Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jacking Off

Torchwood's Gwen CooperThe new series of Torchwood lit the blue touch-paper last night and flared up for another run on the BBC.

Straight away we were presented with a rather well mannered, well spoken, red blowfish driving a snazzy sports car around the windy streets of Cardiff. He didn’t exceed the speed limit, used the brake in plenty of time and seemed intent on following the Highway Code. He was even urbane enough to let an old lady cross the road in front of him. All this before he shot some poor innocent home owner in the gut and taunted the Torchwood crew members for their namby-pamby prevarication. The Torchwood team admittedly looked at a loss as to how to react without their AWOL leader, Captain Jack Sparrow, sorry, Captain Jack Harkness around to tell them what to do... But all was not lost. Suddenly Jack reappeared and shot the blowfish in the head in a scene reminiscent of The Fifth Element. “So, does anybody else want to negotiate?”

Welcome to series 2 of Torchwood.

A rather uncomplicated plot then unfolded involving Captain John, one of Jack’s old flames, played by whatsisface who played Spike from Buffy looking for some radio-active canisters inexplicably secreted around various Cardiff locations... a plot that was rather silly and shallow but was nonetheless rather entertaining. It served no other purpose than to re-introduce or, perhaps, try to reinvent the Torchwood regulars... attempts are being made I believe to render them “more likeable”. It’s early days yet to say if that is working or not but the major players are all interestingly interconnected in a bubbling web of sexual tension, lust, sarcasm and camaraderie that is certainly full of potential and could bode well for future episodes.

Basically Torchwood is Doctor Who with lashings of sex and attitude. The only members of the team who seem to buck this trend are Ianto Jones and Toshiko Sato... the former is far too wet and limp to be a believable love interest for Captain Jack H and Toshiko is well, Velma from Scooby-Doo.

However, I like Toshiko and am hoping the writers will develop her character further in this second outing of the show and give it a bit more of an edge. The potential is certainly there given her brief lesbian liaison in Series 1...

And then there’s Gwen. It’s taken me a long time to make my mind up about Gwen. It’s the annoying voice and the gap-tooth. Is she a fox or isn’t she? She’s got va-va-voom in spades but there’s something of the fishwife about her too. Or should I say “tidy wife”? The will-they-won’t-they tension between her and Jack is more annoying than an entertaining tease. I wish they’d just get on with it and move on. It’s hardly of the same calibre as Mulder and Scully. It doesn’t warrant this long, contrived abstemious delay. Get ‘em out, whop ‘em about and then show us some more aliens.

That would be a show.

But much as I enjoy this tour of sexed up sci-fi, shouldn’t there be more to Torchwood than just adult content? Shouldn’t there be more to it than all this inter-species spooning and inter-office bed-hopping? Doesn’t there need to be?

Good sci-fi needs to press a few intellectual buttons among the hi-tech barrage of flashy effects and glistening cleavage. Otherwise it runs the risk of being all gimmick and no content. And that is bad.

Torchwood has potential. It has legs. But it needs to think about the direction it’s walking towards. Sex and violence – shallow hooks as they are – are admittedly nearly always behind a great story. But there needs to be depth too. There needs to be philosophy and a message. There needs to be content.

After all, isn’t great sex supposed to originate in the mind?

18 comments:

Rol Hirst said...

I gave up on the last series half way through... but I've been tempted back (well, I videoed last night's episode) by James Marsters. Unfortunately, I understand that was his lot. Boo.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Of course if it had Josie Lawrence in it.... ;-)

Give them a hard time Steve, just 'cos you're a fan of jiggly bits doesn't mean you want to be fobbed off with galactic garbage filmed in Cardiff that ain't even as good as Dr Who.

Steve said...

Rol, judging by the trailers for the rest of the series Mr Marsters will be making a return of some sort before the final episode unravels itself so don't give up all hope just yet...

Laura, if last night's episode had Josie Lawrence in it I would have been over the moon regardless, jiggly bits jiggling or no jiggly bits jiggling at all...

(oh who am I kidding?)

But as you so eloquently say, a bit of sauce is fine but only if it's complimenting a roast of the finest weight and quality. Or something like that.

The Sagittarian said...

We haven't had the first series here yet!

Old Cheeser said...

Naughty title for your post, not to mention caption for your photo, Steve! And I thought rude double entendres were only my forte. As for jacking off in the john, I'd estimate I know more about than you....okay, enough!

Great review and you've beaten me to it. Think you hit the nail on the head in you comments. I certainly found last night's installment entertaining and a promising start after a very hit and miss first series. But as you say, it lacks a fundamental depth. And even though we're now quite "settled" with the characters, it's still quite hard to warm to them.

As for Ianto, I hope his "limpness will be replaced by something else later on...well there was a brief snogging scene with Capt Jack so here's hoping we get a bit more raunch...oh honestly! And here's me going on about the need for more "depth". Hypocrite? Moi?

Andrew Glazebrook said...

I gave it a miss,didn't get into the first series and the clip I seen of Jack snogging Spike put me off. Another mate lasted 10 mins then gave up too. I really don't like the characters, they all seem to hate each other or did in what I seen of the last series. I think I'll just stick to Doctor Who and Sarah Jane, actually I wouldn't mind being stuck to Sarah Jane at all !!

