As far as opening episodes go Everything Changes is up there with the best of them. Like Rose before it, it takes an ordinary girl and places her in extraordinary situations.
In this case the ordinary girl is WPC Gwen Cooper. Gwen has a good job, her own home, a boyfriend and a life, but after seeing a corpse being bought back to life by a strange group of people headed by a guy with an American accent, nothing will ever be the same again.
I saw far more to enjoy from these opening episodes than I did in the entirety of series 2 of Doctor Who
So, begins the new adult RTD series with sci-fi trappings. This episode is very RTD, it is very British, it is dark, it is quite adult (well there is quite a bit of swearing on display but probably no more than usual for a drama series broadcast after 9pm. It certainly is no worse than any Paul Abbot series or even those interminable Hollyoaks spin offs they continue to produce), it is modern and it is funny, very funny in some cases.
I must admit I really enjoyed it and it wouldn’t be far from the truth if I said that I saw far more to enjoy from these opening episodes than I did in the entirety of series 2 of Doctor Who. Right, on that bombshell onto my review of the episode itself.
The title sequence was short and to the point wasn’t it? I found it quite refreshing that they didn’t feel the need to have a really long title sequence. I would have quite liked it Doctor Who had a title sequence like that one, after all Lost doesn’t really have much of a title sequence and neither does Spooks. Surely it gives you more time to tell the story if you don’t have a typical title sequence.
The theme music while not remarkable works well with the title sequence. I am not sure that it will be a theme that will stick in the mind but it works well here. The episode looks fantastic, the cinematography is gorgeous and it looks glossy and expensive.
There are some nice aerial shots of Cardiff on display here plus one great shot of Captain Jack looking all Angel like and brooding on top of a building while the camera swoops around him. The Angel similarities do not end there. In my opinion Torchwood is the Angel to Doctor Who’s Buffy. Angel has quite a lot of establishing shots of LA throughout the episodes and they are using the same trick here to make Cardiff look hip and trendy. I have never been to Cardiff before but I doubt they have ever made it look so inviting before.
The set for the Torchwood hub is great and is very TARDIS looking, it even has a central column! In this episode we meet all of the main players in Torchwood but only really Jack and Gwen are really afforded much in the way of character development in this episode at least and as the episode is told through the eyes of Gwen then that is only right and proper.
Eve Myles has plenty to get her teeth into (especially in the second episode!)
Eve Myles was fantastic as Gwen and really bought the character to life. Like Rose, Gwen is a fully rounded character and Eve Myles has plenty to get her teeth into (especially in the second episode!) here.
John Barrowman is great as Jack and shows us what we have been missing without him. He is slightly different in this episode, he is much darker and broody than he was before but is still as flirtatious as ever.
The other Torchwood crew members, Toshiko, Owen, Suzie and Ianto all make an appearance and even get the odd good line here there but I am sure there will be more to come from these characters.
Some stand out moments in the first episode are the bit when Gwen goes down to the hub and see’s the pterodactyl flying around the lair and all the others are like “don’t mind the pterodactyl”, like it is an annoying pet budgie and the line “who orders pizza under the name of Torchwood?” That made us just fall about laughing. Also the moment when Jack said that no equipment is allowed out of the hub without his express permission, only for the entire team to take stuff home with them. I thought Toshiko’s little gadget for scanning books was quite useful!
Gwen’s boyfriend, Rhys, was ok but, as with Mickey he is just a little bit too ordinary and boring for Gwen now, especially now she has come into contact with Jack and his team. That is very RTD and certainly reminded me of a certain character from the parent series.
Owen using that pheremone spray to pull a good looking women in a bar was quite funny (well how different is that from the Lynx ads we see nearly every day?), as it was when he used on himself again to extricate himself out of sticky situation with said woman’s boyfriend. Having said that he is an odd looking fellow, so perhaps he needs all the help he can get!
The plot twist involving Susie was a real shock, being as she has been in all the trailers and is on the Radio Times cover and is always being listed as a regular character. I certainly was expecting it at all. It is quite refreshing that they can do that, as that is not the sort of thing that would ever happen in Doctor Who, and that is pretty much from the lips of RTD himself.
So, is Jack now indestructible like Captain Scarlet? Well he can certainly survive being shot in the head at point blank range and he himself says he can’t be killed. It is certainly going to be interesting when Jack finally does meet up with the Doctor again, especially as he does seem to be a bit pissed of with him.
It was nice that they didn’t explain how Jack got back to Earth as they just would have totally alienated the general audience. You don’t really need to know yet how he got back, the fact is that he is back. Also you have to hold something back for later on don’t you?
I must admit that, apart from the swearing and the blood, this probably wasn’t any more adult than an episode of Buffy, but having said that Buffy wasn’t ever meant for a family audience in the first place, despite what BBC 2 might think. I wouldn’t let a child watch it as it is not suitable for then but I would say it is the sort of thing a 15 or 16 year old could watch perfectly comfortably. I mean I watched worse than this at that age!
There were a few Doctor Who references in this episode, which was nice for the fans in the audience, but it is good that you do not have had to have watched Doctor Who to enjoy the episode and the show certainly has an identity of its own even this early in its run. I am pretty sure it would do well enough on its own without having to resort to mentioning that it is a Who spin-off at every turn.
Perhaps it does seem a bit odd to have an adult spin-off of a programme that is aimed primarily at a younger audience, but it seems to work and I am really looking forward to the next twelve episodes. This the kind of show I have been wanting for years!
This was originally posted to Behind The Sofa Voume One on Oct 26, 2006