TV And you thought I'd forgotten. Back we go to 2006, when Torchwood was still shiny and new and offered a Cardiff full of possibilities and I wasn't trying to over-think every review. It's surprisingly positive again, even though Day One has a litany of problems, not least that the main peril and all the deaths were as a result of Gwen's clumsiness which is hardly the greatest foundation when building audience empathy for a character. Rees still lives also, even if Miracle Day knocked all sense out of him.
Like second albums, the second episode of any serial is always tricky, since it needs to stand shoulder to shoulder with the hopefully high quality opening, consolidating the style of the show without that opener's probable high budget and not be a disappointment. Arguably Doctor Who only hit its stride in its second story (which works for both the old and new series) whereas something like say I don't know, Buffy, spluttered out The Witch, a body swap episode which still seems like a bizarre choice all of these years later. Torchwood's Day One mostly worked although certainly didn't benefit from being in a double bill with Everything Changes. I wonder how many people were still getting over that climax as the meteorite was plunging into Cardiff.
Despite appearances, I'm really not sure how 'stock' (to use a word I picked up from a documentary about Metallica) the whole 'sex crazed alien possesses human because the orgasm is addictive' actually is. What it did manage is to demonstrate that actually this isn't a show for the kiddlywinkles - the explosive coitus scene in the toilet and the subsequent hilarious riff on onanism are probably the filthiest seen so far in the Doctor Who universe - and you thought Jabe calling Rose a hooker in so many words or Jackie accusing The Doctor of grooming her in a chatroom was wild. No dancing around the subject here -- expect at least one of the tabloids to nickname the show Touchwood tomorrow. I can imagine some would suggest all of these things are fairly gratuitous, especially later when said alien seduces Gwen, but so what? There's no reason that science fiction shouldn't take a metrosexual attitude to this stuff, rimming the edges of taste and decency. The key here was making the possessee a pretty ordinary girl and present the two new sides of her personality fighting it out for supremacy of her body (all every metaphoric) - immediately creating some sympathy for her rather than just titillation.
Again, Gwen was at the centre of the episode and in the companion role of asking many, many questions. For some reason this seems less invisible than nu-Who although understandable in character context - she's a police officer and so naturally asks many questions. But it's good that they're willing to let her make mistakes and all the apologizing for releasing the alien seemed absolutely right. Cleverly too, the ratio between her Torchwood life and the time she spent outside was almost the complete inverse of that in the 'pilot' demonstrating how much of her time this new job in 'special ops' will take. My only problem with Chris Chibnall's script was that it seemed too quick at times to go for the laugh, although I loved all of the stuff related to Gwen researching the life of this girl she wanted to save. And at the end, answering the question which had been nagging throughout - what will her role be in Torchwood. Her interaction with the other characters was well executed too, particularly with Jack.
It's good to see him developing shades to his character. I think a fair comparison would be Batman, the essentially good man who doesn't quite understand sometimes that his methods aren't always ethical. He's still the same man that faced up to the Daleks, but there's a weariness to him. If he can't die, how long has it been for him since The Parting of the Ways? And why did he go from apparently caring for humanity to this? I love that despite his vulnerability he does have a weakness - I think it's going to be that he never seems to be able to find answers to why all of these things keep happening to him - The Doctor's hand being his only real link to his old life - much like the TARDIS console for Pertwee.
Of the other characters Owen's cock sure and a touch undimensional at the moment (he reminds me a bit of Danny from Hustle) and neither Toshiko or Ianto have been given enough to create definition yet, although I'm really surprised and pleased that the former has such a central role - she was certainly one of the three good things about Aliens of London. I'm imagining that the series will go the route of placing each character at the centre of a story throughout the series so they'll all get their chance. I fear however, that Gwen's boyfriend isn't long for the Whoniverse. Although RTD said that he'd never kill off a Rose because Doctor Who is essentially optimistic, Torchwood doesn't have that 'all life is important' edge. The dustpile count at the sperm clinic shows that there will be many victimfull crimes and Mickey Mark Two is just too nice and loveable to survive.
I forgot to mention The Hub, an amazing piece of design, so unlike the expected gleaming metal and fiber-glass, presumably contrasting Torchwood One on purpose. I can't wait for the expected moment when the railways is back in action as the team head up to Scotland, to see the weird guy (The Brig?). Its geography isn't entirely clear at times though - perhaps this is intentionally - it means that new rooms can be bolted on when needs be. The problem with that approach is revealed during action sequences - such as the fight scene between Jack and the girl, the proximity of the exit wasn't clear and neither was the depth of security. It really is a prop fest though - there are more bits of the last two series of Who here than at the exhibition on the Wirral. Has anyone noticed any bits of Auton?
I seem to have drifted from reviewing the episode which I'm sure is another byproduct of this being part of the double bill. As I write this, first comments for both episodes are flying in and I'm really surprised at how balanced the positives and negatives are. I really hadn't imagined fans would be this divided. But I really don't think that having these two episodes as a double bill helped either of them, especially with their tonal differences. This had a much slower pace - despite all the dashing around in cars and smashing into flats with guns - it was almost languid as long scenes explored the events and how some of the characters felt about them. The scene in which the staff speculated on Jack's origin was all good stuff and vitally reveals that conflict should ensue simply because they don't know who he is and actually what he's capable of.
The series needs to be careful about this though because no matter how enjoyable that dialogue is you need to keep forward momentum and it certainly shouldn't feel as though an action sequence is being thrown in because it hasn't happened for a while which is something most shows in this genre can be accused of. I think it got away with it simply because everything is so new, but as we become more accustomed to the characters and formula predictability factor will increase. Day One's surprises were far less potent than Everything Changes and I'd say we need at least one really good revelation per episode to keep us interested. Still a very strong second episode, well paced, devilishly sexy and funny - and importantly with heart. We cared about the fate of the girl because Gwen did - even if, perhaps, a little too much at times. It made for a great trailer ..
But see the whole thing was slightly marred by the bloody presentation from BBC Three. How big is their DOG/logo and why were they running it through this of all things? I mean it's not as huge as Five Life's but it's still pretty obtrusive, blocking whole heads and eyes chunks of Cardiff indiscriminately. I can't be the only one who was distracted by this thing. Oh and then there was the wonking great blue banner appearing at the end of the episode telling us what was on next just in case we'd missed the anouncer (apparently mainlining ritaline) or the buffers, spoiling the end of both episodes. And what was with knocking off the titles of the first episode and sticking them at the end of the second. Give us a breather! I barely had enough time to go for a bathroom break before the second episode had started. This is the first time most people would be seeing these things and I do wonder how many of the negative comments which have appeared on-line have been from people who've not been able to give it their full attention. Looks like I'll be recording it on Wednesday instead then.
PS. Amazingly, BBC Three's DOG is even more offensive now, the big neon pink abomination. At least it's in the corner of the widescreen rather than stuck somewhere in the middle.