Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Listen


Listen is one of those Doctor Who stories that I feel I need to watch again. There might actually be nothing going on here except the Doctor trying to sort out his own issues but then again there might be an entirely new race of creepy creatures to be added to the canon. There might not be a villain here at all, except possibly the Doctor himself in a strange way.

I think I liked it. But less so that the first time around, which is the first of the stories in this Capaldi re-watch that I have felt like that.

It intertwines the Doctor's desire to get to the bottom of a dream he's had with Clara and Danny Pink's date. It's a mixture of the extraordinary and ordinary. It's about fear and how we deal with fear.

There are some genuinely creepy moments. We get no actual answer either to what - if anything - the creature was. If it was even a thing. Was the thing in the bed a monster or was it one of Danny's friends playing a trick on him? Was there a monster outside the airlock or was nothing out there? I like that there are loose ends. We don't need answers to everything, although being Steven Moffat this episode might end up being key to the whole story arc. The less that happens in a Steven Moffat story, the more I'm wondering what I'm not supposed to see. I think I might have to call this paramoffatnoia, except that's a terrible word.

But does it matter that we don't see the thing? If there is a thing at all. Probably not.*

The young Danny scene is about getting an insight into Danny's character. People say that Clara's involved in every aspect of the creation of the Doctor, particularly after the final moments of this episode on Gallifrey, but she's also creating Danny Pink too. Here she takes Rupert and makes him Danny. It might not be intentional but that's what she does. But once more we have soldiers and soldiering in an episode to mull over.

Yes, I'm was a bit uncomfortable about Clara having to be intertwined with the Doctor's whole history because it removes his own agency but it doesn't mean Clara's THE only reason the Doctor becomes the Doctor. Perhaps she gives him the boost he needed to be less afraid but there's a plenty of time for the Doctor to become the Doctor between the barn and the First Doctor's flight from Gallifrey with Susan.

Also, Clara's involvement with the Doctor seems to have had little in the way of consequences for her so far. Perhaps her interference into Danny Pink's life might have a different effect. After all, Doctor Who can't kill off Doctor Who but it might be able to bump off Danny Pink. But perhaps I'm over-analyzing. It's easily done. [This paragraph is from the blog I wrong on the first watch before the season ended. I leave it to show that I'm not always wrong with my predictions.]  However, who is Orson Pink and what does his existence mean? There are hints that he knows who she is. Perhaps we'll find out. Perhaps we won't.

My quibbles aside I think Jenna Coleman's doing a stonking job as Clara this season. Now she doesn't have to just be the 'Impossible Girl' she's developing into a character, although some of the banter between her and the Doctor about her appearance borders on the uncomfortable. Now that might be because there's a British piss-taking friendship thing going on - certainly, at one point Clara's reaction is an amused smirk - but occasionally it seems played too seriously. Maybe I'm just being ultra-touchy about it.

I'm really enjoying the Capaldi Doctor though. He feels properly Doctor Who. Capaldi's Doctor Who isn't human. And it shows. It's a nice change from Tennant and Smith, although it has a certain resonance with Eccleston who often gets forgotten in these discussions. But we're only four episodes into the season so things have a long way to go yet.

The other thing to note is the sound design on this is incredible. In some ways, it would be a brilliant Big Finish story. Perhaps 'Listen' can be seen as a massive advert for audio Doctor Who. But the scenes inside Orson Pink's ship are atmospheric as hell as much due to the sound design as the performances.

So after all that I can say I enjoyed it but not as much as I did on the initial watch. I don't know why but I found the Danny and Clara date sequences far less entertaining than on the first watch, which isn't anything to do with either actor. It just seemed too long. I wanted more SF creepiness and less real-life awkwardness. Even though I think those scenes do an important job of contrasting the ordinary and extraordinary. I just thought there were too many of them.

It wasn't as much fun as Robot of Sherwood but it has a certain creepy charm of its own. There are unanswered questions and seeds sown for the future of Series 8 but I bet there are kids up and down the country hiding in beds tonight in an attempt to scare their friends and family.

