Saturday, April 05, 2008

Torchwood, Dr. Who etc.

Torchwood finished its second series this week, just as Dr. Who begins its 4th (since being revived.) I was an avid watcher of this season's Torchwood, which was pretty consistent in tone, had good stories, and was quite clever in its use of back stories. That's the model of course, probably originated in the X-Files, where "stand alone" episodes are slotted into bigger story arcs. It's the latter story arcs that create the real emotional buy in, I think, and Dr. Who is certainly better when it does them, rather than too many episodes seeing Rose or Dawn or Martha being chased down another corridor by another alien. I know its inevitable these days, but there's so much other stuff that goes on around the TV series - from the "making of" documentaries shown incessantly on the digital channels, to the tours of the TV studios. I felt like I already knew the story for the new Dr. Who episode after having seen the extended clips on breakfast tv. I think we lose something when this happens - and also, I guess, when you get to know the actors and actresses too well. (This morning there was the actor who plays the Dalek's voice. Surely a little unecessary?) There's also been a bit of rewriting of history with the new doctor - with Christopher Eccleston's original series almost forgotten, as a result of David Tennant's success. Yet Eccleston was in many ways a more interesting doctor, a deeper character. I could see both shows going on for years, so infallible is the premise in both, and so "flexible" is the science fiction apparatus. I think there are literary archetypes for Captain Jack and the current Doctor, for instance Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat or Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius. There does seem to be an insatiability for sci-fi type shows; I notice that there are spin off TV series to both Total Recall and The Terminator series for instance. Much as I like such things, I guess I still prefer something original, which is why stories and novels remain so important. I'd never seen "The English Patient" till last weekend, for some reason, and I thought it was very good. The "framing" of the story being what made the film work. Probably what attracted to Minghella about it in the first place. Mind you, both this and The Talented Mr. Ripley are intriguing in their concentration on dysfunctional male emotion. "The English Patient" like "the Kite Runner" had its fair share of melodrama, but these books make good films, however disastrous the male stoicism is that they portray. Remember, Dr. Who and Captain Jack are also in this club.

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