Dr. Who and Torchwood Too

As regular readers know, I am a big Dr. Who and Torchwood fan. I have not written much about this season of the Doctor because I have not been that impressed by rehashed sci fi plots and giant wasp love affairs, and I love the genre enough not to openly mock them. So trust me when I tell you that if you watch no other episodes this season you must watch 4.08 and 4.09 airing over the next two weeks in the states. These episodes are intelligently written, well acted, full of suspense, and better still great clues to the future of the show (tho not as clever as they think – I know who she is). There is also a constant reference to “spoilers” throughout both episodes, and I will take heed to the clever way they have asked us not to spoil what is ahead and simply say: watch.

While you can feel free to skip the following episode (4.10), it’s been done to death and is quite boring, do not miss the finale and the Christmas episode. These are reportedly Tennant’s last moments with the series and all though I have not been impressed with the butched-up Tennant this season, I am going to miss him. He was really all the best quirky bits of Doctors past and it is a shame to lose any part of him. And no, I am still not happy about his rumored replacement who I love as an actor and who I think stinks as the choice for the Dr.

(Rose Tyler fans, she officially returns 4.11 – in the states that is 2-3 weeks away. And as reported before Martha will be in the finale. If you are a Tennant fan, you must not miss 4.12)

Speaking of losing . . . I have no such loyalty to Torchwood anymore so here come the “spoilers.” After the large outcry from fans about proposed changes to the show and a rather untenable idea of mounting a full season without much Capt. Jack the decision has been made to turn Torchwood into a mini-series. Next season will be one 5 episode storyline imagined as a one week event (likely to be a 5 week event in the states). As I’ve said before, Martha and Gwen will both be on board with Jack and Ianto. I haven’t been able to find out what the changes mean for Marsters who said he was onboard for series 3 before the final configuration was put together. There has been no word as to whether any future “mini-series” are in the works or if this is the last hurrah for the groundbreaking science fiction show. All I can say is, Shame on Barrowman’s ego. Shame. Shame.

The stint the entire team puts in at the Doctor Who finale is priceless by the way. Ianto gets to snark. Gwen gets to worry. Jack gets to make smarmy references about 3-ways, or is that 4-ways . . . ? I do so love his chemistry with Martha as well, you get the respect and the care their every time. Please oh please rethink the mini-series madness BBC.

(Oh and Here! Network, please set your writers, directors, and budget folks to getting us a good queer scifi show. Spend the money that is needed to get a solid cast and proper effects; hire the people from Torchwood if you have to. I trust you to fix Torchwood’s absence for all of us should that ultimately be what happens at the end of the miniseries.)

The Whos Down in Whoville have gone off the deep end

As if I could not be more disappointed lately, major shake ups are rumored at both Dr. Who and Torchwood according to SciFi Pulse. This is like cheap icing on a dry cake. The cake: the first episode of Dr. Who and Sarah Jane Chronicles that both contained questionable racial and body image narratives that with regards to the former, left me wondering if this would be the first season of Dr. Who I would not see all the way through (having seen the entire run of Dr. Who in my niñez). The second episode of the season, in Rome, is much more in keeping with what fans expect from the show: a bad CGI monster or two, Dr. Who saving the world while making quirky comments, and a few well placed comments/helpers from Tate and others. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite episode but it was good.

That being said here is the scoop:

  • Barrowman is rumored to be complaining there are too many episodes in a Torchwood season for him to do his other projects . . . so the rumor goes, he will be leaving next season early on and guesting once and a while
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  • As I hinted at before, rumors have it that Freema will join the cast next season and she and Gwen will become the corner stones of the new “family friendly” version of Torchwood (bye Ianto)
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  • Tennant will also be leaving the world of Who at season’s end being replaced by fellow Scott Robert Carlyle
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Here’s the thing, Torchwood is built around Jack though it is an ensemble the folklore does not seem to stand up without either him or the Doctor present. It is also best when it is melancholy and dramatic, this is when the actors give their best performances, when the writers give us food for thought and snark to quote, and when the concept of the show itself shines as both implicated in the Dr. Who world but also a stand alone. A newer, tweenie, Torchwood where Gwen’s marital woes take center stage, Ianto puts the tea down and disappears without nary a snark nor a romp or turns into gun toting Ianto, and little kids suddenly live next door or worse are invisible sprites popping forth from the now evolved weevils sounds about as fun as as watching those insipid teletubbies. I love Freema, but I will not watch to see her and Gwen play tiddly winks for the tweens on Torchtubbies. What exactly is Marsters supposed to do in this world? Oh . . . steal Jack’s heart and take him away on wristband related adventures . . . I am suddenly getting worried by this rumor . . . worried.

