Getting ‘Wood

Talk about a showrunner listening to the fans. Even before the new season of Torchwood began last night, BBC’s continuity announcer promised us a show that was “pacier, sharper, funnier.” And for the most part, that’s what we got. A lot of the angst and moping that seriously dulled proceedings in the last season have gone, and arguments are much more likely to be settled with a good old punchup rather than a flounce-out and a moody pout over the Cardiff skyline. The tone is lighter, the jokes come out by the barrow(man)load – even if the feel gets a bit ooer missus at times. The running around and fighting quotient is up, the sweary is up, and the episode rattled along like an Intercity 125.

All of a sudden, the cast and crew seem to be enjoying themselves, which is a remarkable turnaround from the grinding lows of the last season. John Barrowman is certainly in his element, chewing the scenery with aplomb when he’s not chewing on James Marster’s face. In fact, ol’ Spike is a genius bit of casting, and from the moment he swaggers through a rift gate you know things are going to be entertaining at least. I hate to use the B word, but the tone feels a lot more like early Buffy now. Jokes, fights and drama flash past at a dizzying pace. There are plenty of cliffhangers, a twist or two, and some fairly hardcore violence. Jack’s “death” in this episode is pretty nasty, dropped off a tower block to land bent almost double the wrong way over a park bench – although I remember something disturbingly similar being suffered by Homer Simpson in an episode from a couple of years ago.

In short, the whole episode seemed geared to getting the fans back on board and quickly. The fanfic community are likely to be in spasm over the new opportunities in this one fifty-minuter alone, and I’m certain the early adventures of Jack and John will be all over LiveJournal in the next day or so. I can’t think of a more fanficfriendly piece of genre than Torchwood currently, and the fact that it’s lead character and his trickster nemesis will shag anything is a very definite plus point. The biggest laugh of the night for me was when Spi- sorry, Hart was ogling passersby out of the window of the SUV (which badly needs retiring. I’d be more impressed with the Mystery Machine than that refugee from the want ads of Max Power) and was told by Gwen to stop eyeing up a poodle. OK, maybe you had to be there, but a joke like that is all in the character and delivery, and with the new lighter tone it’s easier to get away with the panto-grade material. How do you think Carry On gets away with it?

All this, and Martha Jones to come. If Chris Chibnall and co can resist the temptation to slip back into the faux-adult angst and shagging soap dullness, the second season could be a genuine winner. I’m genuinely surprised, and not a little impressed with how much I enjoyed it.

(Stuart Feeling Listless does the WhoCrit with much more aplomb than me. Find his musings on the new season over at Behind The Sofa.)

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Rob

Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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