John Barrowman

 

Barrowman had his fans in hysterics, showing just the theatricality and lack of restraint you’d expect from the man that plays Jack Harkness on the BBC’s Torchwood.  For instance, below you will find a clip of the story he told about the awkward lap dance he had received from a stripper while in Toronto.

He then talked about writing collaborations with his sister, and how he was able to use the book offers he was getting to make her dream of being a professional author come true.  Barrowman also mentioned that they had sold the TV rights to their novel Hollow Earth.

About the only time John Barrowman got serious was when talking about his being gay, the discrimination he faced in his career, and his decision to be out and honest about who he is.

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Review: Torchwood: The Lost Files

Torchwood

The Lost Files

AudioGo

The Torchwood 2.0 team returns for three more adventures set in the interval between the second series and ‘Children of Earth.’

This brings the number of audio episodes up to seven; which is great news for people who want to hear more from Ianto Jones.

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Review: Torchwood Miracle Day

 

Torchwood

Miracle Day

BBC

 

 

Gwen has a conflicted relationship with Torchwood.  It killed her friends, threatened her family, and nearly brought about the end of the world several times.  And yet, it’s exciting.  Being in Torchwood makes Gwen fell alive, important, and heroic.  As Miracle Day opens, Gwen is as far away from Torchwood as can be; in an isolated cottage by the sea with her small family.

She grabs a gun and takes up a defensive position when someone rings the door bell, supposedly because, as a former Torchwood operative, she is still a target; but some of her paranoia stems from her unconscious need to be in an exciting world where threats are around every corner.

Ironic, then, that the case that brings Torchwood back together is one which makes her immortal, and thus, not really threatened at all.

In bringing the show to America, the writers had to leave some of the baggage behind.  Of course, that’s nothing new to the Doctor Who family of shows, where a massive alien invasion on Earth is magically forgotten the next day.

The trauma that drove Jack off the planet at the end of Children of Earth (and the events of Children of Earth), are never mentioned.  Jack is, at least outwardly, his regular boisterous self.  But what we start to see as this series progresses, is how all the dead friends Jack left in his wake over the years have started to weigh on him.  Perhaps seeing everyone on Earth become immortal, makes the deaths of past Torchwood members seem all the more pointless (I think Gwen at some point laments that the miracle didn’t happen sooner so they could have been saved); or maybe faced with his own new-found mortality makes him understand what death really is.

The relationship between Gwen and Jack is classic Torchwood.  Their back and forth dialogue, and Gwens love/hate (or need/want) feelings for Jack, are exactly as we’ve come to know them over the previous seasons.  They are the only thing of Torchwood that remains (both in the sense that they are the only two surviving members, and that they are the only thing taken from the previous three series), and they stay true to that; keeping this new series, however different, anchored to the older ones.

Miracle Day has a different tone than the previous series.  The first three were like old fashioned pulp-sci-fi; with monstrous, Lovecraftian aliens with names like ‘Shnarlax of Tresini.’  There was a slight cartoonish element to it.  By contrast, the new series feels like a police procedural.  Not bad, but different.

The concept of the plot was great, and there was thoughtful exploration of what would happen to Earth and society if something like Miracle Day were to actually occur.  However, the bigger issues were left in the background at the tail end of the series.  As the conspiracy took over as the focal of the plot, the fallout from Miracle Day, which should have been more and more prevalent and dire, became less and less noticable.

Rex and Esther just spend most of this series running, so I don’t think we get to know them on the level we did the previous cast (though to be fair, they had two seasons of stand-alone episodes to flesh them out).  But they are believable and worthy members of the team.

Overall, I miss the ‘color’ of the previous series.  But judged on its own merits, Torchwood Miracle Day is a solid Sci-Fi miniseries with an interesting premise and likable cast.

Blu Ray Review: Torchwood Children of Earth

Torchwood: Children of Earth

BBC Video

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a little while since the end of season two.  The remaining Torchwood members have started to move on and are now looking for new recruits.  It is at this time, understaffed and lulled into a sense of security, that two forces confront them; an alien race that targets the children of Earth, and the British government, who seek to silence Jack Harkness and Torchwood to prevent the British government’s true relationship with the aliens, the 456, from being revealed.

