“CSI: Cardiff, now I’d like to see that.” And so you shall.
It’s a dangerous game, name checking another TV show when you’ve ripped off its trademark aerial establishing shots. It’s one of a number of strangely alienating devices in Torchwood‘s opener, like pointing out that a man pretending to be a weavil by wearing a mask looks like, well, a man pretending to be a weaving by wearing a mask. Or explaining away an alien invasion that occured in another TV show…
After all the waiting for the transmission, it was three days before I found time to actually watch it, but it was still worth the wait, though it’s not quite sure if it’s CSI with Aliens or Doctor Who for adults.
When it was first announced, it was described as dark and sexy, This Life meets The X-Files. Furthermore Captain Jack was the kind of character who deserved his own series, and needed it too, he could never achieve his full potential in the Doctor’s shadow. The series looked to be great.
But I was apprehensive at the hammering of the Torchwood theme in Doctor Who. I originally assumed it was just unsubtle plugging, but rammed into so many scenarios that it seemed to loose its definition; then Torchwood appeared. The high rent Canary Wharf offices were not dark or gritty. Hell, even the warehouse was gleaming white. And it wasn’t Cardiff.
Well Torchwood is darker than its parent; it never seems to rain in Doctor Who but the weather in Torchwood is distinctly Welsh. There are night shots and lots of underground scenes and the hub is more like a disused underground station that those pricey London lawyers offices. The staff is smaller, too, just Jack’s CSI style team. It’s all very successful (although the team will need some developing).
Russell T. Davies, usually so careful about new viewers and continuity for some reason feels the need to try and reconcile with the events in Doctor Who and so there’s a contrived explaining away of the fact that Earth has, rather publicly, been invaded by aliens three times in as many years. This only serves to alienate (ahem, sorry) the viewer who is reminded this isn’t out universe (at least I don’t remember those invasions). And that’s a pity, because it’s a fun conceit that such covert outfits could exist, it was one of the most enjoyable things about The X-Files. But then maybe Davies has let his guard down; letting the word retcon appear in the script is an odd slip given that (as far as I’m aware) it’s only used by TV show fans…
There’s plenty of continuity to be explored: Jack’s past, Gwen’s connection with The Unquiet Dead’s Gwyneth, Toshiko’s previous encounter with the Doctor, etc. and more subtle touches (the Doctor’s hand, the rift and the chamelon circuit etc.) and I’m looking forward to that; but I hope Torchwood can stand as a show in its own right.
The New Rose
In other respects, Davies is careful to show Torchwood through unfamiliar eyes, those of PC Gwen Cooper in fact, in the same way he reintroduced the Doctor after the 9 year gap through the eyes of Rose Tyler in Rose. The structure of the show is similar in many ways, right down to the rather rushed (although the show is 5 minutes longer) and unsatisfying climax. That puts Jack in the role of the mysterious stranger; a role that suits him very well. The best scene in the episode sees Jack welcome Gwen to the hub, enjoying showing it off to her, before taking her out for a drink, enjoying her company, then letting her know he’s drugged her and she will have forgotten him when she wakes. He’s charming, and friendly, but keeps his distance (just like a certain Time Lord). Let’s see how long he can stay unattached…
The Double Bill
It worried me that they showed two episodes back to back; I thought it must be because the BBC had lost confidence in the show. In the event, it seems that the reason is because the second episode is outstandingly good. Anyone left feeling luke warm about the show will surely have been hooked by a story that sees that good old Doctor Who staple alien possession given a thoroughly adult spin. More please.