Tag Archives: torchwood

In defense of Torchwood

From Torchwood: Miracle Day ep 107 "Immortal Sins"

So, Torchwood finished last week and as the show reached its climax, the complaints on this blog slowed to a trickle. Whether that’s because people lost interest or started to get drawn into it, it’s hard to say, but from my point of view – whilst the show didn’t reach the heights of Children of Earth – it was good (I’m not the only one that thinks so).

There’s always a challenge for writers when they decide to ‘reboot’ a show (or, as in this case, are forced to by funding circumstances), and the benefit of shows like Dr Who and even Star Trek – is that when they are rebooted, fans know what to expect. That’s not meant to be the same Doctor, or the same Captain Kirk; the settings are different, the context is different, the cast is different. In this case, Captain Jack and Gwen brought continuity and expectation with them, and so many loyal fans, it seems, found the changes a bridge too far.

I have to admit, as someone that is a big fan of American TV, I’m totally baffled as to some of the criticisms leveled at the show; it was too "Americanized"? Really? Why do you think Spooks, Doctor Who, etc., have got more exciting over the years – because they’ve ignored the conventions of American TV production? I’d argue the opposite is true; the episode lengths dictated by most American TV, the scheduling, all of it – has forced British serial writers to think beyond six episodes to longer story arcs, and learn how to tell stories within the stories.

I’ll freely admit Miracle Day wasn’t perfect. Elements of it were slower moving than they needed to be; the episodic sub-arcs didn’t grip and the overall ‘crisis’ only made marginal sense (which is par for the course with Torchwood, but when you’ve waited ten episodes for the climax… you expect more!), but it seems (and this is reflected in a few of the comments) to have been successful at drawing a new audience in. So perhaps it did what it was designed to do.

We don’t know if there’ll be a season 5 yet, but for more insights into the show production, have a read of this interview with Jane Espenson, one of the writer/producers on the show with Russell T Davies, and a longtime cohort of Joss Whedon. I’m hoping there’ll be more.

Dealing with negative commenters

One of the consequences of the BBC’s redirecting a large swathe of the discussion around its television shows to bloggers writing about them is that instead of the BBC having to manage the comments and discussion around the shows, people like me do. Unlike the BBC, I don’t have a massively evolved comments policy – before I wrote about Outcasts, I’d had a total of 500 comments on my blog in 8 years, most of them from me, replying to the occasional comment from someone random.

Then my blog posts about Outcasts and its cancellation and the Apprentice came and I tripled the number of comments on my blog in a few months. And it wasn’t a problem, as for the most part people were quite  nice – venting mutually in their upset over the Outcasts cancellation or offering an opinion on Lord Sugar’s judgments, mostly ignoring what I’d written, often tacitly thinking or hoping the BBC would read their comment here (no evidence of this as yet) or whatever. Again, no issues.

But now I’ve written about Torchwood, a show that’s upset some people because of a number of (not particularly graphic) scenes of gay sex, arguably slow pacing and a distinct lack of a single dramatic monster-shaped climax each week (I’ll write a defense of the show soon, because I think its better than people are giving it credit for, but want to see it play out first).

But the comments situation has me scratching my head… a significant number of the comments are prefaced with "I’m not a homophobe, but…," a few are straight out "gay sex is wrong my kids can’t watch that" (despite Torchwood being a post-watershed adult-targeted programme). Do I let these comments through? Do I bin them? After all, even if some of these people are narrow-minded (IMHO) conservatives, they have a right to an opinion, don’t they? Then part of me thinks "this is my site, and I can control it all however I like. Bwahahahaha…"

Truth be told, I don’t have enough time to moderate these comments carefully enough, and the nuances of what constitutes hate speech are probably beyond the spare minute or two I have to go back through the comments and delete stuff. But for those uncertain, I’d like Currybet’s rule for news website commenting to apply here. The golden rule: “don’t be a dick.” This is a nice place, for nice people to have reasoned discussion. Follow Mr Bet’s helpful flowchart to check if you are being a dick, in case you’re not sure. A minority of you on the Torchwood posts? You’re definitely being dicks.

