CSI Cardiff, I'd like to see that. They'd be measuring the velocity of a kebab.
A bit of an update to my Time Treadmill custom software, a wee bit of data entry, and now I am rolling with the first major Doctor Who spinoff, Torchwood. It's kind of like Doctor Who except with blood and profanity and sex. In other words, not like Doctor Who at all. I'll be watching it for the next two months or so.
(TARDIS Data Core recap)
At the point this first aired, the last time we had seen Captain Jack Harkness he had been exterminated by a Dalek, resurrected by Bad Wolf Rose, and then left behind on space station in Earth orbit nearly two hundred thousand years in the future while the Ninth Doctor and Rose scarper off in the TARDIS in the midst of some snogging. And, to be fair, a regeneration. Now, a little over a year since that story aired, Jack returns in this new series with no explanation (yet) of how he got from a far-future space station to current day Cardiff.
Of course the big thing about Torchwood is that it is the first Whoniverse story designed to be targeted specifically to adults and to be aired after the watershed hour (a British term - all programming before the watershed must be appropriate for all audiences, but programming that airs after may contain mature content). This being the case, this episode has the somewhat-questionable honor of also being the first Whoniverse story drop the F-bomb along with other profanity, to feature explosive gouts of blood, and to feature one of its lead characters (who is supposed to be one of the good guys) using alien technology to go out to a bar and then date rape a woman and her jealous boyfriend.
I mean, it's not played as date rape, but that's totally what it is. No consent, just a guy using Alien Spanish Fly to coerce a beautiful woman to sleep with him, and then using the same thing to derail her violently jealous boyfriend and to make this presumably heterosexual man suddenly decide to get all bi-curious. Ooh, edgy. By which I mean rapey.
Being a pilot episode, the whole thing is played out with police officer Gwen Cooper encountering the Torchwood team as they use
The Infinity Gauntlet an alien gauntlet to briefly resurrect a murder victim. This leads Gwen to start digging around, eventually leading her to infiltrate the Torchwood underground lair (the Hub) by way of pizza delivery. From a storytelling perspective, this allows for all of the main characters to be introduced in depth, with Gwen acting as an audience proxy. It's basically the same idea as Rose, and it's a tired trope that has been used a million times in a million different television pilots. After the audience has been info-dumped, Jack spike's Gwen's drink with some Other Alien Not Spanish Fly. Rather than date raping her, he just wipes out her memory of the entire evening. Which is still a dick thing to do.
Remember, these are the heroes.
Of course, Gwen being particularly awesome, the amnesia drink doesn't entirely take hold. She is Very Clever, and after seeing a sketch of the murder weapon from the dead guy in the opening scene, she traces it all the way back to Torchwood, and is confronted by Second-In-Command Suzie who has been running around murdering people just so she can keep using the
Infinity Gauntlet alien gauntlet. Then the first big shocking moment comes, when Suzie shoots Jack in the head. Remember, at this point we didn't know that Jack was immortal. He's the lead character, and suddenly he has a terminal lead-induced headache. The next shocking moment comes with Jack stands back up, and then Suzie (who had featured prominently in all of the advanced promo shots and was named in the opening credits as a series lead) commits suicide. Boom, gone.
The end result is that Gwen (and, by proxy, the audience) finds out that Jack cannot die, and then she is invited to fill the suddenly-vacant slot on the team. Then she and Jack go stand on the roof of the Millennium Center and have a conversation, because that's what what people do. Right?
Look, it wasn't awful. Predictable? Sure. Pilot episodes often are. It definitely tries a bit too hard on the whole post-watershed front. I could have done without the date rape (obviously). But it did deliver a couple of huge shocks in the last act. This is a show where the lead characters are not safe. In fact, by the time I get to the end of this show every single lead character introduced here besides Gwen will be dead (spoilers!). In Jack's case dead is not a persistent condition, but for all the rest... not so much. So, it's a pretty ballsy show once it finally settles in.
Tomorrow will not be that day. As I have mentioned before, Torchwood's tagline might as well have been "...it gets better after Cyberwoman..."
Featuring: Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, Toshiko Sato, Owen Harper, Ianto Jones, Suzie Costello
Episode(s): Everything Changes
Steps Walked: 7,578 today, 3,718,290 total
Distance Walked: 4.06 miles today, 1,943.57 miles total
Push-ups Completed: 39 today, 6,900 total
Sit-ups Completed: 0 today, 1,029 total
Weight: 254.32 lbs (five day moving average), net change -52.98 lbs