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You can't get back from there

About eleven years ago, just as The X-Files began to make cultural and ratings waves, the BBC decided to commission a serious science fiction series. It was to be written by Jed Mercurio, who was just coming off the success of Cardiac Arrest. It was called Invasion: Earth, it had a big budget and it was about a mysterious encounter with an alien lifeform in the past (wartime, rather than 1965); which left the survivor of that encounter permanently changed (Clem v Tyrell in I:E) and which had repercussions in the present. The alien baddies in question are harvesting humans -- the nDs in Invasion: Earth were trans-dimensional farmers who used humans for power, I think (haven't seen it for a decade), whereas the 456 just liked the high from chemicals inside a child -- which does at least explain why those taken must be pre-pubescent.

I've never met anyone who watched that show, largely because no one really watched it. It was like Star Cops, only without the tiny fanatical following.

Ultimately Invasion: Earth tanked because it just wasn't fast enough, dramatic enough, funny enough. Too many of its characters were bland ciphers. However, it did have a strong military bent, humanity on the losing side and the bleakest of endings. Do you think RTD was maybe taking notes?

I finally watched Children of Earth: Day Five, in which Russell T Davies demonstrated once more that beneath the facade of the jovial, giant Welshman beats the heart of a misanthropic sadist of epic proportions.

Who can't write a bloody coherently thought-through ending to save his life and who just blew a giant hole in the secondary franchise. And as per usual for RTD, there were moments of exquisitely bleak writing and moments of utter fail.

Edited to say: I think I've been unclear: I thought 75% of it was brilliant -- but [spoilers redacted] felt gratuitous and the last ten minutes were, as a commenter below puts it, flabby and self-indulgent in a very particular RTD way. Also, LORD, it was bleak.

SON OF ETA: SPOILERS AND SPEC FOR THE WHO XMAS SPECIALS IN THE COMMENTS



I think that this is either (a) a farewell to Torchwood in which they are trying to go out on a high; or (b) an attempt to set up the franchise sans Barrowman because of his ubiquity and expense by clearing the decks, setting up some great characters (Lois, Andy, Johnson) and making it near-impossible for Jack to come back as the leader

Truly, I don't see how they can let him back in charge of a supposedly heroic unit, or into the mothership and be all flirtatious, fun Captain Jack after this. The kids might take it but the anyone else is going to experience severe cognitive dissonance at the sight of someone who threw their lover's life away in a desperate bluff and then sacrificed his own grandchild to the greater good being the quippy light action man once more.

This, though, was the best-written Torchwood I've ever watched even though the ball was dropped at the end. Surely a government clever enough to calculate which fragment of the population it wishes to be rid of will realise that if 20% of pupils at the first tranche of schools nominated doesn't show up, you don't send in troops to drag them kicking and screaming from their homes, you just keeping moving to the bottom 11%, the bottom 12% and so on, no fuss, no panic.

We never really did find out where the 456 came from, or why they could not synthesise the chemicals. Did they keep coming back to Earth to try different vintages of human, like the stoner who runs through his stash and decides to try smoking the oregano from the kitchen? Why didn't killing one mean raining fiery death on Earth? Was there only one of them, with a massive appetite? Why did they take so long to come back? Why come to Britain in the first place?

And what happened to Clem -- was his hyperosmia a bizarre but mundanely acquired skill or part of the 456's affects on him. Why did the 456 decide to end his life? I know it was necessary for his death to be seen to lead to the conclusion of the episode but too much was unexplained.

There was also the most giant copout in the end. So many people knew about that plan to sacrifice the children, and once the army steamed in to the estates, where cameraphones are rife, to take the children, public trust in all kinds of authority would crumble. Taking children is such a primal crime that the world would not get over it. Skipping to a melodramatic, feel-my-manpain six months' later scene misses out on all this, glosses over it and answers no questions.

The thing I have loved about Torchweek was how wonderfully the characters were written and played. I've always loved Gwen, and Gwen and Rhys as a couple, but this week they were believably brilliant. I was already drawing wee sparkly hearts around Peter Capaldi for The Thick Of It -- and the man has an Oscar for God's sake -- but he was tremendous in this. I hope he gets a Bafta nod. All the Spooks-like stuff was very powerful -- the scenes of brutal expediency in the COBRA room were some of the best-written drama all year

But the incessant bleakness did begin to wear me down by Day Five and I thought Ianto's death -- well done though it was -- was just unnecessary. Killing him was the cheap angst option. Killing Stephen was far braver and could have driven a wedge between Jack and Ianto on its own that would have been knottier and more interesting. Instead we have uncomplicated manpain and one of the few out gay pairings on TV has kicked the bucket. I know dramatists must be allowed to kill who they like, but did RTD really have to reinforce the cliche of "MUST NEVER BE HAPPY!" in that way?

