Torchwood Episode 2 Review: Russelling Fan’s Feathers

TORCHWOOD: Thursday 21st July, BBC1, 9pm

Hot dogs, Uncle Sam, baseball and Christian fundamentalists; just some of the things that come to mind when you think of America. But if Russell T Davies gets his way, we could soon be adding Torchwood to this list.

The show’s new Hollywood makeover is certainly a far cry from season one of the humble Cardiff based Doctor Who spinoff which originated in the murky depths of BBC Three. So much so in fact that at points it feels like you’re watching a show created solely by an American company with very little British input. Perhaps the Beeb’s new partnership with the Starz channel is somewhat like that of the Blair-Bush special relationship? I’m beginning to wonder: “Yo Davies – why’d you sell out?”

The reason for my frustration is that it’s exactly this Britishness that makes Doctor Who and it’s spin-off series so popular and entertaining to watch, and I can’t help but feel that Torchwood‘s Americanisation is a snub towards a British institution and us committed viewers that have tuned in from the show’s inception.

Couple this with the prudish censorship by the BBC of a steamy man-on-man sex scene in the third episode, and it just feels a little bit like the soul of the show has been altered somewhat this time round. ‘Welcome to Torchwood’ says Gwen, a soundbite that sadly could be interpreted as a statement of how things are going to be from now on, seeing as how Starz has a cheque book as big as Davies’ ego.

Speaking to OTB, the writer denied that this series was a reboot of the sci-fi show, but with the Welsh warrior Gwen representing the last remnants of Captain Jack’s association with the land of the red dragon, it seems that this is very much the case. This week’s episode sees the pair arrested by CIA agents Rex Matheson and Esther Drummond (portrayed by Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins respectively) and you don’t need a sonic screwdriver to work out that the American couple are undoubtedly the next Torchwood recruits.

But for the moment, it’s just Gwen and Jack sitting helpless in handcuffs on a plane to the States, as a conspiracy begins to unravel to kill off the Torchwood Institute for good. One of the CIA members is duly ordered to poison Captain Jack, who describes his worsening symptoms to those of his “boyfriend who took arsenic for better skin in 1800s” much to Rex Matheson’s bemusement. The situation is not made any better by an overtly gay steward determined to hide his sexuality despite prancing about and talking like the ghost of Freddie Mercury – a character that’s pure Davies.

Method of assassination established, Gwen takes charge of the situation, literally ripping the plane apart to find an antidote to Jack’s deteriorating condition. For a man used to the finest cocktails from across the universe (no pun intended), not even a spoon full of sugar can help the tasty blend of formaldehyde and cyanide go down well, and despite an immense amount of pain, you’ll be glad to know Captain Jack lives to see another day. Good job too, as there’s still eight episodes to go this season.

With the situation on the world becoming bleaker by the hour, Davies takes time to give us a history lesson, reminding us of the ancient Greek tale of Tithonus who famously asked Zeus for eternal life but forgot to ask for everlasting youth, with the once strong warrior ending up so old he begged for death.

But ageing is the least of people’s concerns at the moment, with a growing disease epidemic just around the corner due to Illnesses becoming resistant to drugs. There’s also a certain murdering paedophile on the loose, set to achieve messiah status on Earth after coming back from the brink of death. How he fits into the story is still a mystery- one that is certain to raise the suspicions of Captain Jack and Gwen.