Friday, 4 April 2008

Torchwood review: Wahey! My cock's on fire!


WARNING: SPOILERS TA RAAS

So. This was it. The final episode of the second season of Torchwood, execrable spin-off of the hysterical Dr Who, reinvented and revitalised by Russell T Grant, the world's most desperate Joss Whedon wannabe. The first two seasons of Dr Who, long before it jumped the shark by involving Catherine Tate, indubitably had their faults. A full list may possibly follow.

However, when you pull back and look at the big picture, the achievement was more than respectable: a successful update and relaunch of a franchise which had been essentially dormant for many years and in serious decline for many years before that. Dr Who was where Grant flashed his chops. Torchwood is where his reach exceeds his grasp.

In the beginning there was Angel, divine spin-off of the exquisite Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The title character, a superhuman given to long coats and long silences where Captain Jack is merely given to long coats, is played by the tall, handsome and brooding David Boreanaz. Captain Jack Harkness is played by John Barrowman, who is merely tall and handsome.

In one storyline, Angel, the vampire who can never die, is captured by his son, Connor, who's been driven bitter, twisted and a bit mad through torture by monsters in a strange dimension far away. Connor erroneously blames his father for abandoning him to his fate when in fact he has never stopped thinking about him. Connor buries his immortal dad at sea in a lead box so his torture will be eternal.

In tonight's Torchwood season finale, "Exit Wounds", Captain Jack Harkness, the temporal agent who can never die, is captured by his brother, Gray, who's been driven bitter, twisted and a bit mad through torture by monsters on a strange planet far away. Gray erroneously blames his brother for abandoning him to his fate when in fact he has never stopped thinking about him. Gray buries his immortal brother underneath Cardiff AD 27 so his torture will be eternal.

Guess whose punishment is the most excruciating.

So. We continued to play the usual Torchwood game of spot-the-nick. I got the climactic scene of Fight Club where the buildings are exploding around the protagonists. My friend got Tasha Yar's prerecorded posthumous speech sprung on her surviving colleagues in the episode "Skin of Evil" from season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Toshiko dies and springs a prerecorded posthumous speech on her surviving colleagues. The poignancy was detectable.

Spike the bleached-blond vampire — magnetically and irresistibly played by the god in human form that is James Marsters — dies heroically in a magical conflagration at the end of the Buffy series finale, and is revived as an insensate ghost in Angel. Owen, the twitching ferretty Spike manque — soggily and resistibly played by the hole in the air that is Burn Gorman — dies earlier in season two of Torchwood and is revived as an insensate being and now dies again (did I say heroically?) in a nuclear catastrophe, tastefully bleached out to an oblivion whiter than Spike's Billy Idol barnet.

Functioning as the moral centre of the programme, the competent but winsome Gwen almost promises to leave on account of she can't stand it any more. We feel her pain.

And Joss's hits just keep on coming. The (Cardiff) Power Walk — smash cuts — helicopter shots of an ominous nocturnal metropolis. Team Harkness with porn-star good looks. Hey, check it out, it's just like LA with cheese on toast!

And of course - how could we forget? I mean, like, HOW? — James Marsters!!!!!!! Spike Himself!!!!!!!!! (As something called "Captain John".) Yet another morally ambiguous, sexually charismatic bad boy turned good guy with an almost perfect posh-punk English accent. And a bad 1980s jacket that fell out of an Adam Ant video threatened to upstage His Gorgeousness.

And the high emotion! If you milked a cow like this, the Animal Liberation Front would be camped in your yard and PETA would be on your tail. Why o why, ten whole minutes after the A-story has ended and Gray the evil brother has been vanquished, are they all still ladling on the sentiment? It's a fifty-minute telly show, ferfuxache! This kind of aggressive begging for BAFTAs would get you moved on by the cops if you tried it in the street. I haven't seen so much snot and grizzling since Respect imploded. [For readers sufficiently fortunate not to be au fait with the ins and outs of the cat's arse that is the British Left, the Respect split was a tragic tale of epic proportions. Two bald men, not just fighting over a comb, but over a comb that had no teeth.]

So. As Ann Robinson would demand, who is the Captain Jack Sparrow and who is the Captain Jack Harkness? If I may quote myself rather than simply repeat myself: there is STILL only one Captain Jack and Keef Richards is his dad.

So. There.


8 comments:

Louisefeminista said...

Oh, the inhumanity! It was utter bolloxs....

Poor old James Marsters (I hope they paid him well) looked bored utterly bored as he sleepwalked through his lines... There was nowt iconic about him. In Buffy he had that leather coat (pinched from the dead body of a previous slayer...you gotta love him!) and that bleached blonde hair... How can you top that? Well, Russell. T you can't...

And the dialogue.......I was giggling esp. at the "lets pull at the melodramatic heart strings" bit when Owen goes postal as it dawns on him that he's DOOMED...I say DOOMED...and Toshiko shouts at him to stop 'cos "you're breaking my heart".....

At that moment, for some unknown reason, I kept hearing Kiki Dee/Elton John's rendition of Don't Go Breaking My Heart inside my head..

