Sunday, July 31, 2011

Torchwood: For Those Late Who Came...

Well my lips are from kissing
Your arid, barren wasteland
Embracing the furnace like a child
Who, in the face of adversity,
I should have showered with kisses!

I extinguished all hope
When I turned on the gas
In my best suit and Callifornian Poppy
In a bizarre ceremony of lust...

I worked! Me! At a factory! With a mute supervisor! Folding packets of danish butter into baking tins at low-low prices and listening to an entire season of AVs on my headphones (mein gott, and Mad Larry thinks RTD stole stuff from him?!?) and thus have not been able to keep up my high-octane TW reviews. Plus, after that last audio I'm one step away from ripping out my harddrive, throwing it into a pentagram of salt, grabbing a crucifix and screaming "DOWN YOU MONGEL, DOWN!!"

So. The New World. Partes Two and Three.


Well, they weren't bad. Not bad at all. Rendition was, as a certain loony unwittingly dubbed it "Welsh on a Plane" and Dead in the Night was an itemized attempt to answer my problems about this Immortal World (yet, again, I have to stress - WHO CARES ABOUT FOOD IF NO ONE CAN STARVE?!?), along with some bizarre guest stars like the Nerdy Guy from Jurassic Park in charge of the CIA (which was as strange as getting Julian Clarey to be the lead in Spooks) and Eurasian Aussie Chick from Dollhouse to try her "Ganger Owl Impression Glare" in an airport carpark.

In both episodes, however, I'm a bit put out by the characterization of our heroes Gwen and Jack. Because, well, I expected it to be a bit more sympathetic (hell, I honestly cried when Jack forgave Owen for shooting him and intellectually I think the Captain should have knee-capped the rapist twat there and then) and this is not what we get. Gwen and Jack are... useless. They are completely useless. They make really obvious, stupid mistakes; they have all the cultural know-how of John Safran in drag in a Mosque; and there isn't a single thing they do bar make things worse.

The only difference is we have a bunch of American characters to point it out clearly and distinctly and emphatically how crap they are. What's more, Rex, Esther and pals are clearly MUCH BETTER AT EVERYTHING. I dunno if this is some American cooproduction thing to make the Yanks look a bit more positive than when RTD normally writes for them, but bar using the expression "Morphic Fields" (thus giving us a bizarre sense this entire story was inspired by the Eighth Doctor and C'Rizz shouting "BLUE TITS!" at each other in Scaredy Cat), all Jack and Gwen have done is sit there and attract British audiences.

I mean, seriously, Rendition has Jack poisoned. As he is now mortal, this is bad. However, he has absolutely no clue how to fix this. And neither does Gwen. And the Americans save the day. Apart from acting like whining useless bitches, Torchwood's survivors offer nothing but amazing bandwidth laptops. Probably the biggest demonstration is in Dead of Night when Rex rightly points out that Jack is an overconfident fuckwit with all the planning skills of Tim Brooke-Tayler having a tea-pot-panic-attack who has managed to get EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HIS TEAM KILLED. Jack's rejoinder? "They were my friends!" As Rex notes, this doesn't really change that, does he?

So, Rex ignores Jack's advice. Ooh, think I, this is where the Yanks realize that our unorthodox and unprofessional loyalty character actually have the edge - like in COE where they very nearly topple the British government with two laptops and some credible bullshit. But... no. True, Rex's plan fails but he automatically set it up so he couldn't possibly be captured or betrayed. All Jack achieves is to say "Yeah, I'm right to be paranoid."

And then he decides to skull-fuck the first good-looking guy at a bar.

(An aside... remember when Jack was supposed to be omnisexual? When his creator noted he automatically assumes anything with a pulse is up for sex? It seems he just stopped being anything other than gay after Chantho died. I mean, I'm all for a gay companion, no offense, but Jack was supposed to be MORE than that. The only concession to his panssexuality is his rather disturbing obsession with Gwen, who also seems to be swigging retcon. You wonder why Jack left, Gwen? You mean, that lengthy speech he gave about having murdered his grandson and having a nervous breakdown didn't happen? WHAT?!?)

