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Oct 23, 2006

Take That, Doctor!

Well now, that was interesting wasn’t it?

The Beeb definitely had a lot of faith in this series. There was a huge amount of publicity and trailers including the front cover of the Radio Times. So was it worth their efforts?

Firstly there was the claim that this is an adult show. Hence the post watershed timeslot. Apparently, according to Russel T Davies’ little book of rules, all you need to be a grown up is rain, a few night shots, a little more blood and lots of swearing. Now I’ve mention before my opinion on swearing but to reiterate I can’t see the point. Occasionally, there are times when one needs to give vent to a certain degree of frustration wherein a "Oh for goodness’ sake" or if it’s really bad "Bloody Hell" but just throwing random cussing out simply because the kiddies aren’t meant to be listening just doesn’t do it for me.

'rain, a few night shots, a little more blood and lots of swearing'

And even though this show is designed to stand on it’s own there were the inevitable references to it’s parent show. I have to say I thought most of them were really quite clever. The mention of the space time rift, the ‘something’ that happened to Jack that meant he couldn’t be killed, Jack’s war service, looking for the "right kind of Doctor" and my favourite. The invisible lift that was caused by a dimensionally transcendent chameleon machine (or whatever he said) leaving a residue of it’s ability behind. Smart little references that wouldn’t detract from the story if you didn’t know your Who, but were nods to fans.

I’d love to know how many people are going to make a pilgrimage to Cardiff in order to stand in front of the fountain and accost passers by on the off chance that they won’t be seen or heard. To be honest, if I ever found myself in Cardiff (assumedly as a result of some kind of brain damage) then I would be tempted to stand there. Just to say that I’ve done it.

But it wasn’t just Doctor Who that Torchwood paid homage to, was it? These are the little references that I noticed -

#1 The rolling door with the cog wheel edging – Dead ringer for the air locks on board Deep Space Nine. They were even the same colour.

#2 Then when Jack introduced young Gwen to the Weevil I was half expecting it to say "Good evening, Clarice." Those holding cells were identical to the ones in Silence of the Lambs.

#3 And who’s idea was it to have a super secret car drawing attention to itself by copying KITT and have lights bouncing back and forth? I’m starting to see a pattern here - Michael Knight took "a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist" and Torchwood is "separate from the government, outside the police and beyond the United Nations." Perhaps in order to be truly undercover, you need lights pulsating all over your car.

#4 A little more obscure and possibly unintentional, but Captain Jack claims to have lost Torchwood 4. In Babylon 5 the fourth Babylon station (named Babylon 4, oddly) also went missing. It turns out that it was hijacked and taken back in time, so perhaps where people should start looking for Torchwood 4.

This UK version of MIB just doesn’t seem to have the same kind of commitment to secrecy

Whilst we’re on the subject of being "separate from the government, outside the police and beyond the United Nations" and so very top secret that even the Prime Minister isn’t meant to know about Torchwood, how is that every beat cop and pizzeria in Cardiff knows about them? They just seem to be taken as some kind of Special Ops team without question or checking of authorisation.

I always imagined the Torchwood organisation to be more Men In Black than that. I mean poor Will Smith was told where to live, what to wear and even had his fingerprints removed. This UK version of MIB just doesn’t seem to have the same kind of commitment to secrecy. I think they may have taken this Freedom Of Information thing a bit too far.

So what of the people who inhabit this ahem top secret world of aliens and weirdness? What about the Jack Pack? (Buffy had the Scoobies, Angel had the Fang Gang and Captain Caveman had the Teen Angels, so I figured that this little group should have a nickname of some kind) To be honest, I didn’t much care for them. It just seemed to me like they were trying too hard. They seemed to be quite unpleasant, unfeeling, self-serving types in it more for the experience than through any desire to help mankind. Which is what Queen Victoria had in mind in the beginning. All of the ensemble scenes, especially those in the Torchwood HQ, just seemed a little strained to me. Only Captain Jack seemed to be relaxed and in the groove. Maybe that was the feeling that they were trying to convey. Only by living out there and experiencing the weirdness of it all can you truly be comfortable with aliens and oddness.

