TV PC Andy!

PC Andy for me symbolises why I still don't hold Torchwood, despite the general upswing in quality this series, with quite the same affection as other genre series (and yet here I am reviewing it week in and out. I'€™m strange). I've been really ill this week and cheered myself up rewatching Firefly for the umpteenth time. It just lacks the sense of fun a figure like this police officer can bring. PC Andy and his double act with Gwen was one of the very best things about the very first episode of the series (insert CSI quote about kebabs here).

Noticing the appreciation of viewers, other programmes would have capitalised on the character and developed him, taking as many opportunities as possible to bring him into stories, a much needed injection of local humour and real world cynicism as the Torchwood team po-facedly saved the world. Instead, we'€™re at episode ten of the second series and he'€™s only just made an appearance, and I can't think of a preceding story which wouldn't have been improved immeasurably with his presence.

As expected he largely steals the episode. If the fat jokes were an attempt to make the character less appealing it didn'€™t really work; Tom Price is too light an actor and his chemistry with Eve Myles to potent for us to hate him too much. Watching the two of them together, I can'€™t help but wonder if a more entertaining series wouldn'€™t have been just these two knocking around Cardiff investigating spooky goings on, Hot Fuzz meets The X-Files. The scene in which Andy was left on the quay holding the teas was possibly the saddest of the series.

But this was also a very sad episode. Writer Chris Chibnall should be applauded for creating a story which could only have worked within the Torchwood universe, and the idea of the rift causing a statistical bloat of missing persons in Cardiff was a good one. The problem the series often has is working through the stock plots which every genre series does (expect body swaps and the Groundhog Day one next year) but this was uniquely of the series, right down to the message that the so-called real world and spooky-dos can'€™t mix. A sense of mystery was quite well built, as was the general sense of paranoia inherent in Gwen discovering that she still doesn'€™t know everything about her employers (although quite why the island didn'€™t crop up as a problem whilst Jack was away isn'€™t clear).

The episode didn't quite work thematically though. The idea that seemed to be that people whose loved one has gone missing are better off not knowing what happened to them, wallowing instead in the their hopes and memories. Jonah'€™s Mum says as much at the conclusion before she'€™s shown dumping her son'€™s possessions. But I can'€™t imagine that if you asked people in the real world the same question that they don'€™t dream every day, even if they'€™ve come to the conclusion that indeed their relative or friend has died, of having some kind of closure so that they can move on. Granted, for fantastical reasons, this was slightly different, and more horrific, but it seems to be a more realistic final speech would have had Nikki being thankful for the opportunity.

The other problem was that sometimes the storytelling wasn'€™t quite as surprising as it could have been --€“ as though Chibnall had certain images or ideas plotted in his head then had to fill in the gaps but couldn'€™t quite come up a really innovative way of doing it. Example: when Gwen and Andy turn up for the missing persons group meeting, its no surprise at all that hundreds of people turned up because in theory there isn'€™t a story otherwise. Wouldn't it have been more impressive if no one really had shown up but the writer had managed to construct a reason for Gwen to investigate the missing persons anyway? Similarly, the only reason Gwen visited the island was because Ianto had slipped her a clue again because the story would have stopped otherwise. A far more potent approach would have been to make Gwen proactive, perhaps using her Torchwood clearances to steal the information.

Still, Adrift was well acted, particularly by Ruth Jones and Robert Pugh as mother and son and directed by Mark Everest, particularly during the Hub scenes in which Gwen suddenly seemed distanced from her workplace. The facility on Flat Holm (redolent of similar establishments from the Pertwee era of Doctor Who) was realistically designed and keyed in with the rather used look of the rest of Torchwood Cardiff - anything cleaner and more well equipped would have attracted the interest of the authorities. It's just a pity that more couldn't have been found for the ensemble to do but I suspect this double banked with next week's Gwen-lite episode were everyone else gets something to do. And I can'€™t really hate any episode that manages to reference Field of Dreams, the baseball movie it's ok to love. Other than Major League. And The Natural. And Eight Men Out. Oh forget it.

Next week: It'€™s Firefly'€™s Out of Gas. Or Friends's The One With The Flashback.
Elsewhere Finally on the mend then. The channel of communication between my brain and fingertips has been reconnected and typing again suddenly feels very natural, not that you could tell from this rubbish review of a half-decent episode of Torchwood. As promised, I'm going to leave the music thing until April, the 14th I'm thinking, when I'm back in the blogging mood properly again -- which leaves some of you plenty of time to get your pieces in should you still want to.

"Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man" -- Francis Xavier

Meme I hardly ever get tagged with these meme things. I'm sad enough to usually just do them anyway, so it would be wrong not to follow Kristine's lead. It's interesting to note that since I last did the five things you didn't know about me meme, another three slots have been added, and like Kristine it seems like a cop out just add another three to those. And so, since I've been away for so long, here are ....

