"Contents subject to change!"

Magazines Since the first series of Torchwood was such a success (at least in the ratings) and with a long running title which has followed the mother series in good times and bad it seems the next logical step to produce a tie-in magazine dedicated to the basement dwellers of Cardiff and perfectly reasonable that Panini, current publishers of Doctor Who Magazine should be the publishers. Unfortunately the license went to Titan; if there’s a half successful genre import, the Titan production line has produced a magazine about it; Star Trek, Buffy, Angel, Charmed, 24, Alias, Lost, Supernatural, Heroes even the CSIs and Prison Break, the company has a vast portfolio of official magazines (most of which seem to be advertised inside this one) and as expected this is another of their perfectly functional, well designed but ultimately soulless publications.

All of the regular sections and articles that crop up in these things are present and correct. There’s a news page called The Hub (‘The latest on the shows, the stars, the stories') with material about the official website, the US launch, the comic strip printed in its own pages and John Barrowman’s autobiography. There are interviews with Barrowman, James Marsters, Nikki Amuka-bird & Dyfed Potter (from the episode Sleeper) and Naoko Mori along with a photographic visit to the Hub set with interjections from the designers and a play-by-play on creating the blow-fish make up. The magazine closes with a diary by Chris Chibnall in which the whole process of making the series boils down to six entries, four of which are about jollies he's gone on to sell the series. There’s even a comic strip by former DWM editor and Transformer fan god Simon Furman.

None of which is uninteresting; the interview with Marsters throws up some useful tit-bits, including that he wanted to make a prequel series to Star Trek and that he wished Spike had been more evil for longer, and there’s far more information in the making of features than usually turns up in Declassified and detailed enough to be of interest to design students. It’s also admirable that there’s such an emphasis on the series writers and the process of putting the scripts together, particular considering the production problems which dogged the first series in that regard.

The highlight is probably the comic strip, a tight narrative about a scientist from Torchwood One whose experiments have gone a bit awry. Decent artwork from DL Gallant with an old-school Roy of the Rovers influence manages to convey the look of the series and Furman captures the characterization (such as it is) really well. It's the kind of mythology story it would be good to see in the new series, especially after all those hints offered by Captain Jack in his explanation to Gwen in Everything Changes.

The problem is, with that notable exception, nothing has a particular authorial voice. Oddly, none of the articles are credited to a writer (a comment I made the Facebook group for the magazine – they deleted the point rather than answered it). It’s impossible not to compare and probably unfair, but in Doctor Who Magazine we’ve got to know the likes of Ben Cook and David Darlington and the other writers, even hoping that the former wasn’t overworking when it became apparent he was authoring most of each issue during the early days of the new series. The writers in DWM and SFX clearly have a passion for their subject and always sound excited and privileged to be doing their job. They’re enthusiasts and it shows in every word and sentence.

The copy in Torchwood Magazine reads like it has been put together by advertisers, used to punch up the text, almost every sentence completed by an exclamation mark! There's no sense of fun or more importantly the kind of authority which comes from knowing the subject, of the writers doing anything but a job of work, a commission to pay the rent before moving on to something more 'credible'! There isn't even an editor's note at the front to introduce readers to this new magazine! In the interviews you never get a sense of being in the same room as the interviewee and the questioning lacks bite as though the writer was afraid they’d get kicked off set – c’mon, it’s John Barrowman, he can take it! Says John: "We're very like a family. We kept in touch when we weren't filming at the start of the year, even if it was only over the phone." Hooray!

Some of this is to be expected – this is only the first issue after all, everyone’s yet to find their groove, and the series only has a single series under its utility belt so there's precious little history to write about (although there are some rather bland character profiles which have all the wit of a wikipedia entry). But if you compare what happens here with the chat with the cast in this month’s DWM, Ben Cook’s questions coax some rather more complex and analytical answers. Essentially as ever Titan have taken the ‘official magazine’ label to the hilt, sapping any hint of criticism, and producing the magazine equivalent of those extended film trailers which turn up on Sky Movies. Bottom line: you certainly wouldn’t imagine them publishing anything like the infamous Clive Swift interview…

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