Touch wood • 25 July 2009 • The SnowBlog
Sorry I haven't been around much lately. I've been taking a long holiday after all the difficulties of the last year or so. I'm back in the UK now, though, and what should catch my eye but a new season of Torchwood.
Maybe you remember how critical I've been of that particular franchise in the past. I may even have blamed it for some of the worst television I've seen in my whole life. Which you might think would make me avoid it, but I don't. There are two reasons for this. One is the only sign of possible patriotism I've yet detected within myself. If the UK is exporting television to the world, I'd rather it wasn't howlingly wretched. Or maybe I just want Britain to have a thriving TV industry so that one day there'll be room for me in it. And the other reason is somewhat similar: if I ever end up selling a script to a TV production company, the chances are that shows like Torchwood will be my competition. And if that competition is puerile drivel, that's worth knowing. So with my fish-rifle in hand, I pulled up another barrel of Torchwood and prepared to open fire.
I knew they'd made changes, I'd heard there was a new direction but nothing could have prepared me for the sensation I experienced while watching ep1 of season 3: the feeling of mild enjoyment. Even excitement in places. And amusement. (And only the very infrequent twinge of major irritation.) Is it possible they've changed Torchwood so much that it's actually... good? Maybe you remember what my biggest complaint was with Torchwood season one? The team were supposed to keep Earth safe and all they did was imperil it, while whining and bickering. Earth would be markedly safer if the Torchwood team were disarmed and locked in a Big Brother house somewhere, squabbling among themselves.
Season two saw the team occasionally tackle problems instead of just causing them. They still moped and whinged constantly - and don't forget the bickering. And they were still the least impressive front-line against alien malevolence you could imagine. But despite shooting themselves in the foot at every opportunity they sort of almost sometimes saved the day. Nearly.
But something strange has happened now that season three is here. A crisis has presented itself and what remains of the team are attempting to resolve it in a professional and even insightful manner. And then, when the chips are down and disaster strikes, they are somehow keeping it together and making intelligent, capable efforts towards remedying the situation. They still have emotions and weaknesses, but somehow these things no longer prevent them from doing their jobs - even excelling at them. Curious.
I know this is going to be hard to believe, but I really didn't want episode two to end. I wanted more. More! - not less.
It's still not what you might call 'superb'. But neither is it a blot on the TV schedules and a waste of licence-payers' money. And what's more, I'm enjoying it.
It can't last, of course. Soon, the team will decide that expressing their inner anguish takes precedence over the survival of the human race. Or they'll get into a big argument and start shooting each other (as they are so wont to do). But just for now, I'm really enjoying this little oasis of acceptable quality television - and tentatively hoping it might last a week or two longer.
(Remember, you can watch BBC programmes that you've missed using iPlayer. And you can even download programmes to watch offline if you use a bit of software like get_iplayer. It's not the friendliest thing to use, but if you wanted to grab a quicktime copy of s3ep2 of Torchwood, you'd type:
then you'd note that the show you wanted was numbered 697 so you'd type:
get_iplayer --get 697
and the file will start downloading.)