Sunday, September 04, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day

How does Torchwood manage to be so consistently entertaining and so annoying at the same time?

John Barrowman observed that the short five episode season in which we last came across Captain Jack and his mortality issues was too short for his taste. Well, now Starz and the Beeb have finally combined to give us some more Torchwood and this time we get ten whole episodes, though once again with an over-arching theme: one day people just stop dying.

The doubling of time available has however allowed a team of writers and directors to use this as a platform for exploring a range of different themes and parallels including concentration camps, gayness and Catholicism and the evil that is corporate PR.

On top of this one has the inevitably rather awkward transatlanticking of the original rather Welsh format, which seems to have been achieved by snapping on some CIA-types who seem to have been imagined using the remarkably similar FBI-types we came across in the doomed ABC series FlashForward. Viewers will recall that this too had a seemingly straightforward premise which became a bit of a mess across the season, but that was really nothing compared to the dog's dinner we have here.

Behind all the campness Torchwood was always a more intelligent series than FlashForward and there were moments in the first four or so episodes when I was genuinely impressed with the way that the consequences of global non-mortality were being thought through. But then it gradually became clear that, even with just ten episodes, the end product would feature unevenly-developed plotlines and characters, of the sort that we became familiar with in longer running US serials like Heroes and Lost, and where one often had the impression that the production team were making things up as they went along. I do hope there's a point to all this overacting by Bill Pullman for example.

Even the central premise of this new Torchwood has started to drift. A few episodes ago a rogue agent had her neck snapped and yet was still on her feet swiping at a moving vehicle. They have such lust for life, someone then observed, suggesting a zombie strand to the narrative, which never really got going. Yet with two espiodes to go we're now apparently back at a situation where one bullet can remove consciousness permanently, which is basically death, and would surely be recognized as such by any sensible society without the need for ovens.

There's another serious problem. Jorge Luis Borges once said that the key to any crime-mystery is that all the suspects have to be there from the start. The person or persons responsible can't just wander in from stage left at the beginning of Act III, but that is essentially what appears to be happening here.

And yet I am enjoying it so....

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