The Blue Box Blog

Emma Lou's adventures in Doctor Who fandom

Archive for July, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day “Dead Of Night” Review

Posted by emmahyam on July 28, 2011

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS DETAILED SPOILERS FOR ALL OF TORCHWOOD

Its that time of the week again, Torchwood: Miracle Day is on, what will it hold for us this time?

Once again in my humble opinion “disjointed” is the watch word for this series and thats why I’m so immensely frustrated with the show right now.

To explain how I feel lets look back to 2009 and “Children Of Earth” by the third episode the plot was cracking along at a thunderous pace, the action coming thick and fast, the emotional punches landing squarely on the collective chin. It was funny, sad, shocking and thrilling. By the end of the episode I was left howling “noooooo!” at the TV desperate to see just one more minute of this fantastic plot. I had no idea how it would turn out, no one was safe, in the world of Torchwood the painful consequences of the 456’s arrival and Jack’s actions would change everything.

Cut back to 2011 and Miracle Day episode 3 continues to tread water, I criticized the previous episode “Rendition” for having “endless scenes of people talking in rooms”, I thought that they couldn’t possibly do the same this week but lo and behold once again the first 25 minutes is pretty much just that, only this time there were some added waving of guns and hissing of threats. Where is this money that Starz are supposedly putting into the show? It must be in the hiring of sets because it sure as hell isn’t in the action scenes. I say action scenes, this week we get driving, slinging a brick through a window, wandering into the worlds least well guarded painkiller repository and Oswald Danes lightly jogging away from some appalled members of the public. In my head while zoning out during yet another speech by Doctor Basil Exposition (Vera Juarez, thats the name I gave her because thats pretty much all the poor woman does), I renamed Torchwood “Talkwood”, because thats all the seem to do, talk and talk and talk. We hear endlessly about the chaos around the world when the hell are they going to show us? Presumably when that cheque Starz promised them comes through the post.

I’m frustrated because this should simply not be happening, of the three episodes we’ve had two shows of nearly pure padding. If you can’t fill 10 episodes with your story, think up another story or reduce the number of episodes. The “events” of the story so far could have all been dealt with in episode one. Miracle Day starts, introduce Oswald Danes, Torchwood are discovered and arrested, they escape and discover Phi-Corp, job done, onto episode two. The main plot concept is a great one, a solid sci-fi premise but it seems to me they’ve decided to keep it “down to Earth” by making the baddies basically the Illuminati with added painkillers, I can’t believe that the whole thread of “Miracle Day” is “we want to make a ton of cash selling drugs so we’re keeping everyone alive forever”. Did no one send the board a memo saying this is slightly impractical? Has no one pointed out the folly of having a gleeful child killer as their spokes-corpse?

Another issue is that Jack and Gwen continue to be side lined in their own show. Gwen basically there for some culture clash “comedy” rubbish (they seriously think UK residents do not know what an American is talking about when they refer to their pants?) and Jack is now cast in the role of a creeper middle management guy having a mid-life crisis, heralding the very unwelcome return of the Gwen/Jack sexual tension from series one and two.

The most frustrating thing at all is the glimpses of brilliance amongst the dross, Jack’s amusing post-one-night-stand dirty joke and the resultant giggles, Alexa Havins as the lovely Esther Drummond continues to impress, Lauren Ambrose as Jilly Kitzinger, the devil in a red coat is doing a magnificent job.

The trailer for episode four at least look like were going to start seeing the effect Miracle Day is having on the population and the introduction of some interesting moral questions. Really all I’d like is for something to actually bloody happen. We shall see…

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Torchwood: Miracle Day “Rendition” Review

Posted by emmahyam on July 21, 2011

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS DETAILED SPOILERS FOR ALL OF TORCHWOOD

“UP NEXT: TORCHWWOD” proclaimed the irritating squashed in advert on the BBC HD channel as we settled down to watch the second installment of Miracle Day. I silently prayed that this typographical boo-boo wouldn’t be setting the tone for the evening, sadly it seems the big man upstairs wasn’t in the listening mood, he was probably watching “New Cowboy Builders” on channel 5 instead.

“Rendition” took the uneven pace of last week  and liberally mixed it with sheer boredom, the first 25 minutes was a series of seemingly endless scenes of people having conversations in rooms, info-dumping left, right and centre. The episode managed to be full of exposition yet be baffling as new characters popped out of nowhere without so much as a by-your-leave to ruin our heroes days. Has the boat load of cash from Starz run out already? Because this episode had “cheap” stamped all over it, after all the ‘splosions and gun fights of last week we get the excitement of the worlds easiest escape from an office building (just wander out through the car park apparently). The thing that very much stuck out to me was the efforts of the episode to move the tone back to the Torchwood of series One and Two with quips at the expense of the camp as Butlins air steward and Gwen’s reaction to The Lady Who Startlingly Resembles A Siamese Cat “Death Becomes Her” moment. For me all these bits did were grate as they bumped uncomfortably with CIA shenanigans and Oswald Danes blubbing on the news, all it does is rub in how much Torchwood has been taken from it roots and twisted into what currently feels like the worlds most generic action/cop show with a token Brit in it. I also felt that the acting was particularly sub-par this week, John Barrowman’s delivery of the line “whatever is happening to the human race it is massive”  would have shamed a primary school panto, even Eve Myles caught the disease, playing Gwen at her screechy, hysterical worst, Mekhi Phifer just stuck with holding down the button marked “smug douchebag” and Arlene Tur was stuck endlessly reeling off plot points in a montone voice in dark rooms.