I still sort of miss the cracky goodness of season II Torchwood, when we mocked and rolled our eyes with affection, sniped at the lousy bits and cooed happily at the clever and funny dialogue. I miss Owen, and I really miss Tosh and now I miss Ianto. I don't miss Jack. Wasn't watching it for him.

Firstly, may I suggest that Russell T Davies move on from things I love fannishly. Please. GO AWAY AND DO OTHER STUFF SO I CAN LIKE YOU AGAIN. Thank you.

And finally, taking the piss out of fans of Jack/Ianto for their supposed over-reaction is Not On. Leave them alone to grieve. I cried at the end of Sure of You. I wanted to set the underpants of TPTB on fire after Requiem. There's nothing wrong with experiencing that sort of emotion, it's not sad or deviant. Look at all those footie fans who cry on the terrace when their team is relegated: it's all part of the same continuum.

Though, the people planning Comic-Con demos and such? You do scare me a little.

Comments

( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
nestra
Jul. 11th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
You know what this show has reduced me to? I am planning on spending the rest of the evening reading stupid Merlin porn. That's where I'm at.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
I am sorry you were forced to resort to the Merlin porn. Life -- and TV -- should not be that misery-making.
hypertwink
Jul. 13th, 2009 06:04 am (UTC)
Hey, nothing bad about Merlin porn, nothing bad about Merlin slash...Sorry, I just finished rereading one where it's all happiness and light...and how can you go wrong with an AU about a modern-day prince who falls in love with his own version of Kate Middleton...except not female. Heh.

I tried to read TW fic but the wounds are still fresh so I;m avoiding that right now. I found this post through a friend and I have to say that I agree with most of you, especially with the unnecessary death and angst. I don't deny that it could be considered great television but then again, there are other show creators who can create angst and swesomeness without reverting to scorched earth.

About those grieving, I agree that people should leave them be. It's okay that people don't understand, I just don't like the deliberate poking some are doing to torment the shippers and/or the Ianto fans.

Lastly, I read that RTD was going to the States. I smile at that since I'd give anything to be a fly on the wall during his meetings with TV execs, even those of HBO. I want to see him create a series and then down the line, suggest he kill off most of the cast, especially one who is the most popular character on the show. Let's see if that flies.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 13th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)
There's nothing bad about Merlin porn, nothing bad about Merlin slash... except that the show is unutterable pants. Fun, cracky pants, but godawful pants nonetheless. Then again, people were saying the same about Torchwood a couple of years ago. Perhaps in the third season of Merlin, our hero will accidentally cause Arthur to be roasted to death in his armour by a poisoned, crazed slash dragon and all Camelot will be razed by an epic meteor strike. On account of, you know, *precedent* or something. (I think I've read the Merlin story of which you speak. I liked it a *lot* but God it needed someone to point out that Britain is not America)

I don't necessarily believe the story about RTD going to the States, partly because it was in the Express, which is wall-to-wall bollocks made up by people who are running on fumes 'cause half the newsroom has been sacked in the past two years. However, he's a smart man and will cut his cloth to suit. I just wish I *liked* what he wrote these days, rather than alternately being exasperated by it or admiring its chutzpah while hating its darkness.

There seem to be two kinds of horrifying people abroad at the moment: (a) the people who are hurtling about the fandom with their hair on fire, screaming about the writers' betrayal and threatening dire consequences if any of them show their faces in public; and (b) the people who are mocking people's genuine grief at the loss of a relationship. Both kinds are embarrassing idiots who can go to hell.
violetisblue
Jul. 11th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
Rusty stole another plot wholesale again, then, and is hailed as a visionary for doing so? This is my total lack of surprise.

"Russell T Davies demonstrated once more that beneath the facade of the jovial, giant Welshman beats the heart of a misanthropic sadist of epic proportions. Who can't write a bloody coherently thought-through ending to save his life and who just blew a giant hole in the secondary franchise."

But you don't need coherence or follow-through when it's "just" science fiction? Right? Right? That seems to be the premise he's been following for the past four years, anyway, so...

"I think that this is either (a) a farewell to Torchwood in which they are trying to go out on a high; or (b) an attempt to set up the franchise sans Barrowman because of his ubiquity and expense by clearing the decks, setting up a couple of great characters (Lois, Andy, Johnson) and making it near-impossible for Jack to come back as the leader."

I've heard vague rumors before of the show continuing without JB, which I had dismissed as complete nonsense, but...

"Truly, I don't see how they can let him back in charge of a supposedly heroic unit, or into the mothership and be all flirtatious, fun Captain Jack after this."

