With the National Television Awards quietly inching closer, I’ll be taking a look at the battle between the timeless Doctor Who and Russell T Davies’ US Torchwood juggernaut. This battle is one that I’m expecting Doctor Who to win.
Yes, there are other categories, and yes, there are even other entrants into the categories below. But having watched both shows in their entirety this year, I’m going to offer some thoughts…
Okay, so it’s a no-contest here. Sadly Torchwood didn’t make it into the final nominee list. That doesn’t mean I can’t offer my thoughts, though…
The concept was great. Great sci-fi dares to ask “what if?” and Miracle Day put a massive tick in this box. With Captain Jack and Gwen back on the screens, it was nice to see the emergence of a new cohort of Torchwood staff emerging. It was even better to see different longevity given to these new team members – THAT incineration scene was proof enough that no one was safe.
Once the storyline about the three families and The Blessing took off, it was every bit as gripping as I’d have expected. Until the final reveal, the nature of The Blessing was wonderfully baffling, and kept us all second-guessing. Up until then, we’d been led in several directions, which meant that when the storyline kicked in it focussed our attention and threw on the blinkers.
That said, the series did suffer from a few drawbacks. With RTD still courting the American public, we saw the winning formula from Children Of Earth fleshed out to fit a longer bill. The result was a little clumsy – it felt like we were treading waters while waiting for the Americans to catch up and it was easy to tune out. Had the show been in a five-episode format, and perhaps a little less ambitious with storylines, sets and characters, we’d have seen a series that was more than capable of surpassing its predecessors.
Another minor quibble I have is the happily ever after ending. Okay, so Esther didn’t make it, but the last two series of Torchwood saw the team’s core brutally ripped out. For RTD to keep Jack alive, and then to throw a Jack 2.0 at us was surprising, but sadly underwhelming.
Doctor Who, on the other hand, had already been through the process of reinventing itself. It came back in style, with a humdinger of a storyline to open the series that also saw us introduced to The Silence – arguably one of the show’s finest villains.
As promised, the sunshine Daleks took a sabbatical, and the series took a turn for the darker as it progressed. Night Terrors and God Complex were chilling standalone episodes, both of which will have had a hand in the next showdown…
The split in the middle allowed Steven Moffat to bring in two story arcs– The Doctor’s death and Amy’s baby. While the latter was seen to and polished off by episode seven, the series was by no means done. The themes were strategically built up and broken down throughout the 13-episode run before Moffat obliged with his predictably impossible ending, which marked the end of one of the brand’s strongest and most progressive seasons.
Drama Performance: Female
Who would win in a fight between Amy and Gwen? This may be the closest we’ll come to finding out. In terms of their on-screen presence and development I think Pond may have the upper hand.
Let’s face it, the last season saw her deal with more than Jeremy Kyle would dare to dream about. She harboured secrets, got abducted, had a child, lived a life of solitude and plenty more. In series five, she was faced with the choice between her beloved and The Doctor – something we’ve all seen time and again. This time round though, Steven Moffat’s dared to move the character above and beyond. She’s become the Queen Bee in the TARDIS. She’s domineering and sharp-tongued, and she’s now so much more than a companion should be. When Karen Gillan steps off-screen for the last time, it really will be a dark day for Doctor Who.
Gwen, on the other hand , is largely the same as she’s always been – loud, brash and unmistakably Welsh. Only now she’s maternal, too, which exacerbates things somewhat.
In terms of strength, Miracle Day treated us to a prefect storm around Gwen’s home life, which saw Eve Myles develop a stout, if visibly lonely determination. With a yummy-mummy makeover (thanks, I presume, to Starz), Gwen became the ultimate mothering machine – a role she seemed to enjoy practicing on the Cap’n. And yes, the motorbike scene may a been a little over-reaching.
Still, there can only be one winner, and this time I think it’s going to lay in Scottish hands.
Drama performance: Male
So, this is it. The heroes do battle. It’s all very Marvel/DC, isn’t it? Once again, Doctor Who seems likely to come out on top.
In his first outing as The Doctor, Matt Smith battled with both his age and his predecessor. By the end of the series he’d become the Doctor we all needed. And he’s done himself plenty of favours in series six.
Faced with his mortality and his morality, Smith balances his wide-eyed and childlike charms with the charisma and intelligence more commonly associated with The Doctor. We see the best and the worst of the Doctor in series six, and Smith’s brilliantly controlled bipolarity has primed us for the all-important question from the season’s end – Doctor Who?
Captain Jack, however, was drowned out a little in Miracle Day. It was still his show, but he was sharing the stage with a lot of storylines, explanations and co-stars. It was perhaps a bit easy to explain away the story as something from Jack’s past (let’s face it – these things normally are), but this isn’t Barrowman’s fault. To his credit, he took his time and delivered when he needed to.
Again, mortality was the dish of the day for our hero Jack. John Barrowman’s performance embodied the Torchwood series – thick-skinned and strong-boned, but not without fear. The fact that I wish Jack had been killed off is no reflection on Barrowman, who has once again asserted himself as an unexpected action icon.
So, it’s a clean sweep for Doctor Who by my reckoning. Whether or not the NTA voters agree is another matter. I’m just glad I was able to spend a summer with both of these national treasures on my screen – Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat can both be proud of their endeavours.