I also happen to be a rather big fan of Robert Carlyle but as someone who has watched many an incarnation of the Doctor in my lifetime, and seen every episode of the entire show, much of it multiple times, all I can say is “I don’t think so.” I won’t watch. I won’t. It isn’t just that for me Tennant is like a mix of all of the best Doctor’s past, Carlyle just doesn’t fit the Converse.

I watch three shows for escapism: BSG (canceled & so far really bad this season), Dr. Who (soon to be canceled due to poor casting choices), and Torchwood (soon to be starring Tinky Winky cooing lovingly at Gwen) . . .

All I can say is: You are a mean one Mr. Grench! Bring the presents back to Whoville so we can all join hands and sing . . . or I may have to show you why you never ever piss off a celt. Let alone a feminist on the edge.

Torchwood Finale

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Torchwood Promo Image/BBC

If you are looking for spoilers including the death toll read the second half of this post. I’ve put the link b/c of all the searches being done. Don’t forget to watch it, the finale is the best episode of the season.

(and might I just add 5000 times better than the BSG season opener. I know I am still mad about the homophobic anti-lesbian storyline in Razor, and disgusted by all the smack talking BGS actors did during the hiatus when they all thought they were headed off to the show they called the Bionic Woman but wasn’t, but seriously . . .)

Dr. Who, Dr. Who (Minor Spoilers)

Ok. So I’m passing along a few tidbits without comment b/c well . . . b/c.

  • Martha will rejoin Dr. Who on episode 4 of the upcoming series (that is most likely 6 in the U.S.)tennantc
  • There is some overlap between Martha and Rose’s stint
  • Rose is signed on for 3 episodes
  • She also appears briefly in the season opener (episode 3 for N. Americans)
  • According to Torchwood info Martha’s fiance’s name is Tom (yes photos of a ring have surfaced)
  • Rose’s ex-bf Mickey (or a parallel version of him) is in the last episode of the season/series and surprise, surprise, people are already ignoring the Tom info to assume that Martha is with him . . . b/c . . .
  • The promo for the season should be on heavy rotation soon, I saw it several months ago and I just don’t think it is that great so I haven’t and won’t repost it
  • The first official episode of the season is gross – no matter how cuddly you make fat creatures look watching them pop off bodies is gross
  • The discussion of Martha was really poorly done as well; tho it was painful to see her leave, I wish they had just let her walk out (that first time) and been done with it, because if episode 1 is any indication, I don’t want to see what happens next.
  • The dynamic between Tate and the Dr. is also a new twist that fans will either really like or not like at all – and no that is not a comment about desire (there is none of that this time around) but about the interaction between them.
  • Tate is funny, especially in that bit behind the door, but we all knew that.
  • Some fans have already started sites with doctored pictures of Tate kicking Agyeman’s butt . . . b/c . . .

kylie

I can’t really say much about the series. As per usual people in the U.S. the season will start next weekend with the Christmas episode, so the season will be 1-2 episodes longer than in Britain. I already did a post on that episode, so I won’t go into detail here. I thought it was a really good episode overall and I found Kylie Minogue way more interesting than some of the other companions we have seen or will see this season. It is too bad she (SPOILER) doesn’t make it; if they were going to resurrect anybody from an untenable place, it should have been her. She was fun and no not just b/c of her boots.

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images belong to BBC

Fragments (torchwood Major Spoilers)

updates below

jackdrwhoIf you watch no other episodes than these, I suggest you pull up a chair or set the recorder. (Of course, Adrift will certainly be among the important episodes in this season as well, particularly if you are interested in the fleshing out of Gwen and Jack’s characters now that she is married and that 5 seconds of campy naughty. If you watch for the later, Adrift definitely has more for you than Fragments, though some is there. For the rest of us, Fragments pt. 1 and 2 aka Exit Wounds are the place to be.) Torchwood’s two part season finale ties up all kinds of lose ends both things internal and external. There are two questionable moments in part one for the keen observer one with regards to female sexuality and the other to race. They are both mere seconds in an otherwise flawless episode and will most likely be missed by most.

