Sunday, 12 July 2009

Post-Torchwood Review and the problems with the Internet.


Okay, still taking a break from the poems for a mo. Just wanted to get this out while I'm feeling it.

I last posted on Thursday after a very emotional response to the 4th episode of Torchwood. I was actually concerned that after such a deeply affecting episode the final episode wouldn't live up to it. So I took a break, spent the weekend with friends and avoided Torchwood and Twitter (being very aware that it seems to have become a haven for spoiler-mongers!)

I have just watched the final episode on I-player and stand by my previous views.

This was possibly the most brilliant piece of television that I have seen in years.

The basic concept underlying the series - the world's children in danger - was truly inspired. When you watch a tv show that is meant to be tense, dramatic and shocking, the natural instict is usually to endanger the main characters. To provide the audience with a person or persons that they can get to know, connect with and then place that character in danger.

Torchwood have managed to hit on a far deeper concern that can be shared by any audience member, young or old, seasoned fan or first time viewer. Our children are without a doubt the most important thing in this world (and I'm speaking as a single woman with no children and no immediate plans for any!)

Following the huge twists and turns witnessed in the initial 4 episodes, the finale kept me on the edge of my seat, completely absorbed and truly scared. I have long been a fan of Joss Whedon's because of the fact that you cannot always expect a happy ending. Torchwood managed this brilliantly. I honestly thought there was no hope. That millions of children would be taken to a fate far worse than death. And I can't remember a time when I have been so scared and hurt for something that I knew was fictional.

The actors gave some amazing performances. I would particularly like to mention Peter Capaldi - I cannot believe that I'm even writing this but I completely felt for Frobisher and his final decision to kill his family rather than let them suffer what seemed completely inescapable. I actually thought to myself that were I in his position I would do exactly the same thing. For something as simple as a television show, a piece of 'entertainment', to make you think about such horrific dilemmas and to make you discover a part of yourself that you've never considered - that is such a powerful thing.

The direction of Euros Lyn was brilliant. Keeping such an exceptional level of tension throughout that my neck muscles are actually aching from being tensed for the last hour!

But mostly I would like to talk about the writers.

Russell T. Davies, John Fay and James Moran.

I have had mixed opinions of Russell T. Davies' abilities as a writer for some time now. I thought Queer as Folk and Casanova were excellent stories, controversial, modern, challenging and exciting. Then I watched Bob and Rose and was extremely disappointed. My views of Doctor Who are mixed. Some stories strike me as unusual, exciting and most importantly, they question and explore the basic concepts of time and space that are the core of Doctor Who (for me at least). Other storylines have seemed self-serving, shallow and in some cases clear examples of 'phoning it in'.

With Torchwood: Children of Earth (Hereon CoE) I can find no fault. This was a brave, challanging story that pushed all boundaries, broke many rules and ultimately, kept me glued to my seat, loving and hating the visceral experience I was receiving.

I would also like to specifically address James Moran's involvement from the more public forum.

All of the writer's did a superb job, however James Moran is, to my knowledge, the only one of the three who is widely accessible with an incredibly open online presence. I have been following him on 'Twitter' for several months now and have found his posts and his blog - found here: to be amusing, engaging and interesting. He is very vocal on the day to day life of a working writer, providing insight into the processes many of us take for granted.

As the most accessible member of the writing team, naturally many fans who have been majorly affected by this brilliant show turned to James to comment on their feelings following the airing of each episode.

I am very thankful that technology has advanced to a point where we are able to communicate with people whom we admire. But in the wake of CoE I have been greatly saddened by the realisation that not everyone is as appreciative of the privilage that this communication is.

While there was, in James' own words "over a thousand messages from viewers talking about the show. The vast majority have been extremely positive." there was also a number of extremely negative, abusive, personal messages sent to him.