With Rusty in charge? Just watch, in Ten's final specials Jack will be right back where he was before flirting and mugging and blah blah fucking blahing like he always does as if absolutely nothing has happened.

"The kids might take it but the anyone else is going to experience severe cognitive dissonance at the sight of someone who threw their lover's life away in a desperate bluff and then sacrificed his own grandchild to the greater good being the quippy light action man once more."

At which point they'll all just be dismissed as "ming-mongs" and onward we'll proceed.

"There was also the most giant copout in the end."

Really? You just never see that in his writing, that's quite unusual. Ahem.

"Taking children is such a primal crime that the world would not get over it. Skipping to a melodramatic, feel-my-manpain six months' later scene misses out on all this, glosses over it and answers no questions."

See above, re Jack returning to DW to play Light Unrequited Gay Wuv Action Guy as if absolutely nothing at all has happened.

"Instead we have uncomplicated manpain and one of the few out gay pairings on TV has kicked the bucket."

The OTP really is Doctor (with or without serial numbers filed off)/man-pain, isn't it? So sick of it in all its guises.

"Firstly, may I suggest that Russell T Davies move on from things I love fannishly. Please. GO AWAY AND DO OTHER STUFF SO I CAN LIKE YOU AGAIN. Thank you."

Don't hold your breath.

"I cried at the end of Sure of You. I wanted to set the underpants of TPTB on fire after Requiem. There's nothing wrong with experiencing that sort of emotion, it's not sad or deviant."

Probably a good thing, as literally two-thirds of my friends page now should as good as have a black border around every entry.

"Though, the people planning Comic-Con demos and such? You do scare me a little."

I suspect much of that is "I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU!" heat of the moment that will have burned off in two weeks' time. Er, I think?
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking: I admired and loved a hell of a lot of it, but in the end I didn't like it
I think "stole" is harsh but it was very reminiscent. I thought the bit where they said the children were to be used as drugs makes less sense the more you think about it; if they're drugs, you could farm the children, no need to bugger about at all.

If they reset Jack to flirty, laughing dude in the specials, I shall be so disappointed. I am already in a state of severe DO NOT WANT on the specials, simply from the merest sliver of spoilers I have picked up.

I am at the stage where I cannot *wait* for RTD to go. Not because I don't like his writing but because I do -- for things other than Who

I don't like his way of handling finales, I don't like his tempered misanthropy, and I think he's tired and *needs to stop* writing in the whole Who universe. Go do something of his own that he loves and that I can love without being beaten about the head with his endless need for angst. (Also, Moffat's plot kinks are my plot kinks)

I suspect much of that is "I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU!" heat of the moment that will have burned off in two weeks' time. Er, I think?

You know, my reaction to Journey's End really surprised me with the depth of anger I felt at how stupid and insulting it was, and I was nowhere near as invested in the Ten and Donna relationship as the Jack/Ianto crowd. They are upset and disgusted and I don't think that's going anywhere any time soon.
violetisblue
Jul. 11th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
Re: I've been thinking: I admired and loved a hell of a lot of it, but in the end I didn't like it
"If they reset Jack to flirty, laughing dude in the specials, I shall be so disappointed."

Betcha money.

"I am already in a state of severe DO NOT WANT on the specials, simply from the merest sliver of spoilers I have picked up."

What have you picked up? Do tell the spoiler slut (by private message if you want)! I'm going to wait and see what other people say about them anyway because I'm not putting myself through the Whovian version of CoE if that's what lies ahead.

"I am at the stage where I cannot *wait* for RTD to go."

I've been at that stage myself since "Tooth and Claw"...

"I don't like his way of handling finales, I don't like his tempered misanthropy, and I think he's tired and *needs to stop* writing in the whole Who universe. Go do something of his own that he loves and that I can love without being beaten about the head with his endless need for angst."

So is there in fact going to be an SJA S4 and a TW S4 or not? And a Tenth Doctor movie? It doesn't sound like he's going anywhere from the evidence, if so.

"You know, my reaction to Journey's End really surprised me with the depth of anger I felt at how stupid and insulting it was, and I was nowhere near as invested in the Ten and Donna relationship as the Jack/Ianto crowd. They are upset and disgusted and I don't think that's going anywhere any time soon."

I've already seen that dismissed as Those Hysterical LiveJournal Fangirls so it won't do them much good, though.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 12th, 2009 11:37 pm (UTC)
Re: I've been thinking: I admired and loved a hell of a lot of it, but in the end I didn't like it
I don't know whether Rusty's going or not; I admire the man's ability to bullshit the media into not knowing whether they are coming or going. If it were in The Times, I would believe it. All his best straight-up interviews are with The Times. I wouldn't believe The Express -- a mate of mine freelances there and it's on a skeleton staff churning out press release garbage and half-cut rumours. Still, a stopped clock is right twice a day.