Though some are calling Fragments pt. 1 “the flashback episode” it is not one in the traditional sense. We do go back in time to see how each member of the team is recruited or volunteers to be in Torchwood. Yet these are all new pterscenes. What connects them to previous episodes (ie flashes us back to scenes of old) is the way they reveal the character’s internal workings and explain some major conflicts explored throughout the series run. We finally find out why Owen still harbors resentment toward Jack and is always so quick to choose lethal means to express it, how Ianto’s relationship with Jack came to be (the complexity of which requires that you have seen Cyberwoman), and even why Toshiko seems perpetually apologetic. Another interesting twist in this episode, is that despite Owen’s constant belittling of Ianto, it turns out he is more qualified than most to be a member of the team.

The episode also brings back characters and reference points like UNIT. As I’ve said before, these references are marstersjackimportant to the continued presence of Martha Jones in both Dr. Who and Torchwood. The fishman’s “return” (it’s a different fishman) acts as a narrative bookend returning us to episode 1 of this season and reminding us what the major point of this season has been: to explore the characters internal motivations and struggles. It also serves to remind us how far Jack has come from a moment when, like Gwen, he reviled killing as a solution to a time when he shoots first or hands over children willingly. Even the infamous line “the 21st century is when it all changes” makes an appearance as does Jack’s brother & John (yes, still dressed as Adam Ant). The only lapse is when the Weevils get out in pt. 2 Exit Wounds. There is no attempt to tie in the fact that Owen has bested the Weevils and is recognized as such by them. That is literally the only reference missing in the whole array available. Not too shabby.

Exit Wounds takes us out of the internal somewhat and returns to the action oriented finales that tend to typify the genre. It is a painful episode to watch on multiple levels, as we finally see why so much time was spent with Owen and Toshiko. twowenNeither one survives the finale and both give their lives heroically saving Cardiff from nuclear disaster. Torchwood writers seem to have taken a very important lesson from Dr. Who, though they too have a double goodbye in store for Toshiko, neither one concedes her valiant efforts or import to the show in favor of a sappy “why don’t you love me” moment with Owen. Not only that, but he finally apologizes for his behavior and admits that he took too long to “figure it out;” it, being his own feelings. Both stay true to their characters and both deaths appear permanent enough that there will be no return, especially not for Owen.

You will never guess who the villain is in this episode, and if I have one complaint it is that they give it away too soon. Not only do they tell us, but the back story they provide is two sentences and repeated throughout the episode. It is unfortunate because there was so much we could have gotten had their been more time spent on flashbacks or dialog between them (Jack and “the villian”). Yet, I hope that the absence of such storytelling and the fact he ends up in the Torchwood freezer, means that we will get more information in time.

toshiko2And speaking of time, this episode also has the important concept of bending time and trying to rectify the future through the present and the past that is essential to all of the really great episodes. They get wiser and deeper about these questions and issues every time.

It is hard to say who shined most here. Even Rhys had a major part (for him) in the finale. This was one of the best performances from Naoko Mori (Tosh) and Burn Gorman (Owen) for the entire series to date. I actually welled up watching them and not b/c of the mushy stuff. Barrowman’s performance was also stellar, but the time episodes are really when he does his best work so that should surprise no one. And yes, there are some great comedic moments but not from Ianto, rather they come from Captain John. I found myself wondering how much time the writers spend on youtube given the “we don’t have a song and if we did, it would not be that” joke. What would the song be? When John/Marsters says “I really love you” and then empties two machine gun rounds into Jack, I thought “enough with the violence passing as love already!” but he does love Jack, deeply, and he saves his life.

Marsters is also signed on to guest on season/series 3. And there has been some very quiet buzz about others we all want to see better utilized than they were this season. I hope that when they repopulate the team they do as well in embracing diversity casting as they have so far.lisa_ianto

For me, the jury was still out on this season until seeing Exit Wounds. I think the writing and acting did nothing but improve and the characters all seem more fleshed out. While I thought entirely too much time was spent on Owen and his issues, I see now that without that time we would never have gotten to where we did in the show’s finale. I guess it goes to show that sometimes you have to trust that we are going somewhere and not just hold out for the immediate gratification.

This season, like the last one, raised some serious issues for academics who study identity and the media. When I write that analysis of the series I promised, it will most likely begin with the Ianto walking away in Fragments and end with Martha’s failed kiss in A Day in the Death.

Zombie Owen Runs Amuck – Sought Out Spoilers

There have been a lot of hits on the blog lately looking for spoilers about Owen. Most of my spoilers have already been written in the comment section of previous Torchwood posts. So let me just give you searchers the highlights (and no I won’t ruin the episodes b/c I think you should watch them; this season has been stellar after all).

  • Owen is dead. dead. dead. dead. – I told you this at least a month or so ago so stop thinking that glove is going to save him. it won’t.
  • and a clarification – I had a lot of criticism for Owen in Adam, but I actually do think Gorman did a really good job emulating Naokotwowen Mori, my problem is primarily with how insipid it makes her seem. When you watch Dead Man Walking you will see some of these scenes repeated again with the roles in their right places and they really highlight Gorman’s talent.

2.7 Dead Man Walking

This episode is all about Owen – his ongoing conflict with Jack over whether or not he believes Jack really cares for him, his concerns about the meaning of his life and what he has become, and his desire to be a better man than he is. Unfortunately, most of this is retread from a much better episode: Combat. In the latter, Burn Gorman’s acting is top notch and he conveys all of the pathos and anguish that are required of his scenes, in the former he seems to be phoning it in. Since a lot of the themes are similar in this arch as they were in last season’s, Gorman’s lack luster performance is particularly apparent. Worse, Barrowman does a superb job in his scenes with Gorman making the stark contrast between Barrowman’s real pathos over the recurring themes of time, death, and living/loving and Gorman’s wooden reading of some powerful lines all the more evident. The interaction between them in the jail cell is further undermined by a ridiculous vomiting scene turned fart discussion that you’d expect from Beavis and Butthead not Torchwood.

There are serious logic gaps in this episode as well and they serve to remind that Martha’s character has been essentially a throw away since coming on the show. Freema, the Torchwood actors, and the Director have all worked hard to integrate her into the storylines but, and perhaps this is because she is a short timer, they don’t succeed in making her a necessary part of any of them. Dead Man Walking is the worst of the three episodes she is in in this regard. Martha is out of commission for most of the episode but her storyline in no way ties back to the 13 deaths (which it should since she was first attacked) nor to the operation of the glove itself (a slow drain on the reviver); the pathetic explanation of the latter “new glove, new rules” should disgust everyone including the person who penned it. When she leaves Torchwood, I fear I will find myself wondering why she was there at all . . . and that makes me incredibly sad as someone who has really enjoyed her character for both its historic and entertainment value. I’ve been asked not to tell you what happens with Martha and Rose in Dr. Who, besides it is off topic anyway.

There are also some incredibly awkward scenes with Toshiko in this episode. But when aren’t there with these two? Please writers, give the girl a real love interest and a chance to shine. She is a brilliant character and a wonderful actress. Episodes like Captain Jack Harkness in season one and Sleeper in season two really showed off her chops. I like that she is working through a lot of things like the other characters as evidenced by Greeks Bearing Gifts which has the same feel as Small Worlds or Out of Time but when it degenerates into patheticness, it demeans her and us.

I do like Owen’s final valiant effort in this episode when talking to Jack but found Jack’s response anti-climatic. I have to say that the energy and honesty that Gorman puts into those few lines reminds that he can do an outstanding job with Owen and makes me all the more frustrated that he hasn’t been. I know that Owen is supposed to be emotionally stunted because of childhood abuse (revealed in Adam) but Gorman himself said that Owen was given new life by killing Jack in season one and I’d like to see him use it. Being an increasingly closed off and arrogant character is not a new lease on life, nor does acting either of those emotions require a lack of commitment to any scene.

2.8 A Day in the Death

Zombie Owen sucks down electricity and runs amuck while Torchwood tries to follow. Ok that is only kinda true. There is another alien device and Owen is the only one who can get to it.

Owen reveals his true immaturity and lack of depth at the beginning of this episode which he already did in episode 7 really – he’s dead so he goes clubbing? In some ways, I guess his behavior is supposed to show us how disaffected he really was and who he would be if he could let loose . . . He is also painted as tragic which takes up the bulk of this episode, poor Owen talking to the suicidal girl about all of his woes . . .

This episode also has a lot of time spent between Owen and Toshiko where his true issues once again come to the surface. (And so do hers.) Please writers give the girl a backbone.

2.9 Something Borrowed

gwenwedFor Gwen fans, episode 9 is the one to watch. Something Borrowed is all about her and Rhys and love. It is nice the way they have been folding him into episodes lately. When Gwen goes and calls him in Dead Man Walking it shows the great level of acting and story writing that this shows offers precisely because it is such a normal thing to do, call your partner when you lose someone at work, and yet is done so well. I really think the vast majority have brought their “A game” this season. (For those of you bent and determined to put one love affair over the other in the whole Jack bi-sexual love triangle; this will be the episode where you can do a happy dance. I will only say this: sexuality is fluid, love is hard to quantify and I wonder at trying to quantify it particularly in the direction of a heterosexual read, what is in this episode cannot be disputed, neither can how it ends. I suppose I could do a whole analytical rift here, and if I were teaching this I no doubt would open it for discussion, so instead I will leave the door open for comment makers to do it here.) Oh, and yes, there is more stupidness with Owen and Toshiko but relatively little this time; and Owen gets to shoot “Jack” yet again. Please oh please no more daddy complex ok.

