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Dec 11, 2006

"Life's full of disappointments…"

Yes, yes it is.  Every Sunday at 10pm on BBC Three (or as it appeared tonight briefly Children's BBC).  I really must I?  Can't I just say 'What Sean said' and move on?  This isn't going to be half as entertaining or perceptive.  I've just spent the past week writing this critique for my own blog for various reasons describing the main thing wrong with Torchwood and here's an episode that generally ignores my criticisms and creates a whole bunch of others.  I should hate it on that basis, but that wouldn't be fair so it looks like I'll have to make up a special list for this one.  It's eleven o'clock at night, I should be thinking about going to bed or running another episode of Spaced which I'm watching once again.  Have you seen the end of the paintball episode lately?  It's like a forward homage to the Doctor Who episode Fear Her with 'There's a storm coming' and a crane shot and everything.  Or are they both Terminator references?

I mean what the hell was that?  Do the production team not think that we're not sitting at home thinking - 'Hold on - this is a bit like Love & Monsters…' or 'Is he a ghost?  Out of phase with the rest of reality?  A non-corporeal clone?  What?' or 'Is she in wrap or idle whilst she talking to Gwen - isn't she thinking about her weekly stats - what kind of a call centre is this?' or 'Jesus Christ that's a horrific music cue… what a winy voice … is this supposed to be a joke' or 'That's the original A For Andromeda.  Don't pan away, I'm watching that!' or 'Will that man please stop singing?  This funeral scene has gone on far enough … what it's still going?  How many bloody verses are there in 'Danny Boy' and apart from anything else what the hell is he doing singing it in Wales?' or the many thousands of other niggles that flopped through my brain as I tried desperately and should have been engaging with the story.

'That's the original A For Andromeda.  Don't pan away, I'm watching that!'

Eugene seemed a nice enough bloke, but his plight wasn't enough of a mystery to stretch out over twenty-five minutes let alone double that time.  The episode seemed to be copying the structure of Citizen Kane which followed the steps from childhood forward to death in order to reveal a mystery -- it's about how a man lived being revealed in flashbacks and whatnot.  Here it felt like the montage sequence from The Ghost Machine slowed down across a a whole episode but instead of the main character discovering information such as Eugene's early childhood it was shown to the audience first.  Which meant that when it was revealed to Gwen later it lacked dramatic impact.

It just seems very wrong to me that on such a regular basis, that the so-called regular characters are given so little to do.  Ianto's back to saying little about anything and Tosh is simply asking questions.  They're supposed to be main characters and yet they're being sidelined - it's Classic Star Trek all over again.  The trouble with this episode was that it wasn't Gwen's story it was Eugene's with the maths 'genius' using her to discover what happened because he pushed her forward - too often she would walk into a scene and be seen listening as characters described another bit of the plot.  This wasn't really detecting because she wasn't allowed to put the clues together herself -- Eugene was motivating her, revealing of his memories the final moments being his success.  Eve Myles was sidelined in her own show.

There wasn't anything actually wrong with the story, but surely it's the kind of thing you trot out in season three when you've established all the characters and you want either give them a week off or you're double banking and have some fun with them.  Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Lower Decks is a prime example, as junior officers became the focus and we got to see the regulars from their perspective.  Here, Eugene basically followed Gwen around because he lurrrved her and didn't really regard any of the others.  During The Hub visit, he seemed more interested in The Doctor's hand (we get the joke already) than anyone else in the hub which seemed a waste.

Eugene was also a bit talky though, given to half quoting everything from Douglas Adams through to Ferris Bueller's Day Off via Monty Python's Galaxy Song, all very poetic, probably thematic, but slowed what little drama there was even more.  Unlike Love & Monsters, however, it never felt like the ramblings of a half normal person, seeming more like it had been brought in because the story was being adapted from a novel and the screenwriter was too afraid not include the author's winning material.  I'd also argue that the fact that Eugene was both describing events in both the past and present tense confused the point of view still further.

Paul Chequer  is a talented actor and even though the character felt like a rehash of his character in As If, even with the Hitler quiff, he still managed to be sympathetic and appealing despite that wordiness.  Once again, Eve Myles somehow managed to make Gwen seem like a normal, appealing figure even if her job on this occasion was to largely sit there and listen.  The performances across board in this episode were good if not excellent amongst the guest cast although this has always been a problem with the series - the regulars are just less vivid and unloved in the face of the populace of South Wales.