If I had to place my bets, I'd say Torchwood has a fighting chance of being renewed with new characters, but no better than 50/50 because they'll demand that RTD write it. SJA is probably gone. The tenth doctor movie might happen though I wish it would not.

No one will be reading here now so I feel safe to reveal the spoilers in the next comment (which will collapse with a bit of luck)
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 12th, 2009 11:43 pm (UTC)
Batshit theory is batshit.
This is what I have heard. Simm is back, along with everyone but Martha and Mickey (actors too busy/unwilling) Rose is in it in flashback. Wilf is the companion. Donna is getting married. Again. The inner Doctor is reactivated somehow and she carks it during the companionpalooza round II. Tennant!Doctor, bereft of all, carks it (possibly to save companion(s) and lo!

Matt Smith, all confused and miserable and blinking like a small crazed child -- much like me after Children of Earth -- becomes the eleventh Doctor.

This now, is my own personal batshit theory: you heard that the production team is referring to the new series as season one again, yes? My batshit theory is that it's something to do with regenerations and Matt Smith begins a new lifecycle, making him the first Doctor again, as well as the eleventh and ensuring that the series can go on and on without us tiresome canon nerds going "but he's only got two more regenerations!"

violetisblue
Jul. 13th, 2009 12:30 am (UTC)
Re: Batshit theory is batshit.
"This is what I have heard. Simm is back, along with everyone but Martha and Mickey (actors too busy/unwilling) Rose is in it in flashback. Wilf is the companion. Donna is getting married. Again. The inner Doctor is reactivated somehow and she carks it during the companionpalooza round II. Tennant!Doctor, bereft of all, carks it (possibly to save companion(s) and lo!"

I'd heard all of that except for Donna's fate, but it doesn't surprise me. :-( Poor Donna. She was my absolute favorite with Ten, so of course it figures.

"Matt Smith, all confused and miserable and blinking like a small crazed child -- much like me after Children of Earth -- becomes the eleventh Doctor."

Sitting on the edge of a horrible void, or something. Does he have to kill the Time Lords all over again? Does the TARDIS snuff it? Speaking of other Alarming Rumors?

"My batshit theory is that it's something to do with regenerations and Matt Smith begins a new lifecycle, making him the first Doctor again, as well as the eleventh and ensuring that the series can go on and on without us tiresome canon nerds going 'but he's only got two more regenerations!' "

Considering all the talk I hear flittering about concerning a "total reset" and how the Doctor will need to be "reminded/taught who he is again" and all of that, I actually don't think your theory is that batshit at all. It'll be a mewling puking bitty-babby Doctor and we really will start all over again, for better or for worse.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 13th, 2009 01:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Batshit theory is batshit.
Sitting on the edge of a horrible void, or something. Does he have to kill the Time Lords all over again? Does the TARDIS snuff it? Speaking of other Alarming Rumors?

Seriously. Oh. God. I've been trying to stay away from spoilers and I shall redouble my efforts. I so don't want to know.

My only cause for hope is that Moffat's narrative kinks are my narrative kinks, and I think he likes happy endings. Also, he's going to take a relative pasting in the ratings no matter what happens (it's been freakishly popular and that can't ask forever) so he'll be out there doing his damnedest to make sure that the episode scripts are aces.

I just keep telling myself all this bollocks because I have had it up to *here* with RTD's bigger better faster more style. The man doesn't know what he's good at.
akamine_chan
Jul. 11th, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)
*raises hand*

I watched Invasion: Earth when it originally ran - I've had a life long love of science fiction of any sort and I madly love Fred Ward.

I loved Invasion: Earth because it was so bleak, but it'd been that way from the very beginning of the miniseries. When you started watching, you really didn't feel like it was going to end well.

And I think I liked it because it reminded me a lot of the second season of War of the Worlds (1988) which was also bleak as hell.

But I don't think it was fair of RTD to end this the way he did - with both Invasion: Earth and War of the Worlds (1988) you knew that it wasn't going to end nicely. With TW, it was an unpleasant surprise....and totally unfair to the viewers and fans.

Here by way of simplystars...
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
Hello there! I never saw 'War of the Worlds' but I do love me some tough, bitter and bleak sci-fi, as long as it's well done and tempered with humour and humanity. I suppose the reason why I admired CoE (honking great caveats aside) was that in the first three episodes it got the balance of funny, gripping and dark just right.

