Friday, August 19, 2011
Back on 22 October 2006, a small band of odd warriors of all things not important enough for the Doctor to sort, broke on the scene and launched a love affair that lasted to about a week after "Children of the Earth", when certain obsessive fans girls wanted a mildly needy poof resurrected. By all accounts, that should have been the end, the final curtain for a franchise that did what it said on the tin. Sci fi for adults on a personal scale where explosions were mental and devastating consequences were of the type you could feel all too easily. Individual relationships between characters and the rest of the world as well as with each other were compact and told a story in in the way old fashion Sci Fi used to. Torchwood treated us as adults with enough imagination and smarts to understand what was happening without having to include healthy doses of automatic weapons fire and macho posturing . It kept the connection with the Whoverse from whence it came and most importantly, it assumed a certain connection with the reality of the rest of the World and how government works in practise. In so doing, the stories, including Children of the Earth managed to be as disturbing and as riveting as they were.
Give me a room full of ministers condemning an entire subclass of people with the stroke of a pen over any helicopter spewing metal death at a harmless Welsh cottage on the orders of the CIA. The moment I knew American money was pouring in and the setting and cast were being sent across the pond, I had a terrible horrible feeling. From the first frame of "Miracle Day", it became obvious that Torchwood had become utterly detached from any sense of reality such as was till then understood by RTD or the BBC. It failed on a number of levels which I shall now outline.
1- Miracle Day became an action shoot em up thriller with more bullets than story in a matter of minutes. It's combination of X files and 24 with a dash of right wing jingoism, was immediately evident to even the most untrained eye. There is an assumption of a level of power of the United States that never existed, not even in the most fevered imaginings of a Tea Party nutcase. The be all and end all attitude of America right or wrong that includes the resurrection of the Russians as adversaries, in current circumstances speaks to writers who still haven't figured out that the US hasn't been a world power for at least 10 years now and more to point has it's begging bowl out hopping not to have ten shades of shit kicked out of it by the Chinese. That the story became that unhinged so quickly immediately put me off the rest of episode 1, a condition I never recovered from thereafter.
2- The writing was moved from Cardiff to an office in the USA ( I don't care what the official line is), and the clear lack of understanding of anything outside of the USA and the Cardiff team's lack of any comprehension of what Americans think or know or how they live, combined to make an already bad story into a shambolic script that would have sapped the spirit of even the best actor in the world. Which of course it did with immediate and tragic effect to John Barrowman and Eve Myles. The American cast wasn't as affected as it was used to this level of shlock one must assume.
3- The abandoning of the connection with the Whoverse for the flimsy bizzaro notions that only seem to work in exploitation action horror genre shlock. Forget that the so called drug would have to get past so many trials and filters to be used on a world scale and would thus be stopped in it's tracks, forget that it's too preposterous for words, How does this in any way fit into the continuum that is the world of Doctor Who from where it sprang or The Rift which fuels all the basic stories?
4- Perhaps most damning.... the loss of the need to tell the story ( however silly or strange) in a reasonable fashion or length of time. Miracle Day makes some filler episodes of Lost seem like action packed super vitamins of intellectual horse pills.
5- Lastly, the people in the US who watch ScyFy and other such stations have been watching Doctor Who and the real Torchwood, among other offerings, for years on telly and online. They are smarter, better educated and have a low tolerance for bullshit. To produce a puff piece aimed at what I can only assume is the lowest common denominator, insults the original viewers who expected better and misses the mark of what the adolescent non geek American viewer is looking for. To be blunt, the average person who watches ScyFy would watch BBC 4 if they could. To dumb down Torchwood to such an extent puts RTD in the company of Guy Ritchie and his entirely awful Sherlock Holmes.
A few highlights or lowlights as you please, of strange logic in the story thus far. Captain Jack is affected by a clearly chemical created drug that causes him to become mortal while the rest of the World apparently becomes immortal. What horse shit! Whatever made him immortal was far more powerful than any drug Bayer could ever make. Another gem is the anti hero peado killer who didn't die. How in any world could he become some kind of religious leader?????? And why would churches empty after no one dies? Should be the exact opposite.
Miracle Day is about as much about the real Torchwood as a cheap knock off a Dolce and Gabana hand bag could ever be taken for the real thing. It reminds me of the nasty plastic toys in the shops masquerading as Star Wars Toys.... Galaxy Wars, which in no way resembled the original power sabres et all and broke the first time you played with them. Miracle day is what happens when a perfectly good UK programme crosses over and is "adapted" for American audiences. It's a dog's breakfast of gristle, fat and a few original features floating in a soup of sparkle and flash that the original went miles out of it's way to avoid. Now if that was it, a bad adaptation that would be an improvement on what has happened here. A recent friend of mine on Facebook summed up Miracle Day in the following words.
Erik Engman You can probably watch episode 1 then all the "Previously on Torchwood"s then the last episode.
