TO MARK the end of 2009, I will be looking back at some of the science fiction wins and fails of the past 12 months and given that sci-fi has become the go-to genre, there’s no shortage of shows, films and books to choose from.
Today’s win is Torchwood: Children of Earth and the fail is Flash Forward.
WHEN it was announced that Torchwood was slimming down from 13 episodes to five in 2009, my first reaction was to be relieved.
As a 13-episode series, the show had struggled to discover just what it was supposed to be. Although it had improved from series one to two, it was still wildly uneven and seemingly uneasy with being an adult version of Doctor Who.
Too many times, adult just meant saying the occasional swearword and talking about sex, while their actions hardly supported their supposed reputation as an elite team using future technology to save the world.
In CoE with Russell T Davies calling the shots and the shorter, event TV format, that uncertainty disappeared and Torchwood finally found its feet.
Davies relished the greater freedom in his writing and used it to shatter Torchwood and the show’s lead character, Captain Jack Harkness, who saved the world but at a terrible cost with the death of his lover and being forced to kill his grandson to defeat the 456.
John Barrowman was spot on, as was the rest of the cast, especially Peter Capaldi as civil servant Frobisher, who perfectly portrayed a grey man who finally realised what his i dotting and t crossing would lead to in the real world.
When I reviewed CoE, I said it achieved a terrible perfection – that still stands and I haven’t been able to watch it again because of that.
I’m also looking forward to the next series, as long as RTD can maintain the level of creative control he did here.
However, he is facing a massive challenge to live up to CoE, which was about as good as it gets in TV science fiction.
BY contrast, this was about as lame as TV science fiction gets – a great premise wasted by a determination to be as obtuse as possible and characters that were drawn up on a pair of underpants.
As with all new series launches nowadays, it arrived amid a blizzard of hype with show’s creators saying they had planned out a three season arc to explain why everyone in the world fell unconscious for two minutes 17 seconds.
If we all had to watch this, falling unconsciousness would be a regular occurance as Flash Forward was so boring.
Coming from the same studio as Lost – which I stuck with until it disappeared up its own backside – it shares many of the same blind alleys as the crack team of investigators (they get the job because one of them flashed they would!) try to find out what is going on, as do the rest of the unweildy ensemble cast.
I’d suggest asking the scriptwriters, but I’m not sure they know either.
It saddens me to say it, but Flash Forward was a let down along with several other sci-fi shows this year. While one show being garbage in itself is neither here nor there, the more sci-fi shows that don’t live up to their promise, the harder it is for new ones to be made and make their mark.