After I seriously went off on one about the new BBC drama Torchwood
, Will Dixon
asked what I really thought of the show. At first I figured it was a jocular riposte: a “what did you really
think?” after my attempt to tear the series a new arsehole.
By his second time of asking I decided he was serious. And since it would be rude to simply fob him off with a glib reply, here’s why I had serious issues with Torchwood
First off, the incessant hype didn’t help win me over. I hate hype. Obviously you have to promote whatever it is you’re selling, rather than sit back and expect people to come on their own accord. But there’s a difference between promoting a product and promoting the living shit out of it.
I loathe someone repeatedly telling me I must
watch a particular television programme or film. I can make my own decisions, thank you very much. And when the hype reaches overwhelming proportions, as it did with Torchwood
, the cynic inside me becomes suspicious of the product they’re hawking.
It’s easy to criticize, far harder to create. Work Buddy and I are currently putting together a number of projects to pitch. One, a television drama, already has the pilot episode written on spec. Working out how to introduce the characters and how much of the plot threads to divulge, had us sweating blood.
It didn’t help that I altered a line of dialogue to make it more logical and then had to change the next twenty pages to accommodate the alteration. Only because, while I didn’t want to over analyse it, I didn’t want to be obvious either.*
pilot looked obvious. Actually, I should correct that. It looked lazy. This idea of making sure the ‘real world’ got a fair shake, meant that too much time was wasted fannying around while the plot, what existed of it, was hopelessly rushed. Compared to the pilots of Alias
, say, or The X-Files
, it looked positively anaemic.
The characters, perfunctorily introduced – “Toshiko Sato, computer genius, Suzie Costello, she’s second-in-command, and this is Ianto Jones. Ianto cleans up after us and gets us everywhere on time” – were barely two-dimensional at best.“Toshiko Sato, computer genius.”
Can we still use lines like that in 2006?
The unexpected violent death of one of the main characters come the episode’s hurried and confused finale, didn’t have the same weight as the pilot of The Shield
and the murder of Terry Crowley, because in Torchwood
we didn’t know enough about the characters to really give a shit.
Being the pilot episode, it would probably not have had the same time constraints that apply to writing episodic television. Working to deadlines, you do the best you can in the time given. But this was the pilot episode for goodness sake. Which meant that as an introduction to the series, written in advance with more time to get it right, the failings were utterly unforgivable.
These caveats aside, the biggest lie fed to the audience was that it was adult
drama. Pull the other one. There was nothing adult about it. Teen dramas out of the States are more grown up in their attitude. Hopelessly juvenile, Torchwood
proved that there are times when being a potty mouth isn’t big or clever.
Having mentioned the ‘resonances’ Russell T Davies packs into his episodes, there’s no point in going over them again. Other than to mention that ‘resonating’ other people’s ideas really gets my goat. Still, here’s something I came across checking out other folk’s opinions of the show. This is from the 25th July edition of The Daily Telegraph
:Torchwood was actually the name used as a security measure to disguise preview tapes of the first episodes of the new Doctor Who to stop them falling into the hands of DVD pirates when they were moved from Wales to BBC headquarters.
Davies said: “One of the people in the office had the idea of calling the tapes Torchwood as they went from Cardiff to London, instead of putting Doctor Who on them. I thought, ‘That's clever!’ I had that taped away in my head for a good six months, and now here it is as a show.”
So, even someone else came up with the fucking name of the show? What exactly does he do?
So there you go. Rather than complain any more, I’m giving the rest of the series a wide berth. Will, I hope that’s answered your question. Here ends my 100th post.
* The spec pilot went off to two people to gauge their reactions. A film producer Work Buddy has worked with absolutely savaged it. Reading his comments, which he tried to make constructive, it became apparent that he was under the assumption the script was self-contained. Still, he made some valid points, even though most of his produced work favours flying monkeys.
The second reader was an actress looking to step the other side of the camera. She thought it was better than two professional scripts her agent had sent for her to audition for, which was nice. Even then, when we laid out the story beyond the first episode, she flagged up a major theme that wouldn’t have been introduced until the second or third episode. Quite rightly, she told us this had to be introduced in the pilot. Left where it was, the audience would feel lied to once it eventually appeared.