by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Torchwood, Season Three: "Children of Earth" Day Two

Posted 15 January 2010 in by Catriona

Now I did warn you that I wouldn’t do this live-blogging sober. I was tipsy last week. I’m a little more tipsy this week: Michelle wasn’t drinking last week, and it’s always more depressing drinking on your own, isn’t it?

On that note, Michelle and Heather are joining us again this week. After all, I did swear that I wouldn’t live-blog this on my own.

We’re in ads at the moment, but I’m sure it will start at any moment. Honestly, it will.

This episode contains violence.

HEATHER: Violence!? Is that because Jack blew up in the last episode? Is that the violence you mean?

We get a recap of the last episode, at which point Michelle realises that she misunderstood the last episode: she read Ianto heading up on the elevator as Jack being blown up through the roof.

We come back to Gwen coming to in the aftermath of the explosion—I was distracted briefly by the offer of Wagon Wheels, which turned into a slightly odd offer, in which Michelle offered to hold the Wagon Wheel while I took bites out of it [Note: I think I made this sound weirder than it needed to sound] and when I pay attention again, Gwen is being attacked in an ambulance by two seeming paramedics, who said they were told there should be no survivors. She fights them off, and legs it.

Inato, meanwhile, is pulling himself out of the wreckage of the Hub, and legging it through the streets while being shot at.

NICK: Man, he’s really lucky they can’t shoot straight.
HEATHER: Yeah, you’re not weaving enough, Ianto. Be lighter in your loafers. Lighter!

Frobisher gets a phone call from the woman in black: he tells his wife that their daughters are safe now, but the woman in black tells him that “targets two and three” escaped, and then Decker from MI-something shows up on his doorstep.

Deckers says the transmissions from the 456 are instructions for something that they want built. Frobisher asks why they would attack the children, and Decker says, “Because they can.”

Michelle thinks that’s unsatisfactory from a plot perspective.

Gwen ends up in the ambulance again, and shoots bit of the surviving assassin until he tells her that he doesn’t work for the NHS as he previously claimed, but for the government.

The police seal off the Hub, and Andy objects to the woman in black’s claim that Gwen is dangerous. Sadly, this attracts the woman’s attention to Andy, and she says, “You must know where she lives.”

Gwen bursts into the flat and tells Rhys they need to get out of there.

And the woman in black and her men head across the city, sirens blaring—much to Michelle’s disapproval—on their way to Gwen’s flat. Andy is uncomfortable but unwilling to go against the people with guns.

As they leave the flat, Ianto rings, but he knows the phone is bugged, so they can’t set up a place to meet.

And the woman in black and her men arrive, but Gwen shoots their tires out and she and Rhys escape.

Andy thinks this proves that Gwen isn’t a terrorist, but the woman says she’s just a clever terrorist.

And the next place they look is at Ianto’s sister’s house, where there’s a slightly disconcerted response in my living room to the fact that Ianto’s brother-in-law is naked when they burst into his bedroom.

Ianto, meanwhile, walks through the Cardiff streets and ducks into corridors [Note: or even alleyways] as vans pass.

The next morning, Frobisher tells his daughters to keep their phones on during the day, though they point out that the phones will be confiscated if they ring during class. He says he wants to speak to them, and they say, “Since when?” But they’re not too freaked out, because they say “Dad?” and then start intoning, “We want a pony. We want a pony. We want a pony.” “See?” he says. “Nothing to worry about.” But he looks terrified.

Clem wanders the street, and pulls out a newspaper. And Alice’s son asks whether Uncle Jack doesn’t work in the area of Cardiff that blew up, but Alice says that Cardiff is a big place.

Lois comes to work, and checks out the order to kill list, with Jack’s name on it.

Frobisher, meeting the Prime Minister, asks if the 456 have contacted any other countries. He says that’s what everyone is asking, but the Prime Minister says there’s no chatter on the wire. Frobisher thanks the Prime Minister for trusting him, but the PM says all he’s done is put Frobisher on the front line: “That’s what the front line is for,” he says. “The first to fall.”

The rescue team find Jack’s arm in the rubble of the Hub.

We have a brief but scintillating discussion about which of these characters are queer. Apparently, Alice is, but Lois is not—though some people in my living room wish she were. The discussion on Bridget is more divisive.