Where was I? Oh yes. So, Jack decides to get it on with a random stranger because he's not immortal and can act like he does in Doctor Who for a change. (NOTE: he also gives a huge speech about responsible condom use because he doesn't want to catch AIDs now he's mortal... um, shouldn't his 51st century antibodies sort that out? Hell, LEELA'S antibodies can defeat alien invasions, so surely some VD should be easy to sort out).

Yes, I know I'm dwelling on Jack's graphic sex scenes but it's more than the English version of the episode will.

The point is, Rex also quits the gang to get some sugar - but what's this? He goes to someone IMPORTANT TO THE PLOT! His carnal relations have a point as he finds a certain lady doctor who can help him on both emotional and narratorial levels. Jack is just an excuse for hardcore gay sex on TV, absolutely nothing else. Rex actually seems to have something to do with the ongoing story arc. Jack then responds to this by deciding to randomly threaten a pedophile with a gun because, um, he wants to set up ChildKillers Anonymous, apparently. Meanwhile, Rex and his girl fight the conspiracy.

Jack and Gwen are thus a huge fricken milstone around the neck of this albatross and I'm not surprised at RTD's latest (public) announcement that he is completely and utterly sick of Torchwood and never wants to go near it ever again. No doubt his love and respect for Eve Myles and Barrowman is as strong as ever, but I think he's ready to snap the necks of their characters he clearly hates them so much.

Meanwhile, uh... um... well, that pedophile I mentioned. Why can't he talk properly, I wonder? Is it the failed execution? A stroke? A shorthand for evil? Either way, I refuse to believe a guy so boring and stupid could possibly have been a successful teacher. Is a rapist and murderer the ultimate monster, this story asks? Or is it the PR consultant who doesn't even care about his crimes? Rendition is reasonably sympathetic, showing Oswald Danes as a cursed, pathetic individual with brains but no future. Dead of Night changes its mind halfway through - it was only one step away from Bill Pullman morphing into Anthony Ainley and laughing, "Oh my dear Captain, you HAVE been naive!" on the black and white villainy scale. Mind you, that would have been a bit better as a cliffhanger. OK, I might buy Danes becoming a cult leader but... in less than three days?


I don't have much to add. The Souless are creepy and more effective than the Silence. Do the chemical companies have a TARDIS or was Jack just taking the piss? Why do I get the feeling PR Lady would be the first choice for an American recasting of Amy Pond? Why hasn't anyone called for the Doctor? Why is Gwen so utterly stupid she can't understand the subtleties of transatlantic translation of "chips" and "pants" AREN'T A FUCKING PRIORITY AT THE MOMENT?!? And why wasn't Rendition given an onscreen title?

So. Yeah. Ideally, I hope that next year Rex and his pals get their own show and we never have to see Gwen again and Jack is only in that epic party episode Steven Moffat has promised us, chatting up River Song and Jenny simultaneously. Oh yeah, that would be awesome...

I'll try to listen to the other two audio dramas, but my ears still bleed...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Torchwood: Rose-Tinted Spunk

Rock Lobster!

Just in case anyone was slightly wary of this new slick, dynamic, American and basically too-good-for-BBC-Wales Torchwood: Miracle Day stuff, the BBC has kindly given us a trilogy of audio dramas which achieve two specific aims that the TW fanbase clearly need.

1) It brings back Ianto "Kamelion Got A Better Deal" Jones
2) It reminds us, basically, how ungodly shite the show was before RTD went "RUSTY SMASSHHH!!" in Children of Earth

Yes, if you find yourself yearning for the non-functionally retarded camp fest that lead to the unspeakable horrors of Something Borrowed and End of Days, then these things are the best thing to a reality check not involving me and a sawn-off-shotgun.

Submission begins so badly, with such stilted performances that had Darker Projects come up with shite of this order with Carribean Blue, both Miles and I would have been forced into a suicide pact from shame. Mein Gott, this is bad.

