Fifth-episode verdict: Torchwood

The Torchwood CarusometerMajor Caruso

So here we are. Episode five of Torchwood. Again, an improvement from the second and third episodes but also an improvement from last week’s Cyberwoman.

Yet the thing is, they still managed to muck up a PJ Hammond script. How do you do that? It was classic Hammond, where everything was inexplicable, unstoppable, magical and scary. If RTD had simply handed it to Shaun O’Riordan, David McCallum and Joanna Lumley, we’d have had Sapphire and Steel: Assignment Seven, and we’d all have been duly grateful. But he didn’t and so the episode only managed to clock a “Partial Caruso” on the The Carusometer, which equates to “a show with two walk-on cameos by David Caruso, during both of which he takes off and puts on his sunglasses repeatedly”.

Where did it go wrong?

Well, the direction wasn’t awful, but there was some ridiculous (literal) signposting and there were close-ups on things we really didn’t need close-ups of (the Torchwood logo on the side of the stupid Range Rover for example. You’re supposed to be covert, nimrods). The music and sound effects were absolutely awful, removing any trace of menace from the direction – thank you again, Murray Gold. The CGI could have been knocked up in a copy of After Effects 1.0 in some bloke’s bedroom circa 1996. And the acting was, once again, as stiff as the Old Wood trees, particularly from Evil Child. It just goes to show there’s a lot more that goes into making a TV programme than just the script.

So it’s time for the fifth-episode verdict. As you can see from Torchwood‘s Carusometer for the first five episodes, we’ve gone through the whole gamut of bad readings. A simple average would give an overall reading just shy of four, a Major Caruso. Does it look like the show’s going to get any better than that? No, judging from the trailer for next week’s episode. So…

The Medium is Not Enough has declared Torchwood to be a 4 or “Major Caruso” on The Carusometer quality scale. A Major Caruso corresponds to “a show that David Caruso might exec produce or star in, or maybe write during a lunch break, perched at a strange angle on the side of a boat”.

Which is a pity, really, since it had such promise.

  • Tragic really, but utterly hilarious to read!

  • It was a lot better than any of the others, but yup, still weaker than it should have been. What happened to the old lady didn’t make any sense, for a start, and Jack hinted at loads of cool stuff the faeries were capable of that just didn’t happen.
    I found myself wondering whether the episode had actually started life as a Torchwood script at all. Lots of it was two-handed scenes with Jack and Gwen which could easily have been the Doctor and Rose; quite a few of Jack’s lines were quite Doctor-ish, in fact. The rest of the team had very little to do; most of their lines could have come from the Doctor. It wasn’t about aliens or alien tech at all, and it played on childhood fears. Was it perhaps a Doctor Who script that got rewritten to make it less family-friendly?
    As there was no reference made at all to the cataclysmic events of Cyberwoman (c’mon, if that had happened, they’d barely be able to look each other in the eye and they’d all be tiptoeing around Jack and Ianto like they were walking on broken glass), I’ve now decided that the whole episode was a dream. Ianto actually is a coldly-efficient gay assissin with a crush on Jack, and the whole thing was him dreaming about what it would be like if his straight tea-boy cover persona were true. CyberLisa? Vagina dentata, more like.
    Torchwood has yet to recover from the Lack of Jack, if you ask me. When he first appeared in DW, the character description was something like ‘Jack Harkness is a charming con-man, cheerfully bisexual, and able to travel in time.’ None of that has carried over into Touchwood.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    This episode served to remind me how often S&S benefitted from barely glimpsed opponents in dark, claustrophobic and studio-bound sets. It’s difficult to do creepy in daylight OB, especially when the shots only serve to highlight the shoddiness of your CG faeries.
    I thought the kiddie-fiddler’s plight touched on the suitably grotesque for part of the time. Though I find it mysterious that a team with a medical genius on board has its forensics handled by a WPC and computer technician.

  • Not seen your ep yet but would agree that Jack is un-Jack-like. Still, then again, my difficulties with the immortality thang aside, how would a character react to being killed and then reactivated?
    BTW might be my browser but I couldn’t read the Carusometer text that starts the piece: my text begins with “but also an improvement from last week’s Cyberwoman.”

  • Craig

    Mm. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the Cyberwoman episode, and thus didn’t make me want to gouge out my eyes with a rusty spoon. However, it’s still barely better than the worst X-Files episodes, and even last night’s effort didn’t compare well with the majority of new Who. The idea was largely there (even if the end result was somewhat confused), but the execution was sorely lacking.
    Still, it was good enough for me to give the show one more chance. But if next week’s episode is rubbish, I don’t think I can put myself through another five or so hours of this.

  • I heart the Carusometer.

  • MurrayP

    I always loved Who and I love the updated version even more, just as I loved RTD’s Casanova and Queer as Folk, so I know he can deliver the goods. I also loved Captain Jack in all of his Who episodes, so I know John Barrowman can deliver. So why is it that I’m so dissapointed and underwhelmed by this show?
    For one thing the hype certainly hasn’t helped. Whenever I see RTD smugly talking about how “dark” and “sexy” and “adult” it is, or that clip Barrowman telling us it would be like nothing we’d seen on British TV, it just amazes me that they could possibly think any of these things were true.
    They also can’t seem to decide what the show should be or where it’s going. There’s been far too much of the “Jack and Gwen show”, a poor imitation of the Doctor/Companion relationship that’s been pushed at the expense of the rest of the team, and the suff with Gwen’s home life comes and goes with a confusing lack of focus.
    I mean we’re five episodes in an we’ve had nothing about the organisation itself other than a few throwaway lines. If there are multiple Torchwoods and they’re outside the government etc then who is in overall charge, who funds them, do they have international counterparts, etc?
    I’m afraid it’s all just a poorly planned, unfocused mess. If it was a US series I’d probably have dropped it by now but I can’t let go of the hope that it might just eventually get better.

  • “it just amazes me that they could possibly think any of these things were true.”
    There’s so much hubris floating about, I’m almost inclined to hope Torchwood flops, simply to give RTD and co a much-deserved wake-up slap. When you’re that lauded, you need a manually administered dose of reality occasionally.
    Having said that, though, compare the podcasts for Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica. RTD and co are always gassing on about how fantastic the show is and how brilliant it is, even though they made it themselves. RDM is always pulling his stuff apart, confessing when he doesn’t like the way things turned out, blaming himself for mistakes, and so on. Clearly, plaudits don’t always go to the heads of exec producers, and look which show’s the better for it…

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