After burning through the first four seasons of Doctor Who, you might be wondering why I never got around to talking about David Tennant’s last few movies in the role. Well, partially because I forgot to write about The Next Doctor, Planet Of The Dead and The Waters Of Mars (all of which I dug, for whatever it’s worth) and partly because the missus and I are STILL waiting on the second disc of The End Of Time. We’ve had the first disc for probably two months at this point, with the “long wait” second disc at the top of our queue, but it keeps getting passed up. Methinks our counterparts have the second disc and need the first. Why this two-parter isn’t on Instant along with the rest of the actual series, I don’t know.
Anyway, we moved on to the new TV season and got absorbed in whatever else was on, but now that things have slowed down thanks to the dearth of good summer programming, we went back to the Netflix Instant well and gave Torchwood a shot. As fans of Doctor Who know, Torchwood is an anti-alien invasion organization in Great Britain, the Cardiff, Whales branch of which is run by the way-too-hansom Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). He’s got pretty much his own thing going there with a team consisting of coffee getter Ianto Jones, doctor Owen Harper, science genius Toshiko “Tosh” Sato and policewoman Gwen Cooper who facilitates our entry into this crazy world of alien invasions and artifacts as she’s the new person joining the group. There’s a lot of craziness going on in that area because of a space/time rift attracting all kinds of aliens, time travelers and the like.
The show takes on a kind of “monster of the week” vibe, but there’s a clear, overarching storyline going on, just like in shows like Doctor Who or Buffy. In fact, the Buffy comparisons don’t end there. Unlike Doctor Who where there were big chunks of episodes I was bored by or straight-up didn’t like, I liked all the Torchwood episodes (much like Buffy). But, the comparisons run a lot deeper. Gwen struggles with keeping her new job secret from people like Buffy did with her mom, the rift is very similar in concept to the Hellmouth and there’s a character played by James Marsters who likes to kick the shit out of the person he’s got a thing for. Oh, there’s also some episodes that are very similar. In Torchwood there’s an episode called “Adam” in which this guy Adam all of a sudden is part of the Torchwood team even though we’ve never seen him before, which is very similar to the Buffy episodes “Superstar” where nerdy Jonathan becomes a huge deal to everyone in Sunnydale. I don’t bring up all these comparisons to say that Torchwood is a rip off of Buffy. In fact, many of these comparisons didn’t come to me until later (specifically the rift/Hellmouth one). I think it speaks well of the show that it’s comperable to one of my favorite shows. I think it also makes it easier to explain to someone who’s never seen Doctor Who or Torchwood. I’d say that, for the most part, you don’t even need to watch Doctor Who to get the show. There are a few references here and there, but it’s not dripping in Who lore, which is good because it allows the show to stand on it’s own two feet (the Doctor doesn’t sweep in and save the day whenever things get really crazy, something that bugged the missus, but I really appreciated, especially during the five part Children Of Earth story). Actually, even when Martha Jones shows up, there’s only a few quick references and inside jokes about the Doctor. As with her later appearances in Doctor Who, I like her much better now that she’s not the companion anymore.
The show really hinges on Barrowman who, it must be said, looks suspiciously like Tom Cruise. Anyone else thing Cruise might have jumped ship to England to film a niche genre show while things got too hot in the US, creating an actor persona in Barrowman that seems pretty detailed? I’m just saying. Anyway, like I said before, the dude’s hansom, but more importantly he’s charming as hell. When he was on Doctor Who he was portrayed as being attracted to both men and women, an aspect of the character heavily played up on the TV series. In fact, unless I’m mistaken, he’s seen exclusively with men on the show from his workplace romance to James Marsters. I guess that bugs some people enough that they need to complain about it on message boards, but can’t we all just grow up a little? Boys kissing boys isn’t that big of a deal. Don’t we have better things to worry about?
The treatment of the other characters throughout the two 12 episode seasons the five episode Children Of Earth miniseries is pretty fantastic too as you never really know what’s going to happen to who. Jack actually can’t die, but that doesn’t mean life is easy for him (neither is death, as coming back seems pretty traumatic every time). He’s got his own long-running problems. Plus, the fact that he’s been around for hundreds of years means there’s a lot we want to and do find out about him. One of the other characters seems to be shit on pretty regularly. Another died and came back, but doesn’t have any life functions, so he’s basically “made of glass.” There’s an episode built around him called “Walking Dead Man” that I actually found very moving and it didn’t end the way I thought it would. Meanwhile, Gwen starts off the series trying to keep her job as an alien cop from her boyfriend Rhys. I really appreciated how they handle the secret identity concept. As a superhero comic fan, it’s a pretty common story point, but I think they handled it more realistically than a lot of comics. It’s not an easy thing to keep your loved ones in the dark, especially when you live with them. I really like how that story arch took form, where it went and how it was resolved. Be warned, though, the show isn’t precious with it’s characters and the mortality rate for Torchwood employees is pretty damn high during the whole series.
All in all, pound for pound, I think I might actually like Torchwood more than Doctor Who. That’s probably a sacrilegious thing to say, but overall, I enjoyed Torchwood on the whole more than some seasons of Doctor Who, especially the third which was pretty rough at times). Like with Doctor Who, the special effects can be good or bad depending on the day. Most of the CGI monsters look like just that, but the practical monsters and aliens all look pretty fantastic. I highly recommend Torchwood to anyone looking for a good sci-fi action show to help get them through the summer. The missus and I devoured all the episodes in about a week and it only took as that long because we wanted to watch Children Of Earth in a sitting or two. Oh, one thing to note, though, is that the show is a bit more adult. They drop some curse words in here and there and there are some butt shots, but it’s not like it’s profanity laden orgies every episode, though that would be something to see, wouldn’t it?!
As you might have heard, there’s going to be a new season of Torchwood co-produced by BBC and Starz next summer. I’ve never watched a Starz show, but I do know that Party Down and Spartacus are available on Netflix Instant the day they premiere on TV, so that’s a pretty damn good deal. It’ll be interested to see how they pick up after the craziness of the Children Of Earth finale. Should be fun! In the meantime, we need to get that second End Of Time disc and then jump into the fifth season of Doctor Who. I’ve heard good things about the newest Doctor and his companion and can’t wait to see for myself.