Outside the Government: Ghost Machine

(43 comments)

What do you mean I have to take the battery out to swap
games?

It’s October 29th, 2006. McFly are at number one with “Star Girl,” with Beyonce, Razorlight, and Amy Winehouse also charting. In news, George W. Bush signs into law a bill ordering the construction of a fence on the US/Mexico border, and severe wildfires caused by arson rage in California. On television, meanwhile, Torchwood airs its third episode, Ghost Machine.

With Ghost Machine we see Torchwood finally starting to show off its range, moving beyond the straightforward focus on alien presence and into other genres. This is not a surprise as such - Doctor Who, after all, has long used science fiction to do more than traditional sci-fi stories. Nevertheless, it’s another step in the process of Torchwood mirroring the 2005 season of Doctor Who and using each of its early episodes to stake an entirely new claim for what the series can be. Having established itself as the sexy X-Files, Torchwood calmly (and thoroughly in line with how The X-Files actually worked, as distinct from the usual memory of The X-Files in which the day-to-day is completely overshadowed by the godforsaken mytharc) moves on to doing a ghost story in which the eponymous piece of alien technology is little more than a MacGuffin to set up the real plot, a fairly classic ghost story of long forgotten crimes.

Ghost Machine is, however, a thorough oddity. Structurally speaking, it’s bizarre - the first twelve minutes focus entirely on investigating the alien artifact, not on what turns out to be the story’s real plot, the unsolved murder of Lizzie Lewis. Even after that Lizzie Lewis’s plot, if you’ll pardon the choice of a word that tips my hand a bit, haunts the narrative, slowly exerting its influence. This is interesting, because in most regards this is bog standard “and now for the supporting cast” material - having done two episodes setting up Gwen, we now expect that we’ll see focus episodes on Ianto, Tosh, and Owen. (This actually gets quietly subverted with the fifth and sixth episodes, which hold off from focusing on Tosh. If this weren’t delaying the other female character, it would be easier to be happy about that.) And sure enough, Ghost Machine expands Owen’s character considerably.

On one level this is necessary, as Owen is by miles the least sympathetic character on the team at first. This isn’t just because of the fact that the first episode sets him up as a rapist - that is bad, but it’s fairly obvious by this point that Russell T Davies was not actually trying to make Owen that unsympathetic and evil. At this point the “obviously not what the writer’s intent was” defense used for Mark Gatiss in The Unquiet Dead applies, though in this case the blindness involved in missing the fact that you’re having one of your male leads become a rapist really does deserve serious condemnation. It really is the single worst thing Russell T Davies has ever written.

Nevertheless, to use the fact that Everything Changes fucks up massively in this regard to treat Owen as a character who can never again be sympathized with is a flawed reading. On aggregate Owen is clearly not meant to be the sort of character who rapes people, and holding every subsequent story accountable for Davies’s colossal screw-up accomplishes nothing save for misreading twenty-five episodes of Torchwood. Owen is not a real person, but a collection of narrative signifiers, one of which is a misfired bit of sci-fi rape. To treat the sci-fi rape as one would treat an actual sex crime committed by an actual person is to fall afoul of Gayatri Spivak’s maxim that novels are not gossip about imaginary people. (Indeed, this is a prime example of why that maxim is so important, as absent that maxim you’re stuck aggressively rewriting about twenty-six hours worth of television because of a poor decision in about two minutes of television.)

Which is to say that Owen’s sci-fi rape is part of a pattern of behavior in the first two episodes designed to mark Owen as the asshole. The error on Davies’s part is not to miss that Owen’s sci-fi rape is bad, but rather to treat it as “asshole” level bad instead of “oh my fucking god what the hell is wrong with you, you fucking monster” bad. The overall read of Owen over the first two episodes is firmly as “the asshole one.” And when the sci-fi rape is taken in context with all of this it is clearly a misfired bit of characterization that is meant to contribute to that larger implication. Here it’s notable that Owen adopts the exact same moral position Gwen did last episode - that everybody around him is absolutely bonkers for focusing on a mystery involving some aliens when there’s a human dimension. Most of Torchwood wants to solve a mystery about a little handheld widget, whereas Owen wants to avenge a brutal murder.