Lois tells Frobisher about the meeting with Jack, but Frobisher says that Jack is dead, killed in the explosion.

We know that’s questionable, since they’ve pulled Jack’s arm, shoulder, and “part of a head” out of the rubble, and loaded it into a private ambulance that attracts Heather’s scorn: “They’re Black Ops!” she says. “Do you think Black Ops would spray paint ‘Private Ambulance’ on their vans?”

Ianto gets a message to his sister, reading, “Where Dad broke my leg, at noon. Bring laptop.” Ianto’s sister is uncertain about this, but her husband says that she’s the only family Ianto has.

Rhys tries to get money from an ATM, but his account has been frozen. (And I missed the adorable scene where Rhys tried to take the bag off her, Gwen got offended, and Rhys said, ‘You want your trigger finger free, don’t you?’)

Gwen says they need to go to London.

In the secret Black Ops headquarters, the body bag containing the arm, shoulder, and part of a head now contains a skinless body. The woman in black rings Frobisher to tell him that Jack’s “Lazarus qualities” remain undiminished, as Frobisher heads off with Bridget and Lois to check out the structure being built at the 456’s orders.

Gwen and Rhys head into a truck full of potatoes, sneaking in under the canvas to hitchhike their way to London.

Ianto’s brother-in-law head out to the car watching his house with a group of young men and boys, claiming that they obviously have “a couple of paedos” on the estate, and they begin rocking the car as Ianto’s sister escapes to meet her brother.

Jack, in Black Ops headquarters, comes to and starts screaming. And screaming. And screaming.

Gwen, riding on top of the potatoes, feels ill. Rhys asks if she’s travel sick, but she asks when he’s ever known her to be travel sick.

GWEN: You know those announcements that you rehearse in your head?
RHYS: Yes?
GWEN: Well, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

Rhys gets her point fairly quickly, but then he freaks about the car chases and the gun fights.

RHYS: How could I let you do that in your condition?
GWEN: You carried my bag.

I love, love, love Rhys in this storyline.

Ianto meets up with his sister, who is horrified by his bloody, dishevelled condition, and asks what kind of civil servant he is.

IANTO: An under-appreciated one.

Then they see that all the children have frozen again. But now they’re chanting, “We are coming. Tomorrow. We are coming. Tomorrow.”

And Clem, standing in a pub, is chanting too.

Ianto realises that this is why they tried to blow up the Hub, as Clem, coming to in the pub, asks the barmaid, “Oh, can you smell that?” He runs out into the street, shouting, “They are coming tomorrow. I can smell them!”

Ianto nicks his sister’s laptop and car, and leaves.

Frobisher is largely concerned with his daughters, and, second to that, the Prime Minister.

We take a brief break while I look up the Home Secretary on Wikipedia so we can all be sure exactly what he does in the running of the U.K.

Gwen, ringing the Home Secretary’s office, is lucky enough to get through to Lois. She wants to meet with Frobisher, and she and Rhys wait in a cafe for him. Rhys asks if they can trust Frobisher, and Gwen says that he’s their man in government: if they can’t trust him, they really are in trouble.

And, of course, they can’t trust him. But they can trust Lois! Hopefully, because she turns up at the cafe, telling Gwen that Frobisher gave the order to kill Jack Harkness, along with four others, killed the same day.

LOIS: I didn’t sign the Official Secrets Act to cover up murder. But I didn’t take the job to commit treason on my second day.

Rhys talks Lois out of enough money to buy them dinner—they’ve come all the way from Cardiff on an empty stomach, after all. (Gwen says she’ll have a steak pie, chips, and a cup of tea, and winks at Rhys. I can’t express how adorable that is.) Gwen asks about Ianto and Jack, and learns that Ianto is missing, and Jack is apparently dead.

Jack is not dead, but he might wish he is, because they’re filling his jail cell with what we want to call cement, but Michelle says, “Didn’t you watch Bones the other day? It’s not cement, it’s wet concrete.”

Ianto watches them do this.

In the meantime, Lois gives Rhys and Gwen a way to intercept the undertaker who has been sent to collect the doctor’s body, the doctor who betrayed Jack. His body is being held in the same complex as Jack.

