Guest contributor Lee Crouchman signs on for year two...
Torchwood Series 2 takes a huge step forward from its debut year. I've always felt that the first series was too much of a mixed bag of ideas thrown at the screen in the hope something would work. The show didn't really seem to know what it wanted to be, was it the next X-Files or just a Doctor Who spin-off? Thankfully from the start of Series 2 Torchwood answers that question - it's neither, just it's own original show.
The first series had been infuriating. The story of the
shadowy group investigating and controlling the alien presence on earth
was a good concept, but the post-watershed slot appeared to be huge baggage for the writers and they seemed to think the best way to earn its broadcast time was by filling every episode with lots of girl-on-boy/girl-on-girl/boy-on-boy kissing and
sexual playfulness to the point that it just overshadowed almost every episode. Now, this may well appeal to many people but there are plenty of other media outlets
to provide such material – I don't believe that sci-fi dramas on the BBC are where
most people are looking for titillation. Anyway, while not completely removing this
aspect of it, the writers seem to have realised this is not always necessary and as a result
series two is a more assured affair.
The stories are
better, much better, and within these the characters also stand-up as more
interesting and engaging. I particularly like the themes explored in Series 2 as these are what makes it more interesting than just a
simple sci-fi about aliens and guns. It feels a lot tighter, a lot more coherent, it's not perfect but
delivers an altogether more satisfying 13 episodes than Series 1
managed. We do still have a touch of
silliness about the whole thing, with perhaps a bit too many Eastenders style
scenarios for my liking, but that said it is
darker and more interesting than before, with death, loss, love and
other themes handled well.
With the promotion from BBC3 to BBC2 the show was granted a
larger budget, some of that was spent on famous guest stars. This stunt
casting is common in parent show Doctor Who and doesn't always sit well,
but thankfully Torchwood did it right, mostly, with James Marsters as
Captain John Hart and the return of Freema Agyeman to Martha Jones being
This series is really outstanding with plot and character development, something sorely missing from Series 1. All the characters are fully explored as their emotions are screwed
around with. The cast are given more to work with, and as a result they respond by improving their performances. John Barrowman keeps his camp
larger-than-life character but has more material in his dark streak – it
doesn't feel like he is flicking it on or off like a switch. Eve Myles never disappoints as Gwen Cooper, but it is the
rest of the supporting cast that improve the most. In particular Naoko Mori and Burn Gorman as Tosh and Owen, who both have much more to do and produce characters that I cared for
and were moved by – particularly in the key moments of the final
episodes. Gareth David-Lloyd is given the chance to flesh out Ianto Jones, finally he feels like he should be part of the team and not just a glorified tea-boy. Also amongst this character development, Martha Jones is allowed to grow up, and, rather impressively, in her 3 episodes we see her
character being more constructed than the 20 from Doctor Who.
All round Series 2 of Torchwood is a lot better than one might've expected. The biggest problems with series one have been at least partially addressed and so we're given a show which is presenting to an adult audience rather than just sexually teasing them. Almost every episode is worthy viewing, it's pointless signalling out the must see installments as there really is very little filler, each one has something good going for it. But I must mention the penultimate episode, Fragments, a brilliant story which really should've been featured in the first series, as we are shown how the group were all recruited into Torchwood. So by the end of series 2 Torchwood the series appears to be in a very assured place. What a difference a year makes!
Revisiting Torchwood Series 1