Thursday, January 17, 2008

REVIEW: Torchwood Season 2: Episode One: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Captain Jack returns, as the Torchwood team reunite to fight a rogue Time Agent. The mysterious Captain John Hart is determined to wreak havoc, and needs to find something hidden on Earth. But with Gwen's life in danger, and cluster bombs scattered across the city, whose side is Jack on?
I can't say I was impressed, nor can I say the premiere was better than any of last year's season.

While James Masters was fun as Captain John and hero Jack Harkness was his enjoyable self, the rest of the characters fell pretty flat. Torchwood's biggest problem is that the main cast suffers from being particularly lacking in charisma levels and terribly unbelievable for any form of serious agency. Especially Gwen, who dripped her way across the screen throughout the episode, now even more indulgent, self centered and as irritating that ever before.

Certainly the episode had a few good gags (Captain John getting randy over a poodle was a fun insert) but the story structure was an absolute mess. It started on an action packed opening that felt more like a terribly poor action packed opening pastiche, and ended on a high speed race against time that failed to convince me that the allotted events occurred in the small time frame. The team had ten minutes before destruction, and in that time they needed to assess the situation, fight over it, be held at gun point, split into two parties; one that races across town to a specific point while the other rushes through a chemistry sequence to create the plot antidote and follow the first party arriving only moments after the first. It felt like the sort of gag you'd see on Family Guy, with this antidote making insert thrust into the middle of this ten minute countdown.

This lack of time structure was particularly awkward and not only present in the final act. The main thrust of the story has Torchwood and Captain John separate out into three teams to find three objects. The outcome of these three teams is shown consecutively in dramatic sequence, yet John manages to pop up at the end of the three scenes, despite being part of team one, with no explanation how he manages such a fast dash around. Just because the drama moves from scene to scene shouldn't mean the characters should. Co-current events should be played as thus, and any ability to appear in all three scenes should rationalised to the viewer, which - as you may have guessed - wasn't in this story.

The shows inability to build coherent drama makes it far more childish than it's older brother, Doctor Who. It's not any personal dislike of the sex or naughty gags that punctuate the programme that makes it seem so babyish, it's the poor story structure and lack of credibility in the show's personality that weakens it. Gwen is a big problem, being both unlikeable and pretty unbelievable. They need to get rid of the Hub as well. It looks like a playset for god's sake, not a base for a government agency in an adult drama.

The old journalistic adage of leaving one's brain behind before engaging in Torchwood is apt. Yes, its fun, yes, it's escapism, but ultimately, it's far less than it should be, and that's the disappointment. It has the potential in terms of ideas, but fails in execution. Until they swap their main character set, I can't see the writing having that much success in creating good drama. If the main characters are unlikable, your changes of engaging the viewer are somewhat less. Bring back Captain John, keep Captain Jack, but the rest of the team, they aren't likable or credible, which when mixed with inconsistent story lines and some silly set pieces, leaves a show which is watchable, but falling far below what it could be.