It's all filler with a few minutes of content at the end. In fact according to Erik, episode 5 or 6 was written by the same criminal who wrote the killer cat episode of X-Files. Surely in all of the USA there had to be 12 writers better than this person??? But it would seem few people with a reputation wanted to touch this turkey.
Are there any redeeming features to Miracle day? I'm told Eve Myles aka the delectable Gwen Cooper has some funny lines and looks pretty good on a motorbyke. Hardly a reason to watch an entire ep let alone anything after episode 2. As a plot device, the problem of that many undead people on earth using up the planet's resources had to come to the logical gruesome conclusion of concentration camps and ovens. that they waited till ep 5 , is testimony of how long they plan to stretch this simple 4 parter into an epic fit only for marketing shampoo and life insurance to bored people on cable. And on the ovens, let's talk for a minute. I'm not offended by them, not in the least, but by what power have Congress or the White House to impose this on the World? Through some sort of invisible long lost super power tool, by means of a mega corp on the rerst of the World? Then ignoring the current geopolitics by making the Chinese the good guys but the EU evil, is so ludicrous as to stretch credulity past the point of suspension of disbelief.
Another casualty of this debacle is the now seriously overexposed John Barrowman. His truly awful variety show Tonight's the Night, comes as a nail in the coffin of a once interesting actor who straddled bisexual, gay and straight sci fi. I now have to ask myself how much of early Barrowman brilliance is down to good writing and how much is him. I sincerely hope he bounces back from this, but If I'm honest, and when haven't I been brutally honest? This confluence of shite upon utter shite cannot be good for his career.
The problem now is that even if from episode 6 through the end, it gets better, I am already beyond caring. And if I am beyond caring, how many people who are the alleged target audience, are also past giving a monkey's how it ends? The fact is that noise from the US backers indicates that there will not be a series 2 of Torchwood USA. Critical reaction and poor ratings are not making the kind of buzz the producers were expecting, and that spells doom for the new format. Will the great celestial Auntie in London green light the commission of more old style Torchwood now? I seriously doubt it.
So here I sit angry and grieving the destruction of one of my favourite programmes by it's creator in the name of the all mighty American dollar and US ratings. There is no way back from this now. Torchwood as we knew it ended when the credits rolled on Children of Earth and were dead and buried the moment Gwen Cooper turned into Mr and Mrs Smith. What was left barely breathing was then pummelled to dust by the misguided and poor writing of people who seemed to think the CIA was more powerful than the British House of Commons and the Cabinet. And where the Doctor finds new and innovative ways to explain the TARDIS to new travelers, the concept of Torchwood was so poorly explained in episode 5 that one wonders if they weren't maybe just a wee bit too embarrassed by Miracle Day to even go there. The scripts and acting are ham fisted and not much better than the stuff you see in bad University short films. I almost wish they hadn't bothered or that some evil troll at the BBC would have had it "put on hiatus" like they did to Doctor Who. Perhaps then I'd still have the memory of the wonderful programme I used to enjoy.
I will always have my memories of Ianto, Owen , Toshiko and Gwen as well as the Bat cave under Cardiff. Torchwood then was like the unfashionable back end of the Whoverse where all manner of scum, scoundrels and hangers on would congregate around "The Rift". Captain Jack Harkness and his collection of off the radar police, would explore the grey area of intergalactic, timey whimey morality that is the seamy underbelly of the rosy universe The Doctor skims over most of the time. I miss the weird cursed gadget of the week or the well intentioned never clearly good or bad visitor who only reveals their intent when you least expect it and most of the time catches you off guard. The interpersonal relations of people who no loneger exist in the real world were equally interesting. They vaguely resembled the effect of spending too much time playing Halo or being permanently wired to your work for so long you lost the ability to communicate with normal people. Living in the bubble of the lair reduced them to space travellers light years from the rest of space ship Wales, UK, Earth. And yet there was a logic to the whole thing, Torchwood London, The Doctor, 10 Downing, U.N..I..T. ( albeit evil), had a continuity that made it all feel familiar and worth investing time in.
This imposter on telly at the minute is not the Torchwood I know and clearly not what RTD at his most misguided probably wanted. Can I blame him for this? OH YES, but he's not alone in shouldering blame. Pity that regardless how it ends it's probably the end of what could have been a long run of realy fun Sci Fi. You know it puts me in the mind of when Blake's 7 got so seriously wrong. Seems history is doomed to repeat itself after all. I've decided to take the advice of Erik, Come the last ep, I'll watch to see how it ends....maybe. Or perhaps I'll just ask somebody who watched. Frankly I'm not that bothered one way or the other.
EDIT: Sept 10th, the finale has played inthe USA, I have in the end asked somebody who watched, how it ended. Seems I was right, episode 9 was sort of the end, then 10 was a steaming pile of filler that whimpered it's way to the credits in a haze of bullets and WTF illogic in no way connected to the Whoverse. I'm glad I passed on it
Bring on Doctor Who PLEASE!!!!!