“Torchwood: Escape to LA” Review

I like slow-build long-fuse stories. I enjoy the atmosphere and the interplay between the characters, and wondering what each twist and turn will bring. Or at least I enjoy it when the writing is so top-notch, from the likes of Russell T. Davies, John Fay, Doris Egan or Jane Espenson. Unfortunately when the dialogue is flaccid and the thrills never faster moving than a man with a ruptured heart plodding up 33 flights of stairs, it gets a little harder to keep that thought out of one’s mind. The thought: “Is 10 hours too much?”

I do think there’s a lot of milage in the Miracle Day concept. The first three episodes were mad, weird and interesting, with a batty sense of humour just like the first couple of days of Children of Earth. I don’t know Jim Gray, but John Shiban co-wrote some of my favourite X-Files episodes (Christmas Carol, Dreamland, Monday). But on the other side of the ledger, he’s at least half responsible for dialogue like “thanks again for saving my ass yesterday”, not something to be proud of.

The pre-title sequence of this one was dark and rather good, but everything else in the episode heavily telegraphed. Some of the old (series 1 & 2) traits re-emerge. Torchwood 3 always seemed rather ignorant of its incompetence and unsuitability for any serious Earth-saving work, something sidestepped in Children of Earth by forcing the action on them, but the self-importance has returned (“They need me. I’m on a mission.”) We seem to have reverted, a little, to the bad old days. We’ve got the format of Children of Earth but where that (and the first couple of episodes of Miracle Day) were multi-stranded with actors all over the place, the focus seems to have zeroed in on the new “team”. After Children of Earth proved how much better the show can be just a couple of “heroes” that’s the last thing we need. We may not have Peter Capaldi but we’ve got Bill Pullman and Lauren Ambrose. Let’s see more of them instead, before hope that we might still get something even half as good as the last series starts to fade.

There were gruesome scenes in episode one that were so darkly entertaining they made me giggle. But the gore in this episode (eyeball & palm, car crusher) comes across as just rather nasty. And the episode storyline just didn’t make much sense. Who was the man left in the Phicorp server room? How did they get away? Perhaps I drifted off a bit, but please don’t tell me I need to watch it again.

Hoping for better next week. Espenson’s wielding the quill again.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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