Oh, and Dr Who this evening...the bloody spaceship was sooooooh Independence Day (aint he done that already)and Catherine Tate...I definitely am bovvered.

Madam Miaow said...

Hi Louise. Dammit! Missed Dr Who. Gonna review it?

James was definitely wasted and not in an exciting way. What was that character arc thingy Russell had going? Nicked from Spike's redemption in Buffy, natch. Not so much an arc, more a 180 degree skid up its own fundament.

Yikes! All that emotion. You'd have needed a heart of stne not to laff.

Louisefeminista said...

"Hi Louise. Dammit! Missed Dr Who. Gonna review it?"

It was bad...and not bad that it's good kinda way...just really bad...

It kinda dulled my senses and nowt inspired me to even contemplate writing a couple of sentences 'cept "utter dross, dross and did I say dross btw"?

And they chucked in Bernard Cribbins as Catherine Tate's grand dad. It had that bargain basement feeling about it. Desperation. And Catherine Tate is bloody irritating and we get a glimpse of Billie Piper who disappears into the void (Oooo....spooky)

Oh, and the spacecraft hovering in the sky was so Independence Day (and the special fx was still pre-1997... C'mon Russell/BBC catch up..you still have to "discover" "bullet time" from the Matrix)

Anyways....spent the evening spending the time perusing the excellent exhibition catalogue of the works of Alexander Rodchenko and the Taschen book of 1000 Nudes...

S'mazing

D.B. said...

Totally agree with louise about Doctor Who. It was absolutely dire. Tate can't act, the monsters were ridiculous, the ending was sentimental (again) and the whole thing about Tennant being a sex symbol who can't look at a woman without her falling madly in love with him was quirky at first but is now just too sickly for words. Like the whole programme.

There were some funny moments though: Donna and the Doctor's mimed conversation made me laugh, as did his comment about Cat People. I guess the last series wavered between superb one week ('Blink' etc) and a massive let-down the next so I suppose all is not lost.

Onto more pressing matters, Buffy. Aaaah Buffy, Buffy. I was 15 when the series first came out in the UK, so I was pretty much besotted with her -- the trashy kick-ass brunette version of the first series, that is.

I stopped watching it after Season 2 literally because I was so pissed off that Spike wasn't in it anymore and I thought it would never be the same. Those Spike-Angel-Buffy-Druscilla episodes will never be beaten for me: not just in the Buffy-stakes, but in TV generally. Enthralling stuff.

Anyway, it's only in recent years that I've rediscovered my love for the show, as I've been catching up with seasons 3 to 5 on the Fox Channel. Am currently on Series 5 and it's good, if a little weird. I love Spike but part of me just thinks they've ruined him by playing to the gallery, redeeming him just to keep him in the show.

Anyway, the point of this comment being that I watched the conclusion to Series 4 last week and spotted a Russell T Davies nick myself: the spell which the "scooby gang" cast to give Buffy those special powers to defeat Adam seemed eerily familiar ... and then it dawned on me that a similar (but less subtle) get-out clause was employed in the finale of last season's Doctor Who, in which the Doctor turned into an invincible Christ-like figure to defeat the Master. Oh dear. Looks like Russell's been on the thieve again...

Madam Miaow said...

Oh, DB, you are so lucky to be watching the remaining Buffy series afresh, especially as you have the magical musical episode, "Once More With Feeling", to look forward to in series 6.

"I died, so many years ago ..."

Those Spike 'n' Drusilla stories — what a great pairing. Who among us hadn't broken out into Drusillaisms? "She tasted of cherries." "Do you love my insides? All the bits you can't see?"

Enjoy.

D.B. said...

Heh, I know.

What did it for me was the genius of having Spike confined to a wheelchair, forced to watch as his best friend/worst enemy and his girlfriend gave each a good seeing to on a nightly (or should that be daily) basis. I always thought Angel was the most boring character ever until he became evil:

"As long as there's injustice in the world, as long as scum like you is walking... well, rolling, the streets... I'll be around."

And that episode which ends with Angel telling Spike to "Have fun!" while him and Dru nip away for a quick shag, followed by Spike getting up out of the wheelchair and saying: "Oh, I will. Sooner than you think..."... Well, that nearly killed me. I still get a shiver down my spine when I watch it. The greatest TV moment EVER. Although, granted, I haven't seen the musical yet...

Louisefeminista said...

D.B: I have to say that too was my favourite as well from Dr Who's last series, Blink.

It was imaginative and clever.

Btw: Catherine Tate was just rehashing her "comic" characters in that Dr Who episode and nowt new or special.

Shoulda I be bovvered?

Phil BC said...

Last week's Dr Who was nauseating. But remember, it is a kids programme!

But Torchwood, does your cruelty know no bounds? Leaving aside the ropey opener and closer, season 2 on the whole was a hell of an improvement on the first. I thought there were some great character stories and, of course, Nerys Hughes doing the evil alien thing.

But there's still much room for improvement. What I'd like to see, apart from more Eve Myles in titillating but tasteful situations, is a gripping story arc rather than stand alone episodes. It's the way all TV science fiction's heading and it's so much more satisfying. So how about it Russell T?

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