Sunday, September 13, 2009

Television Review: Torchwood

Torchwood is a BBC show, filmed in Wales, about an organization devoted to dealing with alien threats to humanity.  It is set in the same universe as Dr. Who.  With those ingredients, it should be a good show, like Men in Black or Stargate.  It isn't.  I watched the first season, and have no desire to see any more.

Maybe I'm just too old-fashioned, but I expect my fiction protagonists to be heroic and/or competent.  Sure they can have the occasional personal problem or interpersonal conflict to add spice to the show, but the majority of the time should be spent doing useful and productive things.  I want to see people solving mysteries, fighting bad guys, and generally making the world a better place. 

Torchwood has precious little of this.  I mean that literally, because when it does show up it is great.  There are some scenes, even a couple episodes, that are as good as anything in my favorite shows.  Several of the first few episodes were good enough to make me want to keep watching.   But these are overwhelmed by soap-opera stupidity and an excessive amount of pure incompetence on the part of the team, especially in later episodes.
The leader of the organization, Captain Jack, is a decent character, well-written and well-acted.  While he occasionally makes some amazingly stupid command decisions, he is overall a proper heroic character.
Everyone else, however, is totally worthless.  They are fools and cowards, with no emotional maturity.  They make the wimpiest liberal on Star Trek look like John Wayne.  They routinely do things that would result in court-martial, or even summary execution, in any well-run military or police organization.  It seems that they cause more mayhem than they prevent.  More than once, I was rooting for something to kill them so they could be replaced by somebody, anybody, else.

And sometimes, the entire plot and premise falls apart.  The writers can't decide if the people in the world know about aliens or not.  The idea that they might not is ridiculous.  This is a continuity where an alien ship once have hovered over London and brainwashed a third of the population, and where alien races have engaged in a shooting war in the middle of British cities.  The Torchwood people sometimes covers things up, but nobody could have covered up the things that have happened.  Yet anyone who believes that aliens exist is treated as crazy by the general population.

In the end, the whole thing reeks of senseless European artsy postmodernism, all image and no substance.  I'd rather have American sci-fi, even if they have to dumb it down to make it sell.  I miss Stargate.  Hopefully the next incarnation will be decent.

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