« Nebula Awards Shortlist | Home | Diamond Age coming as a TV series »

January 12, 2007

Torchwood season 1 review



The first thing I saw when I opened your posting was 'BIG DUMB OBJECT'. Under that, was a single word review of my current favorite series. If this is your view, you are perfectly entitled to it and I suggest you don't bother with season 2, however, why, in that case, bother to post a review. IMO that makes you a VERY big dumb object.

As someone who balked at continuing to watch Torchwood after four episodes, I suspect that BDO is trying to express just what an insult to every viewer's time Torchwood is. It pushes badness now every metric. The characters appear to be suffering from Star Trek Naked Now/Naked Time issues every minute they are awake.

I do know someone who likes Torchwood, but she's never been able to cite cause beyond John Barrowman.

At least when I watch a show for the tingle in the nethers, I know to keep my assessment of the virtue of that show distinct.

I would be curious to see how you would articulate a defense of Torchwood, Dawn.

Dawn. I did in fact do in-depth reviews of the first seven or so episodes, (all tagged with "Torchwood"). Then I gave up , because I just couldn't bring myself to criticise every episode.

However, with the series finished, I felt that I should review the whole series. But it all came down to that one word.

I so wanted it to be great, I really, really did. But in my opinion it was not good Science Fiction. Obviously some people like it, and it has been commissioned for a second series. I will watch, and hope, that it achieves some of the wishes I had for the series.

This review is the funniest thing I've seen today.

James, please accept the "The SciFi UK Review Award 2007 For Shortest And Funniest Review"!

Btw, I've only seen four episodes of Torchwood, one with monsters chasing a family during a party (or something) - rubbish. One which had a female pilot and her plane appear from the past - not bad, but didn't really understand how they knew to stand at the airfield waiting for them (probably cos I missed the previous episode). And the finale episodes which I thought were quite good.

I haven't done a review of them simply because I didn't get to watch all the episodes. I guess I'll look at them on DVD somewhen.

I quite like the short review, sort of like Flash fiction. Perhaps I'll do a series :-)

How would I articulate a defense?

Firstly, I agree that the series was not without faults, some of them glaring and was also responsible for producing Cyberwoman (bad) and Random Shoes (the 2nd worst thing I've seen in years). However, I found myself sitting down each week in anticipation and thoroughly enjoying each episode (no, 5 Countrycide was my favorite). Even though the current series is now finished, I still find myself thinking about it and I can't wait for season 2. I am currently reading the novels (which I am also enjoying) and am looking forward to 3 more being released in summer. Whether it is, in fact, good or bad science fiction appears to me to be immaterial. I enjoyed it and can appreciate that it is not for everyone, but my point was, if someone doesn't like it, why post an inflammatory message about it rather than just leave it be. If I don't like something, I don't look online for blogs about it and I don't post messages saying I don't like it. I leave them for people who are enjoying the subject matter.

This is my defense, although how articulate it actually is I wouldn't care to speculate. Jason, you commented 'It pushes badness now every metric'. What does that mean please? For the record, I do like John Barrowman AND Eve Myles. They are the 2 characters I would most like to shag. However, it seems pointless to cite hormonally charged fantasies about those two as my reason for watching as I am straight and he is not

Dawn, I'm glad that you enjoyed Torchwood, really. However, you say...

"If I don't like something, I don't look online for blogs about it and I don't post messages saying I don't like it."

That is where we differ. If I don't like something, I will post about it, if I feel like it. I might not, but I might. I'll basically post whatever I feel like. It's my blog, and it's just a blog.

On reflection, my review of Torchwood perfectly sums up my opinions about the series.

Everyone is of course free to disagree with my opinions, and welcome to voice those disagreements here.

BTW I'm honoured that you think I'm a very big dumb object ;-)

James, of course you are perfectly within your rights to post whatever you wish on your own blog and I merely exercised my right to disagree with said post.

As you seem to have watched the series fairly closely, have you any idea what make of vehicle they actually drive? I am stuck in a pointless argument over this with someone saying it's a range rover and me insisting it's not. Any help appreciated.

Yeah, I it's one of the new Range Rovers, with extra "Pimpage". Not the most discreet of cars :-)

Thanks. I guessed it had been modified somewhat as I didn't recognise it and I am something of a 4x4 fanatic. No, not the most discreet ride ever, but nice...

I can only apologize for "pushing badness now every metric" appears to be a phrase I garbled in some accident of editing. I either meant for 'now' to be 'down' or 'on,' but that's long past now.