Frobisher heads back up to the top of Thames House (home of MI5) in the company of the PM, where a cage is being built for the 456.

Rhys and Gwen, in dark clothing, head into the compound, still claiming to be there to pick up the doctor’s body. Rhys is terrified, insisting that they aren’t going to get away with this, but Gwen is confident.

Gwen, heading through the building, is being chatted up by a soldier, who wishes that more undertakers looked like her. Rhys thinks he’s blown their cover, but in fact the soldier is just distressed to find out that they’re married.

Apparently, the soldier is called “Corporal Camarra,” which confuses me because I thought they said “Cobra Commander.”

Gwen, meanwhile, takes him down and takes the cameras out with the magic pen that she used when talking to Clem. But it’s not much help, because there are Black Ops troops at either side of the corridor, and Gwen has just found that Jack is encased in concrete.

[Note: I originally spelt that “Black Ops troupes,” which I would love to leave for the comedy value alone. But it’s just too silly.]

But at the point, Ianto, in a bulldozer, pulls Jack’s entire cell out of the wall as a single concrete block, and Gwen and Rhys leap out after it and onto the bulldozer.

Rhys and Gwen manage to block pursuit by setting fire to a petrol tanker, while Ianto drives his bulldozer to a quarry. Ianto tells Gwen to get the car started, while he raises the concrete block high, high, high over the quarry floor, and then drops it.

HEATHER: Please, lord, let gravity work.

And it does work.

HEATHER: I think he’d be broken a little bit.
ME: Doesn’t matter.
HEATHER: I know. But, you know, ow.

Nevertheless, Jack is alive—and naked, but he’s never cared about that. And, in fact, when Gwen hands him a jacket, he slings it over his shoulder and walks off to the car, otherwise naked.

Heather has some concerns about the effect on the car’s upholstery, while Michelle wonders if deaf kids sign the 456’s message.

At the top of Thames House, the tank is filled with gases that I have no chance of reproducing, given the speed with which Decker lists them.

So the tank is ready, the whole room is laid out according to 456 instructions—“Something of an ambassadorial suite,” says Decker. “Or a throne room. Or a slaughterhouse.”

Bridger wonders why the 456 seem to be coming for Britain, and Decker says, “Exactly. Why is that, Mr Frobisher?”

Frobisher doesn’t answer: he and Bridget leave the room, and we close with Decker heading up to the tank, and breathing out heavily, fogging the glass with his breath.

Bad Simile

Posted 13 January 2010 in by Catriona

I found a bad simile a few months ago. Actually, I find bad similes fairly frequently: I treasure them up, so I can amuse my first years with them during classes in which we discuss the varied uses of the comma.

But this one, while not being the worst simile I’ve ever found, has kept me permanently amused.

So what’s the actual simile?

“His voice was like honey and velvet.” No, I’m not going to say where I found it: that’s not important right now. And no, it’s not the worst simile in the world, but it’s the one that’s amusing me.

The amusement, for me, lies in the fact that the simile is so open to interpretation. To use I. A. Richards’s definition, the tenor (the subject being described) is specific enough, but the vehicle (the object—or in this case objects—whose attributes are being borrowed to describe the tenor) is so vague as to invite a multiplicity of readings.

I’m fairly certain that this should translate, roughly, as “His voice was sweet and soft.” But perhaps it’s “His voice was sweet but rough.”

Or perhaps it’s one of my more extravagant interpretations below.

“His voice was sticky and not really suitable for summer wear.”

“His voice tended to crystallise if you left it in the pantry too long, and never really seemed appropriate for daywear.”

“His voice was quite nice in a cup of herbal tea, but cost a fortune if you bought it by the yard.”

“His voice went well on toast, but felt rough if you rubbed the nap the wrong way.”

There’s no moral or purpose to this post, but feel free to join in the fun.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Forty-Seven

Posted 11 January 2010 in by Catriona

ME: I can’t believe I’m thinking of going out in public in this outfit. (Yoga pants and a horizontally striped top, for the record.)
NICK: It’s not really public; it’s only among friends.
ME: That’s not helping.
NICK: Oh. Really?

