It’s October 29th, 2009. Cheryl Cole is at number one, with Whitney Houston, Black Eyed Peas, Michael Buble, Jay-Z, and Robbie Williams also charting. In news, Morrissey collapses while performing “This Charming Man” in Swindon. Zine El Abine Ben Ali wins 90% of the votes in Tunisia and a five-year term of office, which seems like a sure bet that he’ll be around for ages. And footballer Marlon King is sacked from Wigan Athletic after a sexual assault conviction.
On television, meanwhile, we have The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith. The biggest thing about this story is, of course, that the Doctor is in it. That this is demonstrably the most important thing about it is also in many regards the fundamental challenge of it: how does one do an episode of a spin-off to Doctor Who that features the Doctor and not have it become a de facto episode of Doctor Who instead of an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
[previously] On the other hand, the idea that the Doctor would deliberately murder a child to save the day is unthinkable. In fact, the degree to which it is unthinkable is central to Moffat’s soft retcon of the Time War to give the Doctor an out in Day of the Doctor. The way that Moffat renders the Doctor’s double genocide unthinkable is by declaring that Gallifrey was full of children – a thought that is unimaginable in the context of Davies’s vision of the Time War as an event in which the dead are simply brought back from an earlier point in time to fight again and again and the Time Lords became monsters as unthinkable as the Daleks. Moffat alters this by saying that the Time Lords weren’t all monsters, and he does this through unabashed reproductive futurism. Jack, on the other hand, has at this point functionally killed fourteen kids, putting him six shy of Adam Lanza.
Steffan Alun writes on the subject of Torchwood and Cardiff…
It’s October 22nd, 2006. I’ve been back in university for a few weeks, and I’ve just come back from a choir trip. Some music is in the charts, but I don’t have to listen to it, because I’ve finally acquired a DAB radio, allowing me to listen to Radio 4 despite Aberystwyth’s unacceptable inability to find it on FM.
On television, meanwhile, Torchwood debuts, and I am extremely interested in the portrayal of Cardiff in this show. Most of my old school friends went to Cardiff for uni, but the city is still reasonably unfamiliar to me. I spend most of my visits in their rented accommodation, talking about Doctor Who.
Fast-foward to the present day, and I now spend most of my time on public transport thinking about comedy. I am a standup comedian, a job which takes me all over the UK. I’ve performed hundreds of gigs, but nearly a quarter of them have been in Cardiff. It is, by now, a city I know incredibly well. Thanks to the particular eccentricities of standup comedy, I can even tell you how high the ceilings are in over thirty venues.
Let’s quickly cover the history of Cardiff and Doctor Who so far. Russell T Davies (like me, he’s from Swansea – in fact, we grew up on the same street, decades apart) has revived the show and made it a BBC superbrand. That’s their word, not mine, but I quite like it. Superbrand. It’s fun to say. The show is filmed in Cardiff, as part of the offer made to get Julie Gardner on board. Julie Gardner is also from a part of Wales. My parents never thought to tell me where she grew up, so let’s Occam’s Razor the question of where she’s from and assume that she, like Russell T Davies and Steffan H Alun, grew up on Lôn Cae Banc. Anyway, the first new series of Doctor Who features two episodes set in Cardiff, one of which was filmed in Swansea. Following so far? Good.
What we have in Everything Changes, the first episode of Torchwood, is something that starts off looking like tedious Joseph Campbell nonsense, but ends up as a wonderful subversion. A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder … until the reality of the supernatural turns out to be so horrific that a woman whose job it is to research the supernatural takes her own life. “The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man?” No, the hero joins a team who research alien powers without the slightest intention to share these powers with anyone else.
I’m telling you this for two reasons. You only need to know one of those reasons – specifically, that while Gwen slowly learns about Torchwood, the audience is slowly learning about Cardiff. Most of the audience is familiar with the idea for Torchwood – I’d be amazed if many of the 2.8m viewers hadn’t seen any of the first two series of Doctor Who, and even more so if “secret organisation fighting aliens” was new to them.…