Torchwood: Children of Earth, the series’ third ‘season,’ takes the form of a five part miniseries.  Throwing away the episodic nature of the series before it, COE tells a single story over its run.

The 456 communicate through the children, making them chant in unison ‘We Are Coming’ (the message updates over the course of the series).  The adults of Earth are alternately afraid of, and afraid for the children.  At the same time the British government begins negotiations with the 456, with a primary concern of self-preservation.

One of the main themes of the mini-series is ‘family,’ as epitomized by the children.  Gwen discovers that she is pregnant; which frightens her on several levels.  She’s always had an uneasy relationship with Torchwood.  She likes the job and knows she is doing good; but at the same time, she recognizes the personal cost to her and her family.  Being pregnant at a time when her  business involves a threat to all children breeds resentment for Torchwood, while at the same time, she seems to resent having a child get in the way of her work.

Ianto’s family consists of a sister, her husband, and their two kids.  They’re a working class family and everything we hear suggests that that was how Ianto was raised as well.  This is in direct contrast to the refined persona he presents to the others, everything from the nice suits, to the silent movie theater attendance.  There’s a scene in the third episode where Torchwood has relocated to an abandoned warehouse, while being pursued by government assassins.  Ianto’s first priority is to buy nice clothes for everyone and make them coffee.  It’s a facade of class that he insists on, or perhaps retreats into.  In the end, Ianto seems to be much more complicated than we were previously led to believe.

Jack Harkess has a daughter and grand son.  Since he doesn’t age, his daughter now looks older than him, and his grandson only knows him as ‘uncle.’  The ironic thing about the relationship is that having a child only serves to show how inhuman Jack is.  He doesn’t fit in to human civilization.  He’s outside of time, and outside of the life cycle.  But more than that, he’s allowed it to change him.  Because he take responsibility for everyone around him, he has developed a sense of control over them.  Almost like a god-complex, even though he’s a self-pitying god.

The serial format is what Torchwood should have been all along.  It revitalizes the story, and without the need to have everything ‘reset’ at the end of the episode, the writers are free to blow everything up.  The 456 are a genuinely scary and threatening enemy, and the control of the children is creepy.  The side story about the government’s response to the threat is believable, and makes them almost as scary as the aliens themselves.

Torchwood: Children of Earth is brilliant science fiction television, and strong enough to hold up on its own.

 

Blu Ray Review: Torchwood Season Two

Torchwood Season Two

BBC Video

 

 

 

 

 

Season Two of Torchwood is a step up from the previous season; mostly because it puts just as much emphasis on exploring its protagonists as it does alien incidents.

We finally start to learn something about Captain Jack Harkness, beginning with the arrival of a past co-worker / lover, Captain John Hart (James Marsters).  Both of them are time agents; which begs the question; what exactly is the time agency? The only two representative we’ve seen of it were engaged in criminal activity.

Jack feels responsible for John’s reign of destruction.  His sense of responsibility for others is a central theme of the season, which we learn came out of a failing to protect someone in the past.  The season long story arc is based on this past incident, and this time around, it’s much better integrated into the season (not just a few random lines in previous episodes).  It comes to a climax rather too quickly (there could have been a lot more done with the antagonist at the end), but the ground work and back story are laid out at a nice pace and don’t feel tacked on.  Of particular note is the episode ‘Adam,’ in which an alien integrates itself into the team by manipulating their memories, which gives the writers the  chance to have Jack talk bout his past without violating his character.

Owen Harper has a large secondary arc this season.  In season one, he was portrayed as someone living only for today, and eschewing long term plans or commitments.   Midway through the season he dies, and yet he continues on;  alive, but without biological function.  He becomes the physical manifestation of his character, someone who moves through life merely existing, but permanently unable to grow or connect.

In Jack’s absence between seasons (during which time he was reunited with Doctor Who), Ianto became a stronger contributor in the team.  Now, in addition to getting tea, he also carries a gun and participates in investigations.  This promotion comes with a stronger sense of self, and Ianto commits more fully to his relationship with Jack, apparently seeing himself as more than just a FWB.

Gwen becomes the de facto leader while Jack’s away, and this seems to scare her a little, because she fights to strengthen her life outside of Torchwood by marrying Rhys.  In the episode ‘Meat,’ Gwen takes a serious stand to protect herself from suffering the same jaded, lonely lives the other Torchwood members do, by combining the two sides of her life.

