Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Torchwood: Children Of Earth

I've not liked Torchwood up until now, but the current five part mini-series is winning me over.  Russell T and his team have made two significant changes to the format:  The first is to cut the number of lead actors- so now we only have three characters to identify with instead of  five- which was too many. The second is to commit, daringly, to a single five-hour story arc.  Two hours have passed- and we still haven't met the big bads face to face- and suspense is building nicely. That's what you don't get when you try to tell this kind of a story in under an hour- suspense- and a sci-fi thriller without suspense is like a cheese and pickle sandwich without the cheese. Dr Who can just about get away with the short story format because the character of the Doctor is so compelling, but Torchwood doesn't have a Doctor figure- and can't.  I used not to care about Jack, Ianto and Gwen but now that I'm getting to know them in more relaxed circumstances I find I'm growing quite fond.  Eve Myles- I've realised- to my surprise- is especially delightful- with that expressive jolie-laide face of hers and her expert comic timing. 

Early Torchwood sold itself as "grown-up" sci-fi.  What this meant was plots quite as daft and juvenile as anything served up by Dr Who- big, stompy monsters and all- plus sex. The sex always felt bolted on.  Torchwood was essentially a kids show, but with embarassing excresences. This series has largely dispensed with the sex.  Jack and Ianto are now a couple- surely the first gay couple ever to lead a mainstream actioner- and we get kisses and discreet male nudity, but all in the flow of things and without the script pausing to go,  "Ooh, look at this, isn't it saucy!" 

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I think Torchwood has gelled.  I wouldn't put it past Russel T to blow it in the last act-  either with gooey sentiment or some preposterous deus ex machina- but for the time being we're chugging along nicely.  It's bonkers, but not in the  "I'm sending the entire Dalek and Cybermen armies to hell through a rift in space" sort of a way but in the "I'm going to rescue my boss whose been entombed in concrete by breaking into his prison with a fork lift truck then dropping him off a cliff" sort of a way.  Strip it down and what you've got is a well-executed, Hitchcockian comedy thriller- in the vein of North by Northwest only with a sci-fi McGuffin- and (thus far) it's been nothing but fun. 
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