I knew TW wasn't going to end well but I still feel that the double sacrifice of Ianto and Stephen was overdoing it. Ianto's death -- for a stupid plan which boiled down to a giant failed bluff -- was a waste. Stephen's death was horrifying and could have been done better (someone suggested that jack could have knocked out Alice so she didn't have to do it, or reassured Stephen) but I didn't feel it was a waste or necessarily gratuitous.
se_parsons
Jul. 11th, 2009 05:46 am (UTC)
About things that appear quite bleak. Have you seen the promo for this?

http://www.district9movie.com/
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC)
I hadn't. That looks like something I would like to check out, though the aliens do look a bit like transformers.
vaznetti
Jul. 11th, 2009 08:48 am (UTC)
I agree with pretty much all of this post -- especially about the massive plot holes. Some of it was amazingly good, and some of it was just LOOK HOW DARK AND ADULT I AM! And some of it sounded a lot like, "oh, you liked S1 and 2 of TW, did you? well, fuck off!"

Why didn't killing one mean raining fiery death on Earth? Was there only one of them, with a massive appetite?

I thought the sound feedback thing actually killed all the 456s, not just the one in the tank -- I was assuming they were up in some fancy invisible spaceship(s), getting ready to grab all the kids.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
Some of it was amazingly good, and some of it was just LOOK HOW DARK AND ADULT I AM! And some of it sounded a lot like, "oh, you liked S1 and 2 of TW, did you? well, fuck off!"

I felt as though the first three episodes made a great job of melding their new darker tone for the BBC1 audience and old-style Torchwood with its daft sex jokes and team snark. The last two though, spiralled ever darker, and oftentimes in exactly the way you describe.

I thought the sound feedback thing actually killed all the 456s, not just the one in the tank

I hadn't thought about that idea. I suppose the 456 were left a little too nebulous in the end, so the wavelength solution felt pulled out of nowhere.
muridae_x
Jul. 11th, 2009 09:22 am (UTC)
Three-quarters of an ending
I think I rate it higher than you because for the first 45 minutes it recognisably belonged in the same universe as episodes 3 and 4, and continued to be edge of the seat stuff. It didn't descend into his usual tawdry sentimentalism. But the last 10 minutes or so were flabby beyond belief. And, in something set up to chronicle 5 days in 5 episodes, I felt that his "This is my video diary. This is what happened" device at the beginning just didn't feel right, and threw off the pacing for a minute. Mind you, I didn't care for it much when he had Rose do it either.

As an episode, as a complete piece of television, it was light years beyond the recent Doctor Who season finales (and for bonus points, didn't involve the Daleks). I enjoyed it, for all the cop out ending of "six months later". Far better to have concluded with that shot of Jack pushing the doors open and walking into the light, leaving what happened next and how the world picked itself up and who blamed who and how many governments got overthrown as an open ended question, rather than something glossed over in a quick catch-up meeting between Gwen, Rhys and Jack.

Having recently been infuriated by the cancellation of Primeval after a season that ended with a thumping big cliffhanger, I rather like the ambiguity of this closure. If there's never any more Torchwood, then at least it got a conclusion: a line drawn underneath it, and a reason not to go on. But if there is another season - or mini-series - of Torchwood, then the groundwork is there. Jack could come back from the stars, suitably chastened after bumping into the Doctor once more, though I think you're probably right and he's gone quite as much as Ianto. Gwen might or might not already be caretaking Torchwood 3, and presumably any pick up would be after she had the baby. There are characters in this who could easily be brought into the Torchwood fold for extra audience recognition - Lois, Agent Johnson, even Dekker. Though not, I suspect, Alice - unless her father isn't there and isn't ever likely to be there again. Mickey and Martha might even be possibilities, if they went for the mini-series format again and either of them were available for the filming dates.

It couldn't ever be like the old Torchwood again, but I suspect that's deliberate. The only episode of the original series RTD got his hands on was the first one (where he killed the fascinating Suzie), and I wonder how much of the rest of it he'd have done that way if it had been fully under his creative control. With Chibnall moved on to Law & Order: UK, he had free rein and we got this. Though actually, I suspect that I'd like more Torchwood best if he also moved on, and left it in the hands of people like James Moran and John Lay, who seem to have written most of the bits of this mini-series that I liked best.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Three-quarters of an ending
I've been thinking about it all day, which is maybe what RTD intended. In the end, I think I loved the first three episodes, a few dodgy moments aside, and while four and five were part of the same universe, true, I felt that RTD enjoyed spiralling ever darker and darker and destroying his old universe in a way that was very teenage boy somehow. So in the end I admired the hell out of CoE, but I can't say I liked the way it ended at all.

I like your S4 ideas. I think from the tenor of CoE, they didn't think they were going to get a S4 but they thought "we'll show you buggers how it's done". And they did.

