Monday, August 8, 2011

Why can't we have nice things?

This post contains spoilers for episode 5 of Torchwood: Miracle Day. If you haven’t seen it, tread carefully.

Okay, forget everything I’ve ever written about Children of Earth on this blog, every bitter little comment I may have made. Forget it. All of it. It’s done, put it aside. While CoE had its flaws (character inconsistencies, failures of logic and [arguably] emotional manipulation), it was still a well-executed piece of television. It was well-acted, directed, written and produced. And it had everyone hooked. The strong response to it is just further proof of its dramatic success, and all of it is so much more striking in comparison to what we have to deal with now.

Seriously, Torchwood. I wish you'd stayed dead.

Harsh, maybe, but Miracle Day is a complete and utter waste of time. It is slow, it is dull and it’s trying so hard to say something important that it’s not really saying anything at all. I’ve been waiting too, giving it the benefit of the doubt, but we’re five episodes in and nothing has really happened.

I only realised how little the show was doing for me when faced with the choice of the latest episode or an episode of White Collar, I chose the latter instead. I’m sad to say that after I did finally watch episode 5, I couldn’t really fault that decision either – the White Collar ep was far more enjoyable. It really disappoints me. On one hand, I didn’t have particularly high expectations for the season but I was really hoping to be proved wrong, to be whipped away again in the joys of Torchwood. I was so sure I would be. Alas, alack, all that.

Thing is, I can’t help but think of Merlin in this situation. See, season 3 of Merlin didn’t really do anything for me either but I still watched every week because there were these flashes of brilliance that reminded me of everything I loved about that show. I didn’t want to miss any of it, and it never crossed my mind to stop watching. There was still enjoyment to be had. With Miracle Day, I actually don’t want to keep watching. I just have no interest in it and, unlike Merlin, it has no spark, no joy in it, to carry me through to the end. The only reason I’ll keep going is because it’s Torchwood and I feel compelled by my fandom to see this through to its pointless conclusion – and I need to watch it for research purposes. So, you know.

There are a couple of reasons why the show isn’t working for me and it all sort of came to a head in the middle of episode 5. Gwen has gone to rescue her dad from one of the overflow camps and stands around beating her chest ineffectively for a couple of minutes until she almost gets arrested. And I just couldn’t help thinking that there was a time when Team Torchwood would have strut into that place, took what they wanted and no one would have stopped them. What have we become?

Useless, that's what. We’ve become completely useless. Torchwood has always been a tad on the incompetent side, but now their incompetence is accompanied by total impotence. I mean seriously. Last season, 3 targeted Torchwood agents brought down this massive conspiracy from a dank warehouse. This season, 4/5 highly trained individuals can’t even execute one simple operation without incident – with the same tech at their disposal, I might add. Sure, Jack’s not immortal anymore, but that doesn’t mean he’s entirely out of action, now does it? What is wrong with him? He has done absolutely nothing of value…except lurk in the scaffolding and stalk media personalities. Which is another thing, this whole parallel between Jack and Oswald Danes – the idea that they’re tormented in the same way because they both killed a child. I don’t know if the writers are trying to draw this comparison for viewers or whether we’re supposed to believe that Jack actually draws the comparison himself, but I don’t like it. Oswald creeps me out and I am not for one minute okay with putting Jack in the same category as a convicted paedophile. I don’t care how much Jack’s beating himself up over his grandson’s death, it is not the same thing. Not even remotely. Not even wracked with guilt do I believe you could make that comparison, or find some “understanding” with a guy like Oswald. I find it all very squicky.

Then there’s Gwen, of course, whose hysterical moments are even more annoying now that they yield absolutely no result. I am so thankful they’ve sent her back to Wales and Rhys – I’ve always thought they were best when together. And it saves Rhys from his demotion to ‘that guy who always calls at inconvenient moments’ because really, he’s earned the right to be more than that by now. Half the time, Gwen sits around with this I’ve-seen-it-all-before expression on her face and exchanges these loaded looks with Jack, like they’re saying ‘bless, these guys have no idea what they’re doing’, but the pair don’t actually do anything. At all. We have effectively had four episodes of practically nothing. I don’t understand why Rex even bothered to bring them back in the first place. So he could have some snazzy contact lenses? Whatever.

The incompetence does not end with the original Team Torchwood members however. If only. No, in fact, I think dear Dr Vera Juarez gives Gwen a run for her money in the ‘beating my chest ineffectively’ stakes. Arguably the most useless character of the lot, which leads her to a suitable end. After all, what did she expect? I found the hook-up between her and Rex to be a bit random as well (don’t think there was much chemistry between them tbh) but I suppose it makes sense now – gives Rex that added my-lover-is-dead angst that Torchwood runs on.

Rex. I don’t know what to say about Rex. I don’t think I really have a feel for his character. It’s all superficial – he’s brash, he has his funny moments, he actually gets things done…he’s the only one that gets things done. Huh. Clearly, the hero of the show. Also very much the hetero alpha male, which is interesting for TW, having never really done that before. Of course, we need Esther (oh hey Esther, you’ve done stuff but I barely remember you) to be secretly enarmoured with him to help enforce that. Ah unrequited admiration, that’s just the Torchwood way. Although actually, even though we’ve had two sex scenes already, I really rather think this series is lacking in sexiness.

Hilariously, I’ve just discovered the second episode of MD was written by someone who usually writes for House so I was totally right when I said it was very House-like. Maybe that’s part of the problem. I just don’t know what MD is supposed to be. At this point, I’m half expecting everyone to turn into zombies. It doesn’t really feel like sci-fi, and it definitely doesn’t feel anything like the show I once loved.

I understand that the ratings in the US are slowly rising while those in the UK are falling. That makes sense. Miracle Day is probably great if you’ve never seen an episode of Torchwood before. That doesn’t mean the old stuff is better by any means, just that there are certain expectations that MD doesn’t meet. The big one being Jack's complete inadequacy.

TW was my first real proper sci-fi tv love. I’d never before gotten into a tv show the way I was into Torchwood. In the intervening years however, I’ve watched a lot more television – especially since its break because suddenly I had this hole in my life that I had never had before, and I needed to fill it with something else. So I watched more shows, and I fell in love with quite a few. Not just sci-fi/fantasy shows like Supernatural, Fringe and BSG (still working on that one), but other things too like Sherlock, HBO shows (True Blood, Mad MenGame of Thrones, Band of Brothers) and more “mainstream” things (The Big Bang Theory, Spirited, Lie to MeLife, Burn Notice, White Collar, Castle, NCISHawaii 5O).

Point is, I have a lot of things to watch and since TW is so intent on breaking away from its past, I have no real attachment to it. It needs to keep me interested, to make me want to watch it rather than watch something else. And I’m afraid it’s just not doing that.

Music: A malfunctioning alarm going off every five minutes *twitches*

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