TimeWarden said...

I thought the bit at the start was designed to ape "Buffy". I think had RTD made his version of "Doctor Who" before "Buffy" then "Who", and any spin-offs, would've been completely different and perhaps a little closer to the original.

Anyway, I thought the Season Two opener was boring, not a patch on the better episodes from the First Series (which probably isn't saying much). Your review is much more entertaining. And, as the lead writer, Chris Chibnall, is moving on to pastures new, I suggest you apply for his job, Steve!

Regarding Gwen, I quite liked her wide-eyes look when she tried to get Jack to show some interest. I think Marsters is back for one more episode mid-series.

You hit the nail on the head at the end of your review in that "Torchwood" is not actually about anything, just like its parent series in fact. Classic "Doctor Who", at its best, used to cover all sorts of issues in an entertaining way and was nowhere near as childish as all this tosh!

Steve said...

Amanda, at this point in time I'm not entirely sure that you're actually missing out!

OC, I'm sure you can out double entendre me any day of the week! And it sounds like you've had some very interesting experiences which would either make great blog posts... or just better episodes of Torchwood! ;-)

Andrew, I'm sure there's quite a few guys who'd like to be welded to Sarah Jane with only a sonic screwdriver for company...

Totally agree TimeWarden. In fact Torchwood also suffered from the fact that Karen and I had just ploughed through a 3 hour documentary on the making of Blade Runner on DVD... now there is sci-fi with so much depth and layering it makes an onion 2-D. Torchwood was like a piece of cottonwool blown across a table top in comparison. The frustrating thing with Torchwood is that the potential is there... maybe I'll apply for Chris Chibnall's job!

Reluctant Blogger said...

I have never watched Torchwood so I wasn't going to comment. But you know me, I just can't help myself!

Is Gwen the person in the photo? If so, she doesn't look very sexy to me.

As for great sex originating in the mind? Well, that's where it seems to be staying for me at the moment. So I suspect I should avoid "the bubbling web of sexual tension" that is Torchwood - it might all prove a bit much. I'm probably safer sticking with "Question Time" or something!

Steve said...

Hi Gina, yes Gwen is the one in the photo... I guess there's a difference between being attractive and being sensuous or sexual... I think the actress who plays Gwen is certainly attractive but, despite having a preference for brunettes, she doesn't quite float my boat...

As for Question Time... be careful. I've heard that David Dimbleby is a real "goer"...! ;-)

TimeWarden said...

Agree with you 100%, Steve. "Torchwood" totally pales in comparison with "Blade Runner". I'd always hoped when "Doctor Who" came back it would resemble Ridley Scott at his finest!

Ridley worked for the BBC in the Sixties and was actually slated to design the Daleks before being reassigned to a different job and Ray Cusick got the "Doctor Who" gig instead! I've often wondered how the Daleks would've looked had Ridley designed them. They may have turned out to be not as popular!!

Personally, I credit Ray as the Daleks' creator rather than Terry Nation. Nation got all the royalties, though, while Cusick was paid a flat fee of £100, so the story goes!

Steve said...

Sounds like Cusick was robbed!

Ridley's potential input into DW is unimaginable... but we may have missed out on Blade Runner if his life had taken a different turn. However, given how difficult it was to get Blade Runner to the big screen in the first place we were extremely lucky!

Daisy said...

"After all, isn’t great sex supposed to originate in the mind?"

it could be...however if it stays there it just ends up giving you blistered hands...

no need to thank me for the information...glad to share :)

Rol Hirst said...

So, I watched it.

I wasn't impressed.

I can't decide whether it's bad writing, or bad acting - ie. actors that can't get behind the lines in the same way that their American cousins can... but I think it's probably the former, because even Marsters struggled to make some of his lines work.

The worst thing about it is its utter predictability. Were we supposed to be surprised by the scene where Jack walked into the bar for a "shoot 'em up" with Spike and ended up snogging him instead? When any twists or shocks are telegraphed as much as every plot turn was in this episode, I just get frustrated. God - do something less predictable for once, please!

Steve said...

Daisy - thank God for Oil Of Olay Hand Cream... ;-)

Rol, you're absolutely right. The main problem I find with Brit Sci-fi is it's sad need to emulate that of our US cousins... emulation doesn't exactly encourage originality and any plot twists can be seen from miles away rendering them redundant. I think the entire format of Torchwood needs to be rethought. It needs to find its own personality rather than borrowing what it considers to be the best of other shows...

Moonwatcher said...

I really can't stand that main Welsh woman, who on earth cast here as the star of a show ? I'd give Torchwood 4 out of 10 for effort last series, didn't see the new episode but I don't think I'll have missed much.

Mermaid of Moorgate said...

I do like torchwood - it's darker, creepier and has much better eye-candy. But it is sad for Merms that Barrowman is so lush, and yet not interested in mer-people of the opposite sex.

Steve said...

Thanks for dropping by Moonwatcher - I'd have to agree with your rating system: the new episode again scored a measly 4 out of 10 for effort... and that is the major problem with the show: the writers are just not trying hard enough.

Mermaid, Mr B may swish his pretty tail at the boys but, as the old saying goes, there are plenty more fish in the sea...