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Archive for January 2010

Torchwood: Shots of Cardiff

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a.k.a. Torchwood: Children of Earth.

This is the first time I’ve ever watched Torchwood, Doctor Who’s semi-spinoff, more adult serial sci-fi thing; I have to admit that my avoidance was partially based on Charlie Brooker describing it as “tuning in to watch Deadwood, only to discover they’ve replaced Al Swearengen with the Honey Monster” and comparing its overall premise to Scooby-Doo with “a bizarre emphasis on bisexual tension” with “countless overhead helicopter shots of Cardiff”.

John Barrowman’s cartoon hero shtick aside (for real – his jarringly American accent in a show full of Welsh/standard British accents and entire look just screams Disney, but with aliens and man-on-man makeouts), Children of Earth is pretty good. This is, of course, partially due to Peter Capaldi, who I mentioned in a previous post. As in The Thick of It, he plays a high-level, Alistair Campbell-esque government employee engaged in unscrupulous activity; unlike The Thick of It, he hasn’t sworn at all (so far), he’s a lot more openly vulnerable, and he wears glasses. Although not important to the plot as far as I can tell, the glasses are a very nice touch, to the point where I think the BBC should make him wear them every time he appears on TV. Phwoar, as British men over a certain age sometimes say.

It’s also kind of fun on a personal level, since I used to live in Cardiff and a lot of scenes are shot in locations I used to visit a lot, or areas close to our old flat.

However, there are a LOT of unnecessary aerial shots of Cardiff, which is especially weird when you consider that most of the action seems to take place in or around Cardiff. I understand the shot-of-the-Eiffel-tower-means-we’re-in-France-now cliche when the action moves from one location to another, but why use it when the setting remains pretty much the same? Maybe the director just wants to remind us that we are, in fact, in Cardiff. Cardiff Cardiff Cardiff. And look! Cardiff Bay! Cardiff Bay again, but from a different angle!

Anyway, on to the plot. The miniseries – for Children of Earth is a miniseries – is broken up into five episodes, each covering the events of one day. Some sort of alien invasion is imminent, although as of the beginning of Day Two, it’s not entirely clear what sort of invasion is coming or why. We do know that children all over the world have been targeted and used as a vessel for the aliens to speak through: at exactly the same time, every child on Earth – and one man – stops all motion and speech and instead begins to chant “We are coming” in English. The man, now confined to a mental institution, witnessed a prior alien visitation when he was a child.

Torchwood, a secret government-funded organisation devoted to fighting “extraterrestrial threat”, is on the case, but there’s a problem. The upcoming alien invasion seems linked to a cover-up of the previous visitation, which certain government agents (including Peter Capaldi) don’t want disclosed.

Meanwhile, Torchwood – made up of Captain Jack (John Barrowman), his boyfriend Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), and super-Welsh Gwen (Eve Myles) – is having personal issues. Jack and Ianto are dealing with their new status as a couple, and in Day One it seems Ianto hasn’t even come out to his sister yet. Gwen turns out to be pregnant, so she has an unborn baby as well as her man to protect when the secret government agents come knocking.

Overall, it’s pretty good. Despite the unnecessary aerial shots of CARDIFF CARDIFF CARDIFF and John Barrowman’s distracting American-Disneyness, the plot is easy to follow but not insultingly so, and events appear to be building up quite well, with bonus action violence thrown in. I still like Merlin better, though this may be because I prefer my action to either come without personal crises or for a show to incorporate personal crises into the action – the drama is a bit too foregrounded here for my taste. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t watched much of Torchwood and therefore am not as emotionally invested in the characters.

On the other hand, Peter Capaldi is in it, wearing glasses, so I’ll press on.

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Written by Kelly Kanayama

January 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized