Monday, December 15, 2008

Torchwood--CSI meets the X-Files

Torchwood is a British TV SF series that is described as a spin-off of Doctor Who, the modern series. I gather that's because of the presence of Captain Jack Harkness, the head of the Torchwood team. Not having seen any of the recent episodes of Doctor Who, I don't know exactly who he is. I guess I'll have to watch that series also, once I've finished going through the original episodes. The premise of the show is that aliens invade earth regularly, and the Torchwood team's mission is to protect earth from them.

I've viewed the first two episodes and must admit I don't see any thematic or atmospheric connection to the original series, although there is occasionally a bit of whimsy that sneaks through. Based on the first two episodes, I would say that Torchwood is a darker show with a grimmer atmosphere in which death occurs, frequently of the grisly variety. Sex also plays a much larger role in the show, as the second episode concerns a sex-starved alien who has traveled light years to earth in order to sample sex as earth people know it. I don't think I'm revealing anything significant here as this point is made clear in the first 5 minutes or so of the show.

As I mentioned earlier, the show doesn't have the feel of the original Doctor Who series. Probably the best I way I can describe it is to say that CSI meets The X-Files. Torchwood is a super-secret organization that investigates strange happenings. There are five members, each of whom, naturally, is an expert in something--electronics, medicine, the obligatory computer hacker. If they get to the scene first, they simply take control and wave off the authorities when they arrive. However, if the local authorities are in control, they show up in their van, wave ID cards, take over with their various suitcases of equipment, and send the locals off. Along with investigating incidents of possible alien invasions, their task is to destroy the invaders, if present, and clean up the mess, so that the ordinary citizenry remain unaware of their true danger.

They also confiscate all alien artifacts and store them in their secret underground lab. The members of the team have to promise that the alien devices will remain in the lab and not be taken outside for personal use. This promise is obviously broken by various members of the team in the first episode, sometimes with humorous results.

The setting for the show is Cardiff, Wales. The POV character is a Gwen Cooper, a Cardiff police officer, who is at the scene of a murder in the first episode, when the Torchwood squad arrives and takes over. She asks a fellow officer about them and is told this is Torchwood, a group about which nothing is known, except that they occasionally appear and take control of some incidents. She spies on them as they go about their work with some strange devices and does a little investigating of her own; you can guess what happens.

Fortunately, there are no men in black, but it's early days--I've only seen the first two episodes. I certainly hope the men in black don't appear, bringing with them the governmental conspiracy theme that eventually dominated The X-Files, to its detriment, as far as I was concerned. That's when I lost interest.

One last point--Gwen Cooper, the female lead in Torchwood, accepted the existence of aliens in the very first show. How many seasons of The X-Files did Mulder need to convince Scully that "they're out there"?

I'll be watching the next episodes of this show. I did enjoy it, and while I'm not initially ecstatic over it, it is possible that the show will grow on me. Much depends upon the interaction of the team's members: that could make the show, or break it, for me anyway.

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