*I assume I wasn't the only person thinking about the Silence though throughout the first part of this episode.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Robot of Sherwood



Here's the first thing I should say and get it out there straight away. I loved Robot of Sherwood. Adored it. And do you know why? Because it was fun. There. I've said it. It was fun. And it won't matter a jot that tomorrow I'll probably start finding the plots holes or the bits and bobs that I can pick at like the fan that I am. At this point, I'm feeling nothing but joy.

And you know in the end what more can you ask for from an episode of Doctor Who than joy. All the analysis that follows and the picking apart of every single moment and the reassessments that will follow the season's end is just frippery really.

The key thing is - and should always be - was watching that Doctor Who episode fun. Did I enjoy it? And I did.

Why though?

Partly because it wasn't weighed down with much in the way of an overall story arc, even if there was one reference. There's no Missy. Partly because it was clearly meant to be fun. This isn't dark. This is what Robin Prince of Thieves would have been like if everyone decided to have as much fun with their parts as Alan Rickman did.

And Capaldi is bloody brilliant. His utter denial - both of Robin Hood's actual existence and his role as hero and legend - is key to this story. Plus his refusal to play second fiddle to Robin Hood who in turn refuses to play second fiddle - or should that be lute - to The Doctor. This is two alpha males with a lot in common. Robin says it himself at the end. These are two aristocrats come into the world determined to do good. It's another piece in the Doctor's own post-regeneration puzzle about whether he's a good man or not.

But in a way, this is as much Clara's story as it is the Doctor and Robin's. She's more in control and less involved in trying to prove herself top dog than either of them. It is Clara that gets to the heart of the Sheriff's plan. It is Clara who looks and sounds like the sensible one. She chooses not to go into denial and swallows up the whole Robin Hood and his Merry Men thing in one fell swoop. Jenna Coleman's having so much fun.

By the way, I'm with the Doctor on banter. It should stop.

And I love the Robin v Doctor sword v spoon fight. I bet there are people out there whinging about it being silly. About this whole episode being silly but you can't be deadly serious every time and I adore silliness in Doctor Who. My favourite season is Season 17. My fandom was born from silliness. Smart silliness I accept but silliness nonetheless. Or whimsy. Or whatever you want to call it. Give me more of it I say. More than the tedious dragged out season long portentous story arcs. Give me fun.

I mentioned Robin Prince of Thieves early. Everyone except the Sheriff of Nottingham is played with a Rickmanesque touch. Ben Miller's Sheriff is actually rather serious. He doesn't get much in the way of laughs and his ruthless streak is demonstrated very early on. I can't have been the only person thinking how Ainley he looked. Indeed in Classic Who, the Sheriff of Nottingham would probably have turned out to be The Master in one of his disguises and strange choices of accent. Miller's good.

The other thing it reminded me of was The Gunfighters in both tone and with the fact that it almost - but not quite - got its own Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon courtesy of  Alan-a-Dale. I'm a big fan of The Gunfighters as the regular reader of this blog will probably know so obviously that also inclines me to look upon this favourably.

I love Tom Riley's Robin. There's a touch of seriousness under all the banter and laughter, which he manages to bring out rather well. The hint that Robin's acting the part is made clear in his final scene with the Doctor. But he's what you'd want Robin Hood to be like if he really existed. You want the legend, not the likely historical truth.*

Indeed, Gatiss is obviously making a parallel between the importance of the 'story' of Robin Hood and the 'story' of The Doctor. That perhaps it doesn't matter if they were or are real if what they do is inspire people to do good things in their name. If we've ever needed a Robin Hood now might be that time. But then we've always needed a Robin Hood because there have always been tyrants and there have always been taxes.

New Doctor Who likes celebrity historicals and Robot of Sherwood is one of those but with a historical figure that probably didn't exist. Alas. However, as Robin says perhaps it is better to be a story that will inspire others than be burdened by history.

Oh and hurrah for the database Robin Hood bit with the Troughton Robin Hood picture. And the little throwaway references to Classic Doctor Who that add a little frisson of fun for the Classic Who fan like me without over-loading the story with baggage.

So well done Mark Gatiss. Thank you for putting the fun back on the Doctor Who menu again.

