Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) fires away © BBC Worldwide Productions/Starz/BBC 2011

Although the organization no longer exists, the saga of the occasionally secret Torchwood continues when simultaneously all over the Earth no one dies. It’s a bit of mystery…

It’s taken a few days for me to get this review going, mostly, it’s a bit sad to say, because I was trying to find something positive to say about it. I failed. I shouldn’t really be surprised; all the usual elements of Torchwood are here. We have Captain Jack doing his enigmatic smile and Gwen plodding around the place, over-reacting to everything she can.

Family reunion; Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) © BBC Worldwide Productions/Starz/BBC

In fact, that’s one aspect of Torchwood that hasn’t changed at all. Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) is still a ridiculous character. A knock at the door leads her and and her husband to raid a hidden arsenal, and then when the knock is by two supposedly innocent walkers she becomes upset that she might have killed them. What was she expecting? Then when she ends her self-imposed exile to see her ill father in hospital she’s all tears, not for him – oh, no – but because of the way it’s affected her. Next, she discovers that no one around the world is dying and so decides to find out what is happening, and deal with it. Who does she think she is? She’s an unqualified ex-policewoman who blundered into a secret organization. She’s nothing special; has no talents. Thankfully, her husband is on hand to shout some sense into her and make her realize the one thing she always conveniently forgets, that she has responsibilities. It won’t last.

Then of course there’s John Barrowman as Jack Harkness, trying to be mysterious but as usual this comes across more as being smug. And the intervening time between this series and the last do not seem to have been kind. He looks over made-up, as if an older man trying to look younger. It’s not working.

Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) escapes imprisonment remarkably quickly © BBC Worldwide Productions/Starz/BBC 2011

The big selling point for this new series is that it is American-made. Well this first episode really gave little clue of that, in locations or scale. In fact, it had little atmosphere, not helped at all by Murray Gold’s dreary music. I suppose he was told to make it all low-key, but it was just, well, uninteresting. The episode had the feel of a production un-finished. It was as if the raw footage and been cut together and some filler music added. It lacked pace. It lacked tension. It was just there…

The story itself is a brilliant idea, but it needs some sort of focus (and I hope it’s not the convicted paedophile Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) who escapes death, and then prison). Daft Gwen seemed to be trying to fill that need, as well as a CIA woman, who then is made to forget what she learns, and CIA man Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) who manages to go charging off to Wales without any reference to his superior and then can’t stop being indignant about paying a toll for crosing a bridge (it’s not as if there aren’t tolls in America). The fact that he also manages to gain the use of the local Welsh constabulary, with the not-dying crisis going on worldwide, also stretches credulity.

Haggard Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) © BBC Worldwide Productions/Starz/BBC 2011

As is so tediously usual for writer Russell T Davies, the extent of the end-of-death around the world is revealed by a sequence of tv news reports, all joined up in a curiously-edited montage which is presumably designed to make it all more interesting and exciting.

So, no, I wasn’t impressed. It was “OK” at best, but rather unimaginative in its execution. Then to cap it all, at the end we are treated to an endless “Coming Next” collection of scenes, which also lacked the “wow factor”. Maybe it will pick up, but the prospect of another 9 weeks of this is more daunting than anything else…


[Rating: 1]

Jan Vincent-Rudzki

UK editor of Film Review Online