Torchwood or Torture: Miracle Day 1

Duck and cover: Barrowman

Case no. 55793 – The Crown Vs. Russell T. Davis and the BBC TV Series, Torchwood

Ladies and Genitals of the jury, we’re here to consider a most serious matter, The Crown’s case against the BBC television series, Torchwood. Before we continue it may be prudent to state, for the record, that a full transcript of these proceedings will be made available and disseminated online, once we’ve considered the content of each episode. Mrs Clacknell, our court reporter, has chosen to record proceedings topless. That’s a private matter for her and we needn’t concern ourselves with it during this hearing. Just know that her fingering of the Stenotype machine is extaordinary.

My name is Mr Cathcart. I am employed by the Court to present the Crown’s case that Torchwood should be reclassified as a form of televisual torture, and that consequently, pursuant to section 10 of the Television Offences Act, 2006, it should be deleted, as the law requires.

All those involved in its production, you should know, would subsequently be interned at Her Majesty’s pleasure, and sentenced to all day screenings of Tonight’s the Night…with John Barrowman, all except Mr Barrowman of course, who’d be sentenced to watching the reactions of those viewers.

A word now, on process. Following opening remarks, you’ll see the first episode of the forth series. The first three have been withheld on medical advice. I’ll then outline the Crown’s case in respect of the material. My learned friend Mr Fenric, will then provide advocacy on behalf of his clients, Mr Russell T. Davis and the BBC. Once the series is concluded, you shall retire to consider your verdict.

Opening Remarks

Cathcart: In 2006, flush with success from the revived Doctor Who series, Russell T. Davis, who cannot be present as he’s currently been treated for Tartrazine poisoning, created what he calls “an adult spinoff”. It’s this series that concerns us now.

It was to be called Barrowman’s Bastards, Cardiff Crunch, Russell Dust and Omnisexual City, but in the end Torchwood, an anagram of Doctor Who, was chosen. Mr Davis promised a series for older viewers. However, we suggest he simply targeted the same audience, but gave them material which they couldn’t enjoy prior to the hour earmarked for adult viewing, the so-called watershed of nine o’ clock in the evening.

The series contained gore, profanity, including the word “fuck”, homosexual intercourse and, perhaps most seriously, a minimum of 34 minutes of John Barrowman in every 45 minute episode. This of course, would not have been permissible in a family series.

It’s the Crown’s case that Torchwood took many risks with the mental health of viewers; the inclusion of scenes designed to cause stress; Barrowman standing on Welsh landmarks, surveying the city for no reason, infantile plotting, a vehicle for the team that’s only outlandish feature was two strips of neon lighting – one on the driver’s side, the other on the passenger’s, and the Welsh setting. Viewers were asked to listen to strong Cardiff accents. No warning was given by the continuity announcer prior to transmission and no subtitles were included.

Despite this, viewers have remained loyal to the series. The programme has been built on the personality cult of John Barrowman, a man who actively encourages further spectatorship, attending fan conventions and consenting to his likeness being sold in the form of a life size cardboard cut out which could easily fit into a child’s bedroom.

The first three series have included James Masters, dressed as a bisexual version of Sergeant Pepper, Peter Capaldi shooting himself and most seriously, distressing scenes of John Barrowman’s character bolting upright and gasping as he returned to life. This was both shocking and we suggest, psychologically cruel to viewers, undercutting the reasonable expectation that once deceased he should remain so and play no further part in the narrative.

This forth series revives the format with an injection of American money. Consequently, respected genre actors, included Bill Pullman and Wayne Knight have become a part of its bisexual-alien nexus. It is the Crown’s case that this decision, to transmit it over ten weeks, therefore embedding it within the BBC One schedule until September, is callous, sadistic and provocative. We further suggest that the decision to run the series in parallel with Barrowman’s Saturday night entertainment format, the aforementioned Tonight’s the Night, presents an unreasonable risk to public health.

You will hear how this forth series, compounding the errors of the previous three, uses its larger budget and expanded narrative to deliver more of the same, and with greater relish than before. Once you have seen and heard all ten episodes, your duty will be clear.

Justice Dowd: Mr Fenric?

