The Tellybox: What’s Hot, Hot, Hot in the UK: Torchwood’s Second Series Triumphs

Torchwood team 2

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.

www.bbc.co.uk/torchwood

www.bbcamerica.com

4.1.1

© Carole Gordon 2008

4 thoughts on “The Tellybox: What’s Hot, Hot, Hot in the UK: Torchwood’s Second Series Triumphs”

  1. Carole,

    Thanks for a spectacular review of Torchwood. I love this series. I’ve just had the opportunity to see Gwen’s wedding this morning (on Easter) and wow! That is sure the wedding to end all weddings. Great script though, made me laugh, made me wince, made me apprehensive, made me happy, made me wish for more, and of all things, made me cry… not a bad cry. But when Gwen was saying why she wanted to marry Rhys and why it had to be that day, I found myself choking up with tears in my eyes. I have thought Russell T. Davies brilliant ever since he gave us the original version of ‘Queer As Folk’, which I still love even more than the American version. He also has made a ‘Doctor Who’ fan out of me, no small feat, since I’ve hated it since childhood… and yes, I did try to watch it several times throughout my life.

    I don’t think I agree with you on Jack being a happier person because he found ‘his right kind of doctor’… The Doctor and Rose changed his life… especially the Doctor (as in Chris Eggleston) who made him want to be like him and help people … in fact, he gave his life in the Doctor’s cause. Only to find himself abandoned, like he wasn’t worthy to be with the Doctor. Yes, he told himself that they left him because they thought he was dead, but I’m not sure he believed it himself and his lack of understanding as to why he was suddenly given immortality didn’t sit well either…

    I think his words of ‘I did it for you’ explaining his taking on of Torchwood for the Doctor explains a lot… what he was doing… and his moodiness through most of the first season when whatever he did didn’t bring him the approval of the one person he wanted. I think it’s not finding the right kind of Doctor because I think Jack fits well with both #9 and #10, I think it’s being able to come full circle with the Doctor in any form that has made him a happier person, because he’s learned why he was abandoned, and that it was not because he was unworthy to be in that small group of people surrounding the Doctor righting wrongs, and because he’s learned why he’s immortal, that it was an act of friendship/love (from Rose) gone awry, and being able to have people who accept him like the Doctor, Rose and Martha, and who instilled in him a new sense of caring and responsibility. I think this is what has allowed him to open up himself to the people he now feels responsible for and accepts as his family. Anyway, that’s how I see it.

    Love him and Ianto.

    I actually wasn’t that crazy about Ianto or Rhys in season one, but I love them both in season 2 — they have both come into their own this season and I’m constantly rooting for them when Ianto stands up Jack and when Rhys stands up to Gwen and Jack. Season 2 rocks.

    And thank you for this wonderful review of what I have to look forward to.

  2. I like this show, but I still think Dr. Who is much better. Now I cannot wait for the next season of that to play here.

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  4. Yes this show is a classic already. I hope they keep up the good work. Dr. Who is still number one though. But I miss Rose Tyler. She made a great companion. I have to wait and see what happens with the changing of the Dr’s companion again. Hope fully Martha comes back she was growing on me. But drop the love interest. Rose was the Doctors one love.

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