This feeling I have at the moment is why I love Doctor Who so much. It's a kind of giddy joy. I'm almost tempted to go and watch it again. Perhaps I will on the way home. I've been watching these episodes on my commute into work and it definitely makes the journey in a lot more fun than usual.

Next up: Listen


*I studied Robin Hood as a historical figure at University. I won't bore you with the details. It's an interesting thing to study. Feel free. I recommend J.C. Holt's 'Robin Hood'. If it is still in print. [Goes off to look at Amazon.]

Monday, October 16, 2017

Into The Dalek



I found Into The Dalek rather entertaining.

I know you could pull it to death by focusing on all the stuff it borrowed from elsewhere. From Dalek*, from The Invisible Enemy, from Fantastic Voyage and so on but equally I'm gob-smackingly surprised it hasn't been done before. Surely this is the idea that everyone must have had. And yet it took until 2014 for someone to actually get around to doing it.

I fear 'originality' is a stick to beat many a Doctor Who writer or showrunner to death with. It's as if Doctor Who was entirely original from 1963-1989 and never borrowed from other sources. Or from itself.  I mean Terry Nation wrote virtually the same Dalek story time and again, although I'm not sure ripping off yourself is entirely unfair. If you have a good idea why not hammer at it again and again. After all, Robert Holmes wrote The Caves of Androzani twice. It's just the first version was called The Power of Kroll. Doctor Who has always been a magpie television series and without undertaking a proper scientific review I'd wager that genuinely original stories are few and far between. Mostly Doctor Who picks up something and metamorphoses it into something distinctly Doctor Who. So I'm not quite sure lack of originality is as bad as all that.

It's a tale of morality. The Doctor's morality, which is to be a thread in this season as we deal with a Doctor who is a lot less comfortable than we're perhaps used to. Is the Doctor a good man?

It's a big question. I think we like to find a Doctor that fits our own image and the Doctors of new Doctor Who have certainly been less ruthless than the Classic Doctor could be. Or at least has always made more of a big deal out of his morality, which makes the scene here where he uses a soldier's impending death to find an escape route ice-cold shocking. No 'I'm so sorry's' etc. Just 'this man is going to die but I'm going to save everyone else.' It really does feel different this time.

He's still finding his way this new Doctor. He's clearly not the man he was. There's a ruthless streak of logic, sharp snark and a lack of neediness about this new Doctor. He doesn't have the time to care about whether people like him or not. He is just going to do his thing.

I love Capaldi's take on the part so far. He's such a brilliant actor. Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that he's the best actor to play the part since Troughton. Not necessarily my favourite Doctor. Yet.

Then there's Jenna Coleman's Clara. She's developing a character, which is nice. Now she's not a puzzle for the Doctor to be solved. The Moff gets a lot of criticism for the way he writes women characters in Doctor Who and the Doctor makes one or two unnecessarily snide comments about Clara's appearance that veer dangerously too close to 'banter' for my liking (although I was reminded of the Fourth Doctor's digs at Sarah Jane in The Ark in Space whilst they were crawling through the ducts). Anyway, I thought Clara / Coleman was great in this.

One caveat: I didn't like the slap. It was too serious. And physical violence as a form of communication is not something I want to see Doctor Who normalising. Would we have found the slap acceptable if it had been from the Doctor to Clara? No. So, let's not have it be acceptable at all.

I also liked Clara's initial scenes with Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). The Clara-Danny thing is endearingly awkward, which I like. I get the impression that Steven Moffat would quite happily write a sit-com revolving around those two. Danny Pink is another teacher at Cole Hill School. He's an ex-soldier with a secret. He's also got one of the best and brightest smiles I've ever seen. It seems the Clara-Danny thing is going to be a 'thing' for the whole season so it is early days for judgment, although when has that ever stopped me

The soldier thing is going to be another thread in a season of threads I think. Along with Missy, who makes another appearance here. Ah, Missy. The face that launched a thousand theories. When I watched this on the first broadcast I had many theories about who Missy would turn out to be. I think I was wrong about my initial guesses but I can't actually remember at this distance. It does seem that Steven Moffat is confident that the Missy pay-off is worth her regular appearances, although it does have a touch of the Madam Kovarians about it.