The result is that we understand Owen as Gwen after she’s been burnt out by the job. This is an important character shift, and quickly justifies his utility as a character. He goes from being the most easy-to-hate character on the show to being as fascinating as the two leads. That, in and of itself, is an impressive job of a character spotlight episode. But what’s interesting given this is the extent to which the episode doesn’t focus on Owen, including having its primary resolution be about Gwen. Owen’s emotional arc takes place within the episode, off on the edges of it, as Gwen’s story still dominates. This has fascinating effect - Owen’s emotional journey becomes just another form of strangeness lying alongside Gwen’s seemingly ordered, normal world.

Here also Gwen’s world starts to be overtly reinterpreted through Torchwood as the Ghost Machine also provides flashbacks to her pre-Torchwood relationship with Rhys. There’s an interesting effect here - one doesn’t get the sense that any strain on their relationship is coming from Torchwood (the organization) as such - the sense really is that her job as a policewoman was already intense enough to put a strain on their relationship. Nevertheless, it is Torchwood (the show) in which this strained relationship happens. Again, Torchwood is not simply about some sort of double life, but rather about the strange spaces that surround Gwen’s and, metaphorically, our existing lives. Owen’s confrontations with Ed Morgan and the ghost of Lizzie Lewis happen on the outskirts of her life, a B-plot in an episode that is still framed around her actions and her life.

This is an extremely intricate structure, and this is something Torchwood does not get nearly enough credit for. Its plotting is every bit as complex as Doctor Who’s - any one of these first three episodes could have been subject to the same level of analysis as Rose, and it is more that they’re not quite narratively worth it that is why we haven’t really done that. In the end, this episode seems a good place to just flag our overall conception of Torchwood down. Let us assume a baseline of being someone who, like me, considers the whole of the new series to be basically high quality television. Whatever my personal preferences on an episode-by-episode basis are, I broadly consider the new series of Doctor Who to be a a well-made piece of television that, based on its quality and cultural impact, deserves to be talked about in the same context as other high-profile contemporary television such as The Sopranos, Luther, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, et cetera. Not all of which are shows I watch, and some of which are shows I’ve tried and not enjoyed. This is, of course, the answer to a purely technical question - how good is Doctor Who?

How much I enjoy Doctor Who is a separate matter. It, for lack of a better word, energizes me more than other television. This is necessary. I couldn’t sustain this blog if it didn’t. I get stick occasionally for being an apologist for either the Davies or Moffat eras, or for my insufficient love of the Pertwee era. But, you know, there’s not much I can do. The basic momentum and desire to write this much about Doctor Who necessitates that I’m the sort of person who loves most of it. You can’t have a critical project this long that isn’t borne out of love, or at least, not one that won’t be terribly unhealthy for the writer. Both of these factors are, of course, important to criticism, especially criticism of the sort we do here. (And here I switch to the inclusive, because TARDIS Eruditorum is, in part, the community in the comments who play alongside the blog and form a vocal dialogue around my writing.) A show must both be well-made enough and energizing enough to a sufficient number of people to sustain criticism. Doctor Who is very good on both fronts, hence millions of people watching it and a very active and engaged fanbase.

Torchwood is not quite as good. It’s basically as well-made as Doctor Who, but it doesn’t quite energize people on the same level. It’s just not quite as good. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a reasonably interesting and engaging show; it is. It’s as well-made. It just lacks the same spark. A result of this is that it never quite gets to the soaring impact of something like Doomsday or The Girl in the Fireplace. Its high points simply are not quite as high as Doctor Who’s, or, at least, not on a regular enough basis. Nevertheless, it is interesting and complex. The schema of parallel worlds - in the sense of worlds running in parallel, not in the conventional sci-fi sense - is thorough in the show, and the show is constructed around it. This is a show about the strangeness of the mundane; not merely the strangeness of the planet, but the strangeness of our day-to-day lives of work and sleep. It pursues that theme with skill. It’s just that this theme is not quite as exciting as those explored by Doctor Who. It’s in general the Peter Davison era to Doctor Who’s Hinchcliffe era, or, on a micro level, the Masque of Mandragora to its Brain of Morbius.

Which is to say that there are regularly moments of brilliant television, flitting about the well-produced ephemera. The sequence of Gwen learning to shoot a gun is fascinating. On the one hand it’s pure fantasy secret-agent world - she instantly goes from having never fired one because she’s just a Welsh beat cop to being a superhuman killing machine capable of having a badass sci-fi gunfight. This is not actually a possible increase in skill. She goes from being a quasi-realist character to being a Torchwood secret agent heroine. Another, more cynical (but very much deliberate) way to put this is that she actively becomes a sex object over the course of the scene, going from a realistic woman to an Emma Peel descendent in the course of a montage in which she grinds against Captain Jack a bunch.

