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

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I have fallen behind in my Torchwood reviews. What a shameful state of affairs. My other bloggers have been way ahead of the game, posting up their post-episode reviews in next to no time. Perhaps it's got something to do with the fact that I'm once again losing enthusiasm for the show, despite my efforts to remain a loyal viewer. I am trying, honest...

Anyway here come my thoughts on the last couple of eps, ladies and gents...

To the Last Man

This episode was all about - okay I’m going to steal Steve’s description as he summed it up so well in his review - “a shell-shocked soldier removed from 1918 and cryogenically frozen by Torchwood in order for him to be reinserted back into his own time and so close up an immense rift in time that was forecast to destroy the world in 2008.”

Geddit? I confess to finding the execution of this (potentially interesting) idea a little confusing. Coupled with this was a sub-plot involving people from the Cardiff of the past seeping through the rift into the Cardiff of the present and then disappearing back to where they’d come from, all of which was going on in a disused hospital – cue “freaky” scenes with Gwen getting hassled by a psycho patients and nurses (no different to your average NHS hang-out then). But this was all kind of peripheral, and in the final analysis, didn’t add up to much (except of course to make the point that if the rift didn’t get sealed, the ghosts wouldn’t stop appearing and the whole world would fall into chaos…) The story itself felt very flat and actually seemed to drag. All the characters really had to do was sit back and wait for the moment when Tommy got sent back to the past.

However whilst weak on action and plot, the episode was undoubtedly stronger in the characterisation department.

One of the positive aspects of “To the Last Man” was that it gave Toshiko a bigger slice of the action and the relationship with her and the soldier – a northern lad called Tommy - was nicely played. Naoki Mori is a decent actress and although I was moaning about her character being little more than a cypher in Season One, slowly but surely, a personality is now beginning to emerge. Tosh is… A techno-boffin (well we knew that from the start I guess). Intelligent in an understated, rather than a “Look at me, aren’t I clever!” way. Somewhat shy and introverted. Gentle and caring. Innocent in the ways of the flesh. In fact some of these things probably explain exactly why why Tosh didn’t make a major impact in the first series – the fact that her character is a bit of a shrinking violet often meant that she sunk into the background. But that doesn’t mean she can’t get her own story sometimes as well.

Last season’s “Greeks Bearing Gifts” was a “Tosh” episode too and in that it transpired that she had a liking for, erm, ladies. This seems to have been forgotten and on this occasion Ms Sato decided to fixate on a fella. What IS it with the Torchwood scriptwriters? Are they trying to prove that the T-Wood team are a bunch of sexually fluid, snog and sh*g anything that moves swingers?! Nowt wrong with bisexuality, but it’s starting to get ridiculous.

The actor who played Tommy put in a decent performance – and was kind of cute in an unconventional looking way. He also did a good job of conveying the sense of dislocation someone out of their time would feel, although this aspect could have been examined in greater depth I felt.

One potentially interesting aspect of the episode was it's "Past Torchwood" characters, Gerald and Harriet (daaaarling!), who we saw all too briefly at the beginning and end of the episode as they arrived to rescue Tommy. I would have loved to have known more about them and wouldn't it have been fun if they'd run into the current members of the hub? As some of you will recall, Torchwood was established back in the 19th Century by Pauline Collins, sorry I mean Queen Victoria, in the Dr Who story "Tooth and Claw" and has been going strong since then. A delve into its history would make for a good episode, yes? A shame then that the chance to flesh out two old skool Torchwoodians was missed and that they couldn't be worked more cleverly into the plot.

Oh, AND! One more point of note. Jack and Ianto shared a passionate kiss that was totally superfluous to the plot! Where was that coming from? And more to the point, where is it headed? Is their previously discussed dinner date really going to occur? (With a bit of après meal too we hope?)

At the end of the day though, some decent character moments didn’t make for a strong enough story and at the end I was still left feeling dissatisfied. God I’m hard to please.


With author Catherine Tregenna at the helm of this episode, I was seriously hoping that it would be the equivalent of a well-cooked, delicately braised, delicious-tasting piece of steak. Instead it turned out to be more akin to a gristly, greasy, manky old piece of KFC chicken.

Okay perhaps that’s slightly harsh. But in comparison with Season One’s standout episodes, “Out of Time” and “Captain Jack Harkness”, this story was a major let down and certainly unworthy of Ms Tregenna’s talents, lacking the poetry and sensitive writing/characterisation of her previous efforts. Was she forced to write this episode?