The special effects too were very nice all of the wizzing around the solar system and galaxy, presumably representing Eugene's imagination, giving the episode a scale others have lacked.  It was just a shame that they couldn't stretch to more than one moment in which he actually put his hand through someone.  He was still walking around at normal speed with doors, such as the ones in the hub, waiting for him to walk through.  This quirk could have been worked into the episode - perhaps providing Gwen with proof of her feeling that someone was about but instead it looked like an inconsistency waiting for a nitpicker like me to point it out.

"The show seems determined to reduce every character to a plot point or cypher.  Are they allergic to giving the characters convincing private lives?"

Other oddities -- have Gwen and Owen split up is that what all the arguing is supposed to imply?  Why just imply it, why not just say it?  And why the hell after all the lovely scenes earlier in the series haven't we seen a proper break-up scene for Gwen and her boyfriend?  The show seems determined to reduce every character to a plot point or cypher.  Are they allergic to giving the characters convincing private lives?  Most of the problems with this episode could have been solved with a reduction of the influence of Eugene's character and the introduction of a B-plot about Jack or Tosh or even Ianto.

Marks were gained for the use of 'Starman' instead of 'Life on Mars', but what the hell was that thing during the autopsy sequence in The Hub?  (and as a side note if they had cut him open wouldn't they have found the eye?)  Well I know what it is thanks to Outpost Gallifrey - 'Hope There's Someone' by Antony and The Johnsons and in a different context I might have liked it, but here it just ruined the mood and was completely out of context.  Love & Monsters had a coherent musical structure but this was just a mish-mash.

"as that poor actor graveled his way through even more of Danny Boy I was screaming at the screen for him to stop"

But taking the episode as it stands though, it simply wasn't as touching as it should have been even with all of that music layered in, for the reasons already listed and that bloody funeral scene at the end.  You really have to have worked hard in the body of a drama to earn something like that and they didn't and as that poor actor graveled his way through even more of Danny Boy I was screaming at the screen for him to stop when I know I should be crying and didn't matter how much sob music was layered in afterwards, they'd lost me again.

Next week:  It's more Star Trek plots as TNG's The Neutral Zone and Voyager's The 37ers are given a run around.  Once again, we're left wondering what the premise of this show is actually meant to be.

Comments

Blast, I was all set to come on here and remark how Love and Monsters the whole thing was, only to be already beaten to it by both reviewers. Well, it was a pretty obvious similarity I guess...I got that vibe as soon as "Starman" kicked off.

I really don't like Danny Boy because I've heard it sung a bit too often at stunningly dull wedding/funeral/birthday etc parties by middled-aged drunk guys. It would be a bit like Eugene's Dad standing up and performing I Will Survive in terms of "Christ not this bloody song again" effect on me, so rather than producing sadness for dead Eugene it just made me grit my teeth.

Didn't find anything to really get annoyed about with this episode, though. I liked Chequer in As If so I'm fine with him here, same with Myles. It again felt inconsequential to whole Torchwood thing, really feeling of a filler, but nothing to get mad about...or to get enthused about.

Fairest I think I can say is that I just didn't catch what they were pitching.

And to think I commented on American Pie last week.

For the first half-hour i thought it was an improvement - this was actually everything Torchwood was MEANT to be, a police procedural mystery with a sci-fi twist. Only with the scene in the Happy Cook did it all start to go pear-shaped, and by the end it predictably generated into the usual nonsensical shambles. And just how can you waste the talents of the great Nicola Duffett, who has held her own in Merchant-Ivory films with the pick of British luvviedom? And where has the pterodactyl vanished to? Gone with the budget? Love & Monsters was better than this. Hell, even K9 & Company was better than this.

According to Media Guardian, last night's Torchwood beat Lost in what it's calling "the big multichannel ratings battle" -

Torchwood was watched by 971,000 viewers on BBC3 from 10pm, up slightly from last Sunday's 958,000, according to unofficial overnights.
Sky One's Lost premiere slipped below 1 million viewers for the first time this series, attracting 863,000 viewers last night in the 10pm hour.


I always thought Lost was pish, but I feel a bit sorry for it being whupped by 'Random Shoes'. First episode that I'm struggling to say owt nice about.

