Sunday, July 17, 2011

Torchwood goes west (big mistake)

Although other people have said some favourable things about the new Torchwood series that started last Thursday, I was less impressed.

First off, this was an 'establishing' episode that only really existed to take you to the next episode and explain how Captain Jack, Gwen et al end up in America. As that kind of episode it was done to an okay level. Quite why a black ops helicopter was trying to blow the crap out of a house on a beach in Wales where Gwen and Rhys were holed up was never adequately explained, but presumably it will be. Also the casting of Bill Pullman (who has aged significantly it seems) as a creepy child-murderer could well be inspired (and is a bold role for anyone to take on).

But - and it's a big but - nothing actually happened or got resolved in the episode. There was one exceptionally gross scene where they detached a head from a barely living charred corpse, and the head remained alive. But no answers. Only a very long teaser for the rest of the season.

I don't mind TV series having story arcs, although too-rigid story arcs killed The X-Files, Alias, even The West Wing in the end. The problem an episode that is all about the arc and nothing else really happens is boring in the extreme. Exhibit A: those X-Files episodes that just seemed to be mysterious characters sitting round tables smoking cigarettes talking about codenamed projects. Snore off! You want to see some kind of conclusion in an episode, even if the conclusion is open-ended so the bad guy can return to wreak havoc later.

For me, the emphasis on a story arc instead of having a story is a minus for the new Torchwood.

So is the relocation of the series to the USA. I recognise why they're doing this - the American TV audience. It's the same reason the news series of Doctor Who unnecessarily kicked off in Monument Valley in Utah instead of the Rhondda. But it misses the point of what made Torchwood interesting to start with.

If I wanted to watch overblown science fiction in an American setting I could tune in to repeats of the X-Files, or watch more of the new series of V. There are enough good programmes made in America already to satisfy my lust for all things American - Castle, Chuck, The Big Bang Theory, to name a few.

What made Torchwood fun was that it was set in Cardiff, and, okay, that might be because I live in Cardiff and location-spotting was amusing. But it also set it apart from just about anything else in the schedule. Turning it into an American-based drama removes the one thing that made it a must watch for me. It will be hard now to pick it out from a line-up of similar, high-end, slickly-produced, drama serials.

I think trading the dorkiness of being based in a little big city that few people have ever heard of for trans-Atlantic bright lights is a big mistake. So far no amount of aliens, government duplicity, mysterious time travellers, or poor TV scheduling have managed to kill Torchwood off.

But this decision might.


  1. If the location was the only thing calling you to watch it, then I guess that may be the same reason others did too. If no-one outside Cardiff is watching, moving the series to a country where it's going to have a much larger audience doesn't seem that outrageous. No big loss, I find it difficult to bear the inane cheese spouted most of the time.

  2. No, I still think removing the unique element of the show is a big mistake.