Monday, 23 March 2009

There's only one way to find out - fight!

Comparison between two TV series, both appearing in the wake of Dr. Who - one a spin-off, the other created by a competing channel.

Primeval: a bunch of misfits headed by Prof. Cutter (Douglas Henshall) investigate and fight prehistoric monsters that start travelling to and from the present day through mysterious "anomalies" (tears in the space-time continuum).

Torchwood: a bunch of misfits headed by Captain Jack (John Barrowman) investigate and fight aliens that start travelling to Cardiff from other planets and dimensions through a mysterious "rift" (guess...)

Primeval's monsters are real (with a few exceptions, one of which turns out to be from the future - fair enough) and the CGI is spot-on - this is from the studio that brought you Walking With Dinosaurs. The joy of the series, if I'm honest, is seeing a bunch of misfit actors hamming it up in episode one, but coming together as a team and producing some credible and compelling dramatic moments by the end of series one. This is not a drama that takes itself too seriously but there is a clear improvement in the quality of the show over time although it will always be a melodrama. There are flaws - particularly a variant of Jar Jar Binks in the form of an intelligent, flying and highly implausible dinosaur no doubt included for marketing purposes.

Torchwood's monsters are new, or occasionally borrowed from Dr. Who. The conceit is that this is an "adult" version of Dr. Who. Some might say that Dr. Who is already adult - it's both violent and responsible in it's attitude to violence and filming of violence; quite deep themes around love and relationships turn up from time to time; it's still dead scary and I'm now in my 30s! Sadly adult here means adolescent of course (lesbian aliens! a man in love with a cyberwoman!...) Some episodes are well-written and original but I also recognized plots borrowed from Men In Black and Species - worryingly in the first two episodes.

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