Torchwood: Miracle Day
Not everything changes in the new world
Torchwood: outside the government, beyond the police; fighting for the future on behalf of the human race; the 21st century is when everything changes. And Torchwood ... is ready.
|"Anyways, Captain Jack Harkness. Nice to meet you."|
Two series and three years since John Barrowman's Captain Jack Harkness last provided that oh-so over-the-top voice-over during the Torchwood credits, I still miss it.
I miss the earnest goofiness that promised pretty much what the first two series of the Doctor Who spin-off provided: a slutty, drug-addled, but very bright wayward child to its much more discreet parent.
Torchwood at its best was high adventure mixed with low sex, campy humour crossed with high melodrama and, occasionally, pathos enough to bring a tear or two to jaded eyes.
At its worst, Torchwood was a nearly pornographic junkies' orgy of sex and violence whose raison-d'ètre seemed but to shock (and, just maybe, to thrill the id of Russell T Davies).
Sometimes all in the very same episode.
Still, it was good enough, often enough, and had enough of a sense of humour about itself, to keep me watching even when it made me cringe; I enjoy my SFnal escapism, and Torchwood offered that by the proverbial spadeful.
Then came 2009 and Children of Earth, a five-hour mini-series that saw Davies dial way down on the camp and way up on both the horror and the politics. But for an intellectual cop-out of a climax, it would have been a masterpiece of rigorous science fiction and social satire; as it was, it made for a harrowing week of summer entertainment that made some very disturbing claims about human nature and the West's ostensibly democratic societies. (For my contemporaneous take on it click here and then, for a harsher critique, read Peter Watts on how Davies "totally fuck[ed] up the ending.")
By the end of that week, though, "Torchwood" was an institute without a base and only one surviving member left on planet Earth. It seemed a good bet that Torchwood the television program was over and done with and probably should be.
|Rex Matheson argues with Dr. Juarez — what do you mean, your surgeon doesn't dress like a call-girl while on duty?|
Thus it was that I greeted news of its 2011 revival with as much apprehension as anticipation. Apprehension because Russell T Davies can be at least as bad a writer as he can be a good one and because Torchwood was coming back courtesy of a large influx of American money, courtesy of some cable outfit called the Starz network.
Would Torchwood's queer-friendly, perverse and slightly goofy yet brutal sensibilities survive the trip across the Atlantic intact, or would we be presented with only another American action show with no room for Captain Jack to kiss another man?
There is something inherently silly about reviewing one episode of a 10-episode narrative but, like mixing pot and alcohol, television and the internet seem to encourage bad behaviour. So here we go. The preliminary results, in the shape of the first episode, are in. And those results are ... mixed. Mixed, but leaning more towards "pretty good" than "pretty bad".
The link to my review of the first installment, "The New World", is below. Come back for updates or click here to sign up for updates.