Team Torchwood Triumphs

OK – I confess – I am a SciFi-natic, since I was knee high to a grass-hopper. So no surprise I am watching this weeks BBC blockbuster Torchwood: Children of Earth. (Torchwood are a fictional bunch of alien fighters set up by Queen Victoria – yes, her, it’s a long story).

Although we have only seen 3 of 5 episodes I guarantee that the Torchwood team will win. But the point of this post is more about the “team” than the Torchwood bit.

CSI (all three version); Criminal Minds; NCIS; Bones; Life on Mars; and many other TV series have a common factor: teams. Whilst they have some central characters, they also all rely on team-work to solve the problems they confront. And whilst the main characters are important, the plots of all these programs rely of team-efforts. Especially notable is the diverse nature of these teams: in skills; in gender; sexual orientation; ethnicity; character; and even morals.

Compare these with similar TV series of the 70s and 80s that relied on either a central character (e.g. Morse) – sometimes with a faithful side-kick (Lewis) and a few supporting characters but in which the central individual character solved the problems. A few were “buddy” based – a couple (usually odd) but never a team.

So has there been a shift in the zeitgeist? Are we seeing the Triumph of the Team? Or more accurately, the triumph of the led/inspired team? It certainly seems that TV thinks so. Although a cynical friend pointed out it may just be canny marketing – something for everyone in the multi- talented, multi-cultural, multi-sexual, team. But for once I’m less cynical – it really does feel like a rather progressive shift in the mood-music of ‘what works’ in solving our complex problems – not inspired individuals but talented teams. Pity we don’t apply it very much to real-world public management, where the crude “leadership” ideas seem to be all the rage.


About Prof. Colin Talbot

Research Associate, University of Cambridge Professor of Government (Emeritus), University of Manchester
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