purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
Spoilers under the Cut )

As a last, meta-comment, there are times fandom really depresses me and the reaction of a sub-set of Torchwood fandom to these episodes is one of them. It depresses me that a writer like James Moran who, whatever you think of his work, has put a lot of time into talking with fans (he was great with the [livejournal.com profile] primeval_denial people, for instance, over the fun they made of him and the Danny Quinn character he created) should feel the need to post the following on his blog: http://jamesmoran.blogspot.com/2009/07/stepping-back.html
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
I've been trying to organise my thoughts in a coherent fashion about season 2 Torchwood. In particular I've been trying to work out if I'd be watching it if it weren't for the Doctor Who connection.

I thought season two was far, far better than season one. However, season one had me engaging in long rants with almost anyone who cared to listen, so that isn't much of a recommendation. My main criticism of season 1 revolved around the fact that the majority of episodes would never have occurred if a member of Torchwood hadn't been disobeying (perfectly sensible) orders, a further set of episodes wouldn't have occurred if they'd actually been competent and in most of those that were left they were basically helpless. Furthermore the team appeared to have little cohesiveness and Jack no leadership qualities.

Season 2 spoilers, just in case )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
I thought this episode was the high point of series 2 which is kind of embarrassing because I've seen several other people's reviews and I can see all those flaws they pointed out, but I loved it anyway and I'm at a bit of a loss to say why. At this point [livejournal.com profile] sophievdennis may note that I used to enjoy crying at Neighbours so there is some level at which I quite like having my emotions blatantly manipulated and Exit Wounds admirably hit that spot.

spoilers )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
I feel about this episode much like I feel about the first in the season, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It was nicely done, there is nothing much wrong with it from a logical perspective (minor spoiler )) but in the end it all added up to a big "meh" for me. I can't even work up the energy to get upset about the portrayal of UNIT which I gather is exciting much of the rest of fandom, but which doesn't actually seem that offensive to me unless you get offended by criticism of the modern approach to counter-terrorism in general (another minor spoiler )).

Flashback episodes, especially origin flashback episodes, are the staple of many TV series but, in my opinion, they work best when the flashbacks are restricted to exploring just one character's past allowing that character to actually get fleshed out a bit and work even better when the content of the flashback is relevant in some way to the framing story. Neither is the case here. As such it worked out as four mini-Torchwood episodes and I suspect the lack of internal inconsistencies derives in part because its harder to lose track of plot and character logic in a 10 minute story than it is in a 45 minute one. It does suffer from Torchwood's overall lack of consistency. Tosh and Owen's stories should have been pre-figured in Adam, at the very least, if not in the season 1 finale.

This is an episode of Torchwood where they get very little wrong but, at the end of the day, they don't get a great deal right either.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
Torchwood moved to Friday. Nobody told me! I had to resort to other means (which in this instance were remarkably swift).

I feel there is a sort of pattern emerging to season 2 Torchwood. Torchwood 3 are no longer as egregiously incompetent as they were in season 1, on the other hand they fail to convince as an elite unit. They are no longer randomly mutinous - when they go against orders we see good reasons for them to do so; and the episodes have a much better hit rate in terms of delivering moving and interesting stories but still have more plot holes than a self-respecting TV show should rightfully expect to get away with. In particular the stories often hinge on people doing things for no reason other than to advance the plot, the plot holes are often not just bad SF but also plain bad characterisation.

Adrift being a case in point (Spoilers) )

tiny but amusing spolier )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
I have commented elsewhere, somewhere, I think in a response to one of [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight's posts that I don't resent NuWho for not being Classic Who but I do somewhat resent it not being Firefly. Even though that is clearly an idiotic attitude to take up.

I don't really have any problems with From out of the Rain as a Torchwood episode. But I do rather resent the fact that it wasn't a Sapphire and Steel story. It makes about as much sense as most Sapphire and Steel stories, in that it relies quite heavily on making an association of ideas into an association in reality. It's resolution was no better nor worse than the resolution of a lot of Sapphire and Steel ones (resolution was frequently not their strong point) and it was certainly as full of startling images as any Sapphire and Steel episode. But... but... but... while David McCallum and Joanna Lumley are hardly the creme de la creme of British thesping they put John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd to shame. There were portentious lines here about things "breaking through" which McCallum and Lumley would have delivered with chilling conviction but which Barrowman failed to raise above pomposity. Where Lumley would have exuded a detached but nevertheless heartfelt compassion David-Lloyd gave us mawkish sentimentality. This was the ideal opportunity to showcase the Jack/Ianto relationship and I still got no real sense of genuine attachment between them in scenes where McCallum and Lumley would have sizzled*. Sapphire and Steel thrived on the slow build-up, a luxury Torchwood, and modern television in general, simply does not have. We needed more time for the threat to evolve. We needed, frankly, more time to explore the nature of Jack as a side-show freak and we needed more time to establish Ianto's emotional involvement with the unfolding events. I found watching this, knowing it was from the pen of P. J. Hammond, an instructive exercise in seeing how important the execution of a script could be because (apart from the fact it wasn't restricted to a small location) this script could have been translated easily into the older show.