[There's me ignoring my own earlier paragraph about the dangers of whinging about originality. I'm such a hypocrite.]

Where was I. Ah, the soldier thing? Yes, the Doctor dismisses Journey Blue (Zawa Ashton) at the end when she asks to come along with him by saying he doesn't like soldiers. I'm assuming that's just this Doctor because the Eleventh Doctor was quite upset when he found out that his soldier friend Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart had died. But it's a new Doctor. I suspect his judgmental approach will come and bite him on the arse before the season is out.

Oh and Danny Pink and Journey Blue. Is this colour thing also going to be a 'thing.'** How many 'things' can Steven Moffat get into a single season and still tie them all up neatly? How many of them will be - and forgive me - red herrings. Doctor Who fans - always finding patterns in things that aren't there.

The other thing I want to mention - apart from Michael Smiley's appearance as Colonel Morgan Blue - is Ben Wheatley's fab direction. He manages to make the Daleks look menacing.  I particularly like the shot of all their blue eye-stalk lights coming out of the darkness

And Rusty the Dalek gets a fine line in snark, which is unexpected in a Dalek so this might be a good time to hand out some well-deserved praise for Nick Briggs whose Dalek voice work reaches pretty impressive heights in this story. The slight change in emphasis between the 'good' Rusty and his return to Dalekness is rather brilliant and subtle.

Next up Robots of Sherwood which looks whimsical. And there's not a lot of love for whimsy in the Doctor Who fan world. Me, I'm a big fan of whimsy. Lord Peter included.




*I listened to Big Finish's The Genocide Machine today too and that's got similarities with this story thematically too in terms of what happens when a Dalek changes.

**I'm pretending that I don't know how this all pans out. Assume I've never watched the rest of the series at all.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Deep Breath



If you're new to this blog then I should explain that what follows isn't a review in the traditional sense. That would involve critical faculties. It is a collection of immediate reactions, thoughts, ideas and bees in bonnets that pop up in the immediate aftermath of watching the episode. This blog will also contain spoilers so if you've not seen the episode then go and watch it and then come back. You have been warned. This blog, in particular, is based on the blog I sketched out on original broadcast combined with some additional thoughts from tonight's re-watch.

Deep Breath launches the Capaldi era of Doctor Who and it seems that the story was designed to do a couple of things. Most importantly it is to introduce us to a new and older Doctor and the New Doctor Who audience's first experience of an older actor in the part. Even if Christopher Eccleston wasn't that much younger than Capaldi when he first took the role.

Hence a lot of the conversations Clara gets involved in with either the Doctor or Vastra are aimed at us, which makes her decision to leave the TARDIS before being reassured by the Eleventh Doctor's phone call an plea to the audience not to leave because this is still Doctor Who. As a consequence, it is different to a lot of new Doctor's first stories, which just assume we'll pick up with the new Doctor and run with him/her.

The call at the end in particular, emotional though it is, seems unnecessary. No other Doctor has required the previous incarnation to beg for his acceptance.And in a way, it's insulting to both us and Capaldi but perhaps I'm being harsh.

It's almost as if Steven Moffat doubts his own choice of Doctor.

Also, Half-Face Man's 're-building' of himself is an obvious reflection of regeneration. It shows how weird regeneration actually is. The Half-Face Man is regenerating the slow way around. Piece by piece. So, the Doctor's broom analogy is applicable to himself as much as to the Half-Face Man.

There's also a mild dig at us the audience. The whole 'I'm not your boyfriend/You might as well flirt with a mountain/He wanted you to like him' stuff seems to be a criticism of our apparent need for a younger more fanciable Doctor. Even though it was Steven Moffat that chose Matt Smith and even though Capaldi has his fans too.

Then we have to re-boot Clara for her post-Impossible Girl future. She now needs to be a character not just an enigma and this story is designed to be a regeneration story for her too. It's just not as drastic. I'm not sure I've seen enough 'control freak' in Clara so far to justify the Doctor's accusations that she is one though.

