Hunky Hero: John Barrowman, possibly the world’s greatest entertainer (he can sing, dance and present with equal aplomb) but not the worlds most gifted actor, finally gets his own drama to front the results are variable at best. What baffles me about Barrowman is that on occasion he can bring his performance down to a very sensitive, mesmerising level but more often than not he chooses to overplay his dialogue and murder a scene. He’s a little like Sylvester McCoy in that regard. It’s frustrating because the potential is there for him to be a fine leading man but he just needs somebody to whisper in his ear that he is playing the part a little too tongue in cheek at times. He’s a little like latter day Tom Baker in that regard. Jack’s joke for everybody to ignore Gwen and go about their business as she stands there holding the pizza should work far more effectively than it does but the net result is that this crew seem even more conceited than they already did. Why does Jack spend an inordinate amount of time posing with his hands on his hips atop vertiginous buildings looking out across Cardiff? Surely he isn’t lording it over what he consider to be his town? And if so, wouldn’t have set his sights on something a bit sexier? Bizarrely considering this is a pilot and should be welcoming new viewers to the show, we don’t learn much at all about Jack in Everything Changes. Davies expects the audience to have that knowledge already, which is a little remiss of him.
Red Herring: Indira Varma is a terrific actress and I have seen her in a number of shows where she has been superb. Handed a character as vacant (and as disposable) as Susie though and she struggles to bring anything to the part. You can’t escape the fact that she was never going to be anything but a red herring, a supposed member of the ensemble that dies before the end of the first episode. Mind you to be fair the rest of the cast are so ill defined at this point it could have been any one of them.
Tech Support: The opposite of Gorman/Owen, Naoko Mori is the weakest member of the ensemble but she has been handed the most likable character. Go figure.
Butler: As an example of how inconsistent Torchwood can be, Ianto is threatening Jack with sexual harassment after his flirtatious comments in Everything Changes and yet come They Keep Killing Susie he is playing timed rounds of hide the purple parsnip with him. Sometimes I can’t keep up with the sexual games on this show.
Dreadful Dialogue: ‘It’s a fucking disgrace’ – Torchwood pretends to be trendy and winds up falling flat on it’s face. And that’s three minutes in to the episode.
‘Contraceptives in the rain, love this planet’ – not only is Barrowman far too aware of the camera in his first scene but he’s also talking a load of bollocks.
‘The 21st century is when it all changes…and you’ve got to be ready’ is not the best tagline for a series.
‘And your work is more important’ ‘Now you got it’ – and therein lies the fundamental difference between Doctor Who and Torchwood. The former celebrates humanity whereas the latter (some episodes excepted) treads on it to get to the sleaze.
‘How come we get all the Weevils and bollocks and shit? Is that what alien life is – filth?’ - the antithesis of Doctor Who which promotes the universe as a playground to play in, Torchwood seems to suggest it is a cesspool that flings its excrement our way. Nice.
The Shallow Bit: With Torchwood, this section of my reviews really comes into its own.
Result: An awkward pilot and coupled with Day One on its opening night was almost enough to drive everybody away from Torchwood for good. I remember being quite miffed after watching 90 minutes of generally badly judged television and wondering how Russell T Davies could have got it so wrong. You only have to check out the rest of his oeuvre to see how this man has written some of the most sophisticated and honest adult drama to have hit the screens. His only New Adventure, Damaged Goods, was a cracking read and whilst it failed as a Doctor Who novel it was a brilliant piece of adult fiction with exceptional characterisation. When I heard Davies was going to be penning a new, grown up (I would debate whether Doctor Who is childish in it’s outlook but that is a debate for another time) I was salivating at the thought of him moulding a show that took all his creativity and mixed it with some developed characterisation and post-watershed themes. I thought it was going to be the greatest show on TV, mixing his penchant for children’s and adult drama. The truth is the result was an awkward fusion of the two that can never settle on a tone of maturity and juvenilia (and with all the sex, swearing and violence the two are treated as exactly the same thing). My real issue with Everything Changes isn’t the childishness of its nature but how none of the characters are especially likable. If Davies really is a fan of Joss Whedon’s work then he really hasn’t taken notes on his ability as creator of a agreeable company – Whedon’s gift is giving the audience a way in to an absurd premise like Buffy through hilarious, flawed but fundamentally decent characters. Davies in comparison fills his show to bursting with unpleasant people; morally bankrupt, egotistical, smug and self important. They aren’t people that you would want to spend any amount of time with and that is a real problem when you are trying to endorse a pilot for a longer series. Reports are that Torchwood was rushed into production and it pains me to say that it does show at times and the reaction of the production staff that perhaps they didn’t bring their A-game to the first series is understandable too. By trying to appeal to the trash brigade, sci/fi fans and a family audience it winds up missing all of it’s targets. So little of the pilot clicks into place as it should; the mystery is poorly introduced and wrapped up, the characters ill defined, the tone all over the place and the shock moments more laugh-out-loud than seat of the pants. The downer is the second episode is even worse. How something as accomplished as Children of Earth was born of this series perplexes me: 3/10