I don’t like Torchwood.
It’s not that the acting is bad, it’s more than fine dandy, and it’s not the general visual elements (although Mr Poor CGI likes to rear his head). My main quarrel with it isn’t a character turned into a plot device or running on intrigue and not intrigue and delivery, a la LOST, it’s a simple fact. Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who, unintentional Mr Davies says, it’s an organization that runs around places like the Doctor does except there’s a lot of modern people and there are more mature themes at play. A typical episode of Doctor Who won’t edge those mature barriers, except when it shows a dark Doctor or displays racism (a la Human Nature).
I feel Torchwood, for all of its first two seasons absolutely exercises just the most dire material. A cyberwoman, pandemic viruses and other bits that just don’t fit well into the science-fiction that Davies created. It feels odd trying to fly this Whovian world with sleeze and a bit of short-handed events. What grinds my gears more than anything is the sincere lack of care or attention to some of the most important aspects of life. It’s some things that Who can’t explore to its full potential, they’re two strong elements that have lasted throughout time.
I feel brass violence, blood and gore and guts, is just used for the sake of it in Torchwood. I remember watching the first episode and seeing men with necks chewed off and the camera zooming in on the prosthetics to make sure we were grossed out enough. Gore is awesome when it has some visual panache to it, a visual filter if you will. The very original Saw used characters as a filter, Doctor Who did the same but if you don’t have these then at least have something pretty to look at. I feel Torchwood never has this, just violence for the sake of violence and “maturity”.
I feel the same way about sexuality, the other strong element, within the second episode of season one we’re treated to a villain that sleeps with people to death. It’s… disgusting, there’s nothing really to hang on to and I feel revolted. Not that I can’t stand the actual scenes, it’s what they stand for, it’s what sex has been squandered to. It’s shoved in at one point with one character we don’t care about and a character who won’t even get an acting credit he’s on for such a short time. Sex for the sake of sex and trying to appear “edgy” gets you nowhere.
Mature elements in the filmic world must be presented in a mature manner. If you’re making a film with sex in it, don’t let sex define your maturity or your seriousness, the same goes for violence. I cannot stand when it’s just shoe-horned in for the sake of trying to appeal to an older audience when in fact you’re just displaying it in a childish way. I don’t like the first two series of Torchwood at all, I feel they’re just trying too hard to be adult and displaying it in a silly way. I nearly wrote Torchwood off completely, until a certain something happened.
No, not her, Eve Myles didn’t happen to me. Sad face.
Children of Earth is a five episode mini-series set within the Torchwood world, using the same characters but with a more evolved concept. It’s set around something different to the “Monster-A-Week” formula of Who or Sarah Jane Adventures (I’d blog on them but I haven’t seen enough). It’s one event that gets so dark, gets its claws oh so deep and dramatic into everything it touches. It involves children being stolen, aliens without faces and a government running in fear of both its own people, itself and the alien threat. Torchwood: Children of Earth just so happens to be probably the smartest and most mature story to ever come out of Who.
I love the pacing, how it’s one giant Empire Strikes Back of dying characters who you actually care about. You don’t cry, you don’t have time to cry, this thing just plays push and shove. For the most part we see the Torchwood crew on the run from the government, who are trying to contain a panic while trying to also cause it. The exploration of the role of government isn’t done in a silly manner with bad political dialogue and bits, but it’s handled with some thoughtful commentary on today’s political climate. It’s about exploring the role of government less as an organization and more of a character.
Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, In The Loop) is the main face of government. He gives an absolutely electrifying performance as Frobisher, a man caught between family, government and the moral high-ground. The decisions he makes completely break him as a human being and reveal the sacrifices he has to make. When we get towards the end, we’re treated to something oh so beautifully sad. It’s not shown but it’s not hidden, it’s subtle. It’s something Who and original Torchwood lack, and it sings when it’s in the hands of Davies.
I underestimated Davies too, I thought he was just a compelling character writer and he is BUT he’s a more than capable narrative handler now. The story weaves beautifully and functions as a continual tragedy for everyone involved, it breaks men and blackens hearts and it explores all those dark actions done in the name of good. The speech above, about the Doctor, haunts me as one of those statements towards Who. The Timelord dreams of being human, like we dream of being timelord, yet sometimes on those dark days it’s best not to dream. Be careful what you wish for and all that.
Children of Earth is one of the most compelling pieces of science-fiction drama to ever be released in the history of mankind. The blu-ray and DVD is quite cheap and it’s worth every penny. It gets all of that mature malarkey out of the way and becomes an adult, focused and brilliantly paced emotional rollercoaster that never gives up on pushing and shoving. It has to be seen to believed.
So… back to Who… series six.
I am not looking forward to it in the slightest, to be completely honest, I’m hyped and I’m pouring over every detail but I’m trying to keep cynical. I speculate on every Who series regardless whether or not I think it’ll be terrible. I have a few theories, but to get into the nitty gritty critique, I think nothing much will change. We’ll find out who River Song is and the delivery cannot satisfy everyone or every idea, which will completely destroy the level of intrigue Moffat has built for the past few YEARS. Amy still looks like a plot device while Rory is still cool guy. Smith seems like he’s trapped in just some of the worst material.
I like how they’re boasting about being in America, like authenticity ever added to anything ever. I know Britain doesn’t have the best deserts or the best computer animation studios, but I feel this sort of thing is a waste of tax payer’s money. Blink is the best episode of Doctor Who ever (written by the same guy who’s ruined the series, odd) and it’s got around… four or five sets in total? It plays with time but in a conservative and thoughtful manner. I feel Series Six’s ‘scope’ or ‘filmic’ attitude (every medium is trying to replicate film given it’s the most popular) will just ruin the small little mad man in a box attitude I had with Who. The Doctor isn’t a hero, he’s the Doctor.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND that’s a wrap.
I hope you enjoyed my ramblings and spelling mistakes along with all of those factual errors you fanboys will likely pour over. I’m going back to watch some old Who along with Series One and Two, as I’m trying to figure out something about Noel Clarke’s character and Davie’s writing trick. Perhaps… this series can return in the future? Let me know in the comments or send me an email.
Until next time fezes are cool, time lord victorious, don’t blink etc.