thu 18/08/2022

Torchwood, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Torchwood, BBC One

Torchwood, BBC One

Captain Jack returns to find out why everyone on earth is suddenly immortal

The return of Russell T Davies’s second most famous creation arrives coated with a transatlantic sheen, courtesy of an injection of co-production money from the USA’s Starz cable network (home of Spartacus and Camelot). Happily, this has not obliterated the homegrown roots of the Doctor Who spin-off, since this opener cut fearlessly between portentous action scenes at CIA headquarters and a judicial execution in Kentucky to Cardiff city centre and expanses of rugged Welsh coastline, where Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) was trying to live an anonymous post-Torchwood existence with her husband and baby.

Fat chance. Although supposedly the Torchwood team had all been killed in action some unspecified time ago, we were barely 15 minutes in when time-travelling troubleshooter Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) dramatically materialised in the midst of mounting bafflement over the death of Death. On what was swiftly dubbed Miracle Day, people all over the world had suddenly stopped dying, despite suffering from normally life-terminating illnesses or being involved in what, on the face of it, were fatal accidents.
 
'This new-look Torchwood has style, high drama and strong characters, and poses some chin-stroking philosophical questions'
 
One of the latter had smitten the CIA’s Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer), who was horribly impaled by a steel rod in a road accident, yet amazingly remained alive, although extremely bad-tempered. The beginning of the phenomenon of un-death had coincided with an unexplained email message saying simply “Torchwood” which had been received by American security services, and soon Matheson was en route for Wales to track down Cooper and find out what the hell was happening. This prompted some wry culture-shock jokes, such as the moment when Matheson found himself driving across the Severn Bridge into the Principality. “You mean Wales is separate?” he barked into his phone. “It’s like the British equivalent of New Jersey.” His mood was not brightened by having to pay the toll.
Alexa_Havins_trimQuite how the UK-to-USA link will function throughout the remaining episodes remains to be seen, although it’s refreshing to see that the enhanced budget has run to 10 episodes instead of being lopped to a stingy BBC-style four. The American sequences have the look and feel of Stateside shows like CSI or Fringe, and make an incongruous match with location shots of downtown Cardiff or the Millennium Centre. Still, a climactic scene where Harkness and co in their jeep waged a running battle against a helicopter across a beautifully lit expanse of Welsh beach was both exciting and opulently cinematic. The mix of characters also helps to demolish genre clichés, with the Welsh turning the Glamorgan lilt up to 11 in comical contrast to the spook-speak of Matheson or his glamorous blonde CIA comrade Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins, pictured above). I wonder if they subtitle it for American viewers.
Pullman_trimPlenty of plot unravelling lies in store, but we can feel certain that convicted killer Oswald Danes is going to loom ever larger as the series progresses. Played with quiet creepiness by Bill Pullman (pictured left), who was the President in the alien-invasion movie Independence Day, Danes was condemned to death for the murder of a 12-year-old girl (“She should have run faster,” he commented). However, since he was executed on Miracle Day, the poison didn’t work, after which Danes was able to argue successfully that the sentence had been carried out correctly and it was merely his good fortune that the laws of nature happened to have been changed.
Call it sci-fi or call it fantasy, but this new-look Torchwood has style, high drama and strong characters, and also poses some chin-stroking philosophical questions. Not the least of these is the realisation that if all human beings were to stop dying (even the assassin hideously mangled by his own bomb), the planet would rapidly choke to death from the ensuing population explosion. Captain Jack has much to ponder.

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I have to say I thought this was awful. Awful american rock guitar music (what IS IT with americans and bad rock guitar everywhere???), stupid comments regarding toll bridges and typical american hyperbole non-drama regarding 'get me a dam gun on the aeroplane', oh please. Then the guy receives the co-ordinates to the cottage just when it is visible from his car. Right, so he's made it all the way across Wales with no directions, to exactly the right place, but only then does he get the directions. Oh, and he receives them as latitude and longitude. Who, I ask you, Who, takes directions when driving, in latitude and longitude? (or at any other time for that matter). WTF? Then he shoots a helicopter with a machine gun from point blank range and... oh, he seems to miss ? because nothing appears to happen. FFS. Oh, not to forget the female nurse/doctor character...in high heels! ha! ha! Like a Dr on a ward is going to be wearing heels!! We all laughed greatly at that one. How can anybody take tripe like this seriously? Sadly missing Ianto Jones, missing the tightness of a weekly story script, spoilt by having been transformed into the usual crap low quality american drama which passes for tv in the states. What on earth has happened to a quality, interesting, unusual and well scripted series? RIP Torchwood, because this REALLY isn't it.

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