Of course, it is inherently contradictory to make the argument that one shouldn't critique things one does not enjoy while criticizing something you did not enjoy. That is, if you want to understand the utility that people see in engaging the things they don't like, you might look to determining the utility you got out of commenting about this femtoreview. Clearly I am pro-criticism, so I admire the fact that you engage in it. I recommend resolving this by applying it more broadly, rather than less.

That said, your defense of Torchwood seems to entirely ignore the show proper, and focus solely on your experience of engaging with it. I know you like the show, but we already knew that. Your defense does not engage the show. I do not believe it is plausible that Torchwood was trying to address cryptic virtues not subject to general discussion.

It is interesting though, because the majority of critical opinion of Torchwood is so strongly negative, I've had a chance to see several threads where defenders come out to address the issues, including on my own forum at chicago-sf.org. It seems the fracture point between us is the degree to which we can continue to suspend disbelief for characters who are self-destructive because they haven't just failed to master their simplest appetites, they've failed to moderate them.

This is interestingly similar to some of the criticisms of Galactica, which I adore, and where I buy most of the critical character and behavioral flaws. I just didn't see any people behind the Torchwood crew. And there's always the poweful lameness of the music... :)

Yeah I agree, about the suspension of belief about the characters, and probably the scenario and plots too.

This is completely different for me compared to Doctor Who. The Runaway Bride was quite a load of nonsense; however because it was fun and because I liked the acting and the characters, I was able to forgive the ridiculous plot and repetitive ideas. Torchwood just didn't have anything that made me forgive it. Unfortunately.

By happenstance I just saw The Runaway Bride, which I liked better than almost all of the Tennant series so far. There was none of that strange technophobia which was running around the edges in that set, and there were some giddily fun set pieces. The snow made me wince though...

With Torchwood I guess part of the problem is how easy it is to imagine the better cousins of that show that exist on different branches in decision-space, but not _wildly_ different ones. Want to explore sex and the corruption of the under-supervised given great power? Ground the characters enough that they have principles to corrupt. Let us fear them, in the way we feared early Jack Bristow on Alias, for example. Too clever to be called into account; too cold to be trusted.

Not sure entirely what you mean by 'engaging the show'. Yes, it had more holes than a second hand dartboard, major continuity errors and some of the episodes were more than a little shaky, BUT IT WAS GOOD! I've seen a few people comment about the music, ie not liking it. I assume I must be fortunate in that I didn't even notice it.

I may be wrong, but I had the idea that this particular 'team' were merely caretakers of the artifacts and monitors of the rift. The real action was the responsibility of Torchwood London. Of course, when they had that debacle with the daleks and cybermen there weren't many of them left and responsibility was presumably transferred to Cardiff. Naturally, this bunch are not suitable or trained for this so they come across as a bunch of incompetents. Yes they talk and behave like a bunch of adolescents, but so did I at that age. I consider a certain amount of background has been laid down, there could have been more, but at least we have got to know the characters somewhat, even if some of them are rather unlikeable (possibly deliberately so). I am prepared to give the benefit that this was only the first season and I will be watching eagerly in hopes of better things from the next season.

I'm not sure it is necessary to go so far in defending bad television as to impugn yourself (albeit historically) with the impulse-control deficiencies of a Torchwood staff member. I'd wait to throw myself on the pyre for a more worthy production.

That said, your defense of the show doesn't amount to much substantively. While some people may indeed act like adolescents at the ages of the Torchwood crew, this does not make the youtube videos of folks in the last flush of youth ghost riding the whip or 'mudding' or whatever risk-prone goofy behavior that strikes their fancy good drama. Torchwood doesn't deal in the drama of human frailty, people succumb inevitably and without resistance in their universe. The issue is not dramatized, it is the license for the plots. It is one note and repetitive, it fails to be engaging, it fails to fill the mandate to be 'adult' that was much ballyhooed with Torchwood's advent. It is bad TV, it is bad drama, and it has no pretensions to any of the stand-alone virtues of science fiction. It consistently feels gratuitous without even being genuinely *sexy*.

OK, so it's a very lightweight show. I never got the impression that it was intended to be serious science fiction.
So I have the impulse control deficiencies of a Torchwood staff member. This could serve me well if it were a real organisation. Given that I could work whatever hours I feel like, be totally crap at my job, shoot my boss as often as I like and be rewarded for this with a shag, this would be my ideal job. I would dearly love to work for Torchwood

Pretty accurate review!

Don't get me wrong: I watched every bloody episode and, while I want most of those hours back, I gave it every chance because I really wanted to like it.

The first two or three episodes had some promise but by #4 it was apparent that things were largely getting worse. There were a few decent episodes and moments, but overall complete tripe. And who said they liked 'Countrycide'??!! That was the worst of the lot. If I wanted to watch a slasher flick I would rent one. Less horror and fantasy and more Sci-Fi!

