The Easter eggs were all lined up, sitting there, temptingly available. How could I resist indulging in the sweet, intense, dramatic flavours? Episodes 10, 11 and 12 of Torchwood’s second series have all aired in the past three days on BBC2 and BBC3, leaving me with the feeling that, as with the Easter eggs, I should have waited, should have savoured this big box of goodies, rather than devouring them because they were on offer. Maybe I should just have given up Torchwood for Lent, but I’ve never had that much will-power.
This year, Torchwood has almost been a different show. A much much better show than it was in its first series (though the first year’s highs, such as Small Worlds and Captain Jack Harkness, are right up there with the best of them). It can still be annoyingly variable in tone, occasionally inconsistent in writing quality and some of the CGI has demanded a greater than average suspension of disbelief. But overall the improvement in stories, in pace, in drama, in intensity, in emotional connection has been astonishing. The team are finally behaving like a coherent group who actually like each other and are competent and professional (in other words, they didn’t shoot each other or kill the boss). Also helping the mix is Jack’s happier persona, much more the Doctor Who Jack after finding his “right kind of doctor”, which brings a lighter feel to the show, and frees Jack to pursue a very hot and very sweet relationship with Ianto. All-in-all, Torchwood‘s second outing has put it in the “must-see TV” category, with ratings figures that reflect this success.
The range of storylines has been amazing, as befits a science fiction show with the entire rift at its disposal and a flexible format that allows for both the ultra-dark and ultra-daft. From life- and death-changing experiences such as Gwen’s marriage and Owen’s zombification to alien whales and memory-stealing, the Torchwood writers have not shied away from the bold such as From Out of the Rain, which was more atmosphere than plot, or the hilarious, such as Gwen waking up nine months pregnant on the morning of her wedding.
Where the writers have also scored this year has been in the “adult” content, both in language and actions, which have felt much more seamlessly integrated into the stories and far less gratuitous.
Episode 12 saw the long-awaited backstory of how Jack took over Torchwood 3 and put the team together, taking the viewer from Victorian England and the kick-ass women of the early days of the organisation to a nightmarish Guantanamo-like UNIT facility that was almost Toshiko’s permanent home. And the cliffhanger leading to the last episode – Captain John reappearing to threaten Jack and cruelly tease him with images of his missing brother – was inspired, making “Fragments” possibly the best episode yet.
Keeping us on tenterhooks until 4 April for Torchwood’s series finale (Exit Wounds) is harsh. The BBC got us hooked on the endorphin-enhancing delight that is this show and are now playing the tease by keeping that last Easter egg – the Belgian chocolate one with the icing – just out of reach. Judging from what has gone before, it will be well worth the wait.
Torchwood airs on BBC2 on Fridays at 9.00pm and on BBC America on Saturdays at 9.00pm EST.
© Carole Gordon 2008