Mind you, even Jack was more restrained that I remember. He’s lost some of that easy flirting charm that made him so cool. Maybe being killed and brought back to life takes it out of a chap. I mean look at the chap that they brought back to life at the beginning of the show – He wasn’t really that full of beans and charm was he?

This UK version of MIB just doesn’t seem to have the same kind of commitment to secrecy

I don’t recall if there was any mention of high IQ’s for the members of the Jack Pack (I like that name and will continue to use it) but I don’t imagine that it was much of a requirement. Take for example the murderous second in command. She chose as her murder weapon not a standard kitchen carving knife that could have come from anywhere, but a pretty darn unique Klingon-esque knife that made it easy for our heroine to snap out of her drug induced amnesia. Now I’ve not got much experience in the hack and slash field of frenzied knife attacks, but I imagine that one sharp blade is pretty much the same as another when it comes to causing violent death. It just seems like something that a covert operative would have thought of. Ah, I think I see the flaw in that argument – She was a Torchwood covert operative. By that logic she should have told everybody what she was doing long before PC Gwen ever turned up.

I did like the Weevil. I have to say that I didn’t think "Hellraiser" when I saw him for the first time - More Elephant Man meets The Howling. But I thought that the idea of leather wearing, sewer dwelling carnivore has definite potential to be a running theme. Perhaps we can find out a little more about them when the time comes.

And talking about finding things out. Captain Jack Harkness is something of a mystery these days isn’t he? I have to say that I loved the Batman rift of his standing on the tall building looking out over ‘his’ city. Very cool bit of posing.

He has the style, but what of the substance? How did he get from reanimated corpse in the far flung future to heading a "secret" organisation in contemporary Cardiff? Is this one of those questions we will ever get answered? Has it anything to do with the two years worth of memories that he misplaced?

And why can’t he be killed? How far does this ability extend? If, for example, he’d wanted to take the quick way down from the top that building, would he have been able to get up and walk away straight afterwards? As a bullet hole sealed itself, fixing bone and (assumedly) missing bits of brain, I can only assume that he’d be fine.

So can he age? Is he some kind of immortal like the Highlander? Ooh, there’s another possible movie mention.

So many questions. Will we get the answers?

I do hope so.

Anyway, all in all that was a good enough opener to make me want to watch episode 2. Good effects, interesting intro story and a team that will, hopefully, grow on me.

I’ll come back and review the second episode in a day or so. But for the time being, I’ve not been disappointed.

Oh yes, one last thing. The Pterodactyl. I’m somewhere between "Huh?", "Why?", "How?" and "What?!!" at the moment.

Comments

The team is often called The Innuendo Squad.

The Pterodactyl? It's GOT to come from Invasion of The Dinosaurs hasn't it? Don't forget Russel managed to get some obsure nods to The Web Planet into Boom Town for goodness' sake, so the creature is obviously a relic from Operation Golden Age. Kkklakkk!!

It looked far too real to be from Invasion!

Torchwood 4 had better be in Belfast, or I'm calling the Equality Commission.

Actually Marc, I commented on this a few weeks ago, that Torchwoods 1, 2, and 3 form 3 points of a parralellogram, that has the fourth being off the coast of Ireland. It's quite possible that it *was* in the vicinity of Belfast, and is somehow now somewhere off the coast, forming the fourth point, or more likely they have some sort of offshore platform in the waters between Ireland and Scotland.

Ahem, to clarify, the "now somewhere" bit was originally a theory of mine, being somewhat backed up by Jack's comments that they "lost it."

Don't any three points form 3 points of a parallellogram? How do you know they're not three points of a trapezoid, or an irregular quadralateral?

I still don't understand why Torchwood 1 had so much staff, yet 3 only has 5.

Mark, I was *thees* close to snapping off a mathematically sound argument there, but instead, I'm just going to glare at you while suppressing giggles from the sarcasm.

And Coleman, I'm thinking Torchwood Cardiff is probably a satellite office, much like police substations in shopping malls, but on a grander scale. Hence the smaller staff. Also, less staff = less chance of people discovering them. Not that they seem terribly concerned (Who's been ordering pizza under "Torchwood"?)

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