Much has already been mentioned around the net but two low points for me were:

-Hypersexualization. I like a little hanky panky and tension but the constant snogging and rogering as you brits put it is distracting and offputting. One of the most ridiculous moments was Jack making out with his namesake after perhaps an hour of interaction and in a completely anachronistic way.

-Incompetence. These people are supposed to be a super secret reaction force "Outside the Government, Beyond the Police." I wouldn't trust this bunch to enforce littering bylaws. They are always abusing their power, pushing personal agendas, and unprofessional in the extreme. Never mind how an organization that is supposed to be "arming us against the future" keeps destroying valuable technology like the Resurection Glove and Telepathic Pendant or locking them away without futher study. Finally, Red Dwarf seemed better maintained and controlled than Torchwood HQ. Get some isloated battery backed up systems, better computer staff, more guards, better lighting, etc.

These make it very hard to sypathize with the character or buy into the whole premise. I really wish they would start this whole mess over again with some decent writing.

"Red Dwarf seemed better maintained and controlled than Torchwood HQ"


You're right, for a super top secret organisation they're a bit crap. Wouldn't last as a business!

And who said they liked 'Countrycide'??!!

That would be me. I agree the slasher flick aspect was a bit anachronistic, but there were some really good moments in that one.

I can't help feeling the majority of the arguments defending the show in here seem to concentrate on the content and potential of the show, rather than the delivery.
I very much liked some of the ideas in it. Like Doctor Who, there's plenty to engage the brain beyond the superficialities of the presentation.
However, Doctor Who's tone was spot-on (daft, with threads of edgy drama), and the writing was generally effective and tight. Torchwood's tone (faux-serious and faux-adult, laced with farce) was all over the shop. And much of the writing lead-ballooned. Delivery-wise, I thought it stank, no matter how good Cap'n Jack is at carrying the crummiest line.
I hoped we (in the UK) could do More Serious SciFi, maybe edging towards the incandescent brilliance of Ron Moore's new BSG. Some of Doctor Who made me hopeful of this, being genuinely dramatic.
But we can't. Yet again, writers in the US carry the torch.

I enjoyed Torchwood tremendously but agree with you that it was rubbish. Gwen's the only decent character and it feels like they're just re-hashing the real girl meets Sci Fi truth of Billy and the respective tenants of Dr Who. Owen's annoying. There's a bloody pteradactyl in their office and the cyberwoman just should have killed them all and then herself in embarrassment. Captain Jack's a good character because he's got a bit of mystery about him what with being immortal and everything but he's a terrible actor. He'd be perfectly suited to a moisturiser advert or a plastic surgery brochure but not anything dramatic. The range rover is stupid. The security is stupid. The constant overhead shots of Cardiff are gratuitous and clearly a justification of the budget on minority programming grounds. About half of the episodes were really disappointing but I will say the Weevils were good. But not the fight club episode. Very shallow and derivative. Rubbish. Correct. Can't wait for the next series.

A brain-dead Sci-Fi show with slow as molasses pacing, bad acting, and laughable special effects.

*There was never any intensity, so most of the episodes felt like watching paint dry.

*You were never scared for the characters the way you were for Mulder and Scully in the X-Files because you were never given a reason to care about them. The characters just seemed like dullards who were overworked. No personal lives (none that were interesting enough to care about anyway), no personality except for Jack the American Captain, and no real growth by any of them over the course of an entire season.

*Talk about bad writing. ALL plotlines lacked imagination except the one involving the Telepatic Pendant and the first time we saw the Glove (in the pilot episode). Plotholes in every episode the size of Jupiter. The lead female character was a meter maid basically, and completely unqualified for the job of a super secret national security agency. Country side was one of the stupidest episodes not only on the show, but probably any show in television history. Or does that honor go to the episode of the Cyber Robotic woman spouting lines as laughable as, "I've got to transplant my brain to your brain so we can be one... isn't that what marriage is?"

*Others have already covered the hypersexual atmosphere, and I agree with them that it was so overdone and phony, and lacking any shred of real emotion.

*I also agree that the characters were too incompetent to be employed, much less in a super secret ultra-important humanity-protecting agency.

BOTTOMLINE: I can't believe I watched that tremendous waste of celluloid, and no, I am not EVER turning it on during its 2nd (and hopefully final) season.
Considering the foolishness of this series, and the fact that it's getting a 2nd season, it a wonder the networks don't okay every single crappy project out there. How long before this piece of DUNG gets a spin-off?