On the other hand, however, the gun remains present and physical through all of this. The fact that most of the British audience (unlike the American one that this is in no way being made for, even as it is in part being made about) of this show has never handled a gun is made tangible here. Gwen is in a cop-worship hero show like CSI or NCIS (or, in British television and with a bit more angst, MI-5) only with space aliens. But she’s still a beat cop in Cardiff, or at least, she was. She’s a middle class Rose Tyler, put into a different show than Doctor Who, and the show has the sheer thoughtfulness to show her encountering guns for the first time, instead of just smoothly reinventing her as an action hero instead of as a person.

This is the sort of thing Torchwood exists to do. This is the thing that justifies it over a dozen similar shows, making it that little bit better. Even if it only does it in fleeting glimpses, this is what makes the show remarkable and worth talking about. It is these moments of magical realism, in which we see moments of the human in the epic, and of the epic in the human. The existence of the gun scene, or of Owen quietly having a terribly well-acted emotional arc in the background (Burn Gorman is absolutely phenomenal in this part, incidentally - as an actor he’s capable of stealing scenes from John Barrowman if he wants to, though he knows his place in the show’s pecking order and chooses not to, playing Owen as the secondary character he’s written as even as he gives him a television performance the caliber of Idris Elba or Bryan Cranston. There’s a top quality show in him if someone can crack the alchemy of writing a lead character for him) are what make those quiet scenes of Rhys and Gwen’s past reanimated as ghosts, explicitly equated with the dead, so poignant.

There’s a troubling tendency in television to treat the epic as the enemy of the mundane. Nobody on NCIS ever goes home to their wives and has an ordinary life. The job consumes their humanity. This is true on a consistent level, which is part of why the standard issue male action hero is almost fundamentally hostile to feminism. Shows of the sort Captain Jack hale from are not the sorts of shows that those of us with ordinary lives get to play in. That doesn’t get to be our world. And part of Torchwood’s point is to refute that - to give us an ordinary person who’s job is to be in that sort of show. So we see her boyfriend and then husband on a regular basis - someone who does not belong in that world. But more to the point, we get a basically realist portrayal of a relationship. Gwen and Rhys feel honest, and like an imitation of the real phenomenon of love, not the stupid action hero movie one.

And then that gets paired with Torchwood’s borrowing of Doctor Who’s ability to get to any genre it pleases. So we have a classic ghost story of revenge and tragedy, and a quite realist portrayal of a relationship gets swallowed up in that, rewriting our everyday lives as the fuel of ghost stories and revenge tragedies. Torchwood, when it gets everything right, sings epic poetry of our everyday lives.

Comments

Lewis Christian 3 years, 8 months ago

The All-New Sandifer Torchwood Post Checklist of Repetition

"Owen is a rapist. It really is the single worst thing Russell T Davies has ever written." ?

If it's not in the rest of the posts, I'll be miffed.

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Daru 3 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for your write up Phil in this and the last couple of essays on Torchwood. I am really taken with your expansion on the idea of the all-consuming job that leaks into one's home life and even affects those around us who are not in that job themselves. This has added a much wider perspective onto the show for me - I have always enjoyed it.

I have experience myself of being in work that has felt like it took over my life - working within supported accommodation for adults and young people with what is often called 'challenging behaviour', where their emotions, due to certain disorders, are expressed through physical aggression. I certainly took some of that work home and had partners sharing it with me.

I have for the last two years been on the other side too - when my partner has been working at two nurseries - where you ought to expect caring and supportive environments, but she has been consistently bullied and I needed to support her a lot at home (things are better now, new work).

So I feel I could understand the story from both Gwen's and Rhys's points of view. I still find myself attracted to work that breaks its boundaries and fills other areas of my life, such as my Forest Schools and storytelling work where the drive comes from creating a new way of living, rather than just finding 'a job'. Be interesting to see what I get from the show when I re-watch Torchwood again.

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David Anderson 3 years, 8 months ago

CSI has been a mainstay of Channel 5 for years, and I'd guess most British tv viewers would recognise it. 'MI-5' gave me pause. It's a bit jarring to refer to Spooks by its US name after introducing it with the phrase 'in British television'.