The episode also committed the sin of having the best bits of the show in the trailer, Gwen punching out The Lady Who Startlingly Resembles A Siamese Cat being pride of place in the BBC summer drama showreel and the whole making an improbable cure for arsenic poisoning was lovingly showcased in a teaser. While this was by far the best of the episode and I did giggle at a couple of bits my other half pointed out how it was also a massive rip-off of The Doctors “detox” scene from the episode “The Unicorn and The Wasp”.

I understand that Miracle Day is meant to be a slow burn, that introducing new characters and concepts takes time but that is no excuse in my book to put out an episode two this dull and uneven. Torchwood must step up its game in episode three or it’ll be waving goodbye to the 4.8 million who tuned in for “The New World”, and maybe even me.

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Torchwood: Miracle Day “The New World” Review

Posted by emmahyam on July 14, 2011

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS DETAILED SPOILERS ABOUT ALL OF TORCHWOOD & DOCTOR WHO SEASON 4

Hello everyone! First up a sincere apology for the lack of activity on this here humble blog, a persistent elbow injury has kept me from my keyboard from sometime but happily I’m now able to get back to shouting about the things on my mind.

So what better subject to return to the blogosphere with than a through picking over of the new offering from RTD and Co, Torchwood: Miracle Day? Torchwood has always been a funny old thing, truly the red headed stepchild of the Who-niverse, I remember the giddy excitement of watching Doctor Who Series 2 listening intently, waiting for someone to mention the hallowed word “Torchwood”, the fevered speculation of what it all meant, the news that there was going to be a spin-off…. then the crushing disappointment of we actually got doled out in Torchwood Season 1. Season 2 was a step up in quality but still something lacked, then finally it all fell into place in “Children of Earth”. The proper grown up sci-fi that we’d been promised way back in 2006, a true adult alternative to Doctor Who, “Children of Earth” was a wonderful example of the dystopian science fiction that no one does quite the way the UK does it, a worthy successor to classics like “Threads” and “Survivors”.

Cut back to 2011 and its time for brand new Torchwood in the shape of Miracle Day episode one “The New World”, could it live up to the legacy of  “Children of Earth”? Bluntly for me this episode fell short by some considerable margin, there were elements of the episode I liked a great deal. Eve Myle’s performance as Gwen was outstanding, two years away from playing the role seemingly hasn’t had much of a detrimental affect on her portrayal (see Billie Piper’s early Season 4 Rose for an opposite example!) as Myles slips back into the role like an old pair of comfy shoes. The  injection of funds from the Starz network certainly shows on screen with the Helicopter Vs Land Rover sequence on the beach a particular highlight. I also liked the return of characters such as PC (now Sargent) Andy and Gwen’s parents Geraint and Mary, the bit with Gwen protecting Anwen’s ears with fluffy pink earmuffs was hilarious and the sequence in the morgue with the blown up bloke was excellently creepy….

Sidenote: Is it me or where there a ton of callbacks to The X-Files in this? Jack seemingly went to the morgue having watched the show to get tips on how to play stiff FBI guys, he even went in fancy dress as Fox Mulder! Also R Matheson is our lead CIA guy, Senator R Matheson was Mulder’s sometimes-informant in The X-Files. Curious…

Anyway time for the moans, the pace of the episode was hideously uneven, the audience is put in a scene, a horrendous info-dump occurs then we’re on to another place where the tone is totally different, given a dump of pretty much the same information again, then repeat. I felt like RTD had written two separate episodes, one with the events  of Miracle Day, introducing Oswald Danes and the stuff that happens to Gwen and Rhys, then one where he basically rewrote “Everything Changes” only with Esther Drummond instead of Gwen then smushed them together. Most of the performances didn’t ring true for me, Bill Pullman seemingly choosing to channel Hannibal Lecter through an Ouija board rather than act and dear old John Barrowman trying his best to look mysterious but only managing Blue Steel. Torchwood’s biggest problem throughout its history has been that its writers have mistaken making your characters “complex and dark” for “make them as dislikeable as possible”. Why else would our main characters be A) a murderous pedophile and B) an asshole who crows about a colleges wife’s leukemia?

RTDs characteristic humour also deserted him, with a lot of the jokey bits of the script falling flat and the dialogue failing to sing in ways that has saved some his previous efforts. Ultimately Torchwood’s successful bits have come from the fact that amazing,  things have happened to an ordinary copper like Gwen and the small budget feel of previous season have added to drama, how do regular folk deal with the extraordinary? By scaaling up the budget and making everything “bigger and more Hollywood” Miracle Day has only really served to expose Torchwood’s fralities.

However, all is not lost, this is a 10 episode extravaganza, a slow burn, I hope that “The New World” hasn’t dampened the embers…

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