I think Chibnall is a talentless, talentless hack . HACK. But a Lidster/Moran/Lay/Catherine Tregenna Torchwood, with Johnson, Gwen, Rhys, Lois and maybe Alice? I'd watch that. (though of course, that would never be made because they'll do a team with four men and one woman but not the reverse)
muridae_x
Jul. 11th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Three-quarters of an ending
I celebrated when it was announced that Chibnall was leaving. The only way to go from there was up. He surprised me with a couple of his final scripts of season two, but I used to scan advance production information about episodes so I knew which ones not to build my hopes too high for.

And yes, sadly you're right about the male to female ratio. And the first clue to me that perhaps I shouldn't be expecting to see Torchwood emerge triumphant with a team back up to full strength was when they killed off Rupesh in the first episode, after setting him up as a potential new recruit.

A team run by Gwen would be a start though. It'd almost certainly be a lot more efficient and professional!
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 12th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Three-quarters of an ending
Me too. The man was so "Look at me! I am all dark and edgy in my dark edginess!" I loathed something in every one of his episodes, though the end of season two worked better than anything he had done previously. His tin ear for dialogue also shows up in Law And Order: Paying My Mortgage.

I think we might have seen the last of Torchwood, though I would like to be wrong.
predictivememo
Jul. 11th, 2009 09:57 am (UTC)
I also did Invasion: Earth. Not unlike The Last Train it was a brilliant idea that just... fell. I keep waiting for Brit SF to stop being potentially awesome and then just not delivering the goods. The Law of Big Numbers says at some point someone is going to hit the target. If I keep watching enough.

As to last night... I was discussing elsewhere this was either a swansong (if the numbers failed to materialise) or a setup for T4 (can't believe I just typed that) I kinda wish that RTD had just started dark and not felt he needed to match the first 20+ years of Who. I think last night gave it the appropriate closure. I think that RTD realised he needed to fuck everyone, just because he can. He does that to Gwen by taking Jack away and he does that to Captain Indestructable by fucking up the one left that isn't indestructable, his conscience. He has an eternity to carry that guilt. He's never gonna run away however far he goes. I'm rather satisfied with that level of irony.

6 months later aside, there's a lifetime's worth of potential from the PM's setup and the actions of everyone who stopped the 456. It also gives the potential for a T4 with some proper balls. Trouble is, when your audience has been brough up on bland American fare which won't ever destroy it's cast coz they have x year contracts, you're totally screwed before you begin...

Oh yeah and I have 'post all this' Jack fic. Go on, make me write it ^^

Edited at 2009-07-11 10:02 am (UTC)
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 12:06 pm (UTC)
It's not so much that British sci-fi is bad, it's more that it seems always to fall apart at the end. The Last Train was a prime example. I loved that and then it went nowhere. (like Virgin Trains, ho ho ho)

I was discussing elsewhere this was either a swansong (if the numbers failed to materialise) or a setup for T4 (can't believe I just typed that) I kinda wish that RTD had just started dark and not felt he needed to match the first 20+ years of Who. I think last night gave it the appropriate closure.


I think this was a swansong -- and maybe an advertising pitch: "I'm done with Doctor Who; give me five hours of a series to fill and I can do realistic government shenanigans and give you the ratings to boot."

Part of me thinks that given that they showed this in July, close to the traditional August graveyard where they put all the stuff they're scared to show in autumn or spring, they weren't expecting the numbers to be quite this good. One night it even beat Corrie, and the ratings actually went up as the week went on.

Maybe they will do a T4 but I suspect not. If I were doing it, I would ditch Barrowman, who carries too much baggage, probably wants lots of money and is only a decent actor, rather than a good one. Jack is all played out.

It strikes me that as a dramatist, RTD is becoming darker and darker as he gets older, and that's distorting Doctor Who. His instinct is to be dark but you can't do that to kids, so he pulls a brighter ending out of his arse. I am starting to actively dread the Christmas specials now and must stay away from spoilers.

Oh yeah and I have 'post all this' Jack fic. Go on, make me write it

Dooooo eeeeeeeeet. I have junked the story I was writing. It had Jack in it, and featured aliens bringing the world to a halt. All too CoE. I'll cannibalise it for parts at some point.
loligo
Jul. 11th, 2009 11:28 am (UTC)
I am so, so happy I decided to spoil myself once all the posts started popping up tonight. My threshold for dead kids/ kids in danger is extremely low, and I'm not willing to put myself through that for cheap, dishonest TV.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 11:55 am (UTC)
On the one hand, I don't want to put you off because it was fantastic drama on the whole. I am not sure I would categorise it as cheap or dishonest either -- the death scenes were horrifying in both cases and not written sentimentally. I thought it was a waste to kill Ianto off, though they didn't smack too much of girl in the fridge, as his death wasn't a motivating factor, merely misery piled on.

