Late one night, some years back, after a meal in Soho, I cut through a surprisingly deserted Chinatown to get to the nearest tube stop. On the way I came across members of a police armed response unit in helmets, vests and automatic rifles raised, edging toward the mouth of an alley between two of the restaurants.
Although eager to get the last train home, since this wasn’t something I got to see every night, I stopped to watch the action unfold. Whereupon one of the rozzers, catching me out the corner of his eye, turned and yelled, “Hey, you, FUCK OFF!
” Which I did.
To show that Torchwood
credentials, it starts with a crime scene and a copper saying “It’s a fucking disgrace.” Which, coincidentally, was exactly what I said some forty-odd minutes later.
Other drama writers bust their humps to get everything right, whereas Doctor Who
, and now Torchwood
, is just hack work of the highest order. Like the wince-inducing The Outsiders
a couple of weeks back, Torchwood
is just so utterly fucking juvenile. It’s a teenager’s ill thought out idea of what adult drama is. The end result is a shit soufflé that instantly collapses under the weight of its own pretensions.
So, rather than beating around the bush, what did I really think? If you’re wondering why Bitter Glue, well Torchwood
is an anagram of Doctor Who
and Bitter Glue is an anagram too. Whoever guesses right wins a cookie.
Foaming at the mouth over, what’s the problem with it?
Maybe I find the shameful self-promotion annoying, with Writer/Producer Russell T. Davies popping up everywhere in print to bang on about how brilliant he is. In The Times
’ cultural guide The Knowledge
, he wrote:...I’m not a hack, I’m not a new boy, I’m a very, very experienced and successful TV writer and there’s no way I could have got there without understanding character.
I’m not against self-promotion. But I don’t remember the likes of Dennis Potter, the Kennedy Martins, Paul Abbott, Anthony Horowitz, David Milch, David Simon, Aaron Sorkin, David Simon, Ron Moore ever banging on about how bloody brilliant and talented they were in interviews. The only one I can think of who does is Joss Whedon, but that’s because he’s taking the piss of himself. Davies’ talk sounds like Sean Bean’s character, Spence, in John Frankenheimer’s Ronin
: all mouth and no actual talent for the job.
Davies can certainly write very good character-driven drama, but plots seem to escape him. In the same article, discussing his approach to Doctor Who
, he writes:I always wanted there to be some ordinariness in there; some mundanity with the extraordinary. These days there are 500 shows, good and bad, which have fleets of spaceships and monsters all creeping on what what used to be Doctor Who’s preserve. So, in looking for scripts, you have to think, well, Battlestar Galactica’s got the big spaceships and Buffy’s got the fantasy and the vampires, what have we got that’s unique? And it’s the real world.
Well, certainly on the surface, Battlestar Galactica
’s about spaceships and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
is about fighting monsters. But there’s a whole lot more to them than that, I think you’d agree.
With Doctor Who
, instead of allegory we get juxtaposition. But the real world elements, instead of just establishing time and place, they more often that not incongruously intrude on the stories, eating up precious time that could be better served on plot. Which is probably why the two series of Doctor Who regularly rely on deus ex machina
come the episodes' hurried denouements.
Then there are the lumpen plots themselves. To mix the fantastic with the ordinary you need believability. Verisimilitude. [There’s that word again. It’s almost like the last few posts have been leading up to this. How about that?]
The opening scene of Torchwood
’s first episode takes place at a murder scene. The victim lies dead in a side alley. It is pouring with rain. Now, I’ve seen enough dramas and documentaries to know that in such instances a plastic tent is erected over the body to preserve the crime scene.
Except here the victim lies exposed to the elements letting the rain obliterate whatever evidence there is. Why no tent? Well, because if the body was covered, then from her vantage point the inquisitive cop wouldn’t be able to see the Torchwood team bring the corpse back to life.
Which then brings up the fact of how come Torchwood is supposed to be a secret
organisation when they go around telling everyone who they are? And should they be doing their weird shit in public? I mean, get a tent!
The titles are barely over and the dominoes start to fall: But that’s not the half of it. The clumsy way the Torchwood team are introduced almost made we piss myself laughing.
Here’s something courtesy of Lee over at The Light, It Hurts
. Unfortunately, due to the unique way The Independent
run their website, if you don’t read a feature the day it is published then they only give you the opening paragraphs and charge you for the rest. But he’s snatched the relevant text from a Russell T. Davies interview in the newspaper:
It's all there for the taking, I do it gladly. The ending of Doctor Who, where we had to separate the Doctor and Rose, that was unashamedly taken from the Phillip Pullman novels. They're brilliant, and every child reads them. So that creates a resonance, when they've got a story in one part of their minds and they see Doctor Who and think, 'Oh right! You can change stories!' If you want to get pretentious about it, it's exactly what Shakespeare did. As long as you put yourself into it I think it's all there for the grabbing.
Lee calls the post There's another word for that, you know
and quite rightly so. Didn’t Shakespeare dramatise historical events. (Aside from using Christopher Marlowe’s suggestion that he change Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter
to Romeo and Juliet
Back when Doctor Who
was on I suggested a spot-the-“lift” drinking game. A blatant Torchwood reference in the second series meant having to drain the bottle, and an added deus ex machina
meant smashing the empty bottle over your head. It didn’t catch on.Torchwood
is no different, with the first episode heavily indebted to Men in Black
, along with Silence of the Lambs
, Douglas Adams’ Life, the Universe and Everything
and the Somebody Else’s Problem Field, except now it’s called a Perception Filter. It all ends with a Captain Scarlet
reference, which, unless I’m mistaken, kicks any future dramatic confrontations firmly in the nuts.
Most shocking of all was The Hub, Torchwood’s secret underground base. Aside from the general stupidity, I couldn’t believe the shallow stream running through it and the central column glistening with water trickling down from the Millennium Centre’s fountain. With computer workstations and technology spread around it? As someone who is Health & Safety certified (really), I found that most irresponsible.