Torchwood returns

The Primary cast of Torchwood featuring John Barrowman

The spin-off Doctor Who TV series by Russell T Davies, Torchwood started off very strong. Following the adventures of an organization dating back to Queen Victoria, the once powerful operation utilizing alien technology to defend the planet from invasion, Torchwood was reduced to a humble operation running out of a ‘secret’ underground location in Cardiff, Wales. The team leader, Captain Jack, was a former traveling companion of the Doctors and also a former con man. During a Dalek attack, Jack lost his life but was revived by the Doctor’s companion Rose Tyler who had become fused with the Time Vortex. This somehow made Jack into an immortal, able to survive any form of death and injury. He also became the longest serving member of Torchwood after being somehow tossed through time into the past (if this was ever fully explained, it was off-screen to my knowledge).

While the mission of Torchwood was to defend the Earth from alien threats using the same technology that fell to the planet as weaponry, the appearance of a rift in space and time made things far simpler. Both threats and solutions popped out of the magic hole in reality with Torchwood acting as a kind of library and paramilitary group all at once.

Captain Jack led his Torchwood team of specialists and outcasts through a series of adventures that fended off numerous invasion attempts from the stars and the odd temporal anomaly. The series was envisioned as a post-watershed program that could delve into material that was inappropriate for its sister program, Doctor Who. The first series of Torchwood embraced this charge by including extreme violence, language and sexual conduct. RTD had hinted at similar material in Doctor Who, but in Torchwood, he went all out. Same sex relationships, profanity, gun play and other ‘adult’ situations proliferated Torchwood, a program that was hinted at throughout the 2006 series of Doctor Who.

In my opinion, the program worked as its own entity but as a spin-off to a children’s program it was a bizarre decision. The follow-up series was sub-par (aside from the Owen is a zombie story line and the PJ Hammond episode… how did Torchwood get the creator of Sapphire and Steel to submit 2 scripts for Torchwood but not one for Doctor Who???) and seemed to take all of the intense work of the first year as a gag. The third series, a five-part special called Children of Earth, was far too over-dramatic for my taste.

After wrapping up his monumental five year run on Doctor Who, developing both Torchwood and Sarah Jane Smith Adventures, Davies departed for America with stars in his eyes. After courting numerous possibilities, he finally found a home for what had started as a hopeful spin-off and later became a cult hit. The popularity of star John Barrowman and the tonal appeal to Buffy fans made the case for Davies and won his the support of cable station Starz.

The new series, entitled The New World, will premiere on the Starz cable TV station in the US and in the UK as well. Joining Gwen Cooper and Captain Jack Harkness are two new characters a CIA agent and an analyst. The usual 12 part series has been cut back to 10 stories with head writer and creator Russell T Davies at the helm as new writers from Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer join the writing team. A comic book series with a script by Captain Jack actor John Barrowman and art by Tommy Lee Edwards.

Torchwood comic video

It is still unclear when the new series will air and what the tonal approach will be. Given that the three series to date have been drastically different, I’m not sure what to expect. But there will surely bee cries of ‘squee’ across the world when Torchwood returns to the TV screens in 2011.

Saturday Links – 9.26.09

The Master (John Simm) and the Doctor (David Tennant)

The Master (John Simm) and the Doctor (David Tennant)

John Simm interviewed by Jonathan Ross about his return to Doctor Who (spoilers).
http://blogtorwho.blogspot.com/2009/09/john-simm-jonathan-ross-interview.html

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RifftraxPlan9
http://www.rifftrax.com/
The folks at RiffTrax (Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy formerly of MST3K) have arranged for an encore presentation of their excellent riffing on the Ed Wood classic Plan 9 From Outer Space. I’m still sore from laughing at the August 20th performance complete with a short and musical numbers. The entire event was a blast (aside from the occasional technical difficulty) and I heartily recommend everyone from 6 to 60 attend.

The encore showing will be October 8th.

Click on the image above for details!

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Thor at the Bus Stop

Thor at the Bus Stop

The independent movie Thor at the Bus Stop is getting a lot of attention lately and I have to wonder of it will cause any confusion over the upcoming Marvel Entertainment picture. In any case the movie looks like a lot of fun.

