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

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Back to the Hub

Erm, there's this new lip balm from Superdrug I've just purchased...

Do you like the taste? I don't fancy you or anything...

Torchwood returns to our TV screens tonight.

Are we all wetting our pants with excitement, then? (Talking of pants, check out one of Timewarden’s recent posts on Dr Who and pants! Very well-researched and true. I think I perhaps need to write my own post on pants-wearing males in DW, although there has sadly been a bit of a dearth in that direction. The only instances that spring to mind are Turlough in “Planet of Fire” and Mickey Smith in “Rise of the Cybermen”. Time to redress the balance?!)

Anyway. To T-T-T-Torchwood!

Old school bloggers might remember my previous reviews of Series One. Suffice to say I wasn’t massively impressed with the first series of the sci-fi / fantasy show – although there were some very watchable episodes, there were some equally cack ones too. One major problem for me was that the leading characters just weren’t interesting enough, or particularly likeable. (This is what I said back in December 2006:

“I've found "T-Wood" entertaing enough so far, but wouldn't rank it anywhere near as highly as "Dr Who". It's slick, fast-moving and exciting in places, but it just doesn't grab me enough. I think it lacks the fundamental warmth and humanity of Dr Who. It has a coldness at it's heart. After a number of weeks I'm still finding it hard to really engage with the characters. Even though we're now getting more of a focus on individuals in particular episodes, none of the team are all that likeable (in my view).”)

Ooer! I still feel the same really. Going back to my comments on the main protagonists, firstly in T-Wood, the merry-making Captain Jack seemed sapped of life in contrast to his persona in DW (admittedly this was because he’d discovered he was immortal, not the easiest of things to live with and really a bit of a curse, but still...) Owen was a bit of a wide-boy and sleazeball, Ianto did virtually nothing save functioning as a glorified doorman, Toshiko was rather dull and humourless (although things hotted up later when she showed some lesbian tendencies in one episode) and new member of the Hub, policewoman Gwen, started off kind and sympathetic, then rapidly lost our sympathies when she started shagging Toad-face Owen behind her boyfriend Rhys’ back, with little apparent compunction. How fortunate for her that when Rhys found out, he got slipped an “amnesia” drug that made him forget that gap-toothed Gwen had ever done the dirty on him. There was one interesting character called Susie, who started off as member of the Torchwood team, but it transpired that she was a traitor and she died in the first episode. Or did she? In a bizarre twist, she was “resurrected” in a later story, in order to help the team track down a killer, but this turned out to be a bad decision – though allowing for the return of an intriguingly flawed character. Shame we didn’t see more of Ms Susie.

There was also an abundance of gratuitous sex and violence on display in the programme, which often seemed shoved in (so to speak) in a very deliberate, self-conscious way. Lest you think that I’m being a hypocrite (having just expressed my desire to see more men in pants in DW) even I recognise that these things have their limits. It’s when things are in there for the sake of it, rather than being integral to the plot, that it can get tiresome. Or rather, some of the writers seem to have added in as much sex as they could in order to make the story “better”- a misguided move.

Having moaned on considerably (just for a change) I concede that the show did have some winning elements. As I said there were some interesting plotlines. The hub was a great set. The aliens, monsters and special effects usually looked good. My favourite episodes from Series One were probably:

“Small Worlds”. Written by P J Hammond of “Sapphire and Steel” fame – and there were a lot of similarities with the aforementioned sci-fi / fantasy series. This was a thoughtful, well-produced episode with a horrible, inevitable conclusion, even if what happened at the end did kind of render the Torchwood team's "problem solving" pointless in the long run. I’m really glad that Mr Hammond is writing for Series Two and here’s hoping that his story will be a highlight.

“Greeks Bearing Gifts”. In which Toshiko revealed she was a carpet eater (although surprisingly in such a graphic programme we saw little evidence apart from girl-on-girl snogging) and got it on with a vampiric alien called Mary, played by Tony's sister from Eastenders/the daughter from "My Family". As trashy at that sounds, it was actually quite a good story and also involved a pendant that enabled Tosh to read people's minds.

“They Keep Killing Susie”. Mentioned earlier. A good character piece with Susie as a rather more unusual "baddie".

“Out of Time”. Three people from 1953 fall through a rift in time and end up in present-day Cardiff. Good in the way it portrayed these characters trying to adjust and cope with modern day life and all the emotional/psychological difficulties involved. Author Catherine Tregenna is I think pretty talented and again writing for Series Two; a good sign.

“Captain Jack Harkness”. Another Cath Tregenna-penned episode in which Jack and Tosh are transported back in time to a music hall in 1941. Jack meets his alter ego, the real Captain Jack Harkness (played by the gorgeous Matt Rippy), whose identity Jack stole after his death. Great dance/love scene at the end of the episode in which the two Jacks kiss - done touchingly rather than tackily. Also involved an excellent and sinister character called Billis, played by Murray Melvin of “Taste of Honey” fame.

