So my wife and I have finally started watching Torchwood. I’d been looking forward to seeing it for years, hearing a lot of enthusiastic chat about it being a smart, edgy grownup sci-fi series.
Don’t I wish.
Torchwood is sci-fi as conceived by MTV: slick, glib, cheap-sounding and cheap-looking, with a cast obviously chosen for their bone structure over their acting abilities. I have now completed the first six episodes and I think I’ve given the series a fair shake. Here are the issues as I see them:
Capt. Jack. On Doctor Who, Captain Jack’s rakish charm and hints of roguishness is a fun contrast to the Doctor’s high seriousness. On his own series, it becomes clear that rakish charm is about all that John Barrowman is capable of bringing to the table. Watching him try to convey grief (“Small Worlds”) had me watching the screen through my fingers.
Gratuitous hot sex. There’s no reason why an adult sci-fi series couldn’t deal frankly with sexuality. Too bad then that we get forced banter about hard-ons, gratuitous girl-on-girl action (“Day One”), and of course, Jack’s raging libido. This is the sort of stuff you’d normally see in a straight-to-video sci-fi thriller with a title like “Sexocalypse.”
Boring characters. What it says on the tin. Six episodes in, the only ones who interest me remotely are Gwen and Jack. Ianto is a whiner, Owen a smug dick, and Toshi mostly seems to be reading stuff off of screens. By “Countrycide,” I was actively rooting for their deaths, or at the very least their irreversible maimings.
Slack drama. I’m not sure whether to put this down to the direction, the scripts or both, but the stories never seem to build up any suspense. I just finished watching “Countrycide.” You’d think an episode about a village of deranged cannibals would be nothing if not suspenseful. I never got hooked. It just seemed like something the X-Files had already done much better. The spooky-monster-POV shots diffused the tension rather than heightened it (a persistent complaint through many episodes so far). There was no sense of rising menace as the team explored the abandoned village, only little whooshes as the mysterious menace darted too and fro, over and over, just out of vision.
There are other little niggling things. I found it dubious, for instance, that a band of backwoods villagers could so efficiently outfox and out-fight a team of trained alien fighters. And why on earth would the old lady leave the house to fetch the cat after she KNEW the faeries were bad and after Jack warned her not too — and she agreed? (“Small Worlds”) But I’ll stop there. This is a lousy show. My only motivation to continue watching, assuming I do, is to see if there’s any direct crossover between this show and Doctor Who. I gather that Martha Jones shows up later. Not sure if it’s worth sticking with it for that.
So what do you think? Am I completely off-base? Does the show get suddenly better? Is this all old news? Should this be a Pit thread?