Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,


Despite the lack of regular updates, I have been continuing my rewatch of New Who, an episode a day unless other circumstances intervene (eg good weather at the weekend, or taking the car to work so I can't watch on the train). Yesterday I reached the end, so far, of Torchwood, and it's a wet weekend, so it is opportune to write it up properly.

To start with Miracle Day. I had seen only the first couple of episodes when it was first broadcast - summer holidays are not a great time for me to catch up with new shows, what with travel disrupting my usual routine - and it rather failed to grab me. Episode 2, in particular, is almost entirely about a transatlantic plane flight and seemed almost as long, though of course it is only 50 minutes, and then I think I just lost interest partway through episode 3.

It's worth persevering with. Episode 5 (of the ten) is where it really catches fire, if you will excuse the metaphor, with wild sex and pyrotechnics; from then on, Jack and Gwen, with new American colleagues Rex and Esther from the CIA, and orbited uneasily by child-murderer Oswald and various others, try to discover who is behind the sudden absence of death from the world, to an eventual dramatic showdown simultaneously in Argentina and China. It's a global reach for the longest single chunk of narrative in the Whoniverse (unless you count Season 16). I would add that, apart from Episode 3 where I stalled first time round, my favourite parts were those written or co-written by Jane Espenson.

It also sees Torchwood come closest to the core concept of some of the best Who stories - the charming quasi-immortal hero, with his girl sidekick from a different culture, helps a small team of dedicated locals to confront the sinister forces of Big Business and government. Of course it isn't quite the same as Who - it turns out that Jack's long-ago relationship with an Italian chap is part of the key to the problem - but it does tick some of the boxes as well as providing entertaining script, acting and effects. The very last words are one of Jack's new American friends asking him, "What the hell did you do to me?" and the viewer who has enjoyed the accelerating rollercoaster of the last few episodes may well ask the same.

These are not the last words of Torchwood, however. Concurrent with Miracle Day, an interactive app for iPhones and iPads was released called Web of Lies, which features two parallel stories told through animated webcasts similar to those the BBC did in 2001-03: Gwen and Jack in an adventure in 2007 which takes them to Chernobyl, and a 2011 plot which brings a young woman investigating her brother's shooting in Los Angeles, to Coney Island for a showdown with the allies of the bad guys from Miracle Day.

I haven't worked out how to get access to the various walled garden app stores so as to get the full value of the interactive games, but the narrative bits of the episodes are bootlegged on Youtube, and watching them gives an eerie feeling of nostalgia for the old bootlegged Doctor Who videos. The very last words of Torchwood, so far, are "I'd figure out something else", spoken by none other than Eliza Dushku, who is the lead guest star, and as always excellent in a not hugely stretching role.

I previously wrote up the first two seasons of Torchwood in the course of this rewatch (1a, 1b, 2a, 2b), and also wrote up Children of Earth when it was first broadcast (to great debate). I would urge Torchwood fans to also seek out the seven radio plays (1, 2-4, 5-7) - particularly the first (Lost Souls, by Joe Lidster) which despite dodgy science gives a certain closure to Toshiko and Owen, and the last (The House of the Dead, by the ever-reliable James Goss) which does the same for Ianto. I have listened to them again in sequence with the TV programmes as part of my rewatch (more on this when I have finished the entire exercise, which will be in about a month at current rate of progress).

I'd also like to flag up the Torchwood books, which I think are the most consistent in quality of any of the post-2005 ranges of Whoniverse novels (the best of all, of course, are the Brilliant Book annuals). I particularly enjoyed, well, anything by James Goss, but especially First Born, which is set between Children of Earth and Miracle Day and may therefore not be as accessible to non-fans. More casual browsers should try Border Princes by Dan Abnett and Slow Decay by Andy Lane, both set during the first season, to see if this is their cup of tea. The direct-to-audio stories are also good, with again a shout-out to James Goss for Ghost Train.

So after all that, was Torchwood worthwhile? I can't match the eloquence of Philip Sandifer, who has chronicled how Torchwood mapped the beginning and end of his marriage, but I share his defensiveness of the project; taking the Whoniverse concept but bringing it closer to the X-Files and Buffy in execution, with a decent ensemble cast, is not a stupid idea, and when it is good (Out of Time, Adam, the P.J. Hammond episodes, Children of Earth, the second half of Miracle Day) I find it very good television indeed; also as noted above I like the audio plays, and find the spinoff books and audiobooks to be generally pretty good quality. On the other hand, I must admit that the low points (End of Days, Fragments) are worse than any of the low points of either New Who proper or the Sarah Jane Adventures. Of course, part of that is about having high expectations, which is never a bad thing. And if we were to judge all of Old Who by The Twin Dilemma, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.
Tags: doctor who: rewatch, doctor who: rewatch: new who, tv: torchwood

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.