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Prole Hole 3 years, 8 months ago

I think it's also interesting to compare the way that Gwen and Rhys function (erratically but essentially they're able to keep it going) with something like the first season of 24, where there seems to have been a genuine attempt to integrate the domestic (Jack's wife and daughter) with the more outlandish defeat-the-terrorists plotting. Of course Jack (Bauer's, not Harkness's) family get chewed up and spat out eventually leading *SPOILERS* to his wife's death at the end of the first season (in one of the best things 24 ever managed, back when it was more than just a punchline to justifying-torture discussions). Their domestic sphere inevitably got pulled into the main storyline, just as Gwen's does, but there's a fundamental difference between the resolutions, bleak vs... well, optimistic is probably overstating it since Gwen and Rhys go through hell together, but MORE optimistic at least. Whether this contrast is because Torchwood is more optimistic than 24 or because of the difference between a British and an American take on the same material I'm probably not qualified to comment on but it certainly proves to be a marked contrast.

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peeeeeeet 3 years, 8 months ago

Agreed about Burn Gorman - he's the best actor by a Countrycide mile (which is like a country mile but far, far stupider). Have to say though that after finding the first two episodes OKAAAAAAY, this is definitely the one that would have turned me off if I hadn't been a Doctor Who fan already. I thought it was utter garbage. If even John Normington can't save an episode, you're in real trouble. Valiant attempt there at redeeming the gun scene, but even after all these years it sticks in my head as one of the most ill-conceived sequences I've ever seen on television. Judging by the ratings for the next one, I'd have been in good company.

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Daru 3 years, 8 months ago

Yes interesting comparison, I have watched 24 also and found the juxtaposition of the domestic sphere with the job somehow a lot easier to watch in Torchwood. I certainly feel that it was more humanly portrayed. And yes certainly there is s definite contrast in approaches between this and 24 - good one to bring up as 24 seems to be a show where the domestic sphere is totally destroyed at every turn - and rather than singing "epic poetry of our everyday lives" 24 seems to in the end to be trying to hard to shout the epic chant of "stupid action hero movie".

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Scurra 3 years, 8 months ago

It seems a bit harsh to dismiss Emma Peel as, well, an "Emma Peel", meaning some sort of superwoman eye candy/sex object. At least she's actually got some sort of character life, as opposed to John Steed...

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The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca 3 years, 8 months ago

Am I the only person in the world who liked Countryside? Why am I the only person who seems to have liked it?

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Bennett 3 years, 8 months ago

You are not the only one, Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca. Countrycide is actually my favourite episode of Torchwood, if only for the wonderfully groan-worthy pun in its title.

But I also agree with peeeeeeet about it being rather stupid.

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Matter-Eater Lad 3 years, 8 months ago

The firing range sequence reminded me of Poochie showing off his rad skateboarding whilst Itchy and Scratchy stand off to the side watching it.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 8 months ago

After reading the last 3 entries I've actually started re-watching this first season of Torchwood, and I'm quite enjoying it. Some programmes suffer when watched out of their original broadcast time and context, but Torchwood seems better for it. Although as a spinoff one would expect it to rely on viewer knowledge of the parent programme, in a Knott's Landing kind of way, but as Phil has pointed out, pains have been taken to distance it from Doctor Who and allow it to stand alone. Unfortunately being broadcast slap bang in the middle of Doctor Who's rising popularity meant it was unavoidably compared to Who and found wanting, which I now realise is utterly unfair.

Sadly Torchwood's reputation (mainly from fan circles)is cemented now, and it is almost impossible to separate the reality from the myth. However, viewing it today, distanced in time and style from Doctor Who, one gets a glimpse into a universe in which Torchwood exists, but Doctor Who doesn't...and to this viewer at least the glimpse is favourable.

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Kit 3 years, 8 months ago

prufreed: "hail from"

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Ununnilium 3 years, 8 months ago

It's the most qlippothic aspect of the RTD era.

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Assad K 3 years, 8 months ago

The title of Countrycide is indeed clever.
And is pretty much the only clever thing about it.

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elvwood 3 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, I'm inspired to rewatch too. I may get a chance to see several episodes over the second half of this week while the family's away, various things permitting.

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elvwood 3 years, 8 months ago

Ah! I don't watch a lot of TV, so I presumed there was some program called MI-5 I'd missed hearing about (heck, I even managed to miss hearing about the return of Doctor Who in 2005 until after the event, since I wasn't watching any at the time). But that makes sense now, though.

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elvwood 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm one of the very few Brits I know (at least, outside of military or para/quasimilitary folk) who have had any gun training. It always surprises people when it comes up, supporting Philip's observation regarding this country.

I was not like Gwen. After a number of sessions I got to the point where I could occasionally hit the piece of paper the target was printed on.