One of the reasons that I left the online Harry Potter fandom several years ago was the number of immature comments that would be put forth in discussions. Many of these messages were (as far as I could tell) posted by younger fans, in their early teens. I excused this behaviour as a sign of immaturity and inexperience, convincing myself that they would grow out of it.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I read some of the more negative messages on Twitter and discovered that they were written by people my age and older! (I'm in my mid-twenties.

While I doubt any of these type of people would read my blog. I would like to say this anyway, just to get it off my chest.

Grow up.

If you are incapable of seperating reality from fiction, then you should stick to watching shows like Big Brother. They were designed for people who feel it is acceptable to abuse others for no reason other than that you dislike their opinion on something.

Grown men and women should not harass and insult people like James Moran, who open a window into their lives, views and experiences. This is exactly the sort of behaviour that gives people a negative view of the internet. And worse, it is the kind of behaviour that gives people a negative view of fans.

Science Fiction has often been held up by the media as a sanctuary for geeks, freaks and wierdos. Those of us who are sci-fi fans are well aware that this is complete rubbish. Attacking writers does not do the fandom any favours. We are not nutters. We are not incapable of understanding that what is happening in that little box in the front room is NOT REAL. I have found that any writers I speak with are happy to argue points and trade views. But it has to be relevant.

To be honest, I could continue to rant about this for a while, but I'm tired and frankly, I think that James Moran has said what I'm trying to say in a much better way (which is why he gets paid to write and I crunch numbers all day!)

Please read James' Blog and this goes out to everyone - when you post to people online - not just celebrities, everyone online. Think how you would feel if you received that post yourself. Remeber that just because it looks like you're communicating with a bunch of words, behind those words is a real person, with real feelings.

Anyway, on that note, I'm off to bed. Hopefully to a nice dreamless sleep for once!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth - A review of my Torchwood experience

Slight change of format tonight. No poems, and not a typical review. More just me ranting about Torchwood: Children of Earth and my feelings towards what has surprisingly become my television highlight of the year.

Here's the basic background with my Torchwood experience.

About 2 years ago My boyfriend of the time introduced me to Doctor Who. Other than a vague memory of some sci-fi show I saw as a kid, I wasn't too interested in Doctor Who - it was starring Billie - of 'Because We Want To' fame which was plenty excuse for me to avoid it.

But I gave it a chance (for the boyfriend's sake) and found that beyond all expectations Doctor Who was an involving, fast-paced, funny, witty, intelligent programme. So much so that I became obsessed to a level only previously given to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Then came Torchwood.

It was starring Captin Jack - one of my favourite guest stars from the Whoniverse so I had high hopes. These hopes were pretty quickly dashed upon watching the first season of Torchwood. The stories were predictable, the acting average and the dialogue laughably unrealistic. Frankly, it struck me as the closest you could come to an American version of Doctor Who without involving any Americans!

But, my interest was warily maintained when I heard that James Marsters (aka the sexiest vampire to grace tv screens) was coming onboard for the opening episode of season 2. I'm a massive Buffy obsessive so I decided to give Torchwood one more chance.

The opening episode seemed different to what I'd witnessed in Season 1. It was still a little cheesy, but a little less predictable and they finally seemed to have worked out that 'dark' does not equal 'everyone shagging everyone else'

So I continued to watch. The first 5 episodes of season 2 seemed to get better and better. Finally we had some truly interesting ideas, some wonderful storylines (My favourites being To the Last Man and Adam) and some excellent guest stars (particularly Nikki Amuka-Bird in Sleeper. It was the episode Adam that also highlighted for me the hidden gem within Torchwood's regular cast - Gareth David-Lloyd 'Ianto'. Season 2 and 'Adam' in particular transformed Ianto from a very two-dimensional office boy to a character that was capable of wit, compassion, emotional depth and a sharp mind. Some of the episodes did not impress. The introduction of Martha Jones felt contrived and seemed a weak attempt at maintaining a character who was not particularly liked in Doctor Who. Also, I considered Owen Harper to be possibly the most irritating character I've ever had the misfortune to watch, so a 3 episode story-arc in the middle of the season which heavily featured Jones and Harper nearly put me off again. Fortunately the series redeemed itself with 3 excellent episodes in the last half of the season - 'From Out of the Rain', 'Fragments' and 'Exit Wounds'

So finally we come to season 3.

I was initially frustrated at the prospect of a mere 5 episodes, to be aired over the course of 1 week. Surely in a year where we have no full season of Doctor Who, and the specials went from being spread out throughout the year (as the initial rumours implied) to one in April and the rest at the end of the year, we should at least be allowed a full season of Torchwood?

Besides which, how could we possibly have 5 decent quality episodes if the BBC felt the show was not deserving of a full run. It didn't seem to be an exhibition of much confidence in the showrunner's abilities.

Well we are now 4 episodes in out of the 5 and I am chowing down on a rather large slice of humble pie.

I. Was. Wrong.

Not only have we been presented with the best Torchwood episodes yet, but the format works really well. It was advertised as an 'event' and it really is.

I have each night sat next to my telly counting down the minutes until the next episode airs, and at the end of each part I have found myself worked up to such a state that I find myself staying up well past my bedtime to wax lyrical about the brilliance of what I have just watched.

From this point on be spoilers

If you don't want to know about major cast changes post season 2 stop here.

Okay, here come the spoilers - no more warnings!

Having culled the two weaker members of the team at the end of season 2 (the endlessly annoying, arrogant Owen and interminably boring Tosh), we are left with a far more serious Torchwood. Rhys has found his role increased, which is wonderful because Kai Owen truly provides us with an everyman that grounds the rest of the team (and his flat out refusal to be considered part of Torchwood is wonderful, as I was briefly concerned at the beginning of the week that they were up for hiring any old joe from off the street!)

Each episode has surpassed the previous one to the point that I am now compelled to write this blog praising a show that this time last year I didn't think I'd bother watching again!

My only worry now is that Russel T Davies seems to have become rather trigger happy with his team. I have just witnessed the death of my favourite character - Ianto. I know that in the whoniverse death is rarely final, and I still keep some hope that tomorrow a miracle will occur. But a big part of me feels that what I consider to have been a huge mistake on RTD's part is indeed the end for this wonderful character.

Reducing the team to only Jack and Gwen is a bold, but dangerous move. I can't decide yet if this will affect my decision to watch the next series (which I expect is pretty much a definite if the Beeb pay any attention to their ratings!) I will say this though, Torchwood's third season has kept my on the edge of my seat all week and regardless of my feelings towards character deaths, all involved have managed to surpass all expectations and provided a piece of television that is truly original, tense, surprising, thought-provoking and just damn good fun.

Now I'm off to bed to dream of aliens, corrupt politicians and a very charming welshman!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Relaxed and Refreshed. New poem - 'Recovery'

Aaah, that's better!

Just got back from a 5 day short break in deepest Wales. Was absolutely beautiful scenery, peaceful little villages and towns and some surprisingly good food!

Realised that with all the emotional upheaval of recent months I really needed to get away. I even wrote a little something while I was there which probably best sums up how I'm feeling. It doesn't quite feel complete, but I like that, because although I feel a lot better, I know that my 'emotional journey' (yes, that's a terribly emo phrase but I think it's pretty approporiate!) is not quite complete either.

So here is 'Recovery'

It's amazing, the difference,
You get from some distance.
How you start to see,
Life the way it should be.
Who knew a short break,
Is all it would take.
Get away for a while,
Rediscover that smile.
Some fresh air, rain or shine,
Change of place will do fine.

The end... for the moment!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Rocky Shores

Same old words,
Attempting connection.
Every man an Island.
Every woman lost at sea.
Hunger and thirst steer us.
Some winds blow, guide gently.
Others storm, the boats crash.
None survive.