Sunday, January 25, 2009

Torchwood (second look)

Well, I've been making my way through Torchwood, and I've now seen two episodes that really stand out.
  • "Countrycide" - I liked this a lot, even though a) I usually don't like horror at all and b) "countrycide" is actually a dumb name. Literally it would mean "killing the country" (on analogy with "homicide" - killing a person) but in this case it's arguably the countryside that's doing the killing. And that's what I liked about it.

    The Torchwood team gets stuck out in the middle of nowhere, and as the camera pulls back to show us the desolate hills looming over them, we understand that they are in deep trouble. One of the characters complains, "I hate the countryside." This is supposedly because he's a city boy, but those of us who have grown up there understand with all our hearts that, as Sherlock Holmes said many years ago, all kinds of bad stuff can happen out in the country, where there are no witnesses. In this particular episode, the explanation of what's going on might be implausible in spots, but it's fundamentally true, and that's why it works.

  • "Greeks Bearing Gifts" - again, this is a case where the "explanation" of the plot is a bit iffy, but the heart of the episode is powerful enough to make up for it. Toshiko feels that her teammates have betrayed her. A charming stranger is taking advantage of her loneliness. We see her being manipulated, and the details of the scam don't matter. She's truly suffering, and the actress, Naoko Mori, does an absolutely perfect job. (Ironically, although I felt that these episodes are superior to earlier ones, according to the episode commentary several scenes of "Greeks Bearing Gifts" were among the very first Torchwood scenes filmed.)
At this point I feel like mentioning that special effects don't usually do much for me. I mean, I'm a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy, and it's a great pleasure to be able to watch TV shows and movies that do no disservice to the genre (a fairly recent development). Obviously, you can't have SF&F without the FX. But I'm more interested in character than in watching things blow up.

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