Torchwood: Pro-American TV From The BBC
I think I’ve found the most pro-American show on television. True to form, its not produced in Hollywood.
Growing up, I was obsessed with “Dr. Who.” In the seventh grade I wore a Tom Baker style scarf to school every day (Baker and Davidson are my favorite “Doctors,” if you understand what that means, feel free to have it at in the comments). I thoroughly enjoy the “reboot” that currently airs on the SyFy channel and recently stumbled across its spin-off “Torchwood.”
“Torchwood” is an odd blend of “CSI,” “The X-Files,” and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” It follows the adventures of Torchwood, an above-top-secret agency that monitors alien activity on earth. Their headquarters in Cardiff is above a “rift,” a sort of rip in time and space that lets creatures from other planets and dimensions, as well as other time periods, in and out of our world.
On the surface, the show is very British. The slang, inside jokes, and references are undoubtedly more entertaining to the BBC audience than to the U.S. Syfy Channel audience. There are even references to Welsh characters dreading crossing over into England. That’s how inside it is. Clearly, its not made for us.
The show has numerous interracial, homosexual, and intergalactic romantic relationships (yes, people having sex with E.T.s). The world of “Torchwood” is incredibly diverse, but the series never calls attention to this fact. There are no episodes where the Asian character laments how people don’t understand her culture, or where black characters complain about discrimination and band together to outsmart “The Man.” Race and gender are portrayed in a clearly neutral fashion, true to the American “melting pot” concept and not the divisive “multiculturalism” that sits like a cancer on our society. Everyone is human (unless it’s an alien) and everyone is very, very British.
Everyone is British, save one. The enigmatic Captain Jack Harkness, an extra-terrestrial time traveler with an American accent. He’s the leader of the Torchwood team, and episode after episode he makes the tough decisions, does the ruthless things, and acts in the greater good for the other characters and mankind as a whole. He does all this despite the hemming and hawing coupled with emotional weakness of his European cohorts. Episode after episode the other characters scream and cry and allow their human frailty to jeopardize the planet. Episode after episode Jack Harkness does the dirty work, exposing his wisdom and strength to his associates who ultimately accept and thank him for his decisions. Jack does gain some insight and knowledge from his co-workers’ empathy, but it only serves to make him stronger, never detracting from the mission at hand.
It can’t be a mistake that Harkness is an American, he is the only person on the show who is. In a not so subtle way the shows creators are admitting what a lot of us already suspect; that despite their complaints, objections, and dislike for America and its policies, Europe ultimately needs us. Furthermore, Europe needs the “cowboy” American, and not some mirror image of itself.
John Barrowman plays the omnisexual Harkness with a boyish glee. He displays a love and aptitude for violence. He shoots first and asks questions later. He knows that terrorists, even alien ones, should never be negotiated with or trusted. At times, his brash refusal to display empathy or appease hostile forces leads to personal catastrophes and losses, but at the end of the day, he is right. Evil is defeated.
The show also features one of the strongest, best female characters I have ever seen. Eve Myles plays Gwen Cooper, a former police officer turned Torchwood operative who deftly manages to balance her personal life and relationship while saving the world. She is tough, sensitive, smart, and witty. Despite being the newest addition to the team, she naturally slides into a leadership position when Harkness is out of the picture. Oh, and in season three, she’s an action hero who happens to be pregnant. Sarah Palin would be proud.
The show’s creator Russell T. Davies (the man who is also behind the new “Dr. Who”) may be, along with Joss Whedon, my personal favorite show runners working in the industry today. Both of them chose writers who portray the world not as it always is, but in a romantic way, the way it should be. Their subtle and not so subtle Libertarian political view points are a breath of fresh air when compared to the liberal schlock that dominates most of our industry, especially in hour-long dramas.
“Torchwood” season one and two are available on DVD. Season three’s mini-series “Children of Earth” airs on BBC America starting July 20th.
There are errors in this review (ie Jack's real background; the Boeshane Peninsula, the misspelling of Davison's name, failure to understand the Welsh culture), but the gist of is pretty thought provoking! I'm glad this review of the show is even handed, because I was afraid the Right was going to trash it due to the violence and homosexuality. At least they figured out that Children of Earth shows Big Government at it's worst and has some pro-life themes as well.
For a while now, I thought Jack displayed Neocon tendencies. I'm glad this reviewer thought the same thing. I also squeed at the Gwen-Sarah Palin comparison of course!
ETA: I didn't see the need to apply an American interpretation to the show, but apparently it's needed for many to get the drift. Also too, many of the issues AREN'T in black and white, a point the reviewer missed.
ETA 2: The more I read your comments, the more I question the author's argment. Again my attempts to reconcile my politics with my fandoms failed!
ETA 3: Congrats ONTD_P, you have convinced me that this review is EPIC FAIL!