Gwen, Jack and Ianto are chasing a van across a bridge. The van has an alien in it and Captain Jack is so dedicated to protecting the Earth from its evil horror that he... um... mugged it. To steal its cash. Because, hell, cash is clearly more important than safeguarding the future of the human race (and, to drive this home, they use the old intro, the one that made RTD mutter "URGE TO KILL RISING!" under his breath every time he heard it). But being hard, gritty and mature sci-fi, Gwen gives Jack a plasma canon to blow up the bridge - the very important bridge connecting Wales to the UK and manifestly not blown up in The New World - so they can fling this pissed off, homicidal alien into England. Specifically because once it's over the border, Torchwood don't have to do a thing and they can let it ravage the English in a blood-drenched orgy of the damned.

Now, maybe this could have worked as a cruel parody, but it's not even acted well. If I may have slagged off the cast in previous audio outings, well, I did not know what depths they could sink. Unless the director was telling each and every one of them "no, no, no, think Chip Jamieson!" then, well, I don't want to know.

So, having blown up a bridge and put untold millions into mortal danger, our so-called heroes stupidly forget to hit the brakes and the SUV plunges into the river... but then there's some wolf howl and Jack announces that "THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE WATER!" Oh, if only...

(Note: I haven't actually read it but it would have to be written by Joshua Wynne-Cunt in Hannah Murray's blood to possibly be worse than this).

Still being unable to get any single emotion or inflection in any of their performance, it turns out that this thing is global! Yes, a few SECONDS on Facebook and we've discovered that anyone with their heads in the water across the entire Earth somehow heard the howling, which is apparently a fatal siren song. Well, if you're in Thailand anyway. Droning exposition to each other, the plot unfolds while I find my thoughts drifting to the title sequence. Isn't "TORCHWOOD IS READY!!!" the sickest joke ever? They might as well have had Hitler going on about the Third Reich lasting forever...

The gang listen to a recording of the howl and dub it "creepy". They fiddle with a laptop and talk about speeds of sound in time variation and all sorts of bollocks that make you pine for K9 who was at least funny with technobbabble, and find out the noise comes from the Marianah Trench at the bottom of the sea. "You don't have to a 51st century time traveling immortal to know this is ALIEN!!" deadpans Jack and Ianto off the top of his head decides to slow the howl down and finds out the howl says "Help us!" over and over again. Jack, still regularly screaming things are "ALIEN!" more than Arnold Rimmer at a UFO convention, decides to try to do another globe-trotting adventure that they only ever do in radio episodes for some reason. Jack decides that, despite the fact they know for a fact that UNIT is all over the case, it has "Torchwood" written all over it (note: same Torchwood that want to destroy England). Luckily, Ianto has "the sexiest marine biologist" and ex-Torchwood girl who is easily dialed and convinced to join this ill-thought out expedition in less times than it took me to write this sentence.

The next scene is in Tokyo harbor where the gang plus one have taken over USS Calvin - but what about UNIT? "I mentioned the Doctor 57 times!" Jack says in bored monotone, and apparently UNIT thought they had better things to do than stay involved in this awful shitheap of a plot. Only eight minutes in. Goddamn it. Another forty to go.

Conveniently meeting the captain of the ship five seconds before they meet the trench and also another roaring howl. The crew get aboard the Octopus Rock, a bigger-on-the-inside UNIT experimental submarine named after the Sex Pistols ("Jack, if you make a joke about your sex pistol, this ends here!"), the Torchwood crew climb aboard and descend into the depths with 24 hours before they all choke to death. Oh, if only. Therein follows some boring cliched bollocks about how mankind knows more about Mars than the bottom of the ocean and how very historical this all is and squid and whales use echo-location... very educational.

I'll skip to something worthy of note.





Christ, Gwen's surprised that the bottom of the ocean is a bit dark?


Jack considers an undersea trench the most alien place ever? Goddamn it, Lakertya was freakier than this...

