Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Torchwood's juicy bits...........

Captain Jack Harkness reveals, "the 21st century's when it all changes, and you gotta be ready." Jack was last seen at the end of Doctor Who series one, exterminated in the Dalek war in the 2002nd century, before being resurrected by Rose Tyler, when she had channelled the Time Vortex and became the Bad Wolf. For reasons unknown, Jack - a promiscuous bisexual former intergalactic time-agent-turned-con-artist-turned-hero - has found himself in 21st century Cardiff as head of Torchwood. We last saw Torchwood's London office - then a neo-fascist organisation headed by Tracy-Ann Cyberman - destroyed in the Dalek vs Cyberman battle in season 2's finale of Doctor Who. That, along with the Sycorax invasion on Christmas Day last year, has been explained away as a kind of psychotropic terrorism; where the water supply is causing mass hallucinations. As a top secret organisation outside the United Nations, the BBC aren't giving much away, but The Guide has managed to uncover the following information ...
Torchwood House
One of the Scottish Highlands' stateliest homes, Torchwood House was home to the MacLeish Family since the 1500s before being bought by the crown in 1853. Legend has it that in the wake of the werewolf massacre of 1851, Queen Victoria banished a stranger calling himself "the doctor" and his "naked" young companion, Rose Tyler from the British Empire for consorting with demons and magic and stuff. Realising that Britain had enemies beyond her understanding, she founded the Torchwood Institute, to investigate such occurrences, and arm its borders, should this doctor ever dare to return.
Among the less-than-savoury visitors to tumble through the rift are a couple of hundred "weevils" (nobody knows what they're actually called, they just sort of grunt and rasp). They look (and communicate) a bit like Paul Danan gone reptile and live in the sewers feeding off human shit. Except that every now and then they will go rogue and attack - like the one that takes out a hospital porter early on in episode one, in a spectacular shower of blood and gore.
The Torchwood Hub
To the naked ape it looks like Cardiff Millennium Centre, and it probably serves that purpose as well. But deep beneath lies the Torchwood Hub, base to the Torchwood team and their pet pterodactyl, who access it via a big hole in the floor that acts as an invisible lift all the way down. So why can't people see them going down? Because there's some sort of perception filter of course, perhaps the result of, say, a police box having landed there sometime during series one of Doctor Who. As Jack explains to Gwen, shortly before drugging her and wiping her memory, probably the result of "a dimensionally transcendental chameleon circuit placed right on this spot which welded its perception properties to a spatial time programme." "But if there's a great big hole in the ground don't people fall in?" wonders Gwen. "That is so Welsh! I show you something fantastic, you find fault."
Resurrection Glove
The first episode begins with Gwen seeing more than she should, as the team take over a murder scene, placing a robot glove on the back of his head, reviving him for minutes and asking him how he died. Except it's not so refined, only working for two minutes, and only on the recently deceased. The more violent the trauma, the stronger the resurrection. (It works a little better on flies). Obviously, if such technology fell into the wrong hands, that would be very bad ...
Book Assimilator
Technical expert Toshiko Sato takes stuff home with her; though she's not doing it to get laid, she's doing it to learn (boring!) She owns a handheld phaser-type thing that scans a copy of A Tale Of Two Cities, beams it into a computer and reads the whole book in seconds. Or something. OK, we don't really understand, but it'll no doubt lead to all hell breaking loose by Xmas.
Sex Parasite
If, like caddish young Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), your job was being the medical expert in a top secret institute that scavenged alien technology, and you were going to break protocol and take something home, you'd probably nick the spray that works as a kind of opposite Rohypnol. One spray to your own face and any woman will take you home and shag you instantly. Even if that does mean the only way of avoiding a beating by said woman's boyfriend is to respray him and make him want to do the same. You wouldn't necessarily know that in doing so you were letting loose a sinister alien intelligence that would unleash a doomed sexual anarchy upon the world. On the upside, if your life was actually part of an adult sci-fi cop show, it would mean that episode two could contain an awful lot of boning.
· Torchwood, Sun, 9pm, BBC 3; Wed, 9pm, BBC2

TV Review: Torchwood - Episode 1, "Everything Changes"

