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Cardiff's alive... with the sound of Torchwood.
on 28 August 2012
Torchwood is a funny old thing on telly - the gritty adult science-fiction series fronted by TV's Mr Light Entertainment, John Barrowman. Its grimmest episodes are rendered infinitely more entertaining if you mentally play the famous Benny Hill theme over the top. The most recent series was supposed to be an unfolding story told over ten hours, until they got bored in week 3 and turned it into a parade of [human] monsters of the week. They're a team of elite professionals who leave their keys in the ignition when they're in the field, and one episode featured the unforgettable moment where a lead character blundered round a forest screaming "TOSH!" at the top of his voice.
So the Torchwood novels have a hard time pinning down a series that doesn't really know what it wants to be. Sarah Pinborough works with the twin strands of horror and camp - introducing a horrific and unstoppable killer alien... who stalks the contestants of an amateur operatic contest.
Into the Silence is a good read - lightly written, but still gripping throughout. In addition to a consistent and familiar depiction of the Torchwood regulars, Pinborough introduces the reader to the private thoughts of a parade of engaging and real characters. Most of whom are then dispatched in short order.
So if new character DI Cutler occasionally veers into world-weary cop cliche territory, you can forgive this oversight (particularly as I got the sense he was included to bolster the Torchwood team which at this point in the TV series had been depleted following the exit of Tosh and Owen at the end of the second season).
Pinborough has grasped a few truths about Torchwood that have been lost on the TV writing team, the main one being that a hero who can't die is in no way dramatic. So Captain Jack Harkness is never put in any direct danger, sparing us the print equivalent of those endless scenes where John Barrowman sits up and gasps at the camera. There is the occasional "Welcome to Torchwood" line, but that's harmless fun.
Into the Silence is a gory, funny, action-packed adventure which is a sight better than most of the Torchwood we've ever seen on screen.