Archive for July 12th, 2009
Patrick West watches Torchwood and asks why are the British incapable of making decent television science fiction? There are two main problems with this:
a) Holding Torchwood up as an exemplar in this way is like scrapping up a plateful of sick from the pavement outside Leicester Square tube and presenting it as proof the British can’t cook.
b) No one is capable of making decent television science fiction (at least on the available evidence).
Torchwood is a programme for people who found Doctor Who – a programme for under tens – too sophisticated. As it happens, I accidently saw the fifth and final episode of Torchwood – Children Of Earth on Friday. Like 24 its main aim was to wring cheap drama out of tawdry manipulation of the audience, although here Jack Bauer having to torture a terrorist to prevent a nuclear bomb going off is replaced by Captain Jack having to shoot a puppy to save the world. Sort of. West’s point is pretty similar: Torchwood is utter toss. Where he slips up is in his comparison to US television:
But whereas the US has given us Flash Gordon, The Twilight Zone, many incarnations of Star Trek, The X-Files, Quantum Leap, Futurama and, more recently, a re-vamped Battlestar Galactica, Britain’s principal contribution to the field can be summed up in two words: Dr Who.
It is notable that none of those US shows are currently on the air but it is also debatable how many of them were actually any good. Battlestar Galactica which has garnered more column inches and mis-directed praise than any SF show in recent memory (except perhaps Dr Who) was The West Wing in space but re-written for the politically illiterate and morally confused. I gave up on after the first season and, by all accounts, goes into Total Bollocks Overdrive thereafter. Futurama is, of course, great but it is strange he includes it when he dismissed The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy as being “sci-fi parody” that “inadvertently betrayed our timidity when it came to taking this genre seriously”. Quantum Leap? Seriously? It is true that American serial dramas are usually superior to British ones but this probably has something to do with the fact Britain doesn’t actually make any serial dramas. Even in America though, no SF approaches the truly great television of the last couple of years: The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire and so. Hell, it doesn’t even approach the level of second string shows like The Shield or ER.