Noise to Signal

Login disabled.

Torchwood - Countrycide

And so, two weeks late, a review of episode six of Torchwood. And why was it late? One, I'm a lazy cunt. Two, I actually had to leave the room ten minutes before the end on the first showing, as I'm a complete wuss. And three - this was undoubtedly the worst episode of Torchwood so far - and I just couldn't be arsed sitting down and watching the rest of it.

The problem was, at this point in the series, I was worried. I still think the first episode was fantastic, but each successive episode had left me more and more disappointed. (I'll admit to not seeing episode 5, Small Worlds yet.) Each episode was fine, watchable, entertaining enough... but this is from the Doctor Who team. "Entertaining enough" is not the standard I expect. At this point in the series, I needed something to jolt me out of my chair - something up to the standard of that first episode.

What I got was a dull 50 minutes of television.

The good things first, then: it looked beautiful. Lovely rolling shots of the countyside - really spectacular to look at. And, I have to give credit where it's due - it was some of the most relentlessly disgusting television I've seen in a while. All rather too much for my stomach, but I appreciate the sentiment.

Beyond that - pfft. For a start, where was the plot? You could have told the whole thing in a five minute short film, FFS. Perhaps that's unfair - the same could be said for any show in the world - but it really did feel paper thin this week. Then, there's the dialogue. A common complaint throughout the first two series of Who was that some of the dialogue shouldn't have made it past first draft. I thought the first episode of Torchwood was fine in this regard; but this problem has crept into the show - but in a different form to Who. The worst example of it here is the exchange between Toshiko and Ianto when they're first captured. "It's worth the risk, to protect people!" / "Well who protects US?" It's not the actual dialogue that's really the problem - it's more the way they launch into it with virtually no preamble whatsoever. For a show that has five minutes more time to play with over Who, the pacing of the show is laughably bad sometimes - lingering too long on some things, and rushing others.

Meanwhile, Jack is still moping around like a bored middle manager, instead of being the utterly wonderful Jack we know and love from Who. I realise that he had to be toned down for the series - 13 episodes of an excitable Jack leaping around might be slightly too much to take, and presumably there is a point to his new demeanour that will be explained come Series 3 of Who - but did they have to tone him down quite so bloody much? He's lost pretty much everything that made him such a fun character in the first place, and it's only John Barrowman's (excellent) performance that is giving him any sparkle whatsoever.

As for the revelation at the end, all it makes me think is "LOL DO YOU SEE THE HUMANS ARE THE REAL MONSTERS!!!!!!!!!" Unfair? Yes. But that's how I felt after being bored stupid for 40 minutes. Short of Eve Myles and Naoko Mori taking all their clothes off and doing some proper lezzing up, including explicit shots of cunnilingus and strap-on activity, I can't see much they could have done to rescue the show for me at that point.

Maybe it's me. I'm not steeped in horror film lore; I just don't watch them, because frankly, they just make me feel sick. (Not from a moral view or anything - just purely because I feel too queasy.) Perhaps if I was a horror fan, I'd enjoy the cliches for what they were. But I just found it incredibly boring. (And it's telling that I'm not even a horror fan, and I can see that the episode wasn't much more than cliche after cliche after cliche.) The parts of Torchwood I like are the lighter moments; the interplay between the characters, a good joke, a piss-taking slo-mo shot, or simply laughing at the flashing blue lights on the gang's Mystery Machine. There was precious little of that here, and I found the relentless grimness a poor substitute.

Oh, and the Gwen/Owen storyline is as interesting as a dead dog. In one way it's nice - the first episode in the series set up the show to be Gwen's story, and this has been neglected somewhat over the past few episodes. Unfortunately, I don't care enough about either character yet to be that interested in a relationship between them.

At this point in the series, I was pretty depressed. Countrycide is the episode where everything changes. Before then, it was still riding on the goodwill it had from me from the first episode. This was the point where some of the show's flaws became really obvious - for me, it was the first complete faliure of the series. And each episode now has to earn its approval from me from now on.

And we shouldn't be saying "Oh, I hope this is a good one". We should know we're in for a good 50 minutes of entertainment.

