Torchwood has lost its charm

American money has rendered the series brash and soulless

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Hands up if you’ve been disappointed with Torchwood: Miracle Day.

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Join the club.

I suppose the alarm bells should have started ringing when we heard it would air in the States before we saw it here. Now, I don’t mind the production team selling Torchwood: Miracle Day’s premiere to the Yanks, really I don’t. But did they have to sell its heart and soul, too?

Part of Torchwood’s appeal was its British – predominantly Welsh – setting. Though they made the occasional token visit to Wales this time, the action was largely US-set.

To uproot the series from Cardiff and transplant it to various exotic-sounding locations probably seemed like a celebration of its increased American budget. But in actual fact, all the global gadding about amounted to one thing only: Torchwood losing its charm.

A poor collection of new central characters didn’t help matters, either. As if having to put up with Esther “always a blonde moment” Drummond wasn’t bad enough, we were clearly meant to find arrogant Rex Matheson appealing, too. What a miscalculation that was. Vera Juarez was the only likeable addition to the team and the writers killed her off in episode five.

Core cast you don’t care about? Don’t worry. Russell T Davies creates unforgettable secondary characters you take to your heart immediately…doesn’t he? Unfortunately, this time around, too many of them didn’t ring true, either.

The only decent flesh-and-blood character to burst onto the screen fully formed was John de Lancie’s Allen Shapiro. Smart, funny, obnoxious – but soft-hearted beneath the gruff exterior – I loved every scene he was in. What happened to him again? Oh, that’s right. The writers killed him, too.

And another thing: it’s Torchwood. We know something weird and/or alien is going to be involved. So why was there so much time wasting and scene setting? Why did we have to wait until episode eight to see any alien tech? Why did the story only truly start moving forward in episode seven?

Well, I think we all know why. It’s because the writers didn’t have enough material for ten episodes. So the story meandered along, making some occasionally intriguing detours along the way but generally just winding me up.

It felt like the opportunity to tell a good story was missed. It sank beneath a welter of pointless chases and aimless conversations designed to fill that overambitious running time.

When “the Blessing” was finally revealed, it was a huge anticlimax. A gaping hole running through the centre of the Earth, apparently leading into space, seemed like just a big ol’ metaphor for the writers’ brains by this point.

The series was undeniably slick – but no amount of gloss could paint over the fact that Torchwood had lost its heart. Esther’s American English translations were annoying and unnecessary, but cultural differences did lead to one telling exchange about lemonade:

ESTHER: It’s fizzy in the UK and flat in the US.
GWEN: Just about sums it up.

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Sadly, it just about sums up this series, too.