So much for my image as a fat, male, middle-aged, Emma Peel, then. Guess I'll have to rely on my walking stick.

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David Anderson 3 years, 8 months ago

With regards to the point that fiction is not gossip about imaginary people, can we explore the limits of that claim? If we take it too programmatically do we lose the ability to take fiction at an emotional level? One cares that the Doctor loses Rose; to care that one set of narrative signifiers no longer invokes another set of narrative signifiers seems harder to understand. Having the audience hope or fear for the characters is a useful technique in getting the audience interested in whatever other aesthetic aims you have.
Now there's clearly an aesthetic puzzle here in that we need to explain what an audience is doing in hoping and fearing for characters that they know aren't real. However, it seems doctrinaire to think that the writer mustn't make use of such reactions or that a critical audience ought to discount them.

(I take the application of the point about Owen. I think it's only a partial defence; the real knock is not so much to our opinion of the character (although first impressions are important) as to our opinion of the creative team who are capable of that kind of misjudgement in an episode in which they ought to be paying particular attention. But we've been over the ground.)

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 8 months ago

How perfectly cromulent.

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J Mairs 3 years, 8 months ago

The secret of ignominy is venereal despoiled congress.

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jane 3 years, 8 months ago

Count me among those who adore Countrycide.

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 8 months ago

In terms of its reception among Doctor Who fans, Torchwood might have to wait for a genuine generational change like the Great Re-Evaluation to rebuild its reputation. I always considered it a flawed show with very high water marks of where it realized its potential. I think as well, established Doctor Who fans weren't really used to all the shifts in Captain Jack's character from Doctor Who to here.

I love your commentary on the episodes, though. It does point out elements that I didn't quite see the first time, especially the story structure. I should thank you, Phil, for educating me more deeply in televisual literacy through the Eruditorum, so that I can better perceive the narrative complexity of the show. I found I could never truly distinguish narrative from plot or character arc until your analyses taught me what it was.

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Alan 3 years, 8 months ago

Personally, I liked Countrycide better when it was called Murdersville and featured Mrs. Peel in a skintight mauve jumpsuit.

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Anton B 3 years, 8 months ago

And me. Though I haven't watched it since first broadcast so my memory might be hazy, but I believe it's unique in the way it sets up a standard, almost Pertwee Unit Era style 'strange goings on in an English Village' story and totally collapses that narrative. Can anyone recall another Sci-Fi/Fantasy plot where the twist ending was similar to 'Countrycide's'...

MAJOR 'COUNTRYSIDE' SPOILER



There was no 'alien' or 'outside' influence it was just the villagers liked being cannibals?

Also Captain Jack literally demolishing the denouement in a bloody big tractor!

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 8 months ago

"I should thank you, Phil, for educating me more deeply in televisual literacy through the Eruditorum, so that I can better perceive the narrative complexity of the show. I found I could never truly distinguish narrative from plot or character arc until your analyses taught me what it was."

Surely it wasn't so bad as that?

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Alan 3 years, 8 months ago

Just to play Devil's Advocate about Rapist Owen (because personally, I think he is a rapist but Devil's Advocacy can be fun):

I have just rewatched "Everything Changes" and I think an argument can be made that he didn't rape anyone at all under any contemporary definition of that crime. If rape is broadly defined as sexual relations with someone without their consent (including minors who are legally too young to consent), then I think it is important to note that Owen didn't do anything to the couple directly. That is, he didn't spray a chemical on them or put something into their drinks or hit them with a sex-ray. Rather, he sprayed pheromones (or whatever) on himself to make him into someone that the man and woman each would happily consent to having sex with. Would it be rape if he'd used an alien device to make himself impossibly handsome? Or to cause people to intuitively believe that he was incredibly rich and/or famous? After all, we don't know anything about the workings of the alien spray other than the fact that it can immediately cause an onlooker to desire someone they'd previously found unattractive (and presumably overcome a straight male's natural lack of attraction to other men). You know, like Johnny Depp after the first Pirates movie came out.

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George Potter 3 years, 8 months ago

Can anyone recall another Sci-Fi/Fantasy plot where the twist ending was similar to 'Countrycide's'...

Supernatural Season 1, 'The Benders' written by John Shiban. Broadcast 2/06.

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peeeeeeet 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm actually surprised Dr S didn't take this line, actually. I seem to remember - and apologies to her if I'm misremembering this - that Kate Orman put this case at the time.

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peeeeeeet 3 years, 8 months ago

Well, if the twist is that the biggest aliens are weird British yokels and their sinister old ways... does K-9 and Company count?