Now seriously, that is all I am going to tell you Torchwood fans.

If you don’t watch the show Chibnall, Tregenna, and Hammoned authored episodes are ones not to be missed. They set the tone for the best episodes of last season and it is turning out the same for this one. In the states, Adam is the next episode and even if you have already seen it, it is so good you should watch it again.

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images property of BBC 2009

You Need a Blonde One (Torchwood Season 2 spoilers)

For those in England, the Torchwood season started this past week. In the states, it will start next weekend. So what better time to drop a few youtube videos from the new season your way.

As you can see from the extended first episode preview above, the campy part of Torchwood is still intact. As is the ongoing animosity between the team and Captain Jack who has been missing since he died to save the universe. The opening scenes also give us a run down of the fundamental characteristic of each character in the show to some extent, all though I would argue that Owen is not “the doctor with his hands full of blood” but rather a broken man or an angry child. As you can also see, Ianto’s had a promotion hopefully transforming him from tea boy to an actual fleshed out character this season.

The first episode (spoilers) will see yet another sci fi version of James Marsters playing a time traveling assassin who needs the Torchwood team to save him from a DNA encoded bomb. Marsters, doing his best impression of Adam Ant in the 80s, perhaps with less make up, also takes on the dubious task of not only snogging Capt. Jack but being his ex-partner. The general humor and joy they take in the scenes together is well worth the watch, contemporary and canonized scifi jokes abound. I particularly enjoyed the reference to “murder rehab;” I suppose that is right next to homophobia rehab and racism rehab? ha! (And I am refraining from taking credit for the blonde joke, but really . . . I know you are on the blog ;P j/k)

In one interview late last year, Marsters said “It’s better than kissing Sarah Michelle.” Despite the obvious cattiness of the remark, the comparison has one other thing in common sex and violence.

As some may recall, the relationship between Spike and Buffy was riddled with what some call Sado-maso and others call borderline abusive in which Buffy is originally punishing herself, Spike then punishes himself, and then of course there is the rape Whedon fans dare not discuss. No such internal hatred is played out in the bedroom, on the floors, and against the walls, on in Torchwood mind you. Instead, Capt. John Hart (Marsters) and Capt. Jack spend a considerable amount of joyous time beating the stuffing out of one another. Often followed by a snog.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of this episode is when Ianto gleefully starts counting down the minutes to John’s demise (seen below):

Clearly showing us once again that Ianto has more than a passing fancy for the Captain. His devotion is both adorable and sad given that Jack has no similar devotion toward him. Let me be clear here, I do believe Jack cares deeply for Ianto but Torchwood has made it very clear that Jack is a player. Though Ianto’s behavior is truly amusing this episode in hindsight it makes me quite sad for him, devoted to someone who cannot and does not love him the way he deserves. I hope in making Ianto a full member of the team it opens his character up to finding a healthy and fully reciprocal relationship by season two’s end. (you can read more in my Ianto/ epi 2.2 spoiler)

I won’t ruin the rest of the episode for you and there are definitely some surprises as the Torchwood storyline continued during hiatus giving us some things to learn when they return to the screen. All I can say is that it is a nice welcome back to the show that, in my opinion anyway, really had quite a lot of misses in amongst the hits.

PS. You knew I had to give you a piece with Freema in it too right?! She will be coming on as “the only one who can save them” later in the season.

Freema

jackmarthaMartha Jones, of Dr. Who, will join the cast of Torchwood for 3 episodes to aid Captain Jack.  She will be slightly older and have completed her medical degree.

Freema said she was glad to have the opportunity to broaden the character and the she will be “a much more grown up” woman when she returns to the Dr. Who series mid-season.  Though she deftly avoided addressing the “love me, please love me,” including the comparisons, she did say that “Martha and the Doctor will be on more equal footing the next time around.”

I for one hopes this means that they will get back to the business of story telling as it has been for nearly 30 years sans all the racialized subtext.  Something tells me that Martha’s “growing up” will in fact be the cure without addressing the symptom.