Read this article for an interview with the filmmakers: http://www.lvrj.com/neon/norse-god-of-thunder-wanders-vegas-suburbs-in-thor-at-the-bus-stop-61438167.html

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The new film from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, Zombieland, is doing quite well but the writing team has something to say about their next project, a little film based on the Spider-Man villain Venom.
http://screenrant.com/venom-updates-tie-spiderman-franchise-rob-27761/

“We’ve written two drafts of Venom, and the studio has it, and they’re pushing forward in whatever ways they push forward…”

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Matchstick Dalek

Matchstick Dalek

Here’s one Dalek that has every reason to fear humanity, especially smokers. It took two years for 66 year-old Sussex native Brian Croucher to build the monster in the privacy of his sitting room. In my home town this thing would be kindling in no time flat… I hope that he keeps it in a cool dry place!
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/6230300/Doctor-Who-Dalek-created-out-of-480000-matchsticks.html

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The Primary cast of Torchwood featuring John Barrowman

The Primary cast of Torchwood featuring John Barrowman

Scots star John Barrowman reveals all about his amazing rise to fame
http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/showbiz-news/celebrity-interviews/2009/09/26/scots-star-john-barrowman-reveals-all-about-his-amazing-rise-to-fame-86908-21701892/
The title says it all for this article focusing on the star of Torchwood. Personally I preferred Captain Jack as he was originally portrayed in his first appearance before he became a cross between Sylvester Stallone and Charles Nelson Riley, but his fan base is both devoted and avid.

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Torchwood Series 3: Children of Earth

With a reduced cast (no more excellent Burn Gorman or snooze-worthy Toshiko Jones) and a move to BBC 1 (no more ‘adult’ content) fans of the RTD spearhead series Torchwood should ready themselves for a third heavy blow.

The next series will be one long story told in 5 parts entitled ‘Children of Earth.’

“The new series of Torchwood is hugely bold and promises to be bigger and better than ever the audience is in for an amazing ride.  This series is one big serial and the most ambitious story we’ve ever made, and we’ve got plenty of surprises in store,” series creator Russell T Davies said in a statement.

“We hope to make Torchwood a gripping and surprising TV event with storylines that push our team into greater danger and sacrifice.  Joining our main cast are some fantastic guest artists who will only add to making this unmissable TV,” Julie Gardner, head of drama for BBC Wales, added.

While the first series was interesting enough the second year was more of a drunken marriage of Benny Hill with the X-Files. Despite the obvious dip in quality, the program storms ever onward into a third season… or a series of ‘specials’ much like its sad sister program Doctor Who.

A gigantic hit on BBC America (compared to what? the endless series of DIY programs??), Torchwood has begun to gather a strong fan following in the US, earning it the nearly instantaneous airing in the states and the UK.

Why did this not happen with Red Dwarf, I keep asking myself.

Doctor Who/Torchwood Rumors/News

Straight from The SyFy Portal:

Carlyle According to “Dr. Phibes,” a source for British genre site Sci-Fi Pulse, both David Tennant and John Barrowman are set to leave their respective programs, along with a number of other cast members.

Tennant, who is about to premiere in the show’s fourth season on BBC later this spring, will apparently work through the 2009 specials leading up to the annual Christmas episode, where he will regenerate and be replaced by actor Robert Carlyle, who may be best known for his work in “The Full Monty.”

According to Sci-Fi Pulse, filming for the “Doctor Who” specials in 2009 is already under way, with a wrap planned for as early as the end of this month. While Carlyle is not signed to play the role as the 11th Doctor, Dr. Phibes says that the BBC is in negotiations to sign the actor.

For most Whovians, the Robert Carlyle rumor is an old one from 2006. He’s a decent actor and well respected… and the last time that type was cast we got Chris Eccleston who will probably never speak of his time as the Doctor for the rest of his life.

But wait! There’s more on Torchwood

So far, only five episodes [of Torchwood] have been commissioned out of the standard 13, and gone are actors Burn Gorman (Owen Harper), Naoko Mori (Toshiko Sato) and Capt. Jack Harkness’ John Barrowman. In, however, is former “Doctor Who” companion Freema Agyeman, who will join the show full-time in Season 3. Eve Myles, who plays Gwen Cooper, is expected to return as well, and Barrowman is reported to be making guest appearances in the third season.

The show itself will lose some of its adult-themed content, and will be geared more toward “Doctor Who” style audiences.

While Barrowman has gotten progressively worse in the program, I’ll be sad to Burn Gorman go, by far the best thing about Torchwood for me. That said… I’ll have one less show to watch. Maybe he’ll appear in a better series. I can only hope.

Torchwood 2.1

‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ by Chris Chibnall

When I heard how much more Chibnall was going to be involved in Torchwood with its second series, I was quite pleased. While Cyberwoman was quite dire and Countrycide only so-so, the first series finale was the only good Doctor Who-related TV that I saw when it aired on Christmas day.

