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Published on June 17th, 2014 | by Christian Cawley

The Wrongness of Torchwood & Recolourising Doctor Who

Kasterborous Doctor Who podKastThe podKast is back this week with a spinoff of our hugely popular on-site discussion – thanks to Andy Frankham-Allen – about the inherent issues with Torchwood, the Doctor Who spinoff that ran from 2006-2011.

Following this we take a look at the issue of colourisation, and whether it should be used on any classic Doctor Who serials (or indeed whether any of them should be decolourised!).

Join Christian Cawley, James McLean and Brian Terranova for (just over) an hour of Whoniverse chat and occasional madness, and listen out for our selection of recommendations this week, which range from Doctor Who to a Beatles/Led Zeppelin mashup with a lot in between…

Kasterborous PodKast Series 4 Episode 19 Shownotes

This week’s recommendations:

The Kasterborous PodKast theme tune is arranged by Russell Hugo. In case you were wondering.

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About the Author

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+.




11 Responses to The Wrongness of Torchwood & Recolourising Doctor Who

  1. Pantz says:

    When they announced they were doing a Captain Jack spin off from Doctor Who, I remember expecting a sort of Red Dwarf type of show. They could have had Jack in his ship that talks (a bit like Holly, hey?) and along the way he could have recruited a few people to join him. Maybe he could have been a bounty hunter or did odd jobs for that time travel agency. I think something like this would have been much more fun and enjoyable. For the record, I’ve only seen the first three episodes of Torchwood and that was all I could stand.

  2. mrpurry says:

    A few years ago, I was helping to edit some videos (simultaneously being taught editing) by a lady who knew her stuff, but didn’t know the newer computer editing systems. I was demonstrating the contrast, and hue control to her, and one of her friends (a quite famous director here in New Zealand) randomly came into the suite said hello, noticed what I was doing and said that if ever you wanted to add extra drama, and seriousness to film, going to black and white was a good and easy way to do it.

    As always, I’d never quite worked out why Torchwood didn’t quite work for me, until your discussion made me re-assess matters in this light- I think you guys hit the nail on the head- the characters were great, the writing was ok, and the execution was often without fault. It was the core of the show! I just knew it didn’t quite jibe with me.

    The Zone 4 “Invasion of the dinosaurs” DVD comes with both the colourised and the black and white versions of episode 1. I think series 7 probably looked great, as they’d had LOTS of practise in production/ sets/ makeup in B/W.


  3. Great PodKast, guys. Although I would like to point out that this whole notion that the Torchwood team put out a sanitised version of series one is not entirely accurate in the context James says. The sanitised version came as a direct response to the complaints about series one; it wasn’t something that was planned, but came along several episodes in after the feedback and interest from the younger audience came in.

    But good Kast. And some good point raised. :)

    • James Mclean says:

      Very good point, now you say it, memories are beginning to stir. Whether or not that affected the tone of the rest compared to the first episode, no idea. It is a point that has me wondering what RTD was thinking about with the HUB and Torchomobile. They were so childish and wonderful merchandise opportunities. In an odd way, and I have zero evidence to back this up, whether RTD either expected it to gain kids interest or felt it would encourage kid’s interest and force the channel into a wider market. It just seems so bizarre to have such kiddie elements to a late teen show (let alone an adult one) without thinking about the kid-factor. That being said, I have no evidence to support that theory. Perhaps RTD just thought it would be really cool. Even Buffy maintained serious “base” settings throughout the show. For a show aimed at young adults, it was very comic-book. Very odd indeed.


      • Ah, but Buffy was essentially a live-action comic for young adults. Joss has said that on many occasions. But Buffy has never been marketed in any way for a ‘family audience’, which I feel Torchwood has been; with comics, merchandise, magazine, the constant tie-ins with Doctor Who. I fail to understand what RTD was hoping to achieve…


        • That was me posting. :)

          • James Mclean says:

            Yes but remember the merchandise rolled on the back of the sanitised version.

            What I do find interesting is there is always a concern about sexual content of sci-fi – not just Doctor Who/Torchwood, but generally, and the same with violence, all in content to children, yet Eastenders is on way before watershed and its filled with sexuality, adultery, violence, and whole families watch it. You don’t see much commentary on the very real adult themes in soaps as you do in science fiction. There wasn’t really anything in Torchwood’s uncut version that wasn’t the stuff a kid would see in Eastenders for adult themes or Doctor Who for monster ones.

