonely.

I'm so glad I'm not on this bandwagon any more. I hated the pilot, so I suppose that was a telltale sign.

Lee, the fact that I still notice the attempts to be all 'grown up' must mean that there's something seriously lacking from the rest of Torchwood to sway my attention, no?

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