Live-blogging Torchwood, Season Three: "Children of Earth" Day One

Posted 8 January 2010 in by Catriona

Oh, I don’t think I’m ready for this. Then again, I don’t think I’d ever be ready for this.

I said to Nick, “I’ll do it, but I’m not doing it alone and I’m not doing it sober.”

So I’m quite tipsy, and also Michelle and Heather have come over to see us through the black, black nihilism that is Torchwood season three.

And here we are.

Oooh, this episode contains violence, but no sex or nudity.

HEATHER: I don’t know if I can watch it. It’s for mature audiences. I’m an Australian now.

We open in 1965, with a busload of children being driven across a green and verdant landscape—a green and pleasant land, even—and then all herded out of the bus to stand in the road.

A bright light appears, and the children all walk towards it bar one, who hesitates.


Cardiff, present day. We see Gwen accessing an ATM, where she hears a woman nagging her son for standing there and not listening to her. She smiles and looks back.

A busy man in a suit is chattering to his wife, unaware that his children are staring straight ahead.

An attractive dark-haired woman finds her son standing catatonic in the doorway. Rhys swears at children stopping in the middle of the road. Another dark-haired woman nags her children.

Then the original dark-haired woman is back, as her son, Steven, comes back to life and continues his forward movement.

Gwen reaches the Torchwood Hub, which is completely silent and dark. Of course, there are fewer staff members now than there used to be.

And Jack and Ianto are in a hospital, listening to a young doctor tell them that “poor Mr Williams” won’t be making it after all—he’s just died.

They tell the doctor that they’re his neighbours, and the doctor says, “If only there were more like you in the world.”

Ooh, meta.

Being such good neighbours, Jack says, could they see the body?

Of course they can, says the doctor—and, after a brief discussion about whether they actually are a couple or not, Ianto hands Jack a laser saw, so they can chop the man open and remove the alien parasite living inside him.

The doctor witnesses this, and isn’t entirely thrilled by the whole process. He chases Jack and Ianto into the carpark, insisting that they’re Torchwood.

JACK: Never heard of them.
NICK: It only says it on your car, Jack.

The doctor mentions some mysterious deaths, but Ianto says that the NHS has too much red tape, and they pass on the opportunity to explore it further.

We cut to an attractive young woman in a power suit heading into an official-looking building, past the man we saw ignoring his two young daughters earlier. As he heads into his office to consult with a general—he says there’s a problem with the children—the young woman apologises for being late.

We hear the story of the children half from Gwen, who tells us about the traffic accidents involving children, and half from the general speaking to the public servant, who fleshes out the information that first Gwen and then Ianto are giving us: the problem involves the children and is occurring worldwide.

The general is from UNIT, so we know this probably involves something a bit alien.

At the Hub, Jack is complaining that Martha Jones is on holiday—and, oh, I could talk about that, but I won’t. Spoilers!—just as Ianto says that the doctor is back.

Not the Doctor, the doctor.

Gwen heads out to talk to the doctor—nominating herself “recruitment officer” and complaining that they used the same trick on her, once upon a time—while Ianto says to Jack that even Gwen is calling them a couple.

Jack asks why that’s significant, and walks off saying he hates the word “couple.”

IANTO: Me, too.

Oh, bless you, Ianto. Pretty lad like you? You don’t need to put up with Jack’s moods.

Gwen chats to the doctor about the strange details of Torchwood work and the vast paycheck—she used to buy clothes and stash them under the bed so that Rhys wouldn’t see them.

The doctor talks about the alien awareness that is gripping Earth, and how it has led to an increase in suicides. He talks about one particular woman, who had been a Christian all her life, and left a suicide note saying that it was as though science had won. She said she had seen her place in the universe, and it was tiny.

I’ll say it again: most nihilistic show on television.

But as Gwen is explaining the wonder of alien contact, she sees that the children have frozen. Again.

HEATHER: Nothing creepier than children not moving.

The children start screaming in unison, a single, high-pitched scream that goes on and on without pause for breath.

HEATHER: Okay, that’s creepier.

They stop screaming, just for a moment.

Then they start speaking in unison, saying, at first, “We . . . we . . . we” over and over again, then “We are . . . we are . . .” and finally “We are coming. We are coming.”

Over and over. All the children.

And one man. One man who seems to be in his mid-50s.

