Thursday, June 2, 2011

Unpopular Opinion Time: Skipping "Torchwood"

As a courtesy for people who haven't seen "Torchwood" or "Torchwood: Children of Earth," this is a friendly SPOILER WARNING as I will be mentioning elements of those in this post.

With the conclusion of Doctor Who Series 6, Part 1 fast approaching, people are doing one of two things:
  1. Scratching their heads over the insane amount of questions and plot threads and OMGWTFBBQ! moments we've been treated to over the past month and a half.
  2. Salivating over the upcoming premiere of "Torchwood: Miracle Day" on BBC and Starz.
"Torchwood." Ah, "Torchwood." "Doctor Who's" darker, nittier, grittier, sexier baby sibling-of-indeterminate-gender.

The best thing about the Doctor Who fandom is that there are so many different things you can get involved in and enjoy. This was originally pointed out (to my knowledge) by Chip of Two-Minute Time Lord fame. If there's something that you don't care for in the fandom, you are by no means obligated to love it because there are plenty of other things you can delve into. You really can only do so much.

Since I've only been a fan of "Doctor Who" for a year, I feel like I have so much catching up to do. I blazed through the new series, I've ate up all the Classic Who I can get my hands on - I've even delved into the Big Finish audios and loved every second of it (well… almost every second. "Scherzo" still has me going "…huh?") But I really haven't gone into the spin-offs very much. I guess I felt like I had enough to be getting on with in the main show that I was justified in skipping "Torchwood" and "The Sarah Jane Adventures" - at least for a while (I did sample some of SJA because I loved Sarah Jane in Classic and New Who and I wanted to see her in her own show - that is something I will be going back to later).

So, one day I was flipping through a friend's Netflix account and I found Torchwood to watch on Instant. We were bored and so we started at the beginning with "Everything Changes." At that point, all I knew about Torchwood was that Captain Jack Harkness was the boss, it had been started by Queen Victoria in 1879 to investigate supernatural stuff and the organization was responsible for releasing the Daleks and the Cybermen to nearly kill off all of humanity in the Battle of Canary Wharf and if the Doctor hadn't have been there to stop them, life would have sucked. Oh, and there was someone named Ianto that all the fans were sad that he'd died in the show's most recent season.  Now, when I say the fans were "sad" - I mean like going into a mourning period depression sad. I can't fault them, really. I wore a black armband when Dumbledore died (crap, SPOILERS!).

"Torchwood" - yeah… the first episode was okay. From the outset, I knew this was not "Doctor Who" at all. It may be set in the Whoniverse, but it is nothing like the show that I have come to know and love. That's not to say I hated it completely - I really liked Gwen Cooper and her boyfriend, Rhys. In all honesty, if Gwen and Rhys were running Torchwood, I would be in front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn and a liter of root beer every week.

Jack Harkness… well, he was there. He was still his non-dying self, but there was less of his flirty-cheekiness that made him such an endearing character in "Doctor Who," so that was disappointing. Owen annoyed the crap out of me. Tosh was just there. Ianto… this is the guy that everyone was upset about him dying? Really? He's nothing more than that antique radio of my grandmother's that my dad kept - pretty to look at, an interesting historical piece, but it doesn't do a damn thing.

To be fair, I'd only seen one episode - so… let's go on to "Day One."

Okay… let's not go on to "Day One." Holy crap on a cracker - can we make it anymore clear that this is NOT a show for kids? This is barely a show for me - and I'm 26!

At this point, I was beginning to wonder how in the world this show made it past even one season. I quit halfway through that first season because I just couldn't stomach it anymore. And it wasn't just the sex scenes and the strong language, either. The storytelling was nothing more than "What Insane Alien Menace Can We Beat Up On This Week?" But I'll come to that in a minute.

I spoke of my aversion to "Torchwood" to some fellow Whovians and many of them told me that I just needed to see "Children of Earth" because that was the Best Thing Ever and it was sooooo stinking intense and it walked on water and cured cancer and ended world hunger…

Well, I watched "Children of Earth." And I did not enjoy it at all. However, it gave me a good explanation as to why "Torchwood" and I do not get along. And it goes much deeper than the explicit adult content (which I'm not really a fan of).