Ooh, wait! Plot. They bump into a mad old bastard sitting at the bottom of the sea (sans diving suit) who finds their exposition so annoying that he screams at them and starts to smash in the hull with his bare fists. In typical suicidal insanity, Gwen suggests they try to talk to this indestructable psychotic demon, then changes her mind because it's funny! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Witty Welsh person! So our heroes run away, even though this super-powerful UNIT sub is shittier than the bastard inbred offspring of Starbug and Scorpio. And they crash. Unfortunately, it turns out that THIS was the only sub in the world capable of going this deep, so rescue is not an option. The gang immediately become hysterical and sound even MORE emotionless and lobotomized than they did before. Jesus... this isn't even ENTERTAININGLY bad. This awful shite. I'm strongly tempted to give up.


...WTF?! The sub is built out of dwarf star alloy? FUCK OFF!


Anyway, it turns out that the mad old bastard who can breathe underwater is an ALIEN!!! And he's a long-lost mutant mariner whose old bathyscope is still in perfect working order after six decades next to an underwater volcano. Very likely. And the ALIEN actually can act. Sounds a bit like the Thaarn from Blake's 7. STOP REMINDING ME OF BETTER SCIENCE FICTION DAMN YOU! After five seconds of chatting with Thaarn, Gwen is on the verge of sacrificing herself for a complete stranger's ALIEN bodysnatching boyfriend (YES! A GAY ALIEN!!!) But don't worry, she would never risky her own life to save Rhys's - the stupid fucking bitch... Meanwhile, Carly the newbie ex-Torchwood ex-girlfriend of Ianto is basically spending her entire episode shrieking "KILL ME NOW! I AM EXPENDABLE FOR THE GREATER GOOD!" while Ianto whines that Jack doesn't love him. Whatever. I want you all to die horribly and end this godawful thing.


Oh, the Thaarn's a manic-depressive self-pitying alien exile. But even so considers himself superior to Captain Jack. Well, you WOULD, wouldn't you? Ianto decides that they should kill the Thaarn in cold blood because he's dared shown greater acting ability than the rest of the cast put together. So the Thaarn smashes their salvaged bathyscope. Good. I hope they all drown. Hmm, oxygen's running out, everyone TALK AS MUCH AS THEY CAN!


Oh wait, Carly's possessed by the Thaarn. Didn't see THAT one coming. Not. And she tries to steal Gwen's excuse for a brain, while being a ridiculous pro-Jack/Gwen shipper in order to piss off Ianto. Whatever. So Jack kills Carly and the Thaarn possessing her. "That's the price of immortality; no final act, no absolution! YOU GET TO DIE!" shouts Jack, gleefully telling Carly that she will be expelled into the blackness of oblivion and he really gets off being the last person people see before they die. Um. Ok.

Ianto gives her mouth to mouth and brings her back to life in this strange existential version of cockblocking.

Carly decides to join UNIT and get them to explore the Trench and, for SOME UNACCOUNTABLE REASON, never wants to see the Welsh retards ever again. Jack laughs evilly that he's never going to have to regret his actions because he's not mortal.



Can someone show the working there, please?

In a token gesture, we discover that the voiceover man for the credits is even WORSE at speaking on radio than everyone else we've met.

Sweet Zarathustra, that was UNHOLY!!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Torchwood: DIE, FRANCHISE, DIE!!!

I'll bet you're lonesome tonight in your hole in the ground,
Old Shep's so shook up that he pissed on your crown!
No one's crying in the chapel! Get wise! Get hip!
There's some pretty heavy shit going down - YOU'RE IT!

It was a terrible day when you had your cardiac arrest!
They tried to find your heart - but couldn't cut through the flesh!
You can't Viva Las Vegas when there's no viva left!
C'mon and do - do - DO THE DEAD ELVISSSSS!

How appropriate the plot for the fourth series of Torchwood should be about a mysterious all-powerful force preventing those whose life is up from achieving blessed oblivion and dragging them back to the here and now.

My parents were shocked at the news Doctor Who's shameful, rarely-mentioned inbred spin-off had been renewed. "But there's nothing left!" they protested. "Torchwood's gone!"

