In my extremely delayed misspent adolescence, I went clubbing quite a lot. I love the more euphoric end of the dance music spectrum and, though I was rather late to the party, Dreamcast classic Rez (now on Xbox Live Arcade) looked like it would be right up my street. Rez, for those who’ve never played it, is a trippy rail shooter with a techno soundtrack.
The only trouble was, I AM UNSPEAKABLY RUBBISH at twitch games. I am so rubbish that I couldn’t actually get past the first level of Rez to hear the rest of the bangin’ tunes. Let me give you an idea of just how bad at twitch games I am. When I was playing Half Life 2, I got so stuck I looked up the cheat codes to give myself unlimited health and ammo and I STILL COULDN’T FINISH THE GAME.
So my hopes of givin’ it up to the Rez DJ seemed doomed, until sometime PK contributor David told me how to do it. He said I had to stop trying: I needed to surrender to the game. He was completely right. Once I stopped futilely trying to get my cramped fingers to hit the buttons at the right time and just kind of floated along with the music. I actually managed to complete the first level, and was soon havin' it with levels one through five. Sorted!
Coincidentally, it was a few months before this that I’d given up on watching Torchwood. I know exactly when it happened: when Jack sprayed barbecue sauce on the Cyberlady to try to get the pterodactyl to eat her. But David’s advice showed me how to have another go at enjoying the show. I needed to surrender to it! It was no good trying to mentally edit each episode into a competent Doctor Who script. I had to cherish Torchwood for what it was: a reincarnation of the seventies Tomorrow People with a noughties budget and a radically reduced paedophilic subtext.
Suddenly, I loved Torchwood. I couldn’t get enough of it! And then along came season two. Everyone agrees that season two is a big step up from season one. Russell T Davies had taken out the puerile swearing and sexploitation and turned it into a proper drama show. The trouble was, I just didn’t like it as much. I didn’t need to surrender to this version of the show, but suddenly I wanted to.
And Children of Earth was even better/worse. I didn’t actually finish it. Insane, I know. The mini-series was universally acclaimed as a triumph of modern SF, but if I wanted grim men sitting in grim rooms having conversations about dead children, I’d watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I do watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but I was hoping for something else from Torchwood.
And so, when I heard about the new American version of the show to be produced by Starz, I was… is ‘trepidatious’ a word? If the new Torchwood was going to be more high-quality, thought-provoking drama like Children of Earth it just wouldn’t float my boat. But after I watched Spartacus, also a product of Starz, I was filled with unexpected hope.
Spartacus is big, brash, as camp as Christmas and looks like it’s hired David Cronenberg purely to yell “More blood! More blood!” at the CGI people. And let me be very clear: this is in no way a criticism. It features John Hannah swearing like one of the Inbetweeners and Lucy Lawless whapping her tits out with heartening regularity (again: not a criticism). With the success of Spartacus under its belt, could Starz be the channel to take Torchwood back to its roots?
Soon, the wait for the new series will be over (it’s coming out on 8 July, I believe). Will I get what I want – or will everyone else in the world? It’s too late now, but let me put in a final plea for the values that series one of Torchwood and both series of Spartacus so wonderfully encapsulate. One of them is silly and the other is borderline exploitative, but both of them are fun. And beneath its blood-spattered, gratuitously naked exterior, Spartacus has interesting things to say about the exercise and abuse of power. Can’t we have more drama that doesn’t make me want to slit my own wrists while listening to Radiohead? Or does everything have to be po-faced to be serious?