"Torchwood" is bleak. Bleak doesn't even begin to cover it - it is completely and utterly without hope. The characters have no light - there is no reason for them to even exist other than fighting aliens. Other than Gwen, none of the characters seem to have a reason to keep going. They are all so cynical about life and what's the point of even trying. Gwen says as much at the end of "Children of Earth" - she records herself talking about how awful humanity is and even references the Doctor and how he must be ashamed of humans because of the terrible things they do.

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but if that's how you feel - why are you even working for Torchwood in the first place???

I know "Torchwood" is meant to be "Doctor Who" without the Doctor. Show what happens when the Doctor isn't around to save the day. How would we humans save the day without our favorite time-and-space traveling hero.  And, of course, how we ultimately must screw it up because that's how all intelligent stories end (that was sarcasm, in case you missed it).

Last time I checked, we called that "The News."

Seriously, folks - I get plenty of hopeless, cynical "HOMG THE INTERNET EATS BABIES AND CELL PHONES ARE COMING TO KILL US ALL AND WE'RE GONNA DIEEEEEEE AND THERE'S NOTHING ANYONE CAN DO ABOUT IT" nonsense in real life. I have enough people telling me to quit trying because striving to be your best isn't worth it. People are just going to disappoint you no matter what so why bother?

This is partially why I haven't watched much sci-fi in my life. Most of what I've seen in sci-fi has been the dark and hopeless sort of storytelling that's based on the premise that humans are bastards and the universe would be much better without us spreading war and disease and whatever other parasitic qualities we decide to possess this week (and I can't really name specific shows and I would love to be proven wrong on this). I personally get tired of stories telling how terrible humans are.  I would like at least something good to balance the story.

So I discovered "Doctor Who" - and here's a guy that, while he acknowledges that there are some bad things and bad people out there, he also celebrates the good things and good people he comes across. He admires humanity for our curiosity and innovation and just how cute we all are while also working to stop the bad guys who use those powers for evil. The Doctor is about giving hope. Not in a mushy or schmaltzy way - very rarely does he even mention hope or hopefulness in so many words. But through his actions, people become inspired by him and his way of life (one of my favorite examples is Harriet Jones, Former Prime Minister). Yes, the Doctor does run into some pretty bleak and hopeless situations, but somehow he manages to come out on top. And even if he doesn't (*cough* "Caves of Androzani" *cough, cough*) he regenerates and lives on to fight another day.

This is all a matter of taste, of course. I'm not saying that people who like "Torchwood" are terrible people or whatever (if you enjoy "Torchwood," then by all means, support your team!)  I'm only saying that I don't go for the bleak and hopeless kind of stories. I like stories where there's a happy ending - or, at least one that doesn't leave me feeling like I need to take a week-long shower. I want the protagonists to feel like they're doing something good - or at least that they're being productive. For me, "Torchwood" has none of this.  And that's where I part ways with it.

So, this summer, while many Whovians are geeking out over "Torchwood: Miracle Day," I must respectfully pass on this outing.  Instead, I will be working through more of Classic Who and counting down the days until "Doctor Who" comes back. I may even get going on Sarah Jane Adventures.  I have enough bleakness and negativity in real life - I don't need it in my entertainment.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad I found this post! I've been trying to articulate just what I don't like about Torchwood, but this sums it all up so neatly. I'll also add that it's not just the darkness that makes it hard for me to enjoy (The dark bits in Doctor Who have been some of my favorites); it's the sheer pointlessness of it all. I made it through the entire 3 series, enduring the often stupid plotlines and hoping for some kind of resolution to the characters' ongoing issues. Instead, they just killed them all off. Some resolution. Such a waste of time!
    I give up. NO MORE. I already know how Miracle Day is going to go. They'll introduce several new characters, some stubbornly unlikeable and some fan favorites, give them a bit of development and some sex scenes, then kill them off. Only now I guess they'll be American.
    I disagree with you about Ianto; his character growth is fascinating, and his subtle humor is one of the few bright points in this depressing show.