Outside the Government: Day One

(76 comments)

I'm somebody's fetish.

It’s still October 22nd. Stupid double bills. In any case, Day One.

Thing one about Day One is all the sex. Torchwood gets a fair amount of stick for being an “adult” show in a childish and superficial way - that is, to be obsessed with sex and violence. On the one hand, Day One rather supports that claim by having the first thing Torchwood does once it sets up its premise by fighting the sex alien. On the other hand, the episode manages to have its cake and eat it too with that absolutely marvelous sequence of Carys walking through the streets assailed by all the images of sex around her. Which is to say, yes, Torchwood is flagrantly about sex on a regular basis, but this isn’t entirely unreasonable given the apparent centrality of sex to our day-to-day lives. And while sex may be frustratingly inescapable, it’s also, if we’re being honest, a topic that is poorly served by the bulk of television, which handles sex very badly if at all.

Torchwood is a mixed bag on this - as I noted, the sci-fi rape in Everything Changes is absolutely appalling. But this episode does quite well with a number of small but deft touches - having Carys’s phone conversation as she’s infected by the alien eventually play into the plot, for instance, or the quiet establishment of her home life. The scene where she confronts Eddie is a marvelous depiction of the real sorts of tangles of contemporary relationships, which don’t follow television’s usual unwavering lines of clear-cut boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s a step more complex than just having her go after an ex-boyfriend, and considerably more honest.

Equally, however, there is something willfully provocative about having your second episode feature the sex alien. Even though it is, all things being equal, a pretty good sex alien, it’s still visibly and tangibly a stunt. Then again, this is in many ways the same structure that Doctor Who used in 2005 - take the second episode and go as far in a given direction as it is possible to go. So, yes, Day One has the sex alien, but it has it for the simple reason that putting the sex alien in at the start means that you effectively settle the “how far will this show go” debate in one handy shot. You really can’t get away with calling Torchwood “shocking” in terms of content after this episode, which is a useful bit of armor for the series. It’s a technique akin to Paul Abbott’s decision to work both an assassination and a nude shot of Chloe Sevigny with a prosthetic penis into the first two minutes of his actually very good 2012 Hit & Miss - by getting all the prurient bits of its premise on the table immediately it prevents the show, in the long term, from being defined by those bits.

I could go on in this tone for a while yet, beginning a defense of Chris Chibnall as a writer, but there’s an underlying issue here I want to address, which is that Torchwood seems to require a level of defensiveness. Oddly, this seems only true inside quasi-traditional Doctor Who fandom, which is to say, the sorts of people who read a blog like this one. Within Doctor Who fandom the doctrinal position is “Children of Earth was good.” Outside of Doctor Who fandom there seem to be loads of people who quite like Torchwood, all four seasons of it, including a non-zero number who came to Torchwood first and may or may not be all that into Doctor Who at all. And so there’s a fundamental tension here - my overwhelming sense from comments over the past two-and-a-half years is that my reader base, or at least my vocal reader base, is largely a bit hostile to Torchwood. I happen to rather like it, or else I wouldn’t be covering it episode-by-episode, but more to the point, that sets the default tone to suspicion.

Except that’s not fair. Especially because, and I admit I’m working from pure anecdote and the preponderance of my commenters’ names, the vocal community here is disproportionately male dedicated Doctor Who fans, whereas Torchwood seems to have a substantially if not primarily female fanbase that's distinct from Doctor Who's. Which is to say, the community here isn't by and large Torchwood fans as such, and that makes the default position for talking about it one of unjustified skepticism. So let’s start over.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Torchwood is that it is about work. This is an odd rejoinder to Doctor Who, and in many ways a sharp comment on the entire Rose Tyler debate. The Doctor’s claim in Rose that she could “fill her life with work and sleep” always jarred a bit, a point reiterated at the end of the season when Mickey points out that a life of work and chips is “what the rest of us do.” But in the end, Doctor Who, necessarily given its premise, has to reject that and suggest that galavanting about the universe is inherently better than “what the rest of us do.” It’s clear that across Series Two, at least, Davies was uncomfortable with this, a point made clearest in Love and Monsters, but also in Army of Ghosts when Jackie suggests that Rose will eventually lose touch with her human identity.

But in the end, there’s only so far this logic can get away with going before the fact that Doctor Who is a show about falling out of the world reels it back in. The resolution of Doomsday features the Doctor looking crestfallen when he thinks Rose might have gone back to “just” being a shopgirl. There’s a fundamental limit to how much that show can value the day-to-day domestic life of having a job, that being, in part, everything the Doctor runs from. But Torchwood focuses on what Jackie, in Love and Monsters, calls “those who get left behind” - people who have ordinary lives within the extraordinary schema of Doctor Who.

And so with Day One we get a story in which the strangeness scattered throughout the world is a job, thought of primarily in terms of work/life balance. This is not, of course, used as a means of making the strangeness of the world banal. Rather, Torchwood is shown to be a job of the sort that can’t be left at work. It’s impossible to say enough good things about Kai Owen’s performance as Rhys, who, with just a handful of scenes each episode, fulfills the entire Mickey/Jackie role for the show. There’s something very hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t live with it about being married to someone with a phenomenally intense job. My wife’s an oncology nurse - watching people die is a part of her day-to-day job. It follows you home - it can’t help but doing so. Large portions of my emotional life are tied up in the deaths of people I will never meet or even know the names of. Home life is at once a release from a job like that and a place that is continually invaded by the size of it. And being the person who doesn’t have that job is an intense experience in its own right.

Which is to say that Torchwood isn’t about our jobs in the general case, but about a specific sort of job - the ones that are as intensely draining as they are rewarding. It’s about the jobs that consume our life, and about remaining grounded in the face of the extremes of humanity. In this regard it follows in different ways from Love and Monsters, specifically from that story’s complicating of the basic life pattern of “grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that's it.” Torchwood is quickly finding complex spaces of wonder within the mundane day-to-day of the world. And, crucially, Torchwood quickly positions itself as a show about balancing the two sides of that. The sense that Owen, Tosh, Jack, and even Ianto don’t see the wonders of their world anymore because they’ve completely lost touch with the world in which they exist and can be seen to be wonderful is terribly compelling as an idea.

Very rapidly, Torchwood is developing a nuanced and complex understanding of wondrous spaces and how they interact with our world. Interestingly, it’s also starting to carve out Doctor Who itself as one of those spaces, as with the entire “hand in a jar” sequence, which is left nominally unexplained, save for a musical cue derived from Flavia’s Theme as, in one of the most breathtakingly dissonant scenes imaginable, Jack cradles a severed hand. But Doctor Who becomes just one of a bevy of wondrous and haunted spaces that Torchwood concerns itself with. But Torchwood continues to set up an interesting and complex relationship with its parent show - a savvy Doctor Who viewer will pick up fairly easily on the nature of the severed hand, but Torchwood continues to treat Captain Jack’s origins as a mystery within the show even though his nature is largely known to most of the audience, or at least, much more known than it is to any of the characters.

So Doctor Who simultaneously serves as the origin for all of the weird spaces in Torchwood and as the ultimate weird space within Torchwood - the one that the show cannot fully grapple with. This is a fascinating inversion, given that two episodes into Torchwood it’s still Doctor Who that’s the better known show. By putting the known components of its own mythology in place as its biggest mysteries, Torchwood makes the entire network of mundane and wondrous spaces in which it functions a little bit more uncertain.

This complex theme is paired, however, with an aggressively straightforward structure that helps to anchor it. We talked in the lead-up to Torchwood about the question of what it would use as its structure. The answer is, in practice, a bit of a surprising one - it’s basically configured to work as CSI: Cardiff. This is an instantly recognizable structure, and it saves the show a profound amount of heavy lifting. Much like the structure of this episode is largely based around the shop-worn structure of “Gwen’s first day at work” so that you just know, without even having to watch any of it, that it will start with her screwing up and end with her saving the day, the basic dynamic of a team solving crimes is such an easy format that it allows the show to just get on with it, and to quickly evade most of the cult pitfalls that might have waited for it. The structure is also terribly useful for keeping the show varied - which isn’t something it shows (or can show) in its first two episodes, but is still very important in giving the show something like Doctor Who’s variety (more about which on Monday). Note also, however, that the series is consciously aware of the tropes of that genre, and willing to poke good fun at them - the decision to have Torchwood, with all its magic alien technology, be unable to do the genre-standard magic image enhancement to see blurry details is delightful, to say the least.

These two episodes have also, as mentioned, focused heavily on Gwen, who is another lynchpin of the series. Eve Myles is simply fantastic in the part. In the first two episodes Gwen’s role is in many ways limited - she’s stuck being the mouthpiece for the show’s theme, which means she has to deliver somewhat tiresome speeches about the importance of Carys’s life and to hit the fairly standard newbie notes. Still, even with this she’s magnetic and capable of selling a terrified and joyful wonder at the world around her. It’s not that the writing isn’t serving her well so much as that the beats she’s going through at this point in the story are fairly standard ones that don’t give her a lot of room to make the character distinctive. Despite that, she’s managing it with aplomb, making Gwen’s point of view distinctive even when her actions aren’t particularly.

So two episodes in, and before we’re even on to week two of the show, we have a complex but coherent set of concerns and themes, a bold claim for the series’ range, a flexible format, and a cast that’s developing nicely. It is difficult to argue that the show ought, or even really could accomplish more in its first two hours. No, this is’t the beginning of a legend of British television. But it’s the beginning of a good and interesting show.

Comments

Spacewarp 4 years ago

Does anyone remember the mini viral internet video campaign that went out around this time, showing CCTV shots of Carys shagging someone outside the club, who was then vapourised?

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Scurra 4 years ago

"galavanting"?! That one caught me out - I only know "gallivant" (and my Chambers dictionary only has that spelling.) I imagine that it's one of those weird Frenchifying British English word changes e.g. why British English uses "-OUR".

(I like season one of Torchwood much more than season "two" of Doctor Who. But that's the only time that happens.)

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Iain Coleman 4 years ago

The praise of Eve Myles is richly justified. She did a marvelous job on Torchwood. As the show progresses, she manages to be impressive both as the Badass Action Woman and the attempting-to-be-ordinary wife and mother. This show needs a strong actor at the centre to hold it all together, and dear old John Barrowman, try as he might, really isn't it.

And Kai Owen! He's fantastic! I actually forget that he's acting, so convincing is his portrayal of an ordinary bloke who has wandered into all of this by accident. You almost expect the credits to read "Rhys Williams as Himself". Wise move not to kill Rhys off at the end of the series.

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Lewis Christian 4 years ago

Quick Q: "I happen to rather like it, or else I wouldn’t be covering it episode-by-episode."

Will you also be covering The Sarah Jane Adventures ep-by-ep?

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IG 4 years ago

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IG 4 years ago

One very minor point - Mickey and Rose talk about a life of work and chips*, not crisps.

(*Ie, french fries. Or freedom fries, or whatever you guys call them these days :))

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Arkadin 4 years ago

"By putting the known components of its own mythology in place as its biggest mysteries, Torchwood makes the entire network of mundane and wondrous spaces in which it functions a little bit more uncertain." Which is basically how the Faction Paradox spinoff novels work too.

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elvwood 4 years ago

Absolutely agree, on both. Some of my friends thought Myles was laughably bad, and I couldn't for the life of me see why as I thought she was great; but good as she is, Owen is even better. Though the two roles are so different in function it's hard to compare them.

[P.S. According to captcha it's "nanoday 55", which sounds like it could be something out of Torchwood...]

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Daibhid C 4 years ago

I've got to be honest, my immediate reaction to this episode was to post on radwm that "alien that makes people have sex" is exactly what I'd use if I was writing a *parody* of what "adult Doctor Who" meant.

Having said that, I *did* like Torchwood. It was a show I probably woudn't have watched if it wasn't for the Doctor Who connection, but I'm glad I did.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years ago

I think I'll just say this now and then try and not to comment on Torchwood: The show had fantastic ideas and characters but never really got over being sexy Doctor Who for me. I think...I think there is just a little less wonder and whimsy in the DNA of the show. I'm not saying it doesn't have moments of them, but that's one of the things I love about Doctor Who. It's larking around after a hat, or riding a Triceratops, or a Russian asking about the future of his favorite band. Hell, it's arguing the merits of humanity based on a well prepared meal.

I don't want to slag Torchwood, but I don't think it was for me.

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Jesse 4 years ago

This is a very compelling defense of the show I wished Torchwood would be.

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Assad K 4 years ago

At this time, I remember very little about Torchwood, other than finding it pretty naff. What stuck with me about Day One was that there was very little sympathy shown for the vics of the sex monster, and that the possessed woman seemed to be aware that having sex with her ex would be terminal, which moved her from hapless victim of circumstance to active colluder (boyfriend was naught but a douchebag, which is not yet a capital offense). Of course, my memory may be cheating, so corrections won't be protested against.

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Ununnilium 4 years ago

I think my problem with Torchwood was, basically, that it had all the elements in there for the frockest thing ever, but its attitude remained steadfastly gun.

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Aaron 4 years ago

"I don't want to slag Torchwood, but I don't think it was for me."

This is I think the reason why Torchwood was viewed so tepidly in Doctor Who fan circles. I simply think that Torchwood was aimed at a completely different audience. It doesn't help that the Buffy elements already found in NuWho get turned to eleven in Torchwood (actually, the Angel elements, in particular). The old fans of Doctor Who were already often critical of the ways in which Doctor Who had adopted some of the storytelling techniques of Whedon, had made the show about the companion's emotions and journey, and had focused in general on emotions and character arcs. Torchwood just did all those things but more, and added onto it a heavy amount of sex, which is not minded very much by general TV viewers, but was a big complaint of Doctor Who viewers. Moreover, even the DNA of Torchwood doesn't appeal to the Doctor Who fan: as you said, Doctor Who has an underlying optimism and whimsy, while deep down Torchwood is actually quite cynical about humanity and about people in general.

All those things are not things that make a bad show. But they are things that in particular are primed to make a show Doctor Who fandom wouldn't like. Starting off with the sex monster episode (which I actually think is quite fun) just shows what level Torchwood purposefully goes to to yell at Doctor Who fans "This isn't for you." But I think, if you view it as a completely different show, or if you like that Whedon brand of drama, Torchwood is quite enjoyable.

That's not to say it doesn't have weak episodes (Cyberwoman being the only weak one I can remember off the top of my head). But Random Shoes, the one with the people from the 1950s, the one where Jack is hiding all the damaged people that come back through the rift, and the opener to Season two (plus all of Children of Earth) are all really good pieces of drama. And I really like Countrycide :P

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Jesse 4 years ago

It doesn't help that the Buffy elements already found in NuWho get turned to eleven in Torchwood (actually, the Angel elements, in particular).

If it were more Buffy than Angel, I would have liked it a lot better.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years ago

I love Angel. I think (again) it has more Whimsy and Wonder to it than Torchwood does.

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jane 4 years ago

I think the Angel comparison is particularly apt. Torchwood is to Who as Angel is to Buffy.

Thankfully I'm not the "typical" within old-school Who fandom. I love the Whedonesque, and prefer the Revival to what came before. Torchwood was a good fit for me -- if anything, it was too childish at times. But from Countryside on, there was little I didn't like, the naff Abaddon notwithstanding, until Miracle Day and the rather less compelling (American) characters found there.

Also, there's something very "Nightmare of Eden" about Children of Earth, metaphorically speaking, which I liked a very great deal.

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Jesse 4 years ago

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Jesse 4 years ago

I didn't watch Buffy as it aired; I marathoned it on Netflix years later. When I got to the first season of Angel, I jumped back and forth between the two programs, alternating episodes so as to follow the interlocked storylines. And Angel quickly started to feel like something I was forcing myself to watch before I could get to the next Buffy.

It wasn't a bad series, and someday I may go back and watch the later seasons. But it had so much less humor and invention than its sibling show that I just couldn't do them concurrently. Angel suffered seriously in comparison.

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Triturus 4 years ago

I don't want to slag Torchwood, but I don't think it was for me.

I sort of *do* want to slag Torchwood, but that's only because the sex alien episode is the only one I've seen, and I thought it was at least twelve kinds of rubbish. It annoyed me so much I never bothered to watch another episode. I'm aware that I'm being unfair on the programme, so I won't slag it off again on this blog, but I just don't care enough to try Torchwood again.

Like you said, Doctor Who is just more *fun*. How long until Smith & Jones?

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drjimmy72296 4 years ago

Is there ever going to be another Doctor Who entry?

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Philip Sandifer 4 years ago

Guess.

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drjimmy72296 4 years ago

Will it be before the 100th Anniversary special in 2063 :-)

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HarlequiNQB 4 years ago

I would think there will be after series one of Torchwood, and prior to series two of Torchwood (or possibly after series one of MJA). Seems logical to me.

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David Anderson 4 years ago

Angel was a weaker series than Buffy. That is not saying much. And Buffy concurrently with Angel was a weaker series than it was at its prime. Again not saying much: there are individual episodes in Buffy Seasons Four to Six that are clear candidates for Best Episode of Genre TV Ever.

No, I didn't like Torchwood. There were good individual episodes but they never made me care about the series as a whole. I do, however, think Being Human was brilliant.

Certainly Torchwood is attempting the Whedonesque. But make the comparison. In Torchwood, Owen uses mind control as rape and it's supposed to mark him out as self-centred in a laddish sort of way. In Buffy Season Six, Warren, Jonathan and Andrew attempt rape by mind control. This is the point where they cease to be comic nuisance villains and Warren becomes effectively irredeemable. Basically, once the Torchwood showrunners have made that sort of moral misjudgement, one doesn't want to give them the benefit of the doubt in writing character drama.

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David Anderson 4 years ago

You say Torchwood has a more female fanbase. How does that compare with, say, Being Human? For the record, I think Being Human get right all the things that Torchwood gets wrong.

At the time this came out, I missed these two episodes of Torchwood, but I heard about Owen's this is sf so it's in no way a date rape drug. That's prejudiced me against the series. And from the other people who've commented negatively about Torchwood here, I don't think I'm the only person for whom that was a hard obstacle to surmount. So presumably the audience who like Torchwood are more forgiving of that kind of wrongdoing.
My impression, from seeing magazine covers, is that soap also has a model in which a character can do something morally outrageous in one storyline and be forgiven in the next. Is that fair?

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Aaron 4 years ago

Can we talk a little more about the supposed Owen using a sci-fi date rape drug thing? I'm usually pretty sensitive to these things (if anyone remembers, I was the one who brought up the long conversation about Fall of Yqantine being a metaphor for rape), but at the time I watched this, I didn't really think much of it. And while I definitely think people have a point, I'm not sure I want to go as far as other people here in condemning this as a terrible reprehensible action. To me, it just seems too sci fi-ey to compare directly to rape, and so I get uncomfortable with all the anger that scene has been getting, which was there to a) be a joke and b) to show how sleezy Owen is.

Rape connotes a violation, or forcing someone to have sex against their will, without their consent. Here, it isn't all that clear that consent is being violated. Mind Control is reprehensible, yes, but it's reprehensible not because it makes people do things against their will, but because it changes what their will is in the first place. IE, it's a sci fi trope to create consent that the person wouldn't have otherwise have had, not to violate consent in the first place. Which is still a terrible thing, but I feel like it's a different category from rape because. And since it's such a sci fi concept, I have trouble using it as an analogy for such a terrible real world event. I don't really know what it would be like if people could mind control other people. I know it would be terrible, but it's not a real world occurence, so the morality of it is much harder to discern.

And if this situation really is tantamount to rape, do we want to condemn all stories that feature love potions as nothing more than rape apologia? Or is that part of the point- that rape culture is built into fairy tales and legends to the point that love potions are considered "not rape" as a way to excuse certain types of violation of women (or men)? It just to me seems like a different class of immoral action. But I could be wrong, and I'd love for everyone to convince me.

Given the conformity of views I've seen on this topic over the last couple days, I'm pretty nervous to essentially argue that this "isn't as bad" as people are saying. So I'm trying to be sensitive, and I really would like to here some of the arguments about this scene being an attempted rape scene. Prove to me that it's just as bad, and I'll condemn the moral vacuum that is RTD along with the best of you.

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jonathan inge 4 years ago

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Philip Sandifer 4 years ago

Sorry, that was an unclear point in the post, and I'll revise it in just a sec.

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Spacewarp 4 years ago

I'm happy to agree with you on that. It appeared to me at the time (and still does) as you say to be "let's take the standard magical concept of a love potion, give it a sci-fi twist and then drop it into the lap of an amoral Jack-the-Lad and see what fun we can have." And they do have fun because they don't just let Owen have his way as usual, they bring in the enraged boyfriend and give it a further twist where Owen has to give the bf a jolt just to prevent himself from being beaten up. Note that for a few seconds here Owen's faced with the possibility of becoming the rapee. The whole scene's played for laughs and Owen ends up looking a twat.

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jonathan inge 4 years ago

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 4 years ago

Enjoying Torchwood is hardly condoning Owen's behavior.

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Ununnilium 4 years ago

Sheesh, it's only been two Torchwoods so far. Don't worry, we've got plenty of Who banked.

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Ununnilium 4 years ago

Mind Control is reprehensible, yes, but it's reprehensible not because it makes people do things against their will, but because it changes what their will is in the first place.

I can see not calling it rape... but I can't see not calling it as bad or worse than rape. And when you get down to that level of Not Okay, do the semantics really matter?

The whole scene's played for laughs and Owen ends up looking a twat.

That's certainly the writer intent! But the fact that he's trying to do something horrifying and gets ~wacky consequences~ just makes the tonal disconnect more jarring.

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Stephen 4 years ago

"So, yes, Day One has the sex alien, but it has it for the simple reason that putting the sex alien in at the start means that you effectively settle the “how far will this show go” debate in one handy shot."

The problem with this approach, however, is that it unnecessarily alienates a certain type of viewer. My memory of the time is that Davies promised us a mature show, whereas I find the idea of a sex alien somewhat juvenile. Because this is the first non-pilot episode, it has the effect of setting our expectations of the tone for the show.

If this premise had come later in the series, and this slot had been occupied by something like Small Worlds or Out of Time then Doctor Who fandom would have a much higher collective opinion of Torchwood. Fans like me would have viewed the show as a whole as more mature, and the sex alien episode as a sub-par episode - rather than letting it colour our opinion of Torchwood as a whole.

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Ununnilium 4 years ago

Eh, that's a fairly boring way to do it - I quite like the idea that they're simply different perspectives on the same world. (Maybe not including the later Torchwood minis, because those don't really fit with Doctor Who even on an emotional level.)

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David Anderson 4 years ago

Push it back one. Does the person consent to being mind controlled?
If Owen's drug is no analogy at all to real world events, then it can't establish that he's sleazy or anything else about him. If it's close enough to real world events to establish anything about his character, then it's close enough to say that there's some analogy. The most obvious analogy is spiking someone's drink. That's worse than just sleazy.

Love potions are more ambiguous. Two examples spring to mind: Midsummer Night's Dream and Tristan and Isolde.
I think it's crucially important to Tristan and Isolde that (in most versions) the potion is administered by a third party who is not herself a significant character. In that way, the potion isn't an action of either of the lovers but a symbol of the arbitrary nature of sexual attraction. Likewise, in Midsummer Night's Dream, the love potion is administered by supernatural creatures rather than the lovers themselves. The Titania plot is a bit more dubious to the degree that we treat Oberon and Titania as equivalent to human agents. It becomes more tolerable the more the fairies are treated as operating according to dream logic.
If one lover administers the love potion to the other themselves, it becomes morally more difficult. I can't think of such a story offhand. I think it would only be tolerable if the work actively resists being read on a novelistic level as opposed to a symbolic or allegorical level.

Is Davies morally bankrupt for writing the scene? No: it's fiction in a particular genre pitched at a particular level of idealism vs cynicism; there's no reason to suppose that it represents his settled moral principles. All writers make mistakes. But it means that the series starts out morally in the red.

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jonathan inge 4 years ago

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drjimmy72296 4 years ago

Zero interest in Torchwood (or the Sarah Jane Adventures for that matter) so the Moffat-like pace of new Who entries is killing me.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years ago

You mean the Hinchecliffe like wait right? He did it first, Moffat is just making new Who more like it was in the "Golden Age".

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Bennett 4 years ago

I can only speak for myself, but I think some of the Doctor Who fanbase ire towards Torchwood must stem from the fact that it looks, for all the world, like Davies is cynically exploiting the Doctor Who brand to push out his own failed Excalibur series*.

Being outside of its target audience affects my enjoyment of the show, sure. But it's purely the idea of Torchwood hanging off a show I love like a suckling parasite that makes me actively dislike it.


*this isn't meant as a damning condemnation, though. Good executive producers have to be a bit cynical and exploitative, and I wouldn't pretend for one moment that Moffat, JNT, Lambert, et. al. would be above this type of thing if the opportunity presented itself.

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drjimmy72296 4 years ago

I'm anticipating a 6-7 month hiatus between Runaway Bride and Smith & Jones.

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jonathan inge 4 years ago

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Ozy Jones 4 years ago

While I'm not a big Torchwood fan (I was never a big Jack fan either, other than in Empty Child/Dances) it was interesting to watch the reactions of those around me. I watched the first two eps with my wife, whom I have forced to watch Doctor Who with me until she actually likes it. She found Torchwood 'interesting', but somehow lacking in the fun she finds in Who. She didn't bother with it after those first two episodes.

The next person who came along to tell me I should watch Torchwood was my Mother In-law! An ultra conservative, sixty year old, small country town dwelling, grandma who raved about this great new show I would love.. 'cause it's got some Doctor Who people in it, and aliens and lots of sex and stuff.

She continued to watch Torchwood long after I quit. And still thinks Doctor Who is silly and childish and won't watch it.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years ago

I'm not sure how I'd accomplish that.

The biggest gap is between Last of the Time Lords and Partners in Crime, which is at minimum twenty-one entries of which only one is an episode of Doctor Who in the conventional sense. That'll be about two months.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years ago

That is going to be a rough stretch.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years ago

Nothing is a rough stretch after the wilderness years.

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jane 4 years ago

I think it's sweet.

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Pen Name Pending 4 years ago

Well, I am rather enjoying the spin off stuff, because I've only seen a bit of Torchwood and scraps of SJA that I could find on YouTube, and I don't want this blog to end too soon!

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Theonlyspiral 4 years ago

What counts as a long stretch is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

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David Anderson 4 years ago

Forgiving is not condoning, even if there can be a fine line between them.

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David Anderson 4 years ago

I can't see how Torchwood parasitises Doctor Who. The only point at which that charge could be sustained is when Moffat can't use Jack in A Good Man Goes to War because Barrowman's filming Miracle Day.
A spin-off is more likely to work if the writer has been gestating the idea for ages than if they've suddenly decided to come up with something, surely?

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Daniel Tessier 4 years ago

'Just because it's a woman doesn't mean it's ok.'

I'm glad someone pointed this out. It reminds me of the movie '40 Days and 40 Nights,' which ends with the rape of the barely sensible male protagonist by his ex-girlfriend, for which he is blamed, and the whole thing is played for laughs. 'Day One' isn't this bad, but it does take a long time for it to accept Cerys is raping and murdering men, albeit while not in her right mind.

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Abigail Brady 4 years ago

It's not like this is some novel situation which we haven't got the moral reasoning to deal with, either. What Owen is doing is no different from slipping people roofies.

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David Anderson 4 years ago

I think whether a story with a love potion is morally acceptable depends on a number of things.

1) Is the person administering the drug presented as someone with realistic human motivations, or are they transparently a plot device? Isolde's nurse is a plot device. Puck is a personification of chaos and accident. Cupid is a personification of falling in love. The only myth in which Cupid is even remotely a character is Cupid and Psyche, in which he accidentally pricks himself; and even then Psyche is the focus.

2) Is the love potion complication-free? Or is it used to create complications? The former represents a power-fantasy; the latter a symbol of our inability to control emotions.
2a) Sf/Fantasy: Sf imagery pushes the symbolism towards the power fantasy; fantasy towards the symbolic.

3) Does the potion override moral culpability? If the person who takes the potion retains moral culpability and is still making decisions as an agent within the story, then that's more acceptable as a story than if they're reduced to a plot reward for the other lover. This raises interesting questions about the psychology of action. But we usually think people are still morally responsible while in love; whereas not if drugged.

4) Intangibles. Xander in Buffy is still a morally useable character after Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered. The episode was written by a woman so I'm inclined to think it really does negotiate the pitfalls; but I don't think I can easily articulate why.

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Alex Antonijevic 4 years ago

I don't have anything meaningful to add, except that in a 41 episode run, Torchwood has two episodes named "Day One"

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BerserkRL 4 years ago

including a non-zero number who came to Torchwood first and may or may not be all that into Doctor Who

I have friends who are Torchwood fans but who have never seen Doctor Who and who, until I told them, had no idea the shows were connected (and who still cannot be persuaded to watch Doctor Who).

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BerserkRL 4 years ago

A suggestion that sometimes comes up in sf is that all "ordinary" charisma is really a form of unconscious psi power or pheromones or such. In such a world, the moral issues would get very blurry.

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BerserkRL 4 years ago

"Doctor Who," "Torchwood," and "Sarah Jane Adventures" don't exist in the same universe. Parallel universes mostly likely.

That seems unnecessary. The real world contains as much diversity of genre, theme, and style as the Whoniverse does.

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BerserkRL 4 years ago

Are you going to do the Torchwood radio plays?

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Ross 4 years ago

I can see not calling it rape... but I can't see not calling it as bad or worse than rape. And when you get down to that level of Not Okay, do the semantics really matter?

For me, the answer to "Is it rape?" is "It's definitely rape-ish, and I do not care to be in the position of mincing words and looking for outs and saying 'well... technically I guess...' about rape"

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Lewis Christian 4 years ago

I have little interest in Torchwood (watched it, enjoyed it, but a bit 'meh' about it) but I love SJA, so I'm happy to know they may be covered here too. Plus, I don't want the blog to end soon either so it's nice to spread things out.

Fills the gap between Moffat-Who too.

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Lewis Christian 4 years ago

"Doctor Who," "Torchwood," and "Sarah Jane Adventures" don't exist in the same universe. Parallel universes mostly likely.

Totally disagree, especially with SJA which mentions the parent series a lot and goes out of its way sometimes to fit in. Plus, they all merge into Who proper come Series 4.

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Spacewarp 4 years ago

Occasionally I manage to step out of the human world for a few seconds, and then I find myself wondering why people get so bent out of shape about such things as this, while being perfectly happy with the idea of a human being shot dead with a gun. That happens every day on US and UK television. People get killed with guns. By people who are identified by the viewers as The Hero.

And people get sickened by Owen running around with what amounts to an alien pheremone spray?

It's at this point I mention that I get sickened by the blind hypocrisy of the Television-viwing public...my wife tells me that I'm talking bollocks...and I re-enter the human world, sit down and watch more Telly.

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Alan 4 years ago

I thought Kai Owen stole every single scene he was in, and when he got into Jack's face in "Meat," I desperately wanted them to kiss. I also thought Eve Myles was good, but I do know several people who found her Welsh accent incomprehensible (a cultural thing -- to most Americans, I think any UK accent other than Received Pronunciation might as well be Farsi). Also, it's terribly shallow of me, I admit, but I just could not ignore the gap in Eve Myles' teeth. Orthodonture is some common in America -- and especially for aspiring actors -- that it's almost unthinkable for the attractive female lead in a tv show to not have perfect teeth.

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Alan 4 years ago

Angel, IMO, was very uneven in its first season, but got progressively better until the end of S3 and most of S4, when it was completely flummoxed on what to do with Cordelia Chase. S5 was my favorite season, and I was disappointed at its cancellation, as I was eager to see what came next.

Buffy, IMO, was a good show until its end, but it ceased to be a great show after they graduated, as the central metaphor for the series -- High School is Hell -- ceased to be relevant. College is not Hell. College is, in fact, quite awesome and I wish I were back there now. That the decline of Buffy from its S3 heights coincides with the first few uneven seasons of Angel is not, IMO, a result of running two shows at once.

Structurally, I thought Angel was a better show than Buffy because, from its start, it dealt with adult concerns, unlike Buffy, which had a difficult transition to adult concerns after starting off as a show based on adolescent concerns. Case in point: the incredibly contrived manner in which Dawn was introduced into the series just as Joyce was killed off so that Buffy could experience "motherhood" plots.

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Alan 4 years ago

"And if this situation really is tantamount to rape, do we want to condemn all stories that feature love potions as nothing more than rape apologia? "

I honestly can't imagine how the use of a love potion to procure sex could be viewed as anything but rape. If having sex with someone too drunk or high to meaningfully consent is rape, then of course, a drug that compels an otherwise unwilling partner to consent is rape.

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Alan 4 years ago

For me, the disappointing thing about TW was the implication that "Doctor Who for grown-ups" simply meant people were having sex, and more than that, self-destructive sex (rape via mind control, via an affair with a co-worker you hate because you can't talk to your fiance about work, or via an affair with the boss who shot your beloved girlfriend down like a cyber-dog). The strongest episodes were about the moral dilemmas undergone by characters who are thrust into Doctor Who stories but who lack the Doctor's ability to magically resolve all moral dilemmas with a wave of his sonic screwdriver and who are forced to simply muddle through. The weakest are the ones with nothing more interesting to say than "guy on guy is hot!"

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Ununnilium 4 years ago

Spacewarp: Well, usually, on modern TV, the Hero is only killing people either in self-defense or defense of others. And it's not like there aren't TV killings that I wouldn't label as murder, just as I'd label this rape.

...and did you just label disagreeing with you as sickening and blind hypocrisy, or am I confused?

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Ununnilium 4 years ago

Hypertimelines that part and merge.

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Spacewarp 4 years ago

No I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with me. It's the hypocrisy of the world that bugs me. I'm watching a TV report this morning about how bad Lads Mags are, and how terrible it is that kids can see them when they walk into Tescos, and how it teaches them bad attitudes towards women. But the same kids can buy toy guns in Tesco that teach them that it's ok to shoot other people, and no parents complain about that. So sex on TV is bad, but killing people isn't? We need to get some perspective.

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SpaceSquid 4 years ago

Torchwood is to Who as Angel is to Buffy.

I'd say Torchwood is to Who as terrible Angel fanfic is to Buffy. A friend of mine, indeed, once argued that there's a fantastic Torchwood show out there that we never got to see, and instead we ended up with the fanfic scripts written by people who had seen that show. In her own words, "If only we could work out what show Torchwood is the fanfic of, we'd be in business".

It's true that "Day One" has a direct equivalent in Angel's own second episode "Lonely Hearts" - which speaks to Phil's point about attempts early on to stake out just how far a show is willing to go - but Angel quickly through off this kind of "Hey look we're proper adult, here" by, at the latest, episode five. Torchwood confused mature with sweary bonkytimes until the very end of its first year at the very least.

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 4 years ago

Beauty must truly be in the eye of the beholder then as I found her "gap" to be quite sexy.

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Seeing_I 3 years, 10 months ago

@ Sandifer: "Torchwood isn’t about our jobs in the general case, but about a specific sort of job - the ones that are as intensely draining as they are rewarding. It’s about the jobs that consume our life, and about remaining grounded in the face of the extremes of humanity."

Jobs like writing and show-running three science fiction series at once, maybe?

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Seeing_I 3 years, 9 months ago

Also, I know I'm posting in a dead thread, but has anybody here seen "Liquid Sky"? Cause I think Chris Chibnall has.

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encyclops 3 years, 1 month ago

If *Seeing_I* is late to the party, I'm showing up a week later at the wrong address with a bottle of champagne in my hand, but here I am. I haven't been reading the Torchwood updates at all, because I've been aware of the animosity toward the show among Doctor Who fans and wanted to watch the show and form my own opinion about each episode before I read the essay and comments about it. I've been going at it pretty slowly, obviously, because I just watched this one this week.

So it comes as a surprise to me that you're pretty positive about it, Philip, at least two episodes in. Not that I should be surprised that you're bucking the Who fan consensus, since that's normal for you, but for some reason I'd assumed that Torchwood wouldn't be your kind of show. I don't know if it's mine, but I've been surprised to find I enjoyed the first two episodes as well and definitely plan to keep watching.

Two themes in the comments thread stuck out to me. One is the furor over the morality of the characters. I think there's something a bit off-base and limiting in the idea that we must expect to approve of the behavior of every single one of our ostensible protagonists (or indeed in the behavior of an otherwise sympathetic character under the partial/nearly total influence of an alien parasite). I see this among a lot of genre fans, some of whom will completely freeze out a show as soon as one of the supposed "white hats" does something dubious (even something like a male character cheating on his girlfriend with the "wrong" woman). If nothing else, I think it severely limits the kinds of stories you can tell if your audience insists on approving of every action every character takes; we've even gotten to the point where certain kinds of villainy are too villainous to be depicted or even implied. In any case, I didn't see anything in these first two episodes to make me think that I was supposed to see the Torchwood team as morally upright in every respect, and a lot to suggest that I wasn't -- not just the Owen incident, but also Gwen's incredulity at all the surveillance tools and data access the team isn't "supposed" to have. There's a clear suggestion that Torchwood is overpowered and underresponsible. I don't know how this gets played out later on, but I don't think we're supposed to laugh it off. And that's an important story to tell you can't do if you insist that they must all be white hats through and through. That's why Gwen's there.

The other thing I noticed was the idea that a story based around sex must be "juvenile." This is part of the plague of poetic irony, the same one that claims what you don't see is scarier than what you do. If adults have sex -- some do -- and they get into addictive sexual behaviors to shore up their self-esteem -- some do -- and they need the generosity and selflessness of others to be able to break that cycle -- some do -- then this story is as adult as anything. Some juveniles do these things too, but telling a story about it isn't juvenile. Being embarrassed by it, thinking the story would be better with the curtains tastefully drawn...that seems kind of juvenile to me.

I doubt anyone will read this, but that's never stopped me before. :) Looking forward to reading the rest of these as I work my way through Torchwood.

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