The public servant demands that someone bring him a child, but the children snap out of it, and continue playing as though they have no idea that they’ve paused in their actions.

All bar the man, who says to his carers that “They’ve found me.”

In the public servant’s office, all is chaos. His private secretary, Bridget, asks Lois, the new girl, to set up an automated e-mail for the press, and hands over her e-mail password.

A man called Decker comes to see Frobisher—the public servant—and says, “456. I warned you.”

Meanwhile, Lois answers the phone to Jack, who explains that he’s Torchwood and, when she doesn’t know what that is, asks how she can work for the Home Office and not know Torchwood.

Thankfully, she has Bridget’s password, so she can get into what Heather calls “the secret government Wikipedia page” on Torchwood, and read all about it.

Frobisher, meanwhile, is taken by Decker to Thames House—where, as Nicks says, the MIs live—where he is played a secret recording from the 456 channel. But, Decker says, the 456 channel is still open, and nothing’s come through that, only through the children.

Frobisher says that the Prime Minister will have to be told, but Decker doesn’t seem to think it’s important: he says that the 456 precede the Prime Minister anyway.

Back at the Hub, Gwen points out that all the children all over the world are speaking English, which seems odd. Jack says that if you scanned the Earth from outside, English would look like the dominant language, but Ianto says that would be Chinese—Mandarin, actually, he says.

So that’s a problem in and of itself.

But Gwen is distracted by the footage of Timothy, the man who spoke in unison with the children. She heads off to speak to him, over in England. On route, she talks to Rhys, who is looking at a house for sale they planned to view. And Rhys points out that if the second event was planned around recess, when most children would be out in the playground, that implies that whoever is responsible is looking directly at the U.K. It’s worldwide, he says, but aimed at the U.K.

Jack, talking to Ianto, says they need a child. Ianto asks where they’ll find a child, but Jack walks off, saying he’ll see Ianto later.

In the Prime Minister’s office, Frobisher listens to the PM talk about how it was much easier when the only threat was reds under the bed. Frobisher says that they’ll need to issue a blank sheet, but the PM says that he won’t be involved with this at all: the blank sheet needs to rest with Frobisher.

Jack turns up at the house of the attractive dark-haired woman we saw earlier, where her son Steven greets him as “Uncle Jack.”

And Ianto heads to see his sister, the other dark-haired woman we saw earlier, asking to take his niece out to Mcdonald’s or to the films this afternoon. The sister says no: her daughter’s not leaving her sight, not while the alien weirdness is going on.

Jack sits and drinks tea with Alice, asking how Steven is going and her ex-husband. She mentions that Jack doesn’t visit much, and he says that was her decision: “I just can’t stand it, Dad,” she says.

Jack makes the same suggestion that Ianto did, that he could spend time with his grandson, but Alice knows her father, and calls him a bastard: “You’re not experimenting on that child, Dad,” she says. That’s why she wants him to stay away: because he’s dangerous.

Ianto’s sister, meanwhile, is asking about Jack. A friend of hers saw him out with Jack, and says Jack was film-star handsome. He remains a little aloof, until he’s prompted to say, “He is very handsome.”

He tells his sister that it’s not men: it’s just Jack. And he doesn’t quite know what it is, so he doesn’t talk about it. His sister says she won’t talk about it, just as her husband comes in and greets Ianto (albeit affectionately) as “gayboy.”

To Ianto’s comparative relief, the Torchwoodmobile is stolen at that point.

Gwen, meanwhile, is in England—she has already told Rhys “farewell forever” and told him that she’s had her shots—talking to Timothy White, which she knows (through a culturally specific reference that escapes me) is a fake name. Timothy was found sleeping rough on the streets at age eleven, and still had a Scottish accent then. The staff know nothing of his history.

Gwen, in an interview room with him, says she thinks it’s aliens speaking through Timothy. Timothy says there’s no such thing as aliens, but Gwen says those days are past: she’s seen aliens, she says. Timothy grabs her hand and sniffs it deeply, finally declaring in surprise that she’s telling the truth.

When Gwen turns off the security camera in the room with her “gizmo,” Timothy—still refusing to tell her his real name—tells her the story we saw part of at the beginning of the episode, with much stuttering and hesitation. He says that the children on the bus were all from children’s homes, and they disappeared into a white light: all but him.