2 Stars

About this entry


I was mildly surprised to find out afterwards that this episode wasn't written by Mark Gattis purely for the League of Gentlemen reference (rather than the quality). Certainly, I'd like to know whether the 'villain's nose bleed at the end was coincidental or a side effect of the 'special stuff' they eat.
Of course, not even finding out that piece of trivia would make me want to watch this episode again - it was simply disappointing. You picked out my pet hate in your review, John: "Well who protects US?". Erm, you're Britain's front-line defence. Didn't you know?

By Rosti
December 04, 2006 @ 9:05 pm

reply / #

Well I really liked this one, despite some shit parts (yes, the Owen/Gwen thing is crap, and yet again when they try to do 'action' scenes in a BBC TV show it feels pathetic for the most part). I like how the episodes can be so different from each other, like episode 5 (forever known as 'the fairy one') which could have been shown at 7pm no problem, and then this one which, let's face it, pushes the boundaries as far as they can be pushed in terms of gore and subject matter in a BBC TV programme. The series really is more of a mish-mash than Who series 2 even, but I'm loving it every week. Unlike most people, I'm not about to slit my wrists because each episode isn't this perfect godlike 50 minutes of television that everyone wants it to be. It feels bizarrely experimental, and I'm getting a kick out of that.

I think the worst episode is episode 2 (forever known as 'the one where that alien shags people into dust'). Episodes 1 and 3 are the best though. But they've maybe got the same problem as Who series 2 in that, like Rose and the Doctor, Torchwood are too smug and arrogant. It was good to see them taken down a peg or two in episode 8 (quite a deep and dark character episode) and I'm looking forward to seeing how the series pans out (mainly Jack's story, I mean who gives a fuck about Gwen?)

By Sycorax82
December 04, 2006 @ 10:46 pm

reply / #

I can't believe that I don't plan to own this series on DVD. The day before it began that decisionw as a no-brainer. chuck in a few extras, I'm sold. But after so many disappointing weeks...

That said, I thought this week's - glove and knife stuff with a great but spoilerific title - was the best so far bay a significant margin. A proper companion piece to the pilot, and a full step above anything so far. Probably more than coincidence that it was also the first to have two writers (one who I suspect re-wrote the other, rather than writing collaboratively).

Maybe that's the secret to getting this show into shape.

By Andrew
December 05, 2006 @ 1:05 am

reply / #

Not another one who liked this weeks episode :(

Don't give in! Keep the hatred alive! Just a little longer until the end of the series! Together we can make it!

By Jeffrey Lee
December 05, 2006 @ 1:42 am

reply / #

Captain Jack was kicking all kinds of arse in this weeks episode, it was great. I didn't mind Countrycide, not because it was particularly good, but because it didn't involve a sexy alien made of death-sex. It was a decent idea, average execution, lots of filler.

By Michael Lacey
December 05, 2006 @ 3:16 am

reply / #

Chris Chibnall: sex-addicted aliens, bikini-wearing cybermen and now a family of cannibals. But probably his best episode I think. It's not saying much and I actually switched the episode off when the butler bloke said his last kiss was 'Lisa'. But I managed to get through it the second time. I don't watch horror films (I don't want to be scared) either so I assumed my tolerance of any genre cliches was due to that.

By Rad
December 05, 2006 @ 11:33 am

reply / #

I'm still watching the show, but it no longer holds my attention. Usually, I'll be watching it while flicking through a magazine or something. The first episode was very promising, but it hasn't yet lived up to it and I'm very close to giving up on it.

By Pete Martin
December 05, 2006 @ 12:31 pm

reply / #

If only you'd been in London on the 2nd of December, you could have heard my very forthright views on this episode complete with banging on the table.

(essentially that, after the twist is revealed, that it ceases to make much sense).

By Zag
December 06, 2006 @ 12:51 am

reply / #

Have a little...patieeeence.

By Sycorax82
December 06, 2006 @ 6:19 pm

reply / #

In can be experimental, but for god's sake at least get a decent story in. Jesus, this week's episode was no better. Biggest TV disappointment of 2006.

By Phil Wilson
December 11, 2006 @ 1:01 am

reply / #