The heartening thing in all of this is that there are a number of stalwart defenders of the show and the choices its made calling people out for being narrow-minded et al. Hoorah for you, good people*. You’ve helped me maintain my faith in the Interwebs.

The ease of anonymity and the impersonal nature of website commenting still makes it too easy for people to Troll or vent in unpleasant ways they wouldn’t do in real life. I’m open to suggestions on how to make this harder on here… Facebook comments/true name policy only/non disposable identities only?

* I should flag: I am very happy for people to take any of my opinions and the show (or anything else I write about) to task; that’s why I enable comments. The world is made of differing opinions. But I don’t have time or the emotional energy to deal with people being dicks, so please abide by that rule if you can.

More thoughts on Torchwood: Miracle Day

From Torchwood: Miracle Day ep 105 "The Categories Of Life"I’m beginning to understand* (if not entirely agree with) some of the criticism that’s coming through my Torchwood post about Torchwood: Miracle Day. We’re nearly caught up now (one episode behind) and the pacing of the show doesn’t quite feel right. Where in the earlier seasons Captain Jack was nearly constantly running, he seems to be down to about 20% of the time. This negates some of the energy of the earlier seasons and leaves you slightly confused as to what’s happening the rest of the time.

The reason I don’t think this is entirely a bad thing – and I don’t think its unquestionably a good thing either – is that it allows for more nuanced character development and intricate writing. Of course, some people don’t want that – after all, it’s been years since Captain Jack has knocked an alien unconscious (or vice-versa) – and most of the writing is focussed on the new characters. We’re already familiar with the tortured Captain Jack and the excitement-hunting (albeit family focussed-ish) Gwen Cooper).

Whilst individual episodes don’t hold my attention in the way the old seasons used to, I’m still pretty gripped by the season on the whole. I think the premise is fascinating and the way they’re exploring it is intriguing in the extreme. I think the production values are high and the writing is reasonable. I like the new characters and I’m looking forward to see what they’re doing with them. I’ll grant that the pacing is more LA Law than ER but give it time…

* I really don’t understand the people that have a problem with the gay sex scene. Seriously, its 2011, and the version shown on the BBC is hardly pornographic…

Torchwood-is better than I thought

Torchwood Miracle Day 101_46We watched episode two of Torchwood: Miracle Day on Sunday (still behind, I know, sorry!) and have noted the negative comments appearing on my last post. I’m not sure how fair some of these are – most of them coming from disgruntled longtime fans. Fans: please bear in mind that reinventing a show for a new country, new audience, new production regime, new cast – this is a Hard Thing to do, and I think Russell T Davies et al have been pretty bold with setting up the single premise.

Granted, I’m only two episodes in so don’t know quite how well it’ll sustain itself – the one criticism I thought sounded fair was the idea that the plot of the season might well have washed out happily in a couple of eps – but it feels like its building nicely to me.

Exposition in the early days of a lot of new television series is often slightly painful (it doesn’t need to be but its hard to avoid). The premise needs playing out, the characters need developing, the universe needs staging. It’s understandably frustrating seeing this happen with a show you already know, characters you’ve followed for years. This is one of the reasons that novel adaptations are often (not always) regarded as inferior to the original – they are necessarily different to meet the demands of the new medium – and I think American TV does count as a new medium in some respects.

If we cast our minds back to the early seasons of Torchwood, if we’re being fair, we’ll remember that it was a pretty dire thing that the Beeb had made. And yet it matured by season three into a thing with millions of fans. We’re only up to episode three of the new series – give it a chance, it feels like it’ll weather well.

