Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm completely taken with Torchwood

Wow! Three posts in one day. This is a personal record.

Why does the U.K. always get the best TV shows? Smart. Funny. Forward-thinking. Maybe I'm just a starry-eyed American, infatuated with exotic offerings from across the pond. Maybe British TV is chock full-o-crap like "According to Jim."

At any rate, I've found a new guilty pleasure on BBC America. It's called Torchwood and it is a spin-off of the Dr. Who series. Now, I'm not a big fan of sci fi, though I have fond memories of watching Dr. Who on PBS when I was a kid, and I had to watch the series when Christopher Eccleston resurrected the doctor a couple years back. But this show is so different from anything I've encountered that I am mesmerized.
The series is set in Cardiff and follows the Welsh branch of a covert agency called the Torchwood Institute which investigates extraterrestrial incidents on Earth and scavenges alien technology for its own use (its origins are outlined in the Doctor Who episode "Tooth and Claw"). To paraphrase
Torchwood Three's commander-in-chief, Captain Jack Harkness, the organisation is
separate from the government, outside the police, and beyond the United Nations.
Their public perception is as merely a 'special ops' group. SOURCE

It's not Torchwood's storyline that is so captivating, it is the way the show eschews one-dimensional, stereotypically drawn characters and relationships. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I discovered that the toothsome, manly-man series hero Captain Jack was carrying on an affair with his male assistant Ianto Jones, all while making eyes at police assistant and team member, Gwen Jones, a glamorous team member with a gap-toothed grin and a doughy fiance whom she dearly loves. Gay (or bicurious) heroes? Glamorous women with physical "flaws?" What kind of TV show is this?

I am also fond of the series' treatment of women of color. Dr. Toshiko Sato, played by Asian actress Naoko Mori, is a lead character and though she seems to be written into the usual lovelorn woman of color role, at least she is a lead character and they do seem to let her get some from time to time. Then there is the smart and beautiful medical student Martha Jones, a recurring cross-over character from Dr. Who, which featured an episode where Jones, a black woman, saved the world and the hero.

It is not just Torchwood’s novel treatment of main characters who are women of color, I am also impressed by the show’s treatment of guest characters. The episode “Sleeper” featured Beth, a black woman working to come to terms with a disturbing revelation. (She’s part of an alien sleeper cell. Hey, it’s sci fi. What do you want?) That the character was black was incidental to the plot, but significant to me because Beth was not drawn as sassy and strong, and she wasn’t blonded and beweaved. I was struck that not only is Nikki Amuka-Bird, the actress who portrayed Beth, an average black woman with African features, but her character was drawn as frightened, vulnerable and heroic. Beth was also involved in a loving relationship, incidentally with a white man. I cannot think of many occasions when I have seen a similar multi-dimensional portrayal of a black woman on American television.

What is most compelling about Torchwood is that all of the things I mentioned above—the fluid sexuality, interracial relationships, women of color in prominent roles, aren’t talked about in show plots. They aren’t part of “very special episodes.” These things just are. Torchwood seems to normalize groups that American television regularly marginalizes. And I say, “Bravo!” I’ll sit through cheesy episodes about alien invasions to be a part of this egalitarian world for an hour each week.

And to cap off my love of this show, on an episode I watched last night, I was introduced to a great song. Now you know I'm hooked. Moby's "One of These Mornings" was the soundtrack for another doomed Toshiko Sato love affair.
Just as a bonus, here is a You Tube video that features the Moby song:


mrshadow33 said...

Tami, Tami I love you! Your mention of Torchwood has just made my day! I too am a fan of the show and have been a fan of Doctor Who since it was shown on PBS in Los Angeles in the 80's.

As a matter of fact my 16 year old twin sisters recently became hooked on Torchwood and by extension Doctor Who. They even have a Torchwood blog where they talk to other fans of the show.We recently attended a Doctor Who convention and met some of the writers from Torchwood. You should try to come to it next year.

Thanks again. Oh by the way, who is your favorite Doctor? I like them all but for me Tom Baker is still the best!

Tami said...

Mr. Shadow,

What is the URL for your sisters' blog? Despite my little crush on Christopher Eccleston, I have to say that Tom Baker IS the Doctor as far as I'm concerned.

SheCodes said...

Torchwood, huh? I wonder if they have a podcast? My cable doesn't have BBC America. And I LOVE sci-fi!! *Sigh*

Symphony said...

Now go into this post with the edit function and go to each line in the quoted part and hit delete. It will fix your quote. LOL

And I'll check out the show. Thanks for the info.

Tami said...

Oooh, Symphony! It worked! My formatting is fixed...sort of.

Symphony said...

Now you're just being difficult Tami! :)

Mes Deux Cents said...


Now they put that kind of stuff on when I don't have cable anymore....


Jennifer said...

Hi Tami,
Getting caught up on your blog posts has been part of my recuperation as I'm stuck at home and on my couch with the flu. I only wish I had BBC on cable--is there any other way to find episodes of Torchwood? I love your analysis of the show and as a closet "trekker" would love the sci fi angle too!

mrshadow33 said...

Hey Tami I'm back. I had to call my sisters and get the URL of their Torchwood Blog. It is: torchwood-la@blogspot.com

I told them you would probably be contacting them soon.

Oh you should watch the current Doctor David Tennant. He is very good. However, like you so beautifully put it; Tom Baker IS the Doctor. We will have to have a discussion about our favorite stories soon.

One final note: did you get my e-mail? I know you will be commenting on it soon.

Tami said...

For all of you who are curious about Torchwood, the season 1 DVD is available on Netflix and in video stores. I think I'll be picking this up myself since I missed season 1.

There are also some clips and trailers on You Tube.

Rich said...

I haven't seen any season 2 yet. The first ep this year made me want to put it away again, which I did as the first season got progressively worse and worse as it went on. I ended up not liking any of the characters and not in a love to hate kind of way, either. Just imho. Be interested to hear your thoughts as you catch up.

rikyrah said...

You know when I knew Torchwood was so very much kick butt? When I FINALLY got that Captain Jack was GAY! It just knocked me off my feet, and I was like, oh...ok....damn...how'd I miss all the clues..LOL

But, I've been a John Barrowman fan for many years..never thought he got the breaks he should have..leave it to the Brits to give him to me in a role I love.


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