Toshiko Sato doesn’t grow much this season.  Her starring episode is ‘To The Last Man,’ about a WWI soldier who is stored in cryogenic stasis at the Torchwood Hub.  One day a year, he’s thawed out for a checkup, during which time Toshiko flirts with him.  It’s the perfect relationship for her.  She has a captive audience, being the only available girl he ever sees, and with only one day a year to see each other, she never has to worry about it progressing.

When Owen dies, the crush Toshiko has been nursing for him takes a step up, perhaps because now that he’s flawed, she considers him to be down to her level.

The best episode of the season is ‘Fragments,’ in which the team is trapped in a collapsed building and flashback to how they joined Torchwood in the first place.  Jack’s story is someone more plotty than the others, seeing as it covers a wide expanse of time.  Toshiko and Owen are deeply fleshed out in this episode, as we see some of the pivotal moments that made them what they are today.

Torchwood Season Two is still an episodic series, like the season before it; but now it’s an episodic series with a bigger perspective.  All of the characters are developed considerably more this time around, and the story takes some very daring twists along the way.

Blu Ray Review: Torchwood Season One

Torchwood Season One

BBC Video

 

 

 

 

Jack Harkness is an enigma.  We first met him in Doctor Who.  He was introduced as an omni-sexual con artist/time agent; but he was also good, heroic, and cleaver.  He wasn’t so much a ‘reformed bad boy,’ as he wasn’t that bad to start with, but he had that kind of vibe.  At the end of his Who story, Jack is killed, then resurrected and subsequently left behind in the future.

The next thing we know, he’s in Cardiff, Wales, leading a secret team of alien investigators.  But Jack Harkness has changed.  Outwardly he’s just as playful, witty, and impulsive as ever, except now it feels like it’s just an act.  We find that his resurrection was not a one time thing, he’s now immortal, and his trip from the future to the present was a very long and painful one.  John Barrowman, who plays Jack, does a great job of expressing the two faces of Jack, the comedy and the Drama, but season one gives virtually none of his back story directly, and if you hadn’t seen Doctor Who, you’d be hard pressed to understand what was going on with him at all.  The character is portrayed very clearly, but the plot does not flesh him out.

Our introduction into the Torchwood world comes though Gwen Cooper, a police officer who stumbles onto their work, and is soon recruited.  Gwen is the most normal of the group, she’s well adjusted, has a boyfriend, and has the human empathy and professionalism that came from her police training.  JAck warns her to not let the job change her, implying that the others in the group were once less jaded.

With the other characters, you get the feeling that Torchwood was their only option.  Toshiko Sato is the computer expert who has devoted her entire life to her work and finds it very difficult to make connections with others.  This is the subject of a great episode titled, ‘Greeks Barring Gifts,’ about an alien woman who gives Toshiko a device which enables her to read minds.  On using it, she finds out that her worst fears of what people think of her are true.

Owen Harper, the doctor, is young and skilled, but has a reckless immaturity.  It’s hard to believe he’d be taken seriously as a doctor anywhere.  He, too, is unable to make real connections with people, though unlike Toshiko, Owen is merely unwilling, not incapable.  The few times he does express genuine emotion, such as in the episodes ‘Ghost Machine,’ and ‘Combat,’ he tends to go overboard, and do very stupid things.

Ianto Jones is the secretary/personal assistant of the group.  He’s very good at his job, which by its nature means he is very helpful and accommodating.  ‘Cyberwoman’ is his starring episode.  It seems like a departure from the character he had displayed up to that point, but his actions in the episode are really just an extension of his loyalty, as misplaced as it may be.

Russell T Davies, who created the series (and rebooted Doctor Who) always includes season-long story arcs, but wasn’t always the greatest at integrating them.  He basically just inserts a cryptic line into two or three episodes that are referred back to in the season finale, it kind of just feels tacked on.

The series is episodic, with a wide variety of story lines and styles present.  Some episodes are better than others, but none are bad.  The show sort of sets itself up as a more mature Doctor Who, and that’s essentially what it is.  The characters are interesting, though with the lack of back story, you have to put more work into figuring them out, which isn’t a bad thing.

The Blu Rays are incredible, with very clear video.  There are two mini-docs for each episode.

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