Jenna Coleman's clearly a good actress so it would be nice to see her given more scenes like her confrontation with the Half-Face Man. In that scene, she gets to do the whole Sarah Jane Smith brave and scared at the same time trick. Indeed I can't praise Jenna Coleman enough. This story - if we hadn't realised it already - shows what a fine actress she is. She wonderful in this. And seems to hit it off with Capaldi immediately. There's a real electricity between them.

As she's seen all the previous Doctors though you do wonder why she's so shocked that he's old but then perhaps she just assumed that they all started young and then got old. After all, what's the point in renewing yourself if you renew yourself older? It's counterintuitive.

Which brings us to another thread in Deep Breath: where does the Doctor get his faces from? Or any Time Lord for that matter. Is there a database of faces? A Facebook perhaps. [I'll get my coat.] The Doctor's face thing - like the Doctor's name - seems to be a Steven Moffat bee in the bonnet as a result of casting Capaldi but I do think some of the best lines came as a result of this. I especially liked "Who frowned this face" and "It's like I'm trying to tell myself something." The face is going to be a thing. Let's see where it goes. If it goes anywhere.

Then there is Missy. Who is she and what's she up to? This being New Doctor Who we need a big season-long arc, don't we? Sigh. Do we though? Do we? Perhaps we do. Modern television series - or at least SF and fantasy ones - seem to have become moulded to the arc & the big season finale pattern. In the 21st century, a more radical television programme might just have a run of adventures that are simply fun without the need for us to see how clever the writers are? Or actually am I again being harsh? Perhaps the arc/finale structure rewards the loyal viewer so we can make up our own theories as we go along, searching for clues in each episode and trying to tie everything together?

In the end, we should judge the arc on its quality. If it turns out to be good then great. If it turns out to be bad then boo. Arcs themselves are not the problem. It's the quality of the arc (and I suppose the quality of the emotional journey we and the characters are taken on.) 

Quick diversion: title sequence and theme tune. Loved the new title sequence. Hate the theme tune, which sounds like it was played on a weird combination of elastic bands, bells and kazoo. The new series has never cracked the theme tune in my opinion but perhaps one day they will. 

What of Capaldi himself? I think he's fantastic. He has an edge that Tennant and Smith didn't have. It's not darkness. It's just an acidity. A lack of botherdness about how people see him, which I like. He's able to do both the comedy and the darker stuff. I like the fact that we're left to decide for ourselves whether the Doctor threw the Half-Face Man to his doom or whether it was self-destruction. The last scenes give us a vulnerability to this new Doctor underneath his crusty exterior. So yes, I'm happy with Capaldi.

Oh, and do we really need all the hilarious Scottish stuff. The Doctor's been Scottish before and didn't seem to think it was a big deal. But then the showrunner then wasn't Scottish. RTDs gay agenda* has been replaced with a Scottish agenda.** Damn that McMoffat chap.

I'm less happy with what's happening with Vastra, Jenny and Strax. All three are brilliantly performed but Strax has become only comic relief. I'd like him to have a bit more edge. I also wish Steven Moffat would have had the courage to give Vastra and Jenny a proper kiss without having to give them a 'breath' excuse. The Paternoster Gang are great when used properly but not when they're just there to provide some exotic sexual background and dumb comedy. Use them better Mr Moffat. Use them better.

So after all that rambling, I should say that I really enjoyed it. It's lifted by the brilliance of Capaldi and it's excellent design. Doctor Who looks great these days, although Strax's disappearing bucket seemed to skip someone's attention in the edit.***


* There was no gay agenda.
**There isn't a Scottish agenda either
***Or it'll turn out to be a key thing in the forthcoming story arc. The Bucket of Rassilon. Or something. [It won't.]

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Invasion of the Bane


So, the last time we saw Sarah Jane Smith have her own spin-off was K9 & Company. That was back in 1981. Yet here we are in 2007 and Sarah Jane is back. This time with only a small appearance from K9. It says something about the character and Lis Sladen herself that a character who first appeared back in 1973 was able to kick off a series of her own decades later. How many TV characters can you say that about?

And Invasion of the Bane shows Torchwood how to spin-off properly. Perhaps because Torchwood got sucked into this 'adult theme' nonsense it struggled to find itself a tone that worked but The Sarah Jane Adventures hit the ground running.

