So, Torchwood. Owing to the fact that the gods of file transmission are blind, uncaring and cruel I have only seen episodes 4-6, but I don't propose to allow that to stop me from being opinionated. Anyone who wants to argue, please send me the rest of the season first :>. So, herewith my comments.
- It doesn't actually suck, mostly. Only sometimes. It's generally interesting, gritty (ish) and filmed with a nice awareness of horror tropes. It has a very X-Files feel, but enough differences to be more than the same old same old.
- Saddened though I am to admit it, the major source of moments of suckage is, tragically, Captain Jack. I loved the character on Doctor Who, but John Barrowman is simply not good enough an actor to carry the darker, more intense, more layered personality they're trying for here. There are too many moments when he "emotes" in a way that makes me want to thump him over the head with a blunt instrument just to hear the hollow, wooden "thonk".
- Quite apart from not being a very good actor, the man is also beginning, to a quite horrible extent, to make me think of Tom Cruise: smugly good-looking, self-consciously charming and very, very plastic. Also, I am developing an irresistible feeling that he's probably a total bastard in real life. This really doesn't work. The rest of the cast ensemble is of a far higher calibre, causing me to make invidious comparisons between American and British dramatic training, but it's not strong enough to carry the show. Like Doctor Who, the series stands or falls on the appeal of its main character; unlike both Doctors in the recent seasons, poor old Captain Jack simply doesn't have either the personality or the acting chops.
- He is also not at all, in any way, assisted by the writing. I don't know why the scripts should be noticeably less able than in Doctor Who, given that they're both Russell T. Davies babies; the plots are interesting enough, but someone on that team writes their dialogue by priming a primitive computer with low-grade pulp clichés and randomly capturing the spew. People simply don't talk like that. The bits about "Chosen Ones" in "Small Worlds" were particularly clunky.
- I also think the writers aren't really quite sure how to deal with all this Grown-Up, Adult, Sexy Stuff. They seem to be conceptualising the series as an edgy, gritty, sexy, adult Doctor Who, but I think they are underestimating the difference in representational modes, if I can use a horribly pretentious phrase. Doctor Who is at least partially kiddies' television: it conceives of its plots and character interactions in a slightly stylised, semi-symbolic form which works very well in context. Torchwood is trying to establish a far more realistic framework, which it's actually doing quite well in the emotional content of the mysteries and some of the interactions between some of the characters, but it keeps falling back on the old tricks of gesture rather than realism. The transitions between angry/sexy/adult stuff and the X-Filesy, Doctor-Whoish stylised detection is very jarring at times. The apparently sexually-charged encounter between Owen and Gwen in "Countrycide" is particularly horrible: it comes out of nowhere, overstates itself horrendously, and despite its deliberate attempt to be shocking is clearly embarrassing to the writers.
- All that being said, the concept of Torchwood itself is pretty darned cool, and I really like the rest of the cast: Gwen, Owen and Ianto, in particular, are people who interest me and for whom I would cheerfully continue watching, if only in the faint hope that they'll eventually work out that Captain Jack is a dickhead and needs to be fed to his pet pterodactyl in very small chunks.