Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Pyrrhic Triumph: Arturo vs. Torchwood: Children Of Earth!

I helped plot the whole storyline, and I stand by every single decision. Yes, including *that* one - I had my hand on the death lever along with everyone else, and was fully involved. I think it's a fantastic, brave, challenging drama, and contains some of the best moments on TV all year.
- Torchwood writer James Moran, on his blog.*

Couldn't agree with him more.


This was the year where less really was more. Less episodes, less time, less team members - add it all up and there wasn't any time for Torchwood to get bogged down in melodrama. No more SEKRIT SECKS affairs, no more holding Gwen by the hand.

What we got, instead, was the series' finest hour - finest five hours, in fact, filled with heartbreak, humor and an 11th-hour save that was as brutal as it was brilliant. Safe to say this season blew away anything the series had done before, and not just metaphorically: the team's comfy ol' Hub is now rubble, leaving nothing behind, presumably, but ambient Rift energy. That it went down in the very first episode, when normally it's a scene you see in a season finale, was a big clue that RTD and the creative team weren't going to hold anything back this time 'round. The biggest flaw in this mini-series was the lack of explanation as to why the government wanted the team dusted to begin with, especially after we learn the truth behind Jack's role in the 456's visit to Scotland, but it speeds by so wildly you hardly have time to examine that.

And indeed, they didn't. This was the rare time when the team was truly pushed to the limits. Beyond them, even. And it was the even rarer moment when everybody stepped up accordingly. It was a great relief to see Gwen finally become a full-on hero: leading when she had to, carrying out plans when asked to, but never losing it, as she was so wont to do in the first two seasons. Even Rhys and Andy got to shine. And Lois, who could have been a Mary Sue figure, would instead make a welcome addition to the team.

On the other side, the villains were ... well, they were us. The high-level discussions that take place after the arrival of the 456 were horrifying, but not implausible. They were human, in the most uncomfortable of ways. And all credit due, again, to Peter Capaldi, as Mr. Frobisher, who has great power and responsibility shunted upon him ... and just can't hold it together. As Agent Johnson, Liz May Brice provided a more than capable physical foil for the TW team, and made her "coming around" seem plausible.

And then there's Ianto.

I'm gonna go ahead and guess that Moran's statement references not only Ianto, but the brutal game-saving decision by Jack, and in each case I stand behind Moran's decision. What happened to Ianto was undeniably sad, but he went out strong as a character - rallying after the destruction of the Hub, rescuing Jack from Johnson and never wavering, even as he dealt with the ramifications of being involved with Jack. ("No other men," he confesses to his sister. "Just him.")

In the end, Jack loses as much personally as he wins in the "bigger picture," so much so that he can't even stand to be on the planet anymore - a man who can't die, after all, can never know true peace. And so we're left with him in exile, Gwen pregnant, and the Torchwood that we've known well and truly gone.

At least for now. As the Doctor Who News Page reports, the show was a ratings hit during its' maiden voyage on BBC One, which would seem to justify a fourth season. But how? My money is on a Buffy-like storyline where Gwen is playing Professor X-Preggers with Rhys and coordinating a makeshift team (Agent Johnson, Lois, Mickey Smith and, availability pending, Martha Jones?) until Jack is forced to return and begin his journey toward redemption. It's a challenge I hope Moran, Davies and the show's runners take up soon.

* Props to The Nerdy Bird for the link to Moran's blog


Erica said...

Awwwww... I hate it when the guy with the coolest name on the show dies :( On sheer name value alone, "Ianto" is far cooler than "Jack."

(Although I must confess, I've been rooting for Ianto to go ever since he decided it was a bright idea to hide a Cyberman-woman in the basement, long long ago.)

Anonymous said...

wow - I definitely felt like this was a great miniseries, but I was disappointed that those two hardest deaths had to happen. I could even see getting through/over the loss of Ianto. But the boy?

It was almost too much for me to take. To make a decision like that would simply break me - so I understand Jack's need to get away. But I feel like things were left in such an awkward way, I can't tel if I even *want* the show to return.

OK. I do. And I'd totally be down for your suggested cast list - Lois, Mickey, Martha, and all. Just bring back Jack!