It begins with a CSI-style sweep over Cardiff, and a crime scene. There's blood, a corpse, rain, forensics and the police.Before anyone can do pretty much anything, they're all cleared out. Torchwood, apparently, have told them to clear the area. Who are Torchwood? The attending officers are as in the dark as we, the audience, are. Special Ops, they say. As one Welsh accented forensics officer says in the opening five minutes of Torchwood's first ever episode: "There's no procedure any more - it's a f**king disgrace". Thankfully, the episode isn't.Over the next few minutes we're treated to the temporary resurrection of a murder victim via some form of mystical gauntlet, a bar fight, and a snarling creature with a nasty habit of biting people in the neck. With spurting arterial blood spray, and everything. 15 minutes in, and it's clear that this, if anything, is a distant relative of Doctor Who, at least in terms of content. Swearing, blood, adult humour, sexuality, and Welsh accents abound in Torchwood.Torchwood is, unapologetically, aimed at the adult audience. Perhaps this is why the BBC have chosen to air the series on its more cult focused, and digital only, BBC3 rather than going for a prime time BBC1 slot. It seems that they want to keep this as far from Doctor Who as possible, lest it be mistaken for cuddly, tea-time family entertainment.For those that don't know, the series is a spin off from the first and second seasons of the BBC's new Doctor Who. Taking the Captain Jack Harkness character from the first series, and the Torchwood institute from the second, it takes place in modern day Cardiff, and features a team of, essentially, misfits in their hunt to track down aliens. And presumably any other nasties that the script writers decide to toss their way.One other thing that links the series to the new Doctor Who is actress Eve Myles. She's previously appeared in the first season episode "The Unquiet Dead". At this stage there's no apparent link between the character she played in that episode and the character she plays here, but it's not beyond the realms of possibility. As Gwen Cooper (her previous character's name was Gwyneth, fact fans), Myles manages a likeable level of bemused confusion in the first episode. As the audience is discovering many of Torchwood's mysteries at the same time as she does, it's important that they can identify with her. Also, as she's given quite a lot of time on screen, it's quite important she's not irritating. Thankfully, she achieves both things well.As for other cast members, John Barrowman returns as the glorious Captain Jack Harkness, once a time traveling scavenger, now a alien catching superhero, in more ways than one. Barrowman oozes charisma. It's no surprise that writer and series creator Russel Davies wanted to spin things off into a new series featuring his bi-sexual swashbuckler - the character and performance are both deeply watchable. Harkness' team are, like Gwen, mostly likeable.
Burn Gorman, who plays Owen Harper, has the look of a young Willem Dafoe about him, and is the only borderline irritating team member; Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori) doesn't get a great deal to do here, Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) is a likeable, well dressed Quentin Tarantino look-alike, and Suzie Costello (Indira Varma) features more than you'd think. It's a team with some potential, who you don't take an immediate dislike to, and that each have a clearly defined role and character.The script is witty, effective, and not overly clunky. It's got that Doctor Who style humour, but can take it slightly further thanks to its adult targeted audience. It also nicely references its source; the Cyberman invasion from series two of new Who, the alien spacecraft from the Christmas special, the destruction of Torchwood (one of four offices, as it happens), and there's even a mention of the good Doctor himself. Fans of Who will already guess why this branch of Torchwood is placed in Cardiff, but there's an explanation for that too. The nice thing is, none of it feels forced. There's a pleasing lack of tedious exposition in Torchwood.The only criticism of the first episode is perhaps that it doesn't have a great deal of time to produce a compelling villain, or plot. It takes its time to introduce the characters, establish who Torchwood are, why they're in Cardiff, and what they're going to do about the fact that Gwen has discovered them. There's a — seemingly tacked on — plot about some recurring murders in Cardiff that gets resolved, but it's secondary to the process of introducing everyone. And the episode just about gets away with it.As first episodes go, Torchwood is a good one. We're sold the prospect of the ever likeable Captain Jack catching aliens, a team of charismatic assistants, a central character who's easy to get behind, and an atmosphere not a million miles from US team based sci-fi, like Angel.I've often said that the BBC could produce great Science Fiction. It used to — it had a history of some great television — but hasn't really done anything to impress of late beyond the triumphant return of Doctor Who. Hopefully, Torchwood will change that during its run. The potential is there, the intention is obvious after episode one, and thanks to its adult focus there'll likely be none of Russell Davies toilet jokes.Episode one gets my seal of approval, and there's not a man eating dustbin in sight.
BBC News reports that the opening episodes of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood drew the largest digital channel audience for a non-sport programme, says the BBC. The first two instalments of the series, starring John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness, also attracted BBC Three's largest ever audience.
The first episode had 2.4 million viewers and a 12.7% audience share, and the second episode 2.3 million (13.8%). Two football matches in 2004 and 2005 earned larger digital TV audiences.