Yep, there isn't exactly any obvious mileage in the show at the end of Children of Earth: Day Five, is there? The once mighty organization consists of two emotional cripples (one of which is having a total nervous breakdown and the other going on maternity leave) and a laptop. Whereupon Jack shouts "FUCK THIS!" at the top of his voice, hitchhikes on a passing spaceship and refuses to ever come back to this stupid planet ever again. We next see him on an alien planet, restored to his Intergalactic Manwhore Status ((c) Adolf Hitler) by the dying Tenth Doctor who clearly thinks that Jack is better off roggering strangers in pub toilets than trying to defend the Earth.

As Torchwood Magazine (possibly the only magazine I know to have died even though the series it revolved around was ongoing) revealed, RTD detested how Torchwood was jammed awkwardly in his Excalibur format. One might think COE was designed to get the show back the way Big Russell wanted it except... well, the first draft ended with Jack suicide-bombing the 456 in such a way only a single cell of Jack's body survived, drifted through space for millions of years and finally ended up on an alien planet where he started to regenerate. Not EXACTLY the place to leave a show for another series, is it? He even edited the ending of the televised COE so, instead of promising he's just on vacation until Gwen calls, Jack instead sulks that he is never coming back, never ever ever ever never!

Anyone getting the slight vibe that Rusty had had enough of the show?

If not, the opening episode of Miracle Day will dispel that. Hardly anyone knows about the Torchwood Institute, no one cares and everyone that DOES know is doing their utmost to forget it happened. Yes, Torchwood is officially Old Shame to rank with The Star Wars 1977 Holiday Christmas Special and Dimensions in Time. Captain Jack has returned to Earth solely to delete every possible reference to the show and drug everyone involved with retcon (yeah, Rusty, it was irritating and pointless the FIRST time you had Jack explain the entire series to someone who wouldn't remember...) while Gwen is outright banned from mentioning any Season 1 episode plots to her daughter.

Jack, Gwen (who, with the imagination the Welsh always display, names her daughter ANwen Cooper because changing more than a few letters is too much to ask, like Owen HARper), her family and PC Andy (whose now a sergeant, not that anyone cares) barely get 20 minutes of screentime and its clearly no one behind the camera is that interested in their badly-explained midlife crisis. Why are Gwen and Rhys in witness protection? They were happy enough at the end of COE when Britney Spears took the prices off their heads. How did Jack get back to Earth within seven seconds of the emergency attracting his attention in the first place? Why is he obsessed with Gwen's safety when he has been happy to leave her growing mungbeans in Wales for two years? And why is RTD STILL writing horrible dialogue for the SOLE purpose of looking cool in trailers?!

For example in this exchange between Rex and Gwen:

Rex: Who are you people?
Gwen: (using bazooka on a pursuing helicopter) Torchwood.

Well, that was probably looked fucking awesome in the ads. But in context, it's ridiculous. Rex has traveled halfway around the world to see Gwen specifically because she works with Torchwood, an organization he knows all about. He has seen Gwen trying to shoot the helicopter out of the sky with a handgun. He has HIMSELF tried to shoot it out of the sky with an assault rifle. But then, all of a sudden, completely forgets the entire situation and acts shocked that Gwen is a homicidal psycho using ridiculously destructive weaponry.

The regulars aren't well served. Every scene with Gwen boils down to one exchange - "You're a fugitive!" "Oh yeah. Keep forgetting that." - while Jack continues to show he has been quaffing retcon himself as he has a complete inability to relate with human beings from the 21st century and even his pheremones don't work. When Rhys dubs him "Captain Jack Bollocks" can anyone argue with him? It's clear the sheer insane hatred writers have for these characters continue to this day, as Gwen and Jack have not only been gripped with horrified paranoia ever since we last saw them, they're as useless as ever. They can use laptops, dive out of exploding buildings and chuck each other horrifically dangerous weapons but they are STILL the worst possible people to defend the planet, as evidenced in the cliffhanger as their badly-injured ally is able to completely double-cross them and then reveal he's actually not a bad guy after all.

