Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Your Favourite Show Sucks

with 5 comments

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.

Written by Martin

12 July 2009 at 15:30

Posted in sf, television

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

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  1. Dr Who and Torchwood are life-changingly bad.

    I caught a bit of a rerun today and it featured a cat-faced nun climbing a ladder while a pink light shuffled between different bodies until a man used a magical screwdriver in order to open a door.

    I’m not sure I want to be in the same room as an SF novel after watching that.

    Jonathan M

    12 July 2009 at 16:51

  2. Bet you’ll be looking forward to my defence of Children of Earth tomorrow, then. [g]


    12 July 2009 at 17:42

  3. Alas that post requires more knowledge about Who and Torchwood than I have or want.


    13 July 2009 at 12:58

  4. One word: Quartermass.

    Martin Wisse

    22 July 2009 at 20:33

  5. […] As I mentioned over there, this picking up on an interview I conducted with him in 2007 and it has in turn sparked a long and interesting comments thread on Torque Control. I agree with Morgan pretty much wholeheartedly, right down to the frack/fuck issue, and it has always been a sore point for me that most SF TV is so poor. […]

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