The man with the supposed Midas touch might just have tarnished his reputation.

Russell T Davies, television’s brightest behind-the-scenes star for the last few years, has scored pretty much instant hits with each of his projects.

Queer As Folk for Channel 4, Casanova and Doctor Who on BBC, are all examples of series which have hit the ground running, demanded your undivided attention straight away and kept you hooked through to the end.

Much the same was expected of Torchwood, which debuted on BBC3 last night and comes to BBC2 on Wednesday, not least because it is a Doctor Who spin-off.

It was even billed as a “Doctor Who for adults” in the run-up to the series opener. All the right ingredients seemed to be in place – the same writing and production team, John Barrowman reprising his memorable role as Captain Jack Harkness from the first Russell T series of Doctor Who, plus relatively new faces like Eve Myles taking on a Billy Piper-esque feisty sidekick role. It was also refreshing to know that this time around Cardiff would be playing itself, rather than the Welsh capital pretending to be London as witnessed in Doctor Who.

Great expectations, then, but did the series match the build up?

I should perhaps whisper this as I’ll be criticising a fast emerging institution like Russell T, but I believe the man who can do no wrong may have missed a trick.

Torchwood certainly had the adult themes, there were aliens, rips and tears in time and space and all the other glorious hokum we have come to expect from the excellent new guise of Doctor Who. But it lacked the wit, imagination and frankly the oomph of Doctor Who.

It would not even be fair to describe Torchwood as a pale imitation. It simple failed to hit the right mark.

We were treated to a double header to begin with, a wise decision given that episode one consisted of so much necessary scene-setting and character background. However, the warning signs were there from the opening scenes. The fast pace of Doctor Who was largely absent, so was the rapid fire dialogue and element of suspense. Most worryingly, Captain Jack was a shadow of the sort of thigh-slapping, rip roaring, boy’s own hero who made such a mark in Doctor Who.

I hoped episode two, freed from the shackles of scene setting, would move forward much more vigorously. But once again it appeared ponderous, there was a lack of chemistry between the principal protagonists and it was proving a struggle to have any empathy with any of the main characters, let alone start rooting for the good guys as invariably happens with Doctor Who and Casanova before that.

There was also an overall lack of the style and sophistication that we have become accustomed to with projects involving Russell T Davies. The “adult” content of Torchwood veered wildly into the gratuitous at times – the language, sex and gore all appeared to be slapped on thickly with a spade rather than with subtlety or finesse. At times the adult elements also came across as distinctly low budget and juvenile – such as the laughably “gruesome” exploding neck of the hapless porter murdered by an alien in episode one and the outbreak of schoolboy swearing by a jilted boyfriend. It all smacked of writing and direction trying too hard not to be child-friendly. It all grated, a criticism you simply could not make about Russell T’s other projects.

Perhaps the weight of expectation has proved too much this time around? Or maybe, as appeared the case, they simply did not devote as much or enough time, care and attention to detail with Torchwood.

Whatever the reasons and reasoning, first impressions were not great. In fact, they have left me wondering whether I should bother to tune into episode three in the vain hope of a return to form.

Generally speaking, aside from the odd nugget, there is precious little quality drama or entertainment to be found on TV these days. That is why series like Casanova and especially Doctor Who were such a breath of fresh air.

That is also why I was so looking forward to Torchwood and why I probably feel so disappointed and let down.

Comments are closed.