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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

11 Comments

  1. Seeing_I
    November 13, 2013 @ 3:36 am

    Almost unbearably sad episode, touching perfectly the intersection of fantasy and real life. That's pretty much all I can say at the moment.

    Reply

  2. Jesse
    November 13, 2013 @ 5:22 am

    while Adrift is about the underlying mythological premises of the realm of faerie and their connections with everyday life, its structure is as a conspiracy story

    You say potato…

    Reply

  3. Elizabeth Sandifer
    November 13, 2013 @ 5:24 am

    I'm certainly easily persuaded that stories about faerie and conspiracies fill the same basic mythological role, but I have a hard time arguing that Thomas the Rhymer or the first branch of the Mabinogion are narratively structured like conspiracy stories.

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  4. Jesse
    November 13, 2013 @ 5:31 am

    I was having fun; I don't think they're identical. But I do think conspiracy stories — or, more exactly, stories about vast conspiracies — strongly resemble realm-of-faerie stories, even if many realm-of-faerie stories do not resemble vast-conspiracy stories.

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  5. Lewis Christian
    November 13, 2013 @ 9:07 am

    Rather simply: this, for me, is Perfect Torchwood. Well, the perfect singular episode of the whole four series, in my view. I adore Series 3, but this one episode just gets everything right.

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  6. Adam Riggio
    November 13, 2013 @ 11:28 am

    Adrift is definitely a brilliant episode, and provided the template for Torchwood going further. I think, however, its model ultimately creates a lesser show, at least in terms of its potential for storytelling. And I say this as someone who absolutely loves Children of Earth, though its sustained brutality and bleakness means I don't really rewatch it very often.

    The original premise of Torchwood was, as Phil described, about exploring the weird spaces that nuzzle into everyday life, and the tensions those collisions created, both in the context of the everyday and of the weird. One continued problem of its original format was that Jack himself was adrift in the narrative. Season One demonstrated that Torchwood's ostensible star was continually sidelined because his mysterious past put the narrative at a distance from him. So the show became about Owen's subversive not-quite-leading man and about Gwen's constant collision of the ordinary with the strange. The cool part about this model of Torchwood is that you could keep dragging new stories out of it. The setting could serve for any story of strange figures invading the everyday world, or of some development in the ordinary human world causing unpredictable effects thanks to its intersection with the strange. The cast who weren't Jack, Gwen, or Rhys could leave and be replaced, allowing for different chemistries and character interactions with the tense meeting places of the Cardiff rift. With a setup like that, a show with a solid writing stable could last for quite a long time. Maybe not as long as Doctor Who, but it could definitely have a beyond-healthy lifespan.

    But taking Adrift as your model basically means that Torchwood becomes capable of one type of story: slowly unveiling a new mystery about Jack's epic past. Now, there's plenty of room for stories like this. Indeed, if there were ever a Torchwood Season Five, I think it would be great for Gwen and Rhys to explore Jack's past in the 51st century, delving into the world of his origin, where the original holes in his life were developed. But there's only so much chicanery and anti-heroism in Jack's past to explore before he loses his heroic, or even his anti-heroic, qualities. Children of Earth came pretty close to outright villainizing Jack at the end, though the only resistance came form his own self-consciousness of moral collapse.

    But having to rely on the tension between the current Torchwood team and the moral greyness of Jack's past for every major plot severely limits the diversity and number of stories Torchwood can tell. It sets the show up for its artistic triumph, but ultimately this amounts to setting a blazing fire under it. The pyrotechnics become amazing, but they burn out fast.

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  7. Alan
    November 13, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

    But having to rely on the tension between the current Torchwood team and the moral greyness of Jack's past for every major plot severely limits the diversity and number of stories Torchwood can tell.

    It's worse than that — they have to rely exclusively on tension between Gwen's morality and/or naivete versus Jack's moral greyness. Did any of the other Torchwood people care about the "mystery" in this episode?

    Reply

  8. elvwood
    November 13, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

    This was the episode I missed when it was originally transmitted. I was disappointed when I finally watched it because a lot of people said it was the best or second-best of the season, and I found it full of actions and attitudes that happened just because they were needed for the plot. Why didn't anyone tell Gwen what would happen before Jonah's mum met him? Why didn't anyone pay attention to the carer when she said they needed to get out? Why didn't Jonah's mum even consider the possibility that she might be able to make some of her son's few coherent hours better, without having to live through the screaming again? And why was Jack being so secretive and untrusting in the first place? Basically Gwen and Jonah's mum were set up to be punished.

    There was a lot of good in it – keeping it human, as has been pointed out – but the obviously contrived situation took the sting out of it for me.

    Reply

  9. BerserkRL
    November 14, 2013 @ 9:39 am

    Jesse, you should maybe write a book about this conspiracy stuff.

    Reply

  10. Jesse
    November 14, 2013 @ 10:05 am

    Nah, it's been done.

    Reply

  11. coldwater1010
    January 21, 2014 @ 9:48 pm

    This episodes seems worst to me every time I watch it like a lot of Torchwood episodes in retrospect. Ianto helping Gwen behind Jack's back makes little sense if we're supposed to ultimately believe that Jack is right, despite how ridiculous his actions are, and there is nothing to be done after all. It's hard for me to buy he wouldn't grasp that if that's the case, especially after the disaster with Lisa, and they fail to give him any motive to explain why despite that he'd feel compelled to act the way he does. He's just a lamely used plot device, as is his relationship with Jack, to move Jack and Gwen from a to b. But the handling of Nikki is really where this episode irritates me the most. She's thrown into her son's room without any counselling for either her or Jonah about what to expect or even a warning that he screams for most of the day and yet they conveniently schedule her visit for the period just when he begins said screaming which ends up suggesting that maybe the reason these people can't be helped isn't because there is no hope, but because everyone involved is so incompetent from Jack down. All this so Gwen can apparently learn the rather pointless lesson at this point in the season and her character development that sometimes nothing can be done even though isn't that pretty much where she starts the episode anyway?

    Reply

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