(Also you could say every Scooby Doo ever, though I suppose since it's never really supernatural the wider context is different)

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Chris 3 years, 8 months ago

I've never seen CSI or NCIS, so it may well be true that they don't show the detectives' private lives,but there are enough cop/detective shows where the detective's work clashes with their personal life that it's pretty much a cliche - Cracker, Prime Suspect and Between the Lines all did in the 90s. And in the first series of Spooks/MI5 a major plotline was the conflict between one character's work and his civilian girlfriend. So I'm not convinced Torchwood was revolutionary in this respect.

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George Potter 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm pretty sure 'Countrycide' is (to be charitable) is inspired by the Supernatural episode I mention. I mean, both basically have the exact same friggin' denouement: when asked 'why?' (by female law enforcement officers) the leader of the clans say:

(Countrycide): "Because it made me happy."

(the Benders): "Because it's fun."

The big difference is that in Supernatural the female protag puts a bullet through the freak's head. Oh, and the Supernatural episode is far better written, acted, directed and shot. ;)

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George Potter 3 years, 8 months ago

Oh, and another fun fact: Davies later hired Shiban to write for [i]Miracle Day[/i].

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 8 months ago

I think the timeline's a little too compressed for Countrycide to be directly influenced by Supernatural - The Benders didn't air in the UK until April of 2006. Torchwood started filming in May, and Countrycide would surely have gone through several drafts prior to The Benders even airing.

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 8 months ago

Sounds almost like The X-Files's "Our Town", though that one did have something supernatural in the sense someone had lived 100 years.

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William Silvia 3 years, 7 months ago

Interesting... the way you describe Torchwood, it's EXACTLY what the Rose era of Doctor Who is. Except, you know, with the sex happening onscreen instead of between episodes prior to telling one another that it was fantastic.

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Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

I really love Countrycide too.

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Garth Simmons 3 years, 7 months ago

If you haven't seen it yet but want to best not to read this as SPOILERS..................

Millienium had a very good balance between the domestic and the otherworldly as Frank Black became a member of what eventually turns out to be a ancient biblical cult obsessed millenial prophecy and the end of the world. This totally takes over his life gradually alienates him from his wife and daughter and leading to a really distressing ending to season two. Its a fairly thought provoking series and much better in terms of it's overarching story arc than it's mothership show The X Files. Season 3 kind of loses the plot a little but has a great conclusion so that was kind of worth it too.

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That Guy 3 years, 7 months ago

It's pretty standard for, though, in those works for the domestic sphere to dry up, disappear or get increasingly hostile through the course of the series. And that never really happened with Torchwood - Rhys is never really a full level member of Torchwood, and his domestic support remains invaluable throughout the series.

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Darren K. 3 years, 7 months ago

Late for the Countryside party, but it might be my favourite episode, if I squint hard enough. I certainly remember it being one of the handful of "good ones".

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storiteller 3 years, 7 months ago

It actually reminded me more of the X-Files episode Home, which was so controversial that Fox refused to play it in repeats. But it was definitely "creepy rural people doing awful things for no supernatural reason." (Although no cannibalism.) Also, for those who like the X-Files, Shaenon Garrity's Monster of the Week combined comics with hilarious critique: http://www.shaenon.com/monsteroftheweek/?p=347

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The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca 3 years, 7 months ago

I think Countryside is a model the Sarah Jane Adventures could have used - I don't mean the 'eating people' thing, but a resolution that sometimes it isn't aliens. BEcause Sarah Jane eventually became that one image meme "I'm not saying it's aliens, but..." and it always was. Ghosts? Aliens. The mail is late? Aliens. Her column not formatting properly? Aliens.

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Kate Orman 3 years, 7 months ago

It would be more accurate to say that I racked my brains (and the brains of others) for some convincingly SFnal explanation of how the spray could work that made it consensual and not some sort of mind control. And never found it, alas. :(

(I can *imagine* a neat "Twilight Zone" sort of story in which someone thinks they have a spray which will make them irresistable, only to get the desired person because the spray makes them a better person. "Groundhog Day" in a can. However, that is not this story.)

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Jesse Butler 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm catching up on the blog after a long absence. I'm somewhat surprised that this post comes after Pacific Rim's release, and nobody mentioned in response to "Burn Gorman is absolutely phenomenal in this part" that he's fantastic in Pacific Rim. He's not even a headline character, but his "B-Plot" helps make the movie rise up above just being mechs fighting giant monsters.

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