Friday, January 25, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: Jack is back

Today's column previews season two of "Torchwood" -- which, based on the first two episodes, I consider a vast improvement on season one:
Captain Jack finally shows up for the second season of "Torchwood," and the show is much better for it.

In the most literal sense, Jack was present for the first season of "Torchwood," an "X-Files"-tinged spin-off of "Doctor Who" about a British government agency that deals with extraterrestrial sightings. But though Jack was still played by John Barrowman, he bore little resemblance to the character who had been on "Doctor Who" - a charming, supremely well-adjusted, omnisexual time traveler and all-around swell guy - and instead became a tortured, angsty bore.

Jack wouldn't be the first character to get an ill-advised spin-off makeover - see also the neutering of Addison Montgomery as she went from "Grey's Anatomy" fifth wheel to "Private Practice" heroine - nor will he be the last. But he may be one of the few who get to recover.
To read the full thing, click here. I'll try to do a brief post tomorrow night more specific to the premiere. Given the presence of James Marsters, I suspect people are gonna want to talk about it.

14 comments:

Dark Tyler said...

Thank God for James Marsters and his Captain Sp-- err, John.

Toby said...

I'm just back from seeing the first two episodes and I'm excited by the reboot. I'm especially impressed that they gave Ianto a sense of humor - hell, an entire personality at that!

It would be nice if they could get Moffat to write up an episode for 'Torchwood', but so long as Chris Chibnall can keep up the level of play as he did with the second season premiere, rather than falling back on the type of stuff he did in season one, there's hope yet!

JPM said...

Hey Alan -
Can new viewers jump right in? Not only did I miss season one, but I've never watched any Dr Who (the very mention of the name always brought back horrible memories of a first semester college roommate who was obsessed with the original version of the show).

Karen said...

I was just incredibly unimpressed with S1, which seemed to have a different set of characters with the same names each week (every character ends up betraying Torchwood at some point, but only Susie got canned in the first episode? Gwen and Owen hate, like, lust, lust some more, and then don't seem even to know each other anymore? ), and Captain Jack was a bore.

I kept watching, though, because I kept hearing how great the show was supposed to be: the most successful show ever on BBC-America (really??). And now you encourage me to watch it again, but it is definitely on notice.

Incidentally, "Thirsty now" is more of a Bad Willow line than a Buffy line ("Bored now"). And the description of the young woman who finds out she's a sleeper cell for an alien race, and doesn't always have control over her own actions, sounds just like Boomer on Battlestar Galactica.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Can new viewers jump right in?

I think so. They explain a decent amount of the concept and characters in the premiere. And, as Karen notes, the characters were so inconsistent in season one that it almost doesn't matter if you know the backstories. Just think of it as "X-Files" where every character wants to sleep with every other character, regardless of gender.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Incidentally, "Thirsty now" is more of a Bad Willow line than a Buffy line ("Bored now").

A good point, though I could hear Gellar in my head after Marsters said it. Either way, it's Whedonesque.

And the description of the young woman who finds out she's a sleeper cell for an alien race, and doesn't always have control over her own actions, sounds just like Boomer on Battlestar Galactica.

True, but it doesn't play out quite the same. I won't say more.

Dark Tyler said...

The good news is that Chibnall, Torchwood's showrunner, will be running Law & Order: London next year. Not that I particularly care about Torchwood, but one can guess that Chibnall would have been a contender for Davies' spot as Doctor Who's showrunner and, erm, let's just say I'm glad he's not in the running anymore.

Harriet said...

Thanks for the review! I've read a lot of good things about the new season. I hope you'll keep posting about Torchwood, as it's one of a dwindling number of shows I'll be watching.

TiVo Queen said...

OMG Torchwood is a SPINOFF? I feel so lame. I had no idea. This is what happens when one decides to watch shows in a vacuum.

Alan Sepinwall said...

OMG Torchwood is a SPINOFF? I feel so lame. I had no idea. This is what happens when one decides to watch shows in a vacuum.

Yup. For the most part, you can watch the show in a vacuum, but Torchwood season two doesn't really explain where Jack disappeared to at the end of season one, because it happened in a Doctor Who three-parter. Basically, all you need to know is that Jack got over the mopiness that overtook him last season.

Things may be harder to keep track of later in this season, when Martha Jones from "Doctor Who" comes over for a multi-episode arc.

jim treacher said...

Does Marsters use his British accent? If so, I wonder how that went over?

Anonymous said...

I love Capt. Jack in all forms, happy, mopey, whatever! Sooo glad this show is coming back.

My question is, though, when is it on??

Harriet said...

He does use a Spike-like accent in the clips I've seen. It's on Saturday at 9.

Anthony Foglia said...

I'm glad you reviewed it. I liked Jack on "Doctor Who" but I found "Torchwood" too juvenile. With your good review, I'll check it out.

Does anyone know how bad BBC America is hacking it up for commercials?