Home > Reviews, TV > Torchwood – It’s Doctor Who, but mixed up

Torchwood – It’s Doctor Who, but mixed up

Torchwood: Miracle Day, finished its fourth season recently. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet, but despite some excellent scenes, I thought it was disappointing.

Torchwood, for the uninitiated, is Doctor Who’s younger, swearier brother. Unlike the family friendly Doctor Who, Torchwood is aimed squarely at the grown-up market, but with the same sort of ‘sci-fi adventure’ flavour that Doctor Who has. The idea is that by aiming a similar show at adults, we can have stories that feature adult themes. Potentially, this could be great. Doctor Who is famous for its wild ideas, and with a license to explore the sort of thing only older people really understand, the potential for rich story telling is great indeed.

The thing is, Doctor Who has had years to hone its trademark streak of insane brilliance. Daleks, for example, look silly, but time and again have been portrayed as horrific monsters to great effect. This is partially because any writer worthy of the name knows Daleks well enough to pitch the terror at a level children can understand. And by doing so, also creeps out anyone who was once a child.

Torchwood, Miracle Day. (c) Starz and the BBC

Actually, Torchwood could do with a talking dog. Never did Doctor Who or Scooby Doo any harm.

Torchwood, on the other hand, aims straight at the grown-ups, and misses the mark. The first two series of the show had more bad episodes than good, and the good episodes only served to show us how much potential the idea had. More often than not, we sat down to watch the show expecting an adult-thriller with a sci-fi twist, and instead got something that resembled Scooby-Doo taking itself way to seriously. And the only thing that makes Scooby Doo worth watching is its silliness.

Torchwood’s third series, Children of Earth, however, hit the target dead on. The menace was one that most people could easily relate to, and the show built up a momentum of creepiness, the horrors getting more horrific, the conspiracy getting more labyrinthine, until the inevitable tragic ending. Though not perfect, this was what I expected from the idea of ‘Doctor Who for Grown-Ups’; wild sci-fi ideas, the implications of which grew to be more thrilling (and worrying) simply because I was old enough to understand the implications.

So then onto the fourth series, Miracle Day. Having learned from the previous season, they tried a similar pitch; a simple yet wild idea that allowed the show’s producers to tell a story of conspiracy, of healthcare gone wrong, of the brutality of man’s urge to endure and how redemption is not something that can always be gained through noble sacrifice. Sounds great doesn’t it?

A yet somehow, they missed again. Partially, the tale was too flabby round the sides. Too many episodes, not enough story. It meandered, it took itself too seriously, and it had way to much of the lead actor’s naked bottom in it. Shorter stories can get away with less exposition, and one of Miracle Day’s flaws is that is became a bit of shaggy dog story. We’d waited too long for an explanation, so when it came, it was a disappointment.

They tell me that there may not be a fifth series. If there is, I’ll watch it, but if never comes back, I’m okay with that as well, and that, is not a good sign.

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