The 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?