That said, none of the negative comments indicate people are going to stop watching, so perhaps you are all giving it a chance – just needing a place to vent and lament the passing of the Torchwood of old. To you, I say, if you wanted it to stay made in Britain, you should have been willing to pay a bigger license fee! The BBC couldn’t afford to produce a show like this by itself; heck, even Dr Who only got 1.5 seasons worth of television this year. Auntie is hurting, and admittedly it is a slightly bureaucratic mess at times, but its output is remarkable and I’ll be sad if its star wanes with the cuts we have ahead of us.

FWIW, I’m loving the Beeb’s co-production strategy. I think change is good, if unsettling, and we’ll see a whole new breed of television that works in a way we simply couldn’t manage if we were left to our own devices.

Torchwood: Miracle Day premier – first thoughts

Torchwood Miracle Day 101_27

We finally watched the season premier of the new Torchwood.

I wasn’t as blown away as I’d hoped. The premise of the show is great and well-advertised (death stops working), and the reveal of the specifics of this within the show is pretty entertaining (and surprisingly gory for a Doctor Who spin-off).

They’ve successfully introduced the new cast – a mobile phone addicted Mekhi Phifer and a generic young, female, attractive CIA agent amongst them, and a creepy paedophile. But the majority of the episode was spent revealing what you probably knew if you’d watched any of the trailers: death has stopped happening and its going to cause problems for planet Earth. And it has something to do with Torchwood.

That said; the production values are ridiculous compared to previous seasons and some of the sequences are fantastic. Jeep vs helicopter on a seaside car chase? Bet on the jeep, every time.

I’m hoping that the show picks up its pace now that the initial unveiling is done. I guess that it had to be from first principles, given that the cable tie-up (the show is co-produced by American cable TV network, Starz, which also co-produced Camelot) will bring it to new audiences in the US. Although I’m not looking forward to seeing Captain Jack’s willy as some are (or not, as the case may be).

Still, looking forward to the next one.

Torchwood returns with Miracle Day

Torchwood Miracle Day 403 BBC Promo_06Excited to see that Torchwood has returned. Despite a shaky start in the early seasons, the Dr Who spin off has grown up and I’m led to understand that many of the new production team – a collaboration between BBC Wales and a US cable network – are very excellent people indeed. The trailers I’ve seen set the pace nicely and I’m looking forward to catching up on the return of Captain Jack (I missed the premier last week – thank the BBC for iPlayer!).

Anyway, no spoilers please (I already know that nobody dies). Trailer:

Channel 4’s Camelot

[camelot001] BBC NEWS RELEASE - NEW CAMELOT TV SHOW BOOSTS CAMELOT CASTLE POPULARITY......We’re quite enjoying Camelot, otherwise known as home to the campest Arthur ever, as well as the butchest Merlin. Whilst the pacing has felt somewhat off over the first two episodes, the production values are very high, the filming is slick and creative, and it feels like a different, engaging take on the tale. OK, so it’s not as funny as Merlin and it doesn’t star my friend Jimbo*, but the various conflicts they’ve begun to lay out look to be great fun.

Starz, the American network that’s co-producing the show, is also co-responsible for the new series of Torchwood. Which is rather exciting, and bodes well for the quality of production there. Arvind tells me that the co-writer on the new Torchwood is the same guy that stewarded Joss and Buffy to greatness, so that bodes well for the quality of writing…

One point to note in passing though; between this and Game of Thrones, there seems to be a new genre of televised fantasy developing that relies rather heavily on random nudity. I wonder if that’s American cable TV ratings-pandering, or ‘gritty dramatic realism.’ Either way, it’s a little overdone in Camelot (why did she have to be naked to talk to that wolf?).

Ah – just noted – Camelot’s been canned, too. Damnit.


* Our little joke. Jimbo looks a little like Colin Morgan, star of Merlin.

Torchwood – S2

Funny. So funny. Spike is about seventeen different types of genius that I can’t even begin to describe. Captain Jack and Captain John? Fantastic.

Gwen Cooper — needs to get more interesting. Ianto — darker every day. Like it.

Puffer fish in a sports car? Still chortling about that one…