Friday, October 20, 2006


The aerial shots looked sensational: a pristine coastline gave way to a cityscape that positively shimmered in the sunlight. Wouldn't mind living there I thought to myself, before realising I actually do live there and that place up on screen is Cardiff. It could have been Miami.

This was the premiere of Torchwood, the new Dr Who spin-off set in the Welsh capital. At the St David's Hotel a specially invited audience was being treated to a sneak preview of Russell T Davies' latest TV enterprise. No, I don't know why they invited me either...

What I can tell you is episode one of Torchwood is a visual delight. Cardiff as a backdrop scrubs up splendidly alternating between futuristic and gritty urban. Sci-fi buffs will be more than happy with the alien count as well as all the gadgetry on show, but this is no geek-fest. There is enough humour, sexiness and relationship development to keep the rest of us entertained too.

The press conference that followed was interesting. The tabloids, out in force, had one major preoccupation: sex. Do any of the characters snog an alien? Are there any nude scenes? The Welsh media predictably was more apprehensive - will the English like it?

Russell T Davies reassured the locals - if it's well-written people will watch it wherever it's set. Cardiff is buzzing right now, one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. We wanted to tap into that energy source. No, there isn't any nudity.

The cast took questions. There's sexual chemistry between all of the characters said the lovely Eve Myles. I've recently moved to Cardiff said John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack. They were charming and eager to please but you could detect a hint of nervousness too. This is that gut-wrenching time before a programme's first airing when everybody is wondering whether the show will take off into TV heaven or nosedive into obscurity.

For what it's worth I thoroughly enjoyed it. As well as its cinematic eye for landscape it managed to create tense and claustrophobic situations reminiscent of the best of Davies' early Manchester-based work. Will it be a hit? That remains to be seen but, slickly written, and looking fantastic it has every chance of capturing the X-Files audience that it is clearly aimed at.

And then it was time to hit the after show party. Celebrities in abundance. Billie Piper leaning against the bar - for the record there's absolutely nothing going on between us. Hotel staff handed out free booze all evening - I've never seen so much. I drank most of it. And then out into the night with a lingering sense that beneath the luxurious facade of Cardiff Bay something darker and altogether more sinister might be lurking.

Torchwood will be shown on BBC Three at 9pm, Sunday October 22. It will be repeated on BBC Two at 9pm on Wednesday, October 25. If you can't wait that long check out the official Torchwood website.