The last ten minutes, however, were flabby, indulgent and misguided, as muridae_x says. And therefore infuriating because it's so very much one of RTD's weaknesses to do this to his heroes.

If I hadn't already had huge affection for Ianto and Gwen, and liked Jack -- and dark Jack in particular -- I would probably have loved this miniseries despite my reservations about it falling apart somewhat in the last episode. However, I *did* love Torchwood, I even loved it when it was shit sometimes, I was invested in the team, and I wasn't expecting this level of attrition or unleavened darkness.

So the question is: how invested are you in the Torchwood universe with its cracky pteranadons, high cheese threshold and bad jokes? If you are, stay away. If you're not and like a smattering of horror sci-fi, watch it. 90% of it was good and there was one scene which may be the best TV I've seen all year.

Edited at 2009-07-11 11:56 am (UTC)
loligo
Jul. 11th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
I think for me, what really give me misgivings is the combination of this...

There was also the most giant copout in the end. So many people knew about that plan to sacrifice the children, and once the army steamed in to the estates, where cameraphones are rife, to take the children, public trust in all kinds of authority would crumble. Taking children is such a primal crime that the world would not get over it. Skipping to a melodramatic, feel-my-manpain six months' later scene misses out on all this, glosses over it and answers no questions.


... and the point that makes here about the unthinking patriarchal-ness of it all. Plus, I did kind of like Ianto.

Basically, I am not willing to endure dead children if there's a significant chance I'm going to want to chuck things at the TV at the end of the show. It's just not worth it.
loligo
Jul. 11th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
Okay, I have lost my editing privileges, but there's supposed to be a reference to giandujakiss in that sentence -- you know, the one that makes no sense otherwise.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
In that case, no, don't watch. It's not worth it. And that point by giandujakiss is so on the money that it's painful. It was tremendous television a lot of the time, marred by RTD's eternal fuck-ups on his usual fuck-up issues. If you're at the stage where that makes you want to defenestrate things (and I am close myself), that last episode is not going to work well for you.
(Deleted comment)
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 11th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
I think where a lot of British TV SF seems to fall down is being bleak/dark for the sake of it, which is a charge I feel could be reasonably levelled at CoE.

You're absolutely right. There's a post in there about how science fiction's status as the maligned poor cousin of literary fiction/serious drama in this country means that every writer feels they have to be dark-darker-darkest to be taken seriously.

I prefer your solution to the Jack problem, but given that they established that he can be revived even from face fragments, a shoulder and an arm, it would be quite something that would kill Jack permanently. As it is, I just have no desire to see him again. And I'm one of the people who likes dark Jack.

I don't know. I'm really conflicted about it. On one hand, I admired the hell out of it as a telly achievement, and I loved the first three episodes, the team dynamic, the fearlessness. I liked long stretches of 4 and 5, I just didn't like the wasteful emoness of killing Ianto and the subsequent focus on Jack's manpain when a small kid was basically used and then killed.
(Deleted comment)
gwyn_r
Jul. 12th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
Excellent post. I hope you don't mind me linking to it since you've said a lot of what I didn't have the heart to type. Too tired.

I think overall the series was good, but I have three or four huge issues that brought the total down to bronze-medal worthy instead of going for the gold or silver. And a lot of it comes down to the whole cult of the showrunner that's developed in recent years within TV, especially here in the states but I'm seeing it more and more there, too, RTD being the most notable case.

I *was* watching for Jack, and Jack and Ianto. It was the first character and relationship I'd seen in a long, long time that won me over and made me happy the way I used to be. And so (because I do agree that it seems they are setting up for something different, or the ending) the prospect of it without Jack distresses me -- but now, truthfully, that Jack is gone, I think, and so it's going to be a different guy I'm not sure I will be as engaged with.

I loved Invasion: Earth. ;-) What little I saw, anyway. But I've always loved those oddball SF series. I wonder if that's why I wasn't over the moon about CoE -- maybe I've just seen too many. Also thinking of The Invaders from the '60s, which was pretty freaking dark.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 12th, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
Hello, fellow watcher of Invasion: Earth! I keep getting tempted to buy it just to see how it panned out then I remember how I found tracts of it unsatisfying. Then I remember that I would listen to Anton Lesser read the phone book.

