Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Have you got any torch for the wood, chuck?

Last night I was mostly watching .... Torchwood. Yes, even if you're not a sci-fi geek-freak like me, you'll probably have found it hard to avoid the media barrage surrounding the launch of this new programme, what with adverts on TV every five seconds and even pictures of Captain Jack adorning buses (nice!) If you don't already know (in which case, what planet have you been on?) "Torchwood" is the new Dr Who spin-off set in modern-day Cardiff, and is all about a team of experts who have been charged by the British government to covertly investigate aliens and alien technology (ooer). The group are led by Captain Jack Harkness (played by the dashing John Barrowman) a time agent from the 51st Century (although the rest of team don't really know his origins and this is discussed at one point). Dr Who fans will of course recognise Jack from the 2005 series of the show, in which he was introduced in a rather excellent story about the Blitz in 1940s London. His last appearance came when the Dr (unknowingly?) left him stranded on a spacestation, following the defeat of the Daleks. And now he's back!! In Cardiff of all places!!

So what about "Torchwood" itself? Last night the first two episodes were broadcast on terrestial TV (the show debuted on BBC3 last Sunday but I'm one of those poor unfortunates without a digital box so this was my first viewing). And on the whole I found it enjoyable and entertaining if lacking a certain ... something. It's certainly very slickly made, reminiscent of other contemporary sci-fi / fantasy shows. There's a good sense of pace and lots of action and even violence. There's also four letter words and real sex (which you wouldn't get in Dr Who - this is post watershed TV). The characters all look very stylish and cool. And I like the team's secret underground base (the "Hub") which can be accessed in a number of interesting ways (e.g. via a lift disguised as a pavement stone which also camouflages you from passers-by).

The first story introduced us to the team, seen through the eyes of Cardiff police woman Gwen Cooper, played by Eve Myles. I thought she gave an excellent portrayal, conveying the sense of total bewilderment one would feel on being catapulted into a totally alien world and having to come to terms with it all, whilst staying very "human". Ms Myles has a very expressive face and big brown puppy dog eyes, which can show genuine emotion at all the right times.

The rest of the Torchwood team I thought came across less convincingly. I'm a bit disappointed with John Barrowman so far. Sure he's commanding and has quite a nice line in wit when the situation demands it (references to all the people he's slept with etc) but the sense of boyish energy, silliness and fun that he possessed in Dr Who seems to have evaporated here. Maybe this is deliberate, after all, he's not only had to recover from the trauma of being abandoned by the Dr, but also deal with being killed by the Daleks and brought back to life again! So it's understandable that he might be feeling scarred, with a more serious, cynical outlook on things. It would be nice to get a deeper insight into what's been going on with him in forthcoming episodes and see a return to the "old "Jack.

I did quite like Owen Harper, the cheeky and highly-sexed Torchwood medic. He's obviously there for comic relief and he had some funny scenes. For instance in the second episode, when a sex-crazed alien takes over the body of a teenage girl and starts snogging Gwen, we see a naughty Owen voyeuristically observing these activities on his computer monitor. Later on he ends up naked in the same cell as the alien and almost has amazing rumpo with her/it. Nice body too.

The other members of the team, Toshiko Sato and Ianto Jones, were less successfully fleshed out I thought. Toshiko actually appeared in a previous Dr Who story "Aliens of London" and I quite liked her in that although she didn't have a major role. So far her character has been rather non-descript and vague (even though she's pretty). Ianto isn't much more than a glorified receptionist. Hopefully we'll find out more about these two as the programme progresses. Then there was also Suzie, another member of the team who got bumped off in the first episode, so she didn't last long ... but of course Suzie's demise conveniently paved the way for Gwen to step into her shoes as "new girl" at Torchwood.

There were also lots of shots of Cardiff, showing off all the city's landmarks and hot spots like some kind of endless tourist advertisement, which did get kind of irritating after a while (the swirling aerial views especially). However I am sure there's many Welsh people who are glad that Cardiff has been put firmly on the map, Russell T Davies notwithstanding. Too much of our television is London-centric admittedly.

The storylines themselves were okay, if not mind-blowingly original. In fact the first episode was pretty much plot-free, serving more as an introduction to Torchwood itself and Gwen's "initiation". However it looks like there are some interesting episodes coming up, including one involving a Cyberwoman and another with Jack returning to the Blitz. And there's lots of links to Dr Who as well, including a mysterious hand in a jar which Jack seems rather covetous about (no comments about hand jobs, please...)

As I said though, "Torchwood" does seem to be missing a certain something. Although technically proficient and exciting too watch, it seems rather clinical in tone / style and for me, it lacks the warmth and whimsy of Dr Who. Apart from Gwen, the characters all appear rather two-dimensional and it's difficult to care about them that much. But hopefully all that will change as we get to know them and the world of Torchwood better. In the meantime I can think of far worse ways to spend my Wednesday nights and certainly it will keep me happy until the return of Dr Who next Spring. Even my hubbie liked it!


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