Apologies for the delay in this, I’ve been very busy.
Russell T Davies OBE can be a notoriously variable writer when it comes to actual quality of work. His four season and four specials tenure on Doctor Who saw him write classics such as “The Waters of Mars”, mediocre stuff like “New Earth” and stinkers like “Love and Monsters”.
While his time as lead writer on the show has now ended, he is still involved in the Whoniverse with two of his own creations, although one of these, The Sarah Jane Adventures, has now been ended by the tragic loss of Elisabeth Sladen.
Torchwood, his first spin-off, revolves around a secret organisation of alien investigations led by pansexual immortal former companion to the Ninth Doctor, “Captain Jack Harkness” played with considerable matinee idol swagger with by John Barrowman. Being a far more dangerous organisation than even 24’s CTU, at the end of Season Three (Children of Earth) only two of the “original” five members were still alive, with Captain Jack going off-world to get away from what he’d had to do at the end of that event.
As we begin this season, Gwen Cooper, now with baby Anwen and husband Rhys, is living in a remote area of Wales. Jack is somewhere.
In the USA, convicted paedophile and child murderer Oswald Danes is about to get a lethal injection and a man called Rex is about to crash his car and get a pole through his chest. Neither actually die. Nor does anyone else.
You see, humanity suddenly stops dying, which is going to cause some problems. Not so much in the field of overpopulation (we’re already heading for a population of 9 billion by 2050 as is) but in the situation of a huge number of people who should be dead but are still in some form functioning. The solution will not be pretty. It’s up to Jack, Gwen, Rex, Dr Vera Juarez and a CIA analyst named Esther to get to the bottom of all of this.
It’s an intriguing, globe-trotting tale that uses both its US and Welsh locations well, but it runs into problems – lots of them.
One thing that became obvious during this ten episode run was that it shouldn’t have been ten episodes. This story could have been effectively told in eight and stretching it to ten caused a lot of unnecessary drag. This especially applies in the closing episode, where I was mentally wishing that they’d just get on with it. There’s keeping the audience in suspense and then there is frustrating them – this entered the latter. The “solution” is unconvincing – yes, I know this is a show that involves a time travelling police box.
There’s other problems too – some of the characters aren’t all that good. Oswald Danes, while well played by Bill Pullman, seems ultimately unnecessary to the plot. We didn’t need an evil paedophile here – it’s like he was added solely for ratings. Jilly Kitzinger was better, but still lacked something.
It’s not all bad though. People still get “killed” in this and some of the deaths are truly shocking. There’s also a particularly disturbing scene involving a broken neck. The overall plot is good and has a few nice red herrings – it’s just a pity it wasn’t shorter. Eve Myles is particularly good in this and sparkles in her scenes with John Barrowman. There are some very thrilling moments and some truly great humour. Also, the end scene is rather interesting and sets things up for another season…
If we get another season – the continued existence of Torchwood as a viable show remains clear. Certainly, with the mediocre performance that was Miracle Day, I wouldn’t be upset if it didn’t come back.