The plot, such as it was, concerned a bunch of criminals who were holding a giant alien monster – closely resembling an Earth whale but not looking desperately convincing – captive, and slicing up large chunks of it for human beings to feed off. Cue half-hearted attempt to espouse the evils of feeding off other creatures for our own appetites and having no respect for alien lifeforms in the process. Fair enough but these ideas only really came to the fore in the last scenes of the story, with Captain Jack getting all embarrassingly touchy-feely with the creature and bemoaning its plight (rather hard to do with a CGI alien that isn’t actually there – I could comment on the fact that the phallic shape of the creature probably appealed to Jack’s nature, but let’s not go there…)

The bits when Owen attempted to inject the creature with a giant syringe thing looked silly – definitely not one of the special effects’ teams better efforts. Seeing old whaley flapping about reminded me too much of the poor old whale who got splattered in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The rest of the episode just felt so … pedestrian. All that was really required for the team to do was track down the crooks that had imprisoned the alien and have a showdown. The aforementioned villains were nasty, boring and clichéd, just your standard stock baddies with no discernable characters.

I can’t actually think of much else to say about proceedings as my attention kept wandering and I actually got up and left the room on a couple of occasions.

Oh, yes! There was also a sub-plot involving Gwen and fatty fiancé Rhys, in which the gap-toothed one’s fella found out that – gasp! – she actually worked for Torchwood! As virtually the entire population of Cardiff now seems aware of their existence, it does seem rather odd that dim-wit Rhys was the last to twig. You’d also think that he might have grown just a little bit suspicious of all of Gwen’s comings and goings before now (and I’m not just talking about her horrible jiggy jiggy activities with Toadface Owen) – did Rhys really imagine that his beloved had a normal, 9-5 job? The argument scenes between them were quite well done, but didn’t really add anything dazzling to an already average episode.

I think Catherine Tregenna is better suited to writing more “old history” type stories – both of her episodes from last season revolved around characters from the early 20th Century – either brought forward to the present, or encountered when members of the Torchwood team travelled back in time. The drama and conflict that occurred as a result made for some genuinely thought-provoking episodes. “Meat” was an entirely different affair and just didn’t have the same depth or potential. Put bluntly, it was uninspiring and dull.

And to add, in terms of ongoing relationships between the T-Wood team, there’s been some pretty poor continuity to date. Character “involvements” are alternatively picked up or totally forgotten, all according to the whim of whoever is writing this week’s episode. There was no reference to Jack and Ianto’s snog from the week before and Toshiko seemed to have already forgotten about her beloved Tommy, preferring now to focus her attentions on Owen, of all people. Fickle cow. The extent to which the team are all fixating on one another is becoming laughable - tying in with my earlier point about the sliding sexual preferences of nearly all the major characters. And what IS going on with Jack and Gwen?! We keep getting lots of lingering Jack-Gwen looks as if to suggest there’s some kind of suppressed desire between them both, but nothing whatsoever has been said. Pur-lease! Mmm, I wonder if this might throw a spanner in the works for Gwen’s impending nuptials? And Ianto is bound to throw a hissy fit when he finds out that a gap-toothed Welsh wench is a rival for the horny Jack’s affections…Cue cat-fight in the church. Ooooh I hope so. Personally I think Gwen would be better off marrying a Weavel.

Mmmm. After an initially promising first couple of episodes this season, things seem to be on the slide again on the Torchwood quality meter. As Steve put it so accurately over on his blog: "... the episode kept me entertained ... (but) it didn't really excite me or impinge itself upon me for any decent length of time. It's like they're just not trying hard enough. They're on auto-pilot. It's all a bit lazy." Too right. It's nice to crash on the sofa at the end of a long day and stick Torchwood on the TV but it's all so ... undemanding. Decent sci-fi should be so much more challenging and dynamic than this.

Anyway, only a couple of months now until Season Four of Dr Who hits our screens. Catherine Tate aside, I'm hoping it will be a of a much higher calibre! Time will tell...

(Screencaps courtesy of time-and-space.co.uk)

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  • At 11:46 pm , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    But Catherine's in every episode! I'd dearly love to put her to one side but that's going to prove impossible so what's the point?

    Anyway, to "Torchwood". Worst episode for me is still the first. I don't mind the three since but haven't rushed to watch them again, on iPlayer, as I did the opening episode of "Ashes to Ashes" a few nights after transmission.

