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...

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