I had an epiphany about Torchwood whilst reading Dan Abnett's novel 'Border Princes: the team we see on screen consists of a bunch of amateurs guided by a man with no official existence. Whereas Torchwood London was a large professional organisation with soldiers and hardware, Torchwood Cardiff is a group of hastily recruited scientists (and one policewoman). I recently followed on an on-line debate about the difference between Torchwood and UNIT, but for me the answer is simple: I'd call UNIT if I wanted a bunch of professional soldiers to stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of overwhelming odds, trusting them to face possible Armageddon with stiff upper lips; I'd call Torchwood if I wanted double penetration and a fight.
On this basis, the series suddenly makes more sense, but the problem is that the series' writers don't seem to like addressing it on screen, so we get the "Beyond the police, outside the UN" nonsense, with self-indulgent tripe such as Jack chastising the Prime Minister on the telephone, which programs the audience to believe that Torchwood is a professional outfit whilst witnessing the fact that it isn't, as everyone fights and bickers and shoots each other. This gives the series a uneven feel, which is why it looks even sillier than it actually is. And this is never more clear than in 'The End of the World', when the team faces an overwhelming threat and simply falls apart, because they *aren't* professionals. Everyone ends up turning against Jack, deciding to open the rift, and Owen shoots him repeatedly when he tries to stop them, and it doesn't help that at the first sign of rebellion, he starts snarling at everyone, firing Owen and reminding everyone of their failures. The end result was described as one internet reviewer as "hilariously bad television", an excellent summation of the overwrought excrement that head writer, and the man responsible for such dross as 'Cyberwoman' and 'Countrycide', Chris Chibnell scrapes together to bring Torchwood's first series crashing to a halt.
Frankly, 'End of Days' is an utter mess. Murray Melvin continues to impress as the terrifyingly icy Bilis, and happily the character seemingly escapes, raising the possibility of a return appearance, but he turns out to be working for a steaming great clich? in the form of Abaddon, "the Great Devourer, come to feed on life". Abaddon is a vaguely Lovecraftian godlike being/ancient evil trapped beneath the Rift, and thus derivative of hundreds of similar characters, including the Beast from 'The Impossible Planet'/'The Satan Pit'. Unfortunately, whereas the Beast was voiced by Gabriel Woolf with some decent lines, Abaddon is a big snarling animal with no dialogue, and thus vastly less interesting. The idea that Abaddon's shadow steals life is quite neat, but as soon as it is revealed the denouement becomes predictable, as Jack's inability to die gets put to obvious use.
Then there is the bickering, which is overwrought, hysterical nonsense even if you buy into my amateurs theory: when Owen incredulously asks Jack, "The whole world is going to shit and you're going to fire me?" he raises a very good point. All the regulars portray a welter of emotions very convincingly, but by God it's a load of shite. To up the ante, Chibnell kills off Rhys, but resurrects him at the end, which is an enormous cop-out, and part of a larger saccharine ending, with group hugs and kisses, all after the tedious five minutes in which we wait for Jack not to be dead anymore, over which lots of nauseating overblown music is poured. The long-suffering Rhys gets stunned by his girlfriend without explanation, locked up, and a knifed to death by a sinister aging fop, and it is at this point, especially when he tells Gwen, "You better tell me exactly what's going on. 'Cause I've taken some shit from you over the last few months" that I start to wonder why he still bothers with her.
There are some decent moments here (Rhys's murder, as Billis simply appears in the cell block, is very creepy, and the idea of plague infecting present-day Cardiff is a nice touch, a consequence of time travel rarely explored in Doctor Who), but not enough to salvage the episode. 'End of days', and the series, ends with Gwen asking Jack, "What visions would have tempted you?" and getting the reply, "The right kind of Doctor?", before the sound of the TARDIS materialising echoes around the Hub and Jack disappears. It produces a cheap fannish thrill, but mainly it just gives me an odd feeling of relief that Jack has been temporarily rescued from the squabbling idiots he's forced to share Torchwood with.
Filters: Television Torchwood