For Christ's sake, being hunted across the world by insane assassins, our heroes head to Rhold Dahl Plass in the middle of the night, the most exposed and viewed-by-security-camera-ed area in Cardiff and then talk very noisily about their plans.

DEAR GOD! Compare to RTD's last work of Death to the Doctor where even a clearly-irrational and grief-stricken Sarah Jane wasn't this stupid! It is a depressing thought that the demise of TSJAs means that this is, once again, the only spin-off Doctor Who has. Despite the fact TSJA has more potential spin-offery left in it, and Steven Moffat idly came up with a few like Victorian-Era Lesbian Silurian Crime-Fighting Cannibal and Tough Love: Sontaran Field Nurse for a laugh in a cutaway sequence. Hell, Dorian Malvedorium in How Much For Just The Planet would offer more appeal than this!

Yeah, and we were deprived of Captain Jack in A Good Man Goes To War because of this!

However, the other 40 minutes or so are much less irritating and exasperating - even though it only offers up two memorable characters. The first is Rex Matheson who is a much better central character than Captain Jack has been over the last six years. Whether he's cackling evilly because his superior's sick wife means he gets promotion, or pausing to knock back every drug he passes in a hospital corridor, this guy manages to be endearing, likeable and intelligent. Even with a sucking chest wound and NO preparation he runs rings around Gwen and Jack. All in all, he's the sort of person the Doctor would associate with rather than these wisecracking emos of the previous series.

Rex is also immortal against his will, which is ironic because Jack has lost his cosmic get-out clause and can't even heal scratches on his arms. Something epic has made every human on the planet unkillable, though not invulernable as a beheaded and barbacued suicide bomber discovers. This is the main plot of the show, trying to find out a) why this is happening and b) stop it.

I have to say... I don't quite get it. Even today, the entire human population could be fit into Australia with room to spare. So the ever-expanding human race can't overfill the planet THAT quickly. And, true, food supplies would run out rapidly but - get this - IT DOESN'T MATTER! NO ONE CAN DIE OF STARVATION, SO NO ONE NEEDS TO EAT! And, yes, medical services are going to be overwhelmed but on the plus side there are plenty of people to help out! But apparently in four months time all civilization will collapse. But, again, SINCE NO ONE CAN DIE, what is the problem?

This leads to another bewildering plot hole played by Bill Pullman as Oliver EvilBastard. I dunno if it's an acting tic or the result of his failed execution, he is unable to do anything but mumble through a static and sleepy expression that makes him seem completely harmless. And as a pedophile murderer, that can't be the intention. He justified raping and murdering a twelve-year-old girl on the grounds "she shoulda run faster" and, looking at him, I'm amazed he was capable of doing either. Frodo could kick this guy's butt!

In what is clearly meant to be satire, a self-confessed child murder is allowed on parole because his lawyers say he had fulfilled his death sentence (not his fault he survived). And apparently he can't be tried again for double jeopardy.

So.... they let him go. Despite thousands of people on every street corner baying for his blood. How exactly is this guy going to stop the mob tearing him to pieces? And, forgive me if I'm overstating this, BUT NO ONE CAN DIE! Murderers, ergo, don't exist any more! All the authorities had to do was castrate the fucker and he will be physically incapable of repeating his crime. But, apparently, Americans are all sweet and reasonable people who only ever work inside the law and would never take matters into their own hands and are happy to leave a child murderer on the streets because he might have grounds to sue the governor. They would never, say, transport the asshole to Guantanamo Bay, cut off his legs and bury him in concreate like the awful BRITISH people might.


So, in summary, this isn't too bad but (in a typically Jack Harkness mixture of sadism, beastiality and necrophilia) it's flogging a dead horse. Let's just pray to hell that there is no Torchwood Five, and any future explorations of the institute reflect its varied and interesting history, say Torchwood Victorian Era with Jago and Lightfoot and a certain homosexual homo reptilia by the name of Vashta...