This feels like Doctor Who, perhaps because it is aimed at children.* But there is more actual tension in this episode than in either Torchwood episode I've watched so far. Plus Samantha Bond's Mrs Wormwood is far more memorable and fun as a villain. Bond manages to avoid crossing the line into ham acting whilst still being a little larger than life. She's part of why the story works so damn well. And I love the confrontation between her and Sarah Jane as they do some polite but icey verbal fencing.

Also, The Sarah Jane Adventures feels 'real' in a way that Torchwood (so far) hasn't felt. It also feels very Russell T Davies. The first character we met is Maria Jackson (Yasmin Paige) a young girl moving into a new house after her parents split up. It's through her that we get to see Sarah Jane for the first time and get introduced to her life.

The whole story feels very Third Doctor. The Bane Mother isn't a million miles away from the Target book illustration of the Nestene in Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion. Aliens are trying to take over the world through a fizzy drink. What's more Doctor Who than that?

Indeed, what The Sarah Jane Adventures shows is that it is possible to have a female Doctor without scaring the pigeons.** Sarah's very Doctor-ish throughout this story. She's got her Sonic Lipstick, she warns the Bane that if they don't leave Earth she'll stop them and she thinks there should be another way. A way that doesn't involve going in 'all guns blazing'. The children - Maria, Kelsey (Porsha Lawrence Mavour) and Luke (Tommy Knight) - get to be the companions to Sarah Jane's Doctor.

Perhaps that's why it works? It is both new and comfortably familiar. And by Jove it is fun. Something that - so far - Torchwood hasn't been.

It isn't perfect. For example, Maria's mother, played by Juliet Cowan, is just a little too conveniently rude and thoughtless which just feels a bit wrong to me. But any criticism is just minor quibbling really.

There's a great set of scenes when after Luke, Kelsey and Maria have found Sarah Jane's ridiculously sized upstairs room we get a potted history of how Sarah Jane's come to be where she is and it is done both by the actors and by the camera scanning over pictures and drawings. We see a Dalek, the Brigadier and Harry. Sarah Jane's wistfulness about her time with the Doctor has an emotional heft that really hits home. It's brilliant work by Lis Sladen and the director Colin Teague.

But this is how to do a 'pilot' if that's what it was. It shakes Sarah Jane out of her 'I work alone' mentality, introduces us to the main characters and rolls along at a delightful pace.

I could waffle on for longer but this is a genuine joy.



*That's one for Professor Parry.
**I'm not sure that's the phrase but it's my blog and I'm sticking to it.

Torchwood: Day One


Ah, Torchwood. A chance to explore more adult themes in the Doctor Who Universe and, of course, we get an alien high on orgasmic energy. Because sex is SO adult innit.

So, on Gwen's first day she screws up badly, releases an alien gas creature, which turns out to thrive on the energy of the male orgasm. Not the female orgasm. O no. There's no good reason for this that I can tell but I suppose I'd be foolish to ask for one. This is, after all, Torchwood.

I mean it always struck me that the male orgasm is a slightly less impressive thing than the female one but perhaps I'm looking at it from the wrong end so to speak. (Cough) Of course, to find out that the male orgasm is key we have to have a massive lesbian snogging scene between Gwen and the infected/occupied Carys, which goes on long enough for the Owen, Tosh and Captain Jack to have a bit of a perv.

This is pretty awful with exceptions. The key one being Sara Lloyd Gregory who does a stonking job as poor Carys who becomes the host for our Orgasmaterian - as I'm going to call it from this point forward, although Torchwood does a spectacular job of failing to keep her in captivity considering that neither she nor the Orgasmaterian is particularly a fighting creatures. Indeed, surely it is the very definition of a lover, not a fighter.

Indeed there's a spectacularly bad moment when - for no obvious reason - Carys grabs the severed hand* and Captain Jack immediately makes it obvious that this is an object he cares about deeply thus giving her all the leverage she needs to escape. It isn't The Barrowman's finest hour.

