Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Here it goes again

Right, it’s been ages and ages since I first wanted to talk about it (life just gets in the way sometimes, it’s very inconsiderate), but I’m finally getting there now. Torchwood. Thoughts. Have them.

First up, I’d like to say I’m completely over the horror inflicted upon my poor fangirl psyche by Children of Earth. I still think it’s the most depressing thing and everyone behaves like idiots, but c’est la guerre. In the end, I’ve divorced myself from this show (and its fandom) because frankly, it all got a bit insane. Not because Ianto died – yes, I was upset about that but I’d have gotten over it, characters die, shit happens – but because of the way everything was handled afterwards. It was just very off-putting. Besides, time passed and I filled the hole in my television life with other things – mainly Fringe and, more recently, Supernatural. I’ve come to appreciate a different style of drama, one that doesn’t rely on breakneck pace and shock.

Everything considered, I’m not exactly looking forward to Miracle Day. Mostly because I suspect there’s going to be a dissonance between tone and style, as the old cast is going to be out acted by the new cast. And I am very much thinking of it in terms of old vs new. From what I can gather, it’ll start off with the CIA guy Rex Matheson (played by the excellent Mekhi Phifer) which in my head makes it his story, as much as the original TW was Gwen’s story (it starts with her, it ends with her.) It’s a new take on an existing foundation, and the show that existed once can never be again. And that’s fine, I’m just not keen to sign up just yet.

I think the acting is a valid concern – I love John, and I love Jack Harkness, but the guy isn’t exactly the world’s greatest actor. And that’s perfectly fine when you’re in a slightly cheesy show about secret alien catchers, but transpose it onto a stage that’s not only bigger, but contains actors with weight beyond pantomimes, reality tv and Desperate Housewives, and I’m not exactly filled with confidence that it’ll balance out. The lack of significant contrast between Jack and his surroundings, characterised through his perceived ‘Americaness’ in a Welsh setting, has the risk of making the cheesiness of it more pronounced. And it’s not just that. Even in that scene in the extended trailer with Gwen and Dichen Lachman’s character, I feel like something is just…off. I could be entirely wrong, it has happened before (shock horror). I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Actually, speaking of Gwen, isn’t it nice to see that all that talk of her shooting and fighting with a baby strapped to her chest wasn’t just hyperbole? Look, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I find the whole image of Gwen shooting at someone with a baby in one arm completely fucking insane. And not in the ‘Wow, Gwen is so kick-ass’ way.

Another thing that makes me less than enthused is the premise. Nobody dies? Big whoop. We’ve all been there before. When you mess with death, the universe gets pissed and things get out of wack. We know. Not only have other shows like Supernatural tackled this before, but Torchwood itself has dabbled with it. Gloves? Suzie? Zombie Owen? Anyone? The problem with TW is that it thinks it’s clever and unique – and it isn’t really (I’m not saying that in some ways it isn’t quite progressive, I still love it, but just think about this for a second.) Case in point: Combat. Referencing other things is fine, but tip your hat at your sources at least. Otherwise you just look like you’re taking something and hoping no one would notice. Pro tip: people notice. It’s derivative and it’s not cool. And yes, I know a lot of people loved that episode, but still.

Anyway, to return to MD – it is not a new concept. Also, that whole ‘pole through the chest’ thing from the extended trailer just made me think of Final Destination and in a way this whole thing does have a touch of the Final Destinations to it. People don’t die. Once whatever is causing it is sorted out and balance is restored, chances are everyone whose number was called will be taken. So! Considering that one of the main characters in MD is run through with a pole in what I can only assume would be the first episode, reason argues that he’ll drop dead in the end. Same with the convict guy. So really, we’re going to spend 9 episodes involved with characters marked for death.

Plus there’s the hint of government conspiracy. Really? Again? Really? Then there’s the length issue as well. They’re dragging this one story line out over 10 episodes. That’s a long time. COE lost pace in the middle, can MD keep up the intensity for double that? It’s a big ask.

There’s something else that rubs me the wrong way about MD. It isn’t exactly rational, but it bugs me all the same. It’s simply the number of Whedon alumni working on this show. Not only do we have Whedon’s writers, but also his production crew and actors. And okay, it’s ridiculous to say ‘his’ like they solely work for Joss Whedon or something, but there’s no denying that they’re a tight-knit group and often intersect across Whedon’s various projects. I'm sure they're talented individuals anyone would be happy to work with. It's just that somewhere, somehow MD starts to feel like it’s trying too hard to be a Joss Whedon project. Of course, we won’t really know until it airs. It just has all these elements of Joss…but it’s not Joss. So it feels a bit like you’re getting some kind of faux-Joss, trying so hard to be something it’s not (and can’t be in fact.) Maybe RTD decided that since everyone was comparing him to Joss, he might as well go the whole way. Or maybe they’re just playing that up in the hopes that the Whedon fans will come across and make it work for them. Who knows. Time will tell.

Overall though, I just don’t know why I should care. I want to, but I can’t. Nothing this franchise does can surprise or shock me, which makes it all rather inconsequential really. I’m holding out hope that the first episode will whip up some enthusiasm at least, get that edge-of-your-seat-what-happens-next excitement going. It’s being fast-tracked here so it airs the same time it does in the States - it premieres on Starz on the 8th of July, so I think that means UKTV are showing it on the 9th here. That’s something at least.

Music: Famous Last Words - My Chemical Romance

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