Monday, 23 October 2006

Torchwood: "Everything Changes"/"Day One"

I wasn’t disappointed by “Torchwood”, though some elements are a little overfamiliar for this genre. I’ll be watching it all over again on BBC2 on Wednesday. Here’s my random thoughts on both episodes.

Though I’m apparently the minority on this, I slightly preferred Chris Chibnalls’s episode 2 better than RTDs opener. Basically because, as happens regularly, Russell’s episode was full of great one-liners but had plotholes you could drive a tractor through. It was most glaring in Captain Jack’s relationship with and knowledge of both Torchwood and the good Doctor. Apparently Jack is in Cardiff, home of the Time Rift, to wait for the Doctor and is keeping himself busy with Torchwood. But Torchwood has been tracking the Doctor anyway, and he was in the Canary Wharf HQ during the battle between Daleks and Cybermen, an event Jack is completely aware of. If he’s gone to the trouble of finding and treasuring the Doctor’s Sycorax-severed hand, surely he’d have tried to meet up with the rest of him? Why’s it so likely that the Doctor will pitch up in Cardiff? – he’s only been there twice and the first visit was by mistake. And why is the hand so special that the sex-obsessed alien used it as a ‘hostage’ in episode 2? Is Jack waiting for a specific time and place?

Chris Chibnall though trumped RTD with the glorious “came and went” quip by Captain Jack referring to the victim who fatally evaporated upon reaching orgasm.

There’s a certain triumph of style over substance (a little too many aerial shots of Cardiff and a completely pointless scene of Captain Jack looking heroic atop a tall building) but all likeable and largely forgivable. The first episode introduced us to the team and new girl Gwen plus packed in two big shocks at its climax. I’d been spoiled by one (Jack being indestructible, presumably thanks to Rose) and had guessed the other (Suzie NOT being a regular or a goodie) but they still had the desired effect. The subtler point of Gwen ‘replacing’ the corrupt Suzie and thus providing Torchwood with a moral heart rather than an amoral mission wasn’t lost on me either. How Jack never really being in any life-threatening danger plays out will be interesting – it seems only Gwen is in on this secret so far. Presumably he can't even be injured. Also Jack appears to know future events as well so surely he’s one up on everyone anyway. Was he here when the TARDIS landed above in “Boom Town”?

Hopefully Torchwood itself will be explained more fully in future episodes. Just now it’s hard to square this affably amateur Torchwood branch (#3 of 4) with the xenophobic and pristine HQ seen in “Army of Ghosts”/”Doomsday”. Just how much amnesia drugs and hard-drive hacking is needed to retain their security? Who funds them if they’re outside of the UN or government – are the Royals still in charge? The Hub looks like it requires a lot of expensive upkeep, as well as regular pizzas. Why has Tosh got a transfer from UNIT (or was she undercover in "Aliens of London"/"World War Three"?). Why is the ostensibly American Captain Jack in charge of Queen Victoria’s imperial spooks? And what of Jack’s timeline – how long has he been with “Torchwood” and why is he trusted since the team admit to knowing very little of him (are these employees immune to psychic paper?). How long has it been in his life since the events on Satellite Five? Does he even age?

Oh and Burn Gorman (given the honour of being the first "Torchwood" nude in ep 2) is a bit buffer than I expected!

Anyway I loved the ride for 100 minutes and can't wait for episode 3.

My ratings :
"Everything Changes" 7/10
"Day One" 8/10

26 October update: rewatched both episodes on BBC2 screening last night. Slightly happier with both (but not enough to amend my apparently controversial marking), as I was able to spot things I missed first time as where was too much to take in. These were especially small but important bits of dialogue and the odd vague scene which meant more in hindsight. I still feel "Day One" flows better, untied from the many obligations the opener had to include. The plot is very familiar from many a sci-fi show, but it has less plotholes and belief suspension breakdowns than its immediate predeccessor. Equally the non explanation of so many things about the status and modus operandi of Torchwood 3 itself really lets "Everything Changes" down badly. While ep 2 does no better it was certainly the duty of the debut story to do that. And Suzie's actions and motivation leading to the shock climax are odd and/or sketchy. Why confont Gwen at a spot she knows is carefully watched from below - Suzie herself revealed this to Gwen earlier! How did she know when and if Gwen would turn up anyway? I doubt the latter two gripes will be resolved later in the series but I've some hope the main "Torchwood" questions might be. As to the mystery of Captain Jack himself, and his immortality, well I think we can all guess the latter condition and I'm happy that the backstory of the man himself will unravel slowly. The immortality has given him a darker air than the Jack we knew in 2005. He also has an unquestioned authority with his colleagues - I noticed in the repeat screenings how both Ianto and Owen call him 'sir' in a completely unforced manner.
Episode 3 - guest starring Gareth Thomas and John Normington - looks to be a departure from the slightly flippant first pair of episodes. Given that writer Helen Raynor so impressed RTD with this one that he gave her a DW season 3 two-parter slot, I'm very encouraged that things can only get better.

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