The other good thing in this story is Eve Myles even though Gwen does a lot of stupid things. There's some fine eye acting from her early in the episode when her error hits home. The rest of the team are still bedding in, although Owen (Burn Gorman) is clearly something of an unlikeable twat. Who thinks 'I'd shag you' is acceptable office banter as opposed to sexual harassment. But hey, it's Torchwood. Tosh (Naoko Mori) hasn't really had much to do so far but she's done what needs to be done as well as can be expected. She does a fine line is awkward, which I like.

Captain Jack is Captain Jack. The Barrowman is The Barrowman. I think, at this point, he's struggling to make the jump from Doctor Who sidekick to the lead on his own show but perhaps that will come as we move on.

Is there much else I can say about this?

No.

It's not great and two episodes in you have to say that Torchwood is struggling to be something more than an adolescent male wet dream of what adult telly would be like.

Still. It could be worse.




*For those not in the Doctor Who loop this severed hand belongs to the Tenth Doctor. He had it cut off in The Christmas Invasion. You all knew that though.






Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Torchwood: Everything Changes


Ah, Torchwood. It seems a long time since the heady days of October 2006 when I sat down to watch this with Doctor Carrie Dunn. There we were looking forward to seeing The Barrowman in action.

I'm not going to dwell on how Torchwood came to be. This was the red heat of the return of Doctor Who when RTD could do no wrong and a spin-off series starring John Barrowman as Captain Jack, a character introduced in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, seemed like a no brainer. Captain Jack was sexy, cheeky and maybe they could pursue more adult themes in Torchwood than they could in Doctor Who.

However, particularly in Series One, they were to make the same mistake that the Virgin New Adventures did in the nineties: swearing and sex do not adult themes make. Especially if you have a very poor grasp on consent and turn your series into something that might, just, be a bit rapey. But, I'm leaping ahead of myself. At least a little bit.

We're in Cardiff. Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) is a PC in the Welsh Police. She's at the scene of a murder when a gang turns up from an organisation called Torchwood. They proceed to mess about a bit on the murder scene, then disappear. This leaves Gwen all a bit curious. From here on in we get the story of Gwen's discovery of Torchwood, who they are and what they do, which is hunt aliens. In Cardiff. Because, it turns out, Cardiff is built on a ruddy great rift in the space-time continuum and as a result, a lot of intergalactic, timey-wimey flotsam and jetsam turns up to cause trouble and/or be cannibalised by Torchwood to protect the world. After all, as Captain Jack says: "The Twenty-First Century' is when it all happens. You've got to be ready."

Gwen's been involved in investigating a serial killer in Cardiff, who it will turn out has links to Torchwood. And we'll end up with a stand-off, two shots and a resurrection before the end. Gwen is our intro to Torchwood as a fairly ordinary person. She's our companion figure. At least in this episode. She asks lots of questions.

We meet the rest of the team: Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori), Suzie Costello (Indira Varma) and last, but not least Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd). None of them is really given much character at this point because our story focuses on Gwen and Jack.

I like Eve Myles as Gwen. I think Myles is a great actor. She's particularly good here when terrified. The Barrowman is The Barrowman. I'll probably talk more about that as the series goes on. Gwen's coming aboard the good ship Torchwood, although how she'll explain that to her husband, Rhys (Kai Owen - who is brilliant btw) may become an issue.

Hopefully, the next few episodes will broaden out the characters a bit and drop the unnecessarily creepy sexual stuff. There is definitely an unnecessary light-hearted approach to sexual consent in this episode that seems to say that using alien pheromones to get two people to sleep with you isn't rapey at all. O, no. It's just a wee bit of high-jinks using office equipment. Like borrowing a piece of tech that allows you to read a book pretty much instantaneously. As I said all this stuff is a misunderstanding of what 'adult' means. It's a problem I remember Torchwood suffers with.

That and the spectacularly stupid idea of a top secret organisation that drives around in bloody obvious vehicles and is known to half of Cardiff's police force and orders pizzas to its top secret headquarters under the name of Torchwood. I think Torchwood could be creepier. There's hints at it when Tosh talks about the porter who died in the hospital and whose body they dispose of. This is an organisation with frightening powers, which no one ever really talks about. Except Gwen.

So, it's not a bad introduction. It's entertaining enough. But there's problems in the initial episode that might be fatal if not dealt with at some point. I mean who wants a heroic team of rapists?