Good crikey -

"Rival bbc channels are fighting for the chance to screen a second series of Cardiff-based sci-fi hit Torchwood.
"It has not been officially confirmed that a second series of the Doctor Who spin-off will be commissioned. But the team behind the city-set show, starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles, is already working on scripts for the next series at BBC Wales' Llandaff headquarters.
"And both BBC Two and BBC Three are fighting for the right to screen it first - with writer Russell T Davies pushing for a slot on BBC One..."
[from South Wales Echo]

I can see the inter-channel fighting now:
'You have it.'
'No, you have it!'

lol!

Whatever we feel about it, Torchwood is being viewed as a success so...there you go really.

I'm reminded of a line from, of all things, Zoolander when it comes to Russell T. at the moment.

"He could take a crap, wrap it up in tin foil, stick a coupla hooks in it and sell it to Queen Elizabeth as earrings!"

Well the BBC seems to have finally ditched "make-over' shows from it's schedule and slowly seems to be doing the same with antique shows, so you never know- maybe in a few years it'll drop over-hyped RTD shows as well.

Love the Zoolander quote- sooooo true (sadly)

Ah, before we ship Torchwood off, I'd like to propse something. Let's get the glut of Reality TV off the air first. I mean, some old school shows like Big Brother et al can stay, but there's far too much of it here recently.

Example? Did you know, here in the US, megastation CBS is filming a reality show called "Armed and Dangerous." This scares me. Why? It's taking D-listers and deputizing them. Jack Osbourne, with a gun. Wee Man from Jackass with a gun. Ex-Wrestler Trish Stratus with a gun. Latoya Jackson with a gun. BADGES AND GUNS PEOPLE.

Torchwood is far less harmful, and a fair sight more entertaining, than most of this stuff.

It was alright. Seen better, seen worse. Had some good bits. Snotty, self-absorbed, it's-trendy-to-hate-RTD-ha-ha-we're-so-smart reviews notwithstanding, Torchwood is a bit of a disappointment.

I don't know J, with any luck the muppets may shoot each other and do the world a favour in general.

Oh yeah I'm all for ditching reality TV crap- not only are they- crap, but they are just a way of the stations filing the schedule with cheap TV.

Crap though Torchwood maybe at least the production crews do have to work hard to make them.

Trendy to hate RTD- nah not really!

I don't think you have to be too smart to see through RTDs limitations in the sci-fi genre- there fairly obvious I fear.

The Man should stick to character drama where plotting and other technicalities aren't such a necessity.

Steve -- I don't know if that comment is directed at me but since its posted here. I don't hate Russell. Actually I think he's a diamond, certainly one of very few people who could bring Doctor Who back creatively and do *that* to it. In fact in my reviews I'm very careful to be at least a bit even handed and not to single out any particular person for a shouting at unless they've done something very bad.

The thing with Torchwood might not necessarily be Russell's fault. His first episode was a barnstormer, still a great piece of television. The man can write. It's just that once the issues and disappointments of television become involved -- never enough time, never enough money -- things start to go wrong.

I've little doubt the series is made with passion and that there's never been a that'll do attitude. It just has a certain directionless quality which might be part of a creative decision not to do things like everything -- to experiment with character, narrative and whatnot. And some people are enjoying it. I'm just expressing my disappointment that it fails to gel for reasons that are ultimately very hard to fathom.

I can only speak personally, but I'm not having critical issues with Torchwood in hopes of being cool. I wouldn't know cool if it slapped me in the face with a Resurrection Glove.

I just haven't had an episode yet where I've thought "I'd like to watch that one again yet". And I haven't given up, I'm still tuning/taping in each time because I'll happily sift through crap if it gets me a diamond in the end. But so far, nothing to get me on board...wheras with the new Who, there are a few stories that I already cherish as much as the 'original' series stories.

And like I said on another piece around here at some point, I still believe the ingredients ARE there for a quality piece of tv...it's just not been put into a tasty receipe yet.

"Snotty, self-absorbed, it's-trendy-to-hate-RTD-ha-ha-we're-so-smart reviews notwithstanding"

Oh, please do fuck off.

I'm sick of "newbies" visiting this blog, reading a couple of reviews and then jumping to the conclusion that we're somehow out to diss new Who and everything associated with it.

Try clicking on a couple of links. Try reading some season 1 reviews. Try looking beyond your fucking scrollbar you fucking idiot.

This blog was not - I repeat, not - created to bury this franchise that we love. If we were dead set on being negative every bloody week then doing this would be a SG1 or Mutant X blog.

Honestly, I'm getting pretty sick of this.

I ask again - who wants to take over???

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