TV Hoedown–SciFi delights

It’s been an interesting time recently for Sci-Fi TV fans.

Most notably, the long wait for the next instalment of Russell T. Davies’s Torchwood was trumpeted by a week-long story arch.  The fireworks began early when star John Barrowman took a swipe at the powers that be in their decision to only make five episodes this season.  Davies defended the decision, saying that it was artistic and for the good of the series and other things to make it sound like he and his star were really on the same page when they in fact were not.

But Barrowman had an excellent point.  After all, this is the year that Doctor Who was put on hiatus, with only a few specials sprinkled throughout the year.  Surely, someone at the BBC would have thought “Hum, fans of Doctor Who may want something to fill the absence, so let’s give them more Torchwood episodes.”  It isn’t too much of a leap; one series is limited in its broadcast presence, so make the other one readily available.

But no.  We get four Doctor Who specials (or is it three, I’m still not sure about the mathematics) and a week-long Torchwood fest for the year.  That’s it.  That seems a bit on the shallow side.

But complaints aside, I actually rather liked Torchwood: Children of Earth.  It wasn’t perfect, but it really did have some perfect moments.  Like the best of science fiction, it took modern problems (ethnic cleansing, drug addiction, school exam results and questions about the importance of one individual) and gave it a fantastic spin.  There were some moments of sheer brilliance that I rather enjoyed, including a very frightening conversation at 10 Downing Street that rang truer than most recent political dramas.

But it wasn’t all great.  Davies has a nasty habit of creating great set-ups, conflicts and cliffhangers only to drop the ball on resolutions.  And though the final episode had a rather brave moral dilemma for Jack, the supposed great battle with Gwen felt rather tedious.  If she were to have led some major ground assault or something, I would perhaps have cared a little more.  But a dozen council estate kids hiding in an abandoned building while half a dozen irate fathers wrestle fully armed military men is not my idea of an explosive finale.

Much better fare is hidden away on the SciFi channel on Tuesdays.  Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse started off with an interesting premise but was really nothing more than a geek’s idea of a wet dream brought to life.  In its past three episodes, it has since fully kicked into gear, taking a cue from Dark City, one of the great films of the nineties, and has now spun a story on par with The Manchurian Candidate, perhaps the greatest conspiracy film of all time.  Dollhouse has not only become compelling but is now the best thing on TV.  Josh Whedon-how could I have doubted you?

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