8 things you may not know about me

(1) I haven't seen any of the Rocky films. Or Rambos.

(2) I'm deformed. My little finger on my left hand is about twenty percent too small.

(3) I really fancy this woman:

She's Ruth Gibson and she does the answer machine message for Orange, and has one of the sexiest voices I've ever head. Seriously, you would have thought adding credit to your mobile phone account could be that pleasurable? The picture is from her appearance on The Culture Show on BBC2 during which she told a very funny story about trying to convince a pensioner that she didn't take all of those phone calls. Perfect.

(4) I'm really crap with Excel. I've done courses but the most I can get it to do is add up and not very successfully.

(5) Only one song released in the past five years is guaranteed to make me burst into tears and that's The JCB Song by Nizpoli. I'll be writing some more about that at some point I expect.

(6) I hate people who fidget with their hands. I sat next to a man in a suit on the bus today who spent the whole journey making a fist relaxing his fingers then making a fist again. It's very difficult to concentrate on anything with that happening in the corner of your eye. I expect he was practicing.

(7) The first book I read from cover to cover was Robert A. Heinlein's Have Spacesuit Will Travel

(8) When I was at primary school I'd sit making daisy chains with the girls rather than playing football with the boys. Give me a child until he is seven etc.

From Out of the Rain.

TV Often one of Torchwood’s problems is its inability to expand upon an interesting idea that’s tucked away amongst the generic nonsense that fill out the rest of an episode. The main plot here seemed like an attempt to bring the kind of characters from films like the German Expressionist silent The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to life and use them as a cause for murder and mayhem. The problem is that it all seemed rather inauthentic, as though PJ Hammond was imagining what those films are like without having actually seen them and using his own Chinese whispers version instead.

But lost in the midst of that was the idea that, undercover or not, Jack worked in a travelling circus as ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Die…’ shooting himself in the head on a nightly basis for the enjoyment of paying customers. That to me is far more shocking and horrific than the two constructs whipping around Cardiff city centre stealing people’s breath whilst philosophizing esoterically like a steampunk Roy and Priss from Blade Runner. A clever scriptwriter could use it to parallel some modern practice or an alien perhaps who’s being forced to do much the same thing.

The problem with From Out Of The Rain was that it lacked that kind of invention and went the easy route. Hammond himself admitted during Declassified that one of his mainstays is people going in and out of photographs so he thought he’d try it with film and whilst there’s nothing wrong with returning to the well, on this occasion it just seemed old. Buster Keaton was using the gag in the early part of the last century for goodness sake. Of all people I should be excited by the idea of old film holding secrets, but at the climax when Jack wondered in the Blink-a-like finale (serious, Moffat should sue) what else might be hiding in old film cans in people’s basements and attics, all that gave me shivers was the prospect that The Space Pirates might be found.

The episode felt like a hold over from the first series. Jack’s mean and moody? Tosh is hardly in it? Gwen’s acting like a giggling dimwit? Ianto’s crying? About the only character that’s clearly still dead is Owen, even though when the Ghostmaker tried to steal his breath and exclaimed with surprise that he couldn’t breath in the next shot we heard him breathing. Like many of those first series stories, this was essentially a thin chase plot, dipped in some style and served in false emotion. Only one life saved? No! Oh good it’s a small child! Look at the little poppet … flaaagahaagha ...

There’s no denying that Julian Bleach did his best to turn the Ghostmaker into a creepy figure, even to the point of renting out Paul Darrow’s voice for the duration. Some of the production design, particularly in the circus was really well conceived and atmospherically photographed. And the short scene with the old witness in the home particularly touching. Unfortunately, some by-the-numbers direction, annoying acting choices and incessant music undermined all of that and in the end, From Out Of The Rain, was something this kind of television should never be. Boring.

Next week: Good Torchwood returns. Hopefully.
Journalism Just to prove how hard blogging can be -- Confessions Of A Celebrity Blogger: "My first day, I blocked out an hour before the morning push was due and started scanning the photo sites Madame had sent me for a usable picture. Sifting through pages of blurry camera phone shots (if only Big Foot were considered a celebrity!), irrelevant and thankfully indiscernible nudie pics and thousands of inane comments took me forty five minutes and left me with an undated picture of Rihanna on a beach and an Angelina Jolie promo shot from her latest movie. But they were of a decent quality so I downloaded them and dutifully started the posts. Blankness. How was I supposed to know what Rihanna does at the beach?"
Life After a firm prodding from Stephanie, I thought I'd better break my silence. The reason for the lack of updates is that I've been poorly in bed since last Friday with a cold, but one of those really annoying ones which robs you of your senses and your motivation. Frankly, it has knocked me for six and ruined my holiday so far and I haven't had the inclination even to listen to music, let alone that lot. Trust me when I say I'll be back soon, I just need to remember how to do this. Expect Mystery Music March to continue in April when I've built the momentum back up and I've thought up a new name for it (Amazing Audio April? No?).