Sunday, June 6, 2010


I'm about halfway through the first season of Torchwood and am pretty hooked despite a few too many cliches ("Some things we aren't meant to know") and too much striving for effect (apparently the best place for a private conversation was for them to crawl out onto the top of a dangerously open domed building). Despite hearing good things about it for a while I had deliberately avoided learning any details and almost gave it a pass when somebody at work told me it's a Dr. Who spinoff - though I might otherwise seem like a strong candidate for Who-fandom, in actuality I've found it mostly pretty dreary. Torchwood though is more like The X-Files and Men in Black but darker, with more plausible/confused characters, better acted and so far more focused. Plus I've heard it only gets better.

But while I'd argue that Dr. Who isn't really science fiction (no consistency, no real effort to even give nominal scientific reasons, too many fantasy elements) Torchwood seems even less so despite actually stating that it's more so. After all Jack constantly talks about "aliens" and "the future" and what could be more SF?

But the second episode was about a body-inhabiting alien and if you removed the meteorite that caused it to land absolutely everything else is really a spiritual possession story, even down to the sexual element which is far more common in such stories than in SF. The mind-reading story is practically a retelling of the familiar "be careful what you wish for" fantasy. That's not even mentioning the (almost-great) fairy episode where Jack doesn't even bother with an SF explanation though he doesn't go so far as to rule one out.

As for Jack - I happened to be reading Julia Briggs' 1977 Night Visitors: The Rise and Fall of the English Ghost Story and came across a statement about the first ghost investigators (Carnacki, John Silence and that ilk):
The psychic doctor is usually an engimatic and unworldly figure whose scattered hints as to his interpretation at first only serve to increase our suspense, while his final explantion often introduces a further level of meaning to the story, or adds conviction by providing a semi-scientific explanation. (p59)

Which sounds exactly like Jack, especially if an extra meaning is added to "his interpretation" so that it not only means his diegetic interpretation but the viewer's interpretation of his character.

But another disc just arrived from Netflix....