Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

Kindly direct email to:
dorianwright [at] gmail[dot]com

"Reading his blog is like watching a beloved 50's Rat Pack Vegas act"--Larry Young
"One of the few comics blogs I always make time for"--Antony Johnston
"Dorian Wright is intelligent and slightly bitter, like a fine coffee."--Kevin Church
"Absolutely huggable."--Bully
"It's always fun to see Dorian be bitchy."--Chris Butcher
pomobarney's photos More of pomobarney's photos

Current Diversions


Doctor Who
Paperback Book Club

200404   200405   200406   200407   200408   200409   200410   200411   200412   200501   200502   200503   200504   200505   200506   200507   200508   200509   200510   200511   200512   200601   200602   200603   200604   200605   200606   200607   200608   200609   200610   200611   200612   200701   200702   200703   200704   200705   200706   200707   200708   200709   200710   200711   200712   200801   200802   200803   200804   200805   200806   200807   200808   200809   200810   200811  

Comment Policy
Offensive, harrassing or baiting comments will not be tolerated and will be deleted at my discretion.
Comment spam will be deleted.
Please leave a name and either a valid web-site or e-mail address with comments. Comments left without either a valid web-site or e-mail address may be deleted.

Atom Feed
LiveJournal Syndication LOLcats feed

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Torchwood: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Sleeper 

Torchwood is a curiously contentious show. To go by online reactions, a bit of a fool's game to be sure, people seem to either love it or loathe it, both beyond the point of rationality. There really is remarkably little room in the middle, it seems. It's odd, at least to me, that a show that's somewhat dopey but on the whole more good than bad should inspire such extreme reactions. The most obvious comparison I can draw is to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off show Angel. Between the two of them, the shows had about twelve seasons, only about four of which are watchable. It's not bad company to be in, but it does illustrate my thoughts on the first season of Torchwood well: a flawed program that means well but has vast room for improvement.

And what Torchwood does well, it does very well (by the same token, when it does badly it's horrible), and its cultural impact and importance shouldn't be overlooked. Geek media, particularly sci-fi, tends towards the reactionary, the misogynistic and the heteronormative. Torchwood gives us a cast of characters of polymorphous sexual identities, and a dashing man of action and derring-do as the lead, played by an openly gay man, in a world in which racial diversity is a given. The grand-pappy of sci-fi TV franchises can't manage more than lesbian titillation, so the historic contributions of Torchwood count for something, despite the missteps in plot and character that frequently mark the first series.

Luckily, in the first two episodes of the second series, a lot of the problems appear to have been, if too soon to say definitively removed, at least acknowledged and ameliorated. In the series premiere, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang a very obvious effort has been made to develop the humorous aspect of the series. If one of the cited flaws of the first series was the skirting around the edges of camp and plausibility ("the world's most famous secret organization", etc.), this episode just runs with it. Starting with an expository blowfish and an infodump for new viewers, writer Chris Chibnall never fails to shy away from the jokes, focusing mainly on character. Both Tosh and Ianto in particular benefit from this, as they show more personality in this episode than in they did in large swaths of the previous season. But all the characters show improvement from the previous series. They are recognizably the same characters, but both the absence of Jack has made them stronger as a team, and developments from the last series are acknowledged and followed up on. Of particular note is the much needed de-angsting of John Barrowman's Jack Harkness character after his foray back into Doctor Who. He's still the somewhat authoritarian Jack of Torchwood but a lighter touch is evident.

A particularly strong element of the episode is James Marsters as 'Captain John Hart,' ex-partner (in every sense of the word) to Captain Jack. Torchwood is often criticized for an apparently adolescent attitude towards sex, and curiously, the lack of 'naughty schoolboy' characterization to Jack that some fans saw in his appearances in Doctor Who. The scene when the Captains meet is tremendous, a near-perfect visual representation of a love/hate relationship between two Future Man action heroes. They can't decide whether they should kiss or fight, so they do both, and clearly enjoy it. Captain John works very well within the context of the episode and the show as a whole: he's an unreconstructed Jack, the Jack that would have been had he never met Rose and the Doctor or come to Torchwood. He's amoral and selfish and essentially a walking Id. As a contrast to Jack he really makes an excellent short-hand for the development of Jack's character, as well as acting as a catalyst for needed interactions and developments with other characters, particularly in the development of Gwen and the Jack/Ianto relationship.

After a strong opening that is heavy on humor but mixed with action, the second episode, James Moran's Sleeper, and its inversion of that formula, might be rightfully viewed with trepidation, but again, a vast improvement in the show's dramatic storytelling is evident here as well. It's structured as a thriller, with the mysterious deaths of two burglars during a home invasion robbery, and escalates into a crisis of genocidal proportions in very plausible way. There is a lot of small but significant character moments here, notably for Ianto and Owen, and Moran brings Gwen forward as the 'heart' of Torchwood, a concept frequently given lip-service to but rarely followed up on, in truly deft ways. Another particularly good guest performance is featured in this episode, this time by Nikki Amuka-Bird as Beth, a woman who discovers a terrifying secret about herself. Her scenes with Eve Myles are heart-wrenching in the way they play off each other, with Beth as the lost woman trying to understand what is happening to her and Gwen's empathy driving her to forge a connection with the woman that is perhaps deeper than is wise.

There is a frustrating aspect to the episode, however, in that for all its drama and emotional gravitas, it never seems to want to follow through on the almost painfully obvious political metaphor at the heart of the story's action. When you have an alien sleeper cell, complete with suicide bombers, and black-bag over the head renditions and torture used to extract confessions, an explicit metaphor to terrorism and the response to terrorism is expected, but it never really materializes. The end result is scenes that feel like they should be adding up to more, but don't quite gel because the heroes are doing things that in a real world context are highly unethical, and the 'terrorist' becomes the most sympathetic character in the story. And while that latter point is central to the story's theme, the effort to keep the regular cast in a heroic mode seems to prevent a deeper exploration of the symbolism. In the end, it's a disappointment born out of me wanting the show to be more than it is. It's not a fair criticism, as the show, at its heart, is escapist entertainment, with a noticeable tendency to not take itself too seriously, even when it delves into serious drama and tragedy. That almost schizophrenic tendency is both the show's strength and weakness.



Featured Links

Blue Marble Bounty
Hallowed Tree Furniture
Jed Dougherty
John's Journal
Inner Light Community Gospel Choir

Latest Links

Stuff Geeks Love Armagideon Time Living Between Wednesdays Benjamin Birdie
Get Off The Internet
Ken Lowery

Comics Blogs

New Comic Weblogs Updates

Again With the Comics
All Ages
Artistic License
Batfatty Vs. the Chocodiles
Bear in the City
Benjamin Birdie
Blockade Boy
Broken Glass Makes Me Laugh
Bully Says
Chaos Monkey
Clea's Cave
Collected Editions
Comics Ate My Brain
Comics Fairplay
Comic Treadmill
Crisis/Boring Change
Dave's Long Box
Delenda est Carthago
Doctor K's 100-Page Super Spectacular
Eddie-torial Comments
Flesh-Head's Treehouse
Gay Comics List
Gay League
Milo George
Giant Fighting Robot Report
Heroes & Villains
House of L
House of the Ded
The Hurting
In Sequence
Inside Out
Invincible Super-Blog
Irresponsible Pictures
Jog-The Blog
Johnny Bacardi Show
Kid Chris
Lady, That's My Skull
Ledger Domain
Let's You and Him Fight
Living Between Wednesdays
Motime Like the Present
Near Mint Heroes
Noetic Concordance
Of Course, Yeah
one diverse comic book nation
Polite Dissent
Precocious Curmudgeon
Pretty, Fizzy Paradise
Prism Comics
Progressive Ruin
Project Rooftop
Random Happenstance
Random Panels
Read About Comics
Revoltin' Developments
Roar of Comics
Seven Hells
Silent Accomplice
Snap Judgments
So I Like Superman
Sporadic Sequential
Super Underwear Perverts
Suspension of Disbelief
Trickle of Conciousness
Vintage Spandex
Welt am Draht
When Fangirls Attack
Word on the Street
Written World
Yaoi 911
Yet Another Comics Blog

Comic Creators and Publishers

Bloodstains on the Looking Glass
Boom! Studios
Brit Doodz
Channel Surfing
Comic Book Heaven
Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
Ferret Press
Tim Fish
Flaming Artist
Kaja Foglio
Steve Gerblog
Highway 62
Illusive Arts
Innocent Bystander
Ralf Koenig
The Less Said The Better
Steve MacIsaac
Man's Adventure
Grant Morrison
Mostly Black
Tom of Finland Foundation
Viper Comics
Mike Wieringo's Sketch Blog
X-Ray Spex

Web Comics

Adam and Andy
Best of Friends
Captain Confederacy
Deep Fried
Dork Tower
The Gay Monsters
Get Your War On
K Chronicles
Kyle's Bed and Breakfast
Pass Fail Studios
The Rack
Split Lip
Tom the Dancing Bug
The Web Comic List

Culture & Politics

Kevin Allison
Armagideon Time
Dario Argento
BBC News
Big Bad Blog
Brian's Drive-In Theater
Camp Blood
Captain Corey
Center of Gravitas
A Child of Atom
Commerical Closet
Paul Cornell
Crocodile Caucus
Culture Pulp
John Oak Dalton
Dark, But Shining
Dark Loch
Dave Ex Machina
Philip K. Dick
Digital Digressions
Feminine Miss Geek
Film Experience Blog
Final Girl
Fortean Times
Gay Gamer
Gay Porn Blog
Rick Gebhardt's World
Get Off The Internet
Good As You
Homefront Radio
Insufficient Homosexual
Joe My God
Chris Karath
Kung Fu Monkey
LeftyBrown's Corner
Little Terrors
Ken Lowery
Miraclo Miles
Mr. Dan Kelly
My Three Dollars Worth
No Sword
Phil Ochs
One Hundred Little Dolls
Or Alcoholism
The Outbreak
Outpost Gallifrey
Pop Culture Gadabout
Pulp of the Day
The Rude Pundit
Screw Bronze
Sock Drawer
Something to be Desired
Street Laughter
Stuff Geeks Love
Tales from Treasure Island
Terry Pratchett
This Boy Elroy
This Modern World
Toner Mishap
Trusy Plinko Stick
Turning the Light Around
TLA Video
Unnatural Devotions
Vintage Beefcake
Warren Ellis
Wax Banks
Where Threads Come Loose
Where Threads Come Loose-Links
Whiskey and Failure
Wisse Words
You Know What I Like?

© 2007 Dorian Wright. Some images are © their respective copyright holders. They appear here for the purposes of review or satire only.