This is another good Torchwood episode. It hangs together better than many, providing you are prepared to enter the sort of dream logic world of Sapphire and Steel. The team retain a basic level of competence (though they still fail to convince as an elite unit). It had startlingly ideas and creepy images. But it would have been so much better as a Sapphire and Steel story.

* Of course on screen sizzle is greatly aided by a bit of unresolved sexual tension. Since it was doubtful Sapphire and Steel had anything resembling real bodies and half the time we got the impression their relationship was based on elaborate assumed personas, unresolved sexual tension was pretty much built into the format. Jack and Ianto, however, are already shagging like bunnies so any sexual tension is pretty much well and truly resolved.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
I surprised myself by really enjoying this episode. This may have been partly because I was dreading it. I watch very few sitcoms because the comedy of embarrassment (of which "explain to my parents and in-laws why I'm pregnant on my wedding day and hadn't mentioned it before" is an atypical but obvious example) leaves me cringing... and to be honest I did hide under a blanket a couple of times to avoid the embarrassment. But actually, Torchwood moved past the comedy of manners aspect fairly rapidly and certainly avoided the kind of escalation of embarrassment these sorts of storylines generally adopt in sitcoms. The rest of the episode was surprisingly coherent for Torchwood and it was nice not to have my background voice pointing out plot flaws - the Torchwood team were a bit daft in places but "Hey! they're Torchwood". mild spoilers )

Ultimately I found this episode well-paced and entertaining. It never aspired to be a great episode but somehow, in that lack of aspiration, managed to be a good deal more consistently competent than much of Torchwood's output.

As an aside: Is it just me but does all the gazing into each other's eyes stuff Gwen and Jack indulge in sort of highlight something of a lack of chemistry between Jack and Ianto?
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
Somehow, while carefully not reading anything containing spoilers, I'd got the impression that this episode was going to be worse than last week's, so I was pleasantly surprised. That's not to say it was without flaws. I think a big plus was that all its does not make senseness was distilled into two specific areas - firstly, I do not think you understand dead bodies, nor have you thought zombieness through with sufficient care, secondly, a paranoid rich eccentric in need of 24 hour care would not have his house set up like this. The Torchwood team's treatment of Owen was stupid too but hey! they're Torchwood.

Good as Burn Gorman is, and this time he was not only the best thing about the episode but basically carried it, I'm beginning to feel a little "enough already" about this arc. This revealed the episode's pacing problems, B actually left the room halfway through the angst with instructions to fetch him if anything interesting started to happen. I'm also a little dubious about the decision to bring Martha Jones in apparently entirely in order to tell a story about Owen, rather than to tell a story about Martha. I can see that you don't want too much focus put on a guest character from another show, but presumably part of the point of the exercise was to bring Martha fans across to Torchwood and you don't want to leave them feeling she's been short-changed.

On the plus side, Gwen (for what little we saw of her) was great, revealing a new and more promising take on the character (in my opinion) as the 2iC she is supposed to be, especially given Jack's flaws as a leader. The framing rooftop narrative while, frankly, a hoary old cliche, was well done and Maggie came across as an interesting individual rather than the line-feed she could easily have been. In fact the guest cast, Christine Bottomley and Richard Briers, acted the socks off everyone else in the episode (bar Burn Gorman, of course).

Ultimately though this was a competent but slight episode lumbered with drawing a character arc out past its sell-by date. It was a vast improvement on last week and the show, particularly the team dynamics, continue to develop promisingly but, as [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight has pointed out, inconsistently.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
I'm beginning to get the impression that the Torchwood production team sat down at the end of the last series and wrote a list of "Handicaps" and "Assets". Under "Handicaps" was a long list containing phrases like THEY'RE ALL USELESS and under "Assets" was written just Burn Gorman. He's certainly been handed almost consistently excellent material this season and he has risen to the challenge.