    You seem prejudiced against people with a little weight. I noticed it first in your review of "Voyage of the Damned". I would describe Rhys as stocky rather than fat. Physicality aside, he is actually too good for Gwen who I would describe as a slut.

    Describing Burn Gorman as toad face is a bit mean, too. He can't help the face he was born with and is actually capitalising on it after playing Mr. Guppy in "Bleak House"! Casting directors obviously find his features distinctive!!

    Agreed on Toshiko. She's my favourite character in the whole mess. If only the Doctor were as you describe her... "Intelligent in an understated, rather than "Look at me, aren't I clever!" kind of way."

    Summing up the regulars of "Torchwood", these essentially undefined characters shift, like those in a soap opera, to suit a given narrative rather than have the script work around the natures of the collective individuals.

  • At 1:03 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Tim - Yes, so all we can do is grin and bear it eh? I shall reserve judgement until I see her in a few eps of Season Four first! Although, ahem I think I've been pretty judgemental about her already...

    Talking of being judgemental, I take your point about the weight comments. Being slightly overweight isn't a crime of course.

    As for Gwen, yes she has definitely demonstrated sluttish tendencies in the past and now it looks like she has a thing for Jack! I think Rhys might as well sleep with the rest of the Hub, otherwise he's going to be the odd one out!

    As for Burn G, I'm sorry but to me he DOES resemble a toad, and other people are with me on that one! I'm not wishing to cast aspersions on his ability as an actor though!

    Mmm I could see Tosh as a potential companion in DW, but then as with Sally Sparrow, the production team seem to be looking a gift horse in the mouth, don't they? They just don't know when they're onto a good thing. Fools!

    I agree with your assessment of the way the personalities of the characters have shifted to fit in with the storyline. I know you've said that before. That's the problem with T-Wood, too many soap opera dramatics...

  • At 1:50 pm , Blogger Steve said...

    I'm, I admit, quite ambivalent where Torchwood is concerned. I don't feel committed to it in any way and therefore don't care enough to be infuriated by its many faults... there's so little else on TV that it is (to damn it with faint praise) better then nothing. And that isn't really a recommendation. Torchwood has potential - it could be a launching pad for really good sci-fi if only the writers would push themselves. Maybe the show needs to invest in some decent, hard-assed editors who give them hell when they come up with sub standard sci-fi waffle storylines? It's bizarre. Torchwood in many respects is "almost" there. The characters are almost interesting, the storylines are almost clever, the direction is almost entertaining... but somehow it all falls short of the mark. If the Torchwood script writers had been on strike over the last few weeks would anyone have noticed?

  • At 5:03 pm , Blogger matty said...

    I still do not know this show, but anything with two boys kissing can't be all bad. ...certainly there is hope for the wood.

    ...did I hear a comic drum drop?

  • At 7:06 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    Your judgement of Tate is well-founded, though, and bang on the Rani! With two irritating moments in the space of a short trailer, not to mention the numerous ones in "The Bride Everyone Wishes Would Runaway", just imagine how many there will be within a whole Season!!

    I can't see any grounds for optimism. Over three years, RTD has overseen 42 episodes, in which he has had ample opportunity to prove himself, the exact same number Verity Lambert produced in her first year with the incomparable Billy Hartnell!

  • At 1:36 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Steve - I totally agree with you, a very accurate assessment there! The show is ALRIGHT, but that's as far as I'd go in describing it. AVERAGE is another good adjective.

    Matty - Not just a comic drum, a very loud clash of cymbals!

    Tim - I am still hoping (I say hoping) that Catherine T will confound expectations. I still wish that my theory that Donna is really a Time Lady, hiding behind a human persona like the Dr, would come true. One can but dream... Either that or the Dr subjects her to a powerful brain transplant that transforms her into an intelligent, brilliant, lucid person. Even bigger dreams!

    Unlike you though I have enjoyed much of the previous three seasons of New Who. It's just that RTD's judgement and production decisions are starting to grate more and more. I'm sorry you don't hold New Who in high esteem.

  • At 4:43 pm , Blogger Lost Boy said...

    The monster looked like a sock puppet when it was flailing after the injection. You know, it really seems to me that this show's main problem is that each episode kick off with a good idea but ultimately fails because the scriptwriters don't know how to develop it.

  • At 12:59 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Lost Boy - Yes that's what someone else said (about the monster that is!)

    I think your estimation is correct, good ideas which are poorly delivered.


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