The season finale though was just plain silly - involving a King Kong style monster called Abaddon stomping all over Cardiff - so much so that I couldn’t even be a*sed to write a review of it. In fact I stopped writing after watching “Combat” which was equally crud and did Noel Clarke no favours (stick to acting instead of writing, Noel).

So what’s in store for us in Season Two? Well, Episode One, "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" (subtle title) sees the arrival of Captain John Hart for one (another Captain?!) played by James Marsters from "Buffy". That's him in the photos above, and if you want a sneak preview of what transpires between him and Jack, try here:

Well, for all my gripes about gratuitousness, that looks...interesting. I kind of like the correlation between the passion and the violence (with the metaphor of the flames behind them, if rather obvious) but WHAT'S the story (Jack's morning glory? Sorry, couldn't resist). Anyway I hope we get some decent explanation as to the relationship between these two.

As for the rest of Series Two, as many of you probably know, Martha Jones from DW is due to make crossover appearances in three episodes, before returning to DW in Season Four, mid season. Other guest stars set to appear include Richard Briers (perhaps to compliment Felicity Kendall's forthcoming appearance in DW?) and Alan Dale (aka Jim "Neighbours" Robinson, more recently to be seen in "Ugly Betty"). As for the stories, wait and see!

Anyway, let's give it a try eh? Series Two kicks off tonight on BBC2, 9pm.


  • At 4:58 pm , Blogger matty said...

    Are you sure this is sci-fi or trashy soft core porn?!?!!? ...I'm not sure. All sounds a bit CAT PEOPLE-esq! ...Tho, I love CAT PEOPLE. (some of my best friends are cat people!)

    Anyway, it does sound/looking interesting!


  • At 6:07 pm , Blogger Annie said...

    Hi Simon,

    I've enjoyed being taken back to the first series of Torchwood... thank you.

    Looking forward to the new series. The Gwen and Tosh characters were interviewed on BBC Breakfast this morning - they were [jokingly] saying that they would like to make a Torchwood musical. Now there's an interesting thought.

    BTW I clicked on the video and it said that it's no longer available. Thought you'd like to know. Annie

  • At 1:56 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    The video works for me but I've had that happen on my blog where it says it's no longer available then tried again later and it works!

    Anyway, I also enjoyed your recap of Season One of "Torchwood" especially where you state which are your favourite episodes. I pretty much agree with your choices with the exception of "They Keep Killing Susie" and would actually choose the last episode in preference. My favourite episode was "Greeks Bearing Gifts" although I think "Out of Time" was the most touching.

    I enjoyed the Billis Manger character and am disappointed to learn he will not be back this season. In fact, Murray Melvin would've made a much better Master than John Simm! Conversely, I feel "Fear Her" would've made a better episode of "Torchwood" than as featured in "Doctor Who"!!

    Looking forward to the scene with Richard Briers as I enjoyed his turn as the Chief Caretaker in the "Doctor Who" story "Paradise Towers"! I guess he's this year's equivalent to last year's John Normington.

    As for tonight's opening episode, I felt James Marsters simply reprised his role as Spike from "Buffy" which probably means he was playing himself in a fairly flat Chris Chibnall script.

    The interview with RTD on BBC FOUR, a little later, was much more lively and I found myself agreeing with some of the points he made even if he doesn't seem to implement them in his shows!

  • At 7:15 am , Blogger Steve said...

    Torchwood issci-fi soft core porn. Fact.

    I wasn't sure I liked the blowfish driving the red sports car... seemed a bit gimmicky. Other than that I thought the show was pretty good - the plot was a bit weak but the delivery was dynamic and the dialogue was better....

  • At 9:35 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Matty - well actually the show is a bit of both!! Although the makers would probably bill it as a "stylish adult sci-fi drama" or something like that.

    Never seen Cat People!

    Annie - You're welcome. Torchwood the musical COULD work - after all they did it with Buffy. Then again - maybe not. The series takes itself a bit too seriously and having the characters singing might come across as a bit too much of a parody. Perhaps the cast of "Dead Ringers" could do something like that though - did you see their Torchwood skits? Very funny and spot on.

    Yes, You Tube has played up, but you should be able to get it to play at some point...

    Tim - Glad we agree on many of the episodes! They were certainly the most mature of the bunch, I reckon. I thought the season finale was pretty pants (to use one of your favourite words) to be honest...all nonsense about the world ending, the so called "darkness" coming was a let-down really.

    Yes Murray M had a real presence and came across as genuinely evil. I think a lot of it was down to his face - kind of like a nasty version of Quentin Crisp! I can't see the problem in bringing the character back. Unless the actor didn't want to of course!

    So Richard B is only in one scene? Bit of a waste...

    I've never seen James M in Buffy, although from what you and many other people are saying, the character of John Hart does sound very similar to that of Spike. Typecasting?

    Steve - Yes, porn and violence masquerading as serious drama!

    Yeah the fish driver was a bit daft. It would have been more menacing if it wasn't for the daft voice - then again that was the whole point, wasn't it?


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