How wrong I was to be pleased.

With the invention of this Nu-Doctor Who spin-off, some problems have been evident. Most notably is the behavior of Captain Jack. Let me begin by saying that Captain Jack has a lot in common with the robot dog K-9.

When K-9 first appeared, you either loved him or hated him. A wee robot dog that’s a walking computer.

Cute, eh?Whether you initially liked the idea or not, as the character became a mainstay of the program, you probably grew to despise him as much as incoming producer John Nathan Turner did. It was JNT who axed the robot dog forever, making many a fan happy and newscasters ask incoming Doctor Peter Davison if K-9 was coming back to the program (his former role of Tristam was a vet after all!).

But I’m drifting from Torchwood. Probably because classic Doctor Who is so much more interesting.

In his first appearance in the seminal series of Nu-Doctor Who, I quite liked Captain Jack. I found him inventive and well-acted by Jonathan Barrowman. As the series went on and the character became a mainstay of the series, he became less the shifty Captain Jack and more the silly Captain Cheap Laugh. In Torchwood, the character became more of a comic book character, devoid of much humor and an all around action man. I felt it was jarring and not consistent at all with his other two personas, but it worked well. This season, we have Captain Cheap Laugh again. So you see the K-9 parallel, right?

Apparently there was a decision made that the new series would be a complete and total send-up of the first. What with the fish-headed alien shocking an old lady, the ‘bloody Torchwood’ line after the super secret alien fighting Scooby Doo mobile squealed off in chase, the ‘Help me, Obi Wan!’ line… etc.

This… is a bad decision that is made that much worse when you this week’s guest villain, Captain John. Played in such a way that the late Jonathan Harris (Doctor Smith of Lost in Space fame) looks all butch, this character is possibly the most annoying thing to ever drop from a pen’s tip. Actor James Marsters does a decent enough job, it’s just the character that is less than a one note joke that never ends.

As soon as Captain John appeared on the screen, I called the next scene. A ‘fey-off’ was in the works against Captain Jack. But I had no idea that this would result in an actual stand-off ending in a prolonged make-out scene in front of digital flames… followed by fisticuffs to a Blur song I worked very hard to forget. The whole thing seemed like it was from an American program made five to ten years ago.

It was nice to see Burn Gorman as Owen again. I know many fans hate the character, but I find him to be the most interesting one of the gang and also the most useful. While Toshiko Jones is a walking talking Star Trek program (it was funny on Red Dwarf, it’s just sad when it’s played straight) is a waste of space and Gwen is back to her first season ‘oooh I love Jack’ despite all of the development she went through in season one, at least Owen is interesting. Also, can someone tell me when Ianto became the class clown?

Based on my enjoyment of the semi-sophisticated episodes and characters, I had mediocre hopes for the second season. It appears that I should have placed the ‘bar’ lower. Much lower.

The first season, while flawed and trashy, was consistently interesting to watch most of the time. Episodes such as Small Worlds, Combat and Out of Time as not only good Torchwood episodes, but decent science fiction as well (something the new Doctor Who has only achieved in a few stories). More importantly, the first season was about building the characters and the world that they live in. From this outing, I gather we are supposed to forget about that entirely and just laugh at every raised eyebrow, innuendo or Ianto joke.

What a waste.

Torchwood breaks records on BBC America

The figures are in and the September 8th premiere of the Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood on BBC America brought 496 thousand viewers, breaking the station’s viewing records.

Not only did it get a good viewing figure, but the critics are also quite pleased with the Cardiff-based paranormal program.

The Hollywood Reporter said Torchwood is “a crackling good, brilliantly conceived sci-fi series that targets actual grownups.”

TV Guide described it as “a cheeky and often startlingly adult spin-off” and Variety said it has “the fixings of a thinking-man’s sci-fi series that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

The Kansas City Star says the program is “one of the best serial dramas to arrive on American television in 2007” and The Philadelphia Inquirer describes it as “by turns super-slick, raw, bizarre, hilarious, spooky, scary and sublimely sexy”.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The Seattle Post Intelligencer and The San Jose Mercury News all have very positive things to say about the quirky sci-fi program.

Thanks to Gallifreyone.com for the news.

I have great hopes that the series will prove very successful, perhaps more so than the new Doctor Who.

If you are a Comcast cable subscriber, you can access the episodes via the Direct TV option.

Trailer