Gwen says she can help him, but she needs to know his real name: he says, hesitatingly, that it’s Clem, Clement Macdonald.

But as Gwen pushes him for more information about his background, Clem sniffs deeply and says, “You’re pregnant.”

“No,” says Gwen. “No, I don’t think so.”

And the nurse breaks into the room at that point, saying that the security cameras went down, but that Gwen has spent enough time with Clem anyway.

Gwen asks Ianto to check up the name Clement Madonald, and someone in the Home Office intercepts the search.

Frobisher tells Bridget he has some work for her: he gives her a blank sheet of paper.

NICK: God. You’d need to be careful with your stationary re-supplying, wouldn’t you?

Sure enough, the blank page is an order to kill, with Lois realises when she sees Bridget’s distress and promptly checks Bridget’s e-mails.

And Captain Jack, checking out a report from the young doctor from earlier, is shot from behind. A woman in dark fatigues comes in, as the doctor complains that he was supposed to infiltrate Torchwood. She asks him if he killed the patient he used to lure Jack in, and, when he admits he did, tells him to get off his high horse.

The doctor asks is they think it’s true about Jack and, as Jack comes to life, the woman shoots him again. So, that’s a yes, then.

Then she cuts Jack open with his own laser scalpel.

At the home, Clem, somehow aware that the Home Office is sending its police after him, legs it across the grounds.

The woman in fatigues shoots the doctor in the back as he tries to flee, and the mysterious men (and women) in black walk unhurriedly down the corridor as Jack comes back to life.

Jack and Gwen both head back to the Hub, where Gwen’s first action is to check that she is pregnant with the medical scanner.

Jack comes into the Hub after her, and tells Ianto they need clean-up on one body at the hospital. Ianto asks if they killed Jack, too, and, when Jack says yes, gives him a hug.

Jack follows Gwen into the medical centre, where he sees that Gwen is pregnant—which Ianto takes as a good opportunity to point out that he lost the car.

Gwen asks what she’ll do about her job, but Jack says they’ll cope: he puts his hand over hers on the medical scanner.

Which promptly reveals that he has a bomb embedded in his abdomen.

He tells Gwen and Ianto to run. Gwen won’t, until Jack reminds her that she’s pregnant.

The children start chanting again.

Ianto says that there’ll be nothing left of Jack, but Jack says he can survive anything: he puts Ianto on the elevator after one last kiss, and Ianto rises up to the roof.

The children continue to chant “We are coming” as Frobisher shrieks at his daughters to stop.

The Hub explodes.

So that’s Jack’s brother, Suzie, Tosh—every secret hidden in the Hub, gone. Including Jack?

And the children chant, “We are coming. We are coming. We are coming. Back.”


Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Forty-Six

Posted 6 January 2010 in by Catriona

Discussing the 3D rendering Nick promised to complete for my father:

ME: As I said, he really gets his money’s worth out of you.
NICK: Well . . .
ME: Still, I suppose, you got your money’s worth from him, too.
NICK: In beer!
ME: No. Me.
NICK: Yeah, Treena’s the best.
ME: Not as good as beer, apparently.
(Pause, and, possibly, a small poke in the ribs)
NICK: You’re better than beer!
ME: Took you long enough.
NICK: I was too busy laughing before.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Forty-Five

Posted 6 January 2010 in by Catriona

Inspired by the strange things that Nick finds on the Internet:

NICK: Apparently, Benny and Bjorn from ABBA are huge Torchwood fans, and approached Russell T. Davies about doing a musical episode.
ME: Well, Torchwood is frequently quite terrifying.

Zoo Three

Posted 4 January 2010 in by Catriona

Zoo Two

Posted 4 January 2010 in by Catriona


Posted 4 January 2010 in by Catriona

Such a bad blogger as I have been! Apart from anything else, the Internet access here is appalling. But while I have a brief window of Internet accessibility, enjoy my brief series of zoo photos (in three parts).

I’ll be back in Brisbane tomorrow, and blogging will resume forthwith, including an idea for an ongoing series that I nicked from Susan Hill (with some tweaking. Just not very interesting tweaking).



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