Fenric: I’m grateful your honour. Personae of the Jury, the case for my client is simple. Torchwood is an outlandish, rollercoaster ride. It’s an adult series for people who prefer not to think too hard and enjoy sensory overload and low-level titillation. If it is wrong then so are you. The Crown will suggest that Mr Barrowman is an issue with this series. We’re content that this is true. However, we say that he is its beating heart, its pulsing member. It takes a large personality to anchor a show and we suggest there is none larger, than John Barrowman. Thank you.

Episode One Arguments

The jury are shown episode one of the forth series – “The New World”.

Cathcart: Ladies and Gentleman, Warlocks and Wenches, what you have just seen is, I suggest, an absurd and irresponsible hour of television. A world in which no one dies; this is a nightmare that we dare not contemplate. For in the world created by Mr Davis, Fearne Cotton cannot die. Jim Davidson cannot die. Rupert Murdoch cannot die. Richard Blackwood cannot die. My wife cannot die. This is not the sort of quandary we want our children contemplating before bedtime.

You’ll have seen the author, Mr Davis, attempt to shore up his premise with a little cod philosophy. Oh dear, he says, the Earth will run out of food in four months, serial killers will take advantage of loop holes in the laws governing capital punishment and be freed, those grievously injured shall remain alive, without restorative abilities and parents, though initially concerned about the population problem, will succumb to the genetic imperative and demand their offspring be allowed to live forever, and so be inclined to do nothing.

Members of the jury, you might think those are interesting undercurrents, and you might be right. But Torchwood is no ordinary series. Its ideas are subordinate to the author’s love of largesse, his propensity to over egg the pudding. I hope you were at first amused, then horrified, when Gwen, played by Eve Myles, agreed not to bring harm to her baby by talking about Torchwood, before visiting an adjoining weapons dump on her premises. She didn’t wish the child to hear alien stories but she was happy to discharge a firearm with the babe in her other arm. Ladies and Gentleman, she didn’t even turn away when the government’s helicopter fired a missile into her beach facing cottage.

Was the script not ridiculous? Miracle Day? I suggest a day in which all humanity ceased to be deceased would be better labelled “Holy Shit Week” or “What the Fuck-mas”.

The new American Torchwood members – Rex and Esther; were they not underwritten and overplayed? How long will it be before Rex’s irritated and confused demeanour becomes irritating? I’m there already. As for the new American lady, she’s pleasant on the eye, and I see some male members nodding, but she’s wet. Do you remember Grace from the Doctor Who TV movie? Me neither.

Justice Dowd: Mr Fenric, please.

Fenric:  Ladies and Transexuals of the Jury, this, the defence is prepared to accept, was a slow burning opener – an episode designed to establish the premise and introduce some new characters. However, Mr Cathcart’s suggestion that it was bad television is palpably absurd.

One also detects a hint of homophobia in his contention that Mr Barrowman is a danger to our youth.

I invite you to consider the highly effective road traffic accident during the opening portion, the commencement of an arc for Bill Pullman’s character that’s likely to develop along, we suggest, captivating lines, the man blown up and reduced to charred remains, yet still alive on the slab and Jack now being mortal, which surely, gives the audience hope? I’ll take your Face of Boe and raise you science fiction. Anything is possible.

Oh, and did you see that exploding helicopter?

It’s our case that this is going to be an exciting series with psychological and satirical bite; fully deserving of its place in the schedule.

Barrowman. Is. Back.

The trial continues…

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yes, I saw the exploding helicopter, but if nobody dies anymore, what happened to the crew? I understood all the references and jokes and, but I think the script was turgid in parts and left more questions than answers – and not in a good way. I’ll give it a little longer, but I’m not confident I’ll still describe myself as a Torchwood fan by the end of the month.

    Maybe the BBC should’ve shown more foresight and funded the series themselves or trailed their cape a little longer for a better partner. Marry in haste . . . .

  2. Love your take on it-having reached ep 2 as a member of the jury so far Cathcart -seems to be winning my vote-to me RTD is good at the overall vision with big ideas but looses it in sloppy execution-i fear that the USA partnership has not improved this-

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