Sadly, Burn Gorman's excellent performance aside, this episode was an unwelcome throwback to season one signalled by the continuity announcer's intro "Captain Jack accidentally unleashes a primeval horror of vast power" (or words to that effect). In fact it was worse than a lot of season one; while Torchwood's plots often don't make sense in all sorts of ways I'm getting kind of used to that and although I may sigh and tut a little it doesn't affect my enjoyment too much, but Dead Man Walking just kept hitting me over the head with so much more does not make sense that this time it really did cloud my enjoyment. What a wretched waste of Martha Jones as well, side-lined for most of the episode and generally out of character in the rest.

More obvious to me, as a thirty-something telefantasy fan, than I suspect it was to most viewers was the unoriginality of much of it. "Do you think they'll put him in black contact lenses?" I said idly, followed 30 seconds later by "oh!". But I recall how effective this sort of low-budget special effect was in, for instance, Sapphire and Steel when I first saw it 15 or more years ago so it seems a bit churlish to forbid Torchwood from scaring a whole new generation of viewers with it. I also found the scene very reminiscent of Toby's possession in The Impossible Planet, also written by Matt Jones.

spoilers for this week and last and Primeval )

To end on a positive note, I like the fact that Torchwood is attempting a clear mini-arc here. It's something that sets it stylistically apart from its parent show in a more significant fashion than the sex and the swearing. It allows it to tell a type of story which isn't really available to Doctor Who; should compensate for Torchwood's more limited scope in terms of setting; and gives it the opportunity to be genuinely adult (i.e., expecting the audience to pick up a story from "previously on..." and to show that actions have consequences).
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
Sometimes I get really irritated with that part of my brain that watches something like Reset and goes: Have these people never heard of animal testing? giving someone twice the dose of mayfly lavae does not make them mature twice as fast and she knows to be careful why not type something she doesn't know onto her eyeballs? because really, these are all minor niggles in what was, in my opinion, one of the best Torchwood episodes we've seen.

Something about the need to integrate Martha into the Torchwood team obviously focused the minds of production crew because suddenly they look functional and competent. It must be said season 2 has been working hard at this but Reset was the first time they really all seemed to gell together, from my point of view anyway, and became a bunch of people I was actually interested in and cared about. spoilers under the cut )
purplecat: (primeval)
Thanks to a reliance on B recording things while I was away and "other means" when that failed I have finally caught up with both Torchwood and Primeval:

Torchwood: Meat )

Appropos of nothing in Torchwood, but enlightened by current affairs, I've decided it must be controlled directly by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Primeval 2.5 )

Torchwood: Adam )

Primeval 2.6 )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (torchwood)
The start of season 2 Torchwood, plus numerous soundbites from Chris Chibnall suggested the production team have surprisingly perhaps (given many of the New Who production office statements) taken the criticisms of season 1 to heart and made a good attempt at fixing the problems without completely rewriting the characters or concepts. So the Torchwood team, while still being a bit useless, are at least no longer obviously stupid and mutinous.

It did occur to me, though, that the show is still too tied to the Dr Who template. Ultimately Dr Who is all about the Doctor and only in exceptional circumstances can the companion really save the day (this is one of the reasons why it still struggles with allegations of racism and sexism). Torchwood is an opportunity to do a proper ensemble piece and yet it still has to be Jack who kills the Blowfish and only Jack is actually competent to handle Captain John. This may have been a dramatic necessity to re-introduce him as an important component in the show but I did feel a little that I was watching a show called Captain Jack not a show called Torchwood.

At the end of the day it didn't leave me fuming with irritation like the latter half of season 1 did but I'm not exactly jumping up and down with excitement. I guess that's the problem with listening to fans, you do what they want and they say "that's nice" and then go looking for something more interesting and unexpected. I suppose another problem is that I never really took to the Torchwood team (even Captain Jack who I've liked whenever he's been in Dr Who) and since they haven't had major character surgery I'm still not particularly interested in them.

As something of an aside I was interested to note while reading SFX last night that the production team perceived the major complaint to be the swearing. Really? I hardly noticed any swearing in season 1 and was more irritated by the idiocy of the characters and the adolescent attitude to sex. Anyway, apparently the swearing has been toned down - SFX helpfully informed me that there were only two swear words in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, though it must be said I couldn't tell you when either of them occurred.

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