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Published on February 3rd, 2008 | by Christian Cawley

Torchwood: Sleeper Reviewed

Finally Torchwood gives us “Adult Doctor Who Spinoff” and not “mindless sexual drivel for metrosexual teenagers”.

Sure, Sleeper featured the trademark wobbly camerawork and those awful “realistic” zooms zooms (cause we can all zoom with our eyes, eh…?) and these were low points.

But this was a script that was actually sci fi, featuring existential angst from the main supporting actor, an actual alien invasion and while it wasn’t executed that much better than Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, at least it was watchable thanks to the performances and a half intelligent script.

However the question of the butler and his bizarrely macabre – and gay – personality change seems to be gathering momentum. I’m not sure whether I enjoyed Blanco Jones’ occasional contributions or not; they made my better half laugh, but that’s not always a good sign. She doesn’t usually get jokes.

So while Sleeper danced on the graves of Terminator and the remade BattleStar Galactica, it at least stole from some very well-respected sources. And it was firmly rooted in the Doctor Who universe too – how often to bullets fail against alien organisms for UNIT? Enough times to not use them, I would have thought.

But no, the soldiers here are flicking peas at the supermarket manager cyborg as he descends upon an unlikely stash of nukes in the Welsh valleys… and yet getting to this stage made perfect sense.

Poor Beth defended herself and her partner by slaughtering a couple of burglars – yet she had no idea that she had committed such carnage. In a way, she hadn’t.

Providing Torchwood with a bit of a mystery gives Ianto – possibly the dullest Welshman in the world, and certainly in Torchwood (and he has good competition from Gwen’s fiancé – yes they’re getting wedded, boyo) – the chance to make some very poor jokes. Of course, these are courtesy of James Moran, a man for whom life must go by daily without looking in a mirror. He must have a huge insurance policy against breakages. And no, I’m no oil painting either, but come on! Smarten yourself up man!

I’d love to see the notes from Chibbers on the original script of Sleeper; for I believe that at one point this was half decent. Somehow though, a very good idea got mired in some awful direction and dodgy dialogue, and you know as this season goes on Ianto just seems to be completely and utterly superfluous.

There’s loads to say about Sleeper that is positive, and if you’re popping in for some light relief then its good entertainment and a damned site better than anything else on a weeknight on terrestrial television. Except that Gene Hunt is back soon, and Torchwood is going to be running the night before Life on Mars’ sequel Ashes to Ashes.

And I feel that this is the real threat faced by Torchwood. Not aliens, not “this is when it all changes”, but really good television of the kind that Davies’ baby with Chibnall really wants to be, but just isn’t. There’s more than a hint of deadwood to Torchwood, and if it’s going to last the 5-odd years that Barrowman is praying for then we need to see the team seriously stripped down.

And that “every episode I get snogged” clause removed from John Barrowman’s contract.

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About the Author

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A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.



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