I do understand that lots of people were watching for Jack and Ianto and I do understand their grief. However, having seen CoE I just don't want to see Jack again. He's done, for me anyway. I also understand why fans of the cracky little show that sometimes blew us away and sometimes made us roll our eyes feel betrayed that it suddenly turned into a darker version of Spooks. It's not that it wasn't good, more that it's not what they signed up for.
yinkawills
Jul. 12th, 2009 12:24 pm (UTC)
Brilliant Discussion! Best on COE I've seen
Hi, :) Here via gwyn-r's ref in her LJ
>the incessant bleakness did begin to wear me down..<
Thing is, some of the best bookform/ literary Scifi is bleak, the Scifi tv series which received all the kudos,-including Peabody, Hugo awards and special UN conference sessions (WTF!)etc- Battlestar Galactica, is the epitome of bleak much of he time.

RTD and the people he works with on Dr Who and Torchwood have shown 2 interestingly contradictory tendencies in the writing: An interest in the big moral dilemmas, some of the major problems our society faces, and the effects on those who have to make terrible choices as a result. And an adolescent gleeful urge to shock. A kind of 'look at me!' Which can involve needless manipulation of the audience's emotions, and a shallowness/tinge of narcissism that is.. well, irritating.

Both were on display in COE. And the lurch from one approach to another can be jarring.

So, we had the brilliant, believeable, chilling discussion at the COBRA cabinet meeting about which kind of children should be sacrificed.And the 456 noting that 300+ children die every second and that is accepted. And the character of Frobisher- Peter Capaldi should be up for a BAFTA-showing how a decent person can carry out evil acts (shades of Nazi bureaucrats who were 'following orders'). Contrast the not brilliant scene where Jack threatens the 456..with no plan/follow up, striking a heroic pose. And Jack suddenly solving the problem with no lead up over the previous 4 days to that kind of solution, but a spectacularly nasty sacrificial killing that focuses as much on him crying prettily whilst doing it, as the distraught mother.

The script needed a more work. A couple more drafts by someone detached from the main team.
But..there IS a lot to celebrate.

Acting wise it was mostly fab! The casting directors are fantastic. Lois! Ms Spears!(Frobisher's PA) The scary special forces team leader Johnson! Rhiannon! Her feckless but ultimately brave husband-leading the charge against the troops to buy a little time for the kids to escape.PC Andy taking a stand! The character arcs for the subsidiary characters were brilliant.RTD is at his best dealing with snapshots of ordinary people reacting to big events.

The actor playing the PM was.. frightening. Absolutely believable. The female Cabinet Minister who came up with the idea of how to select the children, scared the crap out of me.

The whole way the 456 were depicted was Beeb ingenuity and stinginess at its best. No costly CGI, when they could just use our imaginations.

Eve Myles is a fantastic actress though they have constantly irritated me by pushing her towards Mary Sue territory. I remarked at the end of day 4, if it was going to end up being Torchwood is just Gwen and Jack, with her being torn between him and Rhys, I would be out of here. And well...

The point of SciFi is to reflect on society and certain trends in society extrapolated to show what they could lead to. This series did that...and then some! Given the hysteria in Britain over asylum seekers, and chavs etc, the 'solution' to the 456's demands was both credible AND evoked chilling echoes of the holocaust-which my teenage son watching with me noted, stunned.
The weakest thing, for me-apart from what everyone here has pointed out about RTD's writing flaws- was John Barrowman. He is a gorgeous, sexy man. But I would say his talents lie in comedy or lighter fare. I don't think he has a wide enough range for where they took this emotionally. There are a whole load of British tv actors- Dominic West,Jonathan Rhys Meyers, David Morrisey, John Simm David Tennant himself, to name but a few- who could do both playboy and monster, and all the shadings in between Barrowman can't.

Anyhoo, the internets, is in an uproar!Stil-2 days later. Fans furious at the death of Ianto and the dark tone, refusing to watch if there is a season 4. I think RTD will have a VERY hostile reception at Comicon this month!
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 12th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Brilliant Discussion! Best on COE I've seen
Hello there. Excuse the late response -- I was at *&^%ing work until 10pm. I think you're right that it was a mixed bag of scenes and characters that were just *excellent* and plot holes you could drive a bus through. The trouble is that RTD is so powerful that he no longer seems to have someone who will point out his plot flaws. Moreover, I suspect that he has less time for sci-fi than most and sees it as a way of hitting his character points.

You're also right about Barrowman but I think CoE is the best acting work we've ever seen from him. Little scenery-chewing and a very understated portrait of grief. One of the reasons I don't want Jack back is that I am not sure Barrowman could carry off the necessary bitterness pain v playboy contradiction that must be in Jack now. He's a natural playboy but he's guilted up to the eyeballs.

Is this very wrong: I've actually loved seeing fandom react to these episodes in real time. Usually I am fond of shows that have very small viewerships or have been over for a while. It's been great to be watching all these conversations, though I am sorry that it ended with so many people grieving for characters they loved.
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