            I suspect RTD saw an opportunity to try and cater for Doctor Who’s older audience and ended up with BBC Three which had a focal group of young adults. The show was thereby crafted to make young adults the primary group. But ultimately he was doing a show for adults as SJA would eventually be done for kids. No one complains how SJA dilutes DW for adults with its silly format (bar Brian). I think being quite a liberal man he just figured that it would be on late and parents were responsible for what their kids watched. I suspect changes were made to the format when it became clear that the BBC wanted to sure the wider target audience got catered for and the swearing vanished.

            Either way, I don’t think children were a problem with Torchwood, the problem was, as with most adult fears for kids, to do with adults putting adult brains on children. To children, TW would be as scary or as explicit as Doctor Who or watching Eastenders. The heavy adult themes fly over their heads.

            Torchwood’s wrongness was its ingredients just didn’t work. The Hub made the group feel contextually silly, taking away from the show’s gravitas, the sexuality in the show felt predictable and with characters that weren’t charming there was little audience investment in whatever they did or whoever they did. The interaction of the main team felt cold and unwelcoming. I didn’t want to spend time hanging out with Torchwood, but Buffy’s crew seemed cool. By the end of Series One of Torchwood, the whole crew had caused more problems for Cardiff than they solved, so really, for me, Torchwood’s wrongness comes from the ingredients rather than who it marketed to. If the cast had gelled, the stories had found confidence, and the settings carried more realism and structure, I think TW series 1 and 2 wouldn’t have the contempt it has today.

            I think Children of Earth is an example of how TW should have been made, where it’s very divorced from Doctor Who, very adult and put on a channel where the target audience is adults rather than young adults. I think the legacy would have been stronger and if kids got to see it, well, kids do that with everything. Doctor Who belongs to adults as well as kids, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be allowed to expand because of lack of parenting or the persistence of children who will always find something they shouldn’t watch, to watch. :)

  4. verblet says:

    Wait… ‘Shrinking TARDISes’? Is that the spoiler you deliberately avoiding printing in the article you link to, or something else? If so, why hide the spoiler there and repeat it here?

  5. MBH says:

    I was surprised to hear Brian Terranova, in his prudish American way, describe Torchwood as ‘triple-X’ and ‘soft-core porn’ without a murmur of dissent from the others. Unless he saw a completely different version to the one I saw, these labels don’t fit at all. Adult themes do not make something pornographic. (No wonder he doesn’t like the marvellous Game of Thrones.)

    By the way, I nearly turned off (again) when Christian mentioned ‘missing episodes’ – except that you went on to talk about colourisation. I’ve been compiling a list of the dullest things in the world and here are the results:

    1) Missing episodes.

    2) Er . . . that’s it.

    • James Mclean says:

      I don’t personally see Torchwood as softcore, but I could see his point – early Torchwood was very much about adult themes, particularly sexual ones, which I think was his point in general. Softcore might be a little unfair, at least in my experience of softcore (my butler may or may not be a fluffer).

      I’m surprised missing episodes bore people given there’s such tangible chances of more stories going out here. I genuinely think it would be shortsighted to label this as fan ‘wishful thinking’, as I’ve said on the podkast before, I’m happy with our lot – audio for me is a far more magical experience and I can’t help feeling visual will never live up to expectation, but there’s a lot of smoke out there right now from all sorts of different credible sources which suggests there may indeed be fire worth warming hands to. I think given missing episodes are historically big as much as a massive prospect for the show, keeping a close eye on events is news-worthy, but yes at the same time, it’s always nice to find other topics!

  6. MBH says:

    Thanks, James. I’m afraid I didn’t see his point at all, which is why I got annoyed (as you could probably tell). The trouble with Torchwood was that it wanted to address adult themes, but just came across as juvenile. And filled with generally unpleasant people. (Mostly changed with Children of Earth.)

    The missing episodes talk bores me because I dont see why, if the BBC or some other organisation, has these episodes, they haven’t issued a statement saying, ‘We have episodes X, Y and most of Z. They’re in pretty poor condition, as they’ve been kept in a broom cupboard above the boiler in [insert city here] and we’re restoring them. X will be released next spring.’ There’s been no such statement, so therefore there are no missing episodes.

    And to be honest – and I’m old enough to have watched Doctor Who since the start – I’m not really bothered. I watched the caveman episodes when they were shown on BBC4 last year, and they were truly terrible. There’s much better, modern TV around than creaky, dull, ancient Doctor Who. Sorry. I like the show, but not that much.

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