5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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MIRACLE DAY: THE NEW WORLD
Oh, Torchwood’s back. Joy and delirium in the streets? Plagues, rain of frogs and smiting? It’s practically impossible to tell in advance, because with Torchwood you never know what you’re going to get.
At one time, predicting Torchwood was a pretty safe bet, because it was all with the stupid plots, the incredibly annoying characters and the poncing about trying to look cool. Then came Children Of Earth, which defied all the odds by actually being good. During which they blew up the base and offed half the cast, thus making the future distinctly murky.
And now, Torchwood turns on its heel and lurches across the Atlantic. Huh. Well, why not? It always struck us in the first two series as aping American drama anyway. Portentous music, dark pronouncements (when did everything change, exactly?), trying for cool in the hilarious endless shots of the fancy 4WD - it all sits a lot better on the other side of the pond. There’s nothing wrong with this sensibility: it works perfectly well in an American setting. It is, however, distinctly non-British, given that the British tendency is to rip the piss out of anything trying quite so conspicuously hard.
So guess what? New Torchwood fits its surroundings a hell of a lot better than the old one did. And that’s quite a relief. We’re not sure they’ve got it completely right in this episode: the old-Torchwood humour about Wales (“They made me pay for a bridge!”) and the terrific byplay between Gwen and her mother (love the lard) sits oddly with the earnestness, but it’s early days yet. We’ll see.
As for the rest of it, if you think of it as an American drama, so far it’s ticking along nicely. It’s quite zeitgeisty, as it fits right in with the kind of SF that’s come out of the US recently, like The Event and FlashForward. (Some might think it’s a little too similar to the shows in this now well-worn groove. In fact, some of those some might be us, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.) We like the premise and we’re interested to see what they do with it. We don’t miss the dead team members one tiny little bit, and we don’t object to the new ones so far. (Other than the parts we do object to, which are in the Outtakes section.) Mehki Phifer and Alexa Havins’s characters are a bit on the generic side, but they play them competently enough and we’re prepared to give ‘em time.
As for the regulars, Jack is Jack and seems more at home than he did in a UK setting. Gwen is less annoying than she often used to be and Rhys is, of course, golden. There’s even PC Andy, who as usual we want to hug and squeeze and kiss on the top of the head, even though to our ear he doesn’t seem quite as Welsh as he usually does. As for the character interaction, as you’d expect from a US show it’s a lot cleaner than it used to be. We’re betting it’ll be more about the heteronormative yearning for Gwen and less about the frolicking with the teaboy for Jack these days.
The injection of greenbacks has lent a pleasingly plump air to the budget. Money’s been spent, and it’s right there on the screen. The helicopter chase on the beach alone probably cost more than the entire first series. Awesome. It was always painfully obvious that Torchwood’s ambitions far outstripped the money available to pay for them. A bit of gloss makes a lot of difference.
Alas, they didn’t entirely avoid the Torchwood curse of a plot crammed with bollocks. In fact, far from it. But since we’re in a forgiving hazy glow, let’s leave that to the Outtakes to discuss, shall we? Who knows, maybe they’ll get it all right next week.
Does it seem like proper Torchwood? Not really. But given that we loathed a lot of proper Torchwood, that’s not a bad thing. Would we watch it if we weren’t forced to? Maybe. Depends on how high the bollocks mountain gets. They’ve got some excellent people on board (no, not Russell T Davies. Buffy people) and that’s a hopeful sign. Like we said, let’s see.
BLACK IS BLACK
So, this criminal guy. He raped someone. A thirteen year old girl. Then he murdered her. Also, he’s not sorry. Do you think they might be trying to tell us he’s a teeny bit evil?
COME UP TO THE LAB AND SEE WHAT’S ON THE SLAB
As with Jack’s indestructibility, we were immediately intrigued as to where the boundaries were. They’re obviously trying to clear this up in the head-removal scene, but pish-tosh, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What if you vapourised someone? What if you took a pair of scissors - very sharp, very scary scissors - and cut someone into tiny little pieces? Inquiring minds want to know.
WHEN I’M 64
And speaking of Jack’s indestructibility, wasn’t he all whiny and mopey about that in the previous series? Seems all it takes is a bit of a graze to make immortality seem rather less of a burden than it used to be.
IT’S NOT THAT SPECIAL A RELATIONSHIP
The budget might be fatter, but they’ve clearly made up for this by scrimping in the legal department. The rank stupidity of the so-called double jeopardy argument is blindingly obvious, but that’s not the worst of it. How can you tell this is science fiction? Because nobody’s dying? Because they mention aliens? Well, yes, but more importantly, because a ring of Welsh police, in public, obediently point guns at and hand over to the US three UK citizens just because some foreign guy told them to.
HOW ABOUT NSDIOLFWELS?
“Nothing gets no results on a search engine”? Bollocks.
Of all the egregious plot points in this script, far and away the most ridiculous of them all is Gwen scooping up the pink fluffy baby earmuffs she just happens to have right there before she goes on her baby-in-hand shooting spree. We can’t even.
THEY HAD TO BUY THOSE EARMUFFS SOMEWHERE
Russell T Davies has clearly never lived in the country. Gwen and Rhys’s oh-so-secret retreat looks plausibly remote, but what would actually happen in a rural community is that everyone for a hundred miles would know your entire life story on the day you moved in. Besides, don’t they ever go to the shops?
Of course, aliens. They’d be the first thing you’d think of. Who abolished death? Aliens! Who trampled my corn into pretty circles? Aliens! Who took the last Hobnob? Aliens!
GO LONG IN LARD FUTURES
We’re all going to run out of food in four months, right? So? It’s not like anyone’s going to starve to death, is it?
WHERE'S MISS MARPLE WHEN YOU NEED HER?
“Is anyone talking to morticians?” Huh? That’s kind of like trying to find out who killed someone by asking the people who come to scrub the murder scene.
BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA
“You’re gonna kill yourself!” “I can’t! That’s the point!” Yes, we think we’ve pretty much grasped that, thanks.
MY HMO MADE ME DO IT
Rex grabs a handful of random pills on his way out of hospital and gobbles them down. Do we need to comment on how awe-inspiringly dumb this is? We know he can’t die, but he could have some seriously unpleasant side effects. In fact, he could be hallucinating the whole of Torchwood. Wait, we think we’re onto something…
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
Being in the CIA protects you from crashing the plane with your cell phone? Who knew?
IT’S WORTH IT
“Wait, I’ve got to pay for this bridge?” You mean like a toll? That you have to pay to get out of this New Jersey you mention?