by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Day One"

Posted 26 June 2009 in by Catriona

I’m being threatened with the return of the headache that plagued me all morning, and I’ve always found this episode to have a little too much of a “lesbianism is for voyeurs” angle, so if I’m a little tart with the live-blogging, that’ll be why.

Not that I’m planning on being tart, but it’s a fair warning, just in case.

It strikes me, in the retrospect of thirty seconds, that I could probably have selected a better word than “tart” for those past two sentences, but it’s a little too late for that.

Hey, is that Tim McInerney? He’s looking better than he did in Doctor Who, that’s for sure. Maybe it wasn’t him. [Edit: I will maintain until the day I die that Mark Gatiss looks just like Tim McInerney.] I’ve never been good at identifying actors. Or song lyrics out of context, for that matter.

Oooh, ad. for Being Human. Is everyone watching this? If not, start now.

And here’s this week’s Torchwood—which contains sex scenes and violence.

And Captain Jack’s monologue. Which I’m not transcribing—I can’t type that fast. And slow-motion walking! I’m a sucker for slow-motion walking.

Now Gwen and her boyfriend are bowling, before going to what looks like a wine bar, where Gwen tells her boyfriend (Rhys) that her job in “special ops” is mostly filing. “So, special admin?” he asks.

They’re about to go home for an early night when they see a blazing fireball in the sky, flying low over the city. Rhys has no idea what’s happening, and even Gwen, on her first day, is a little surprised when her phone rings. But, of course, it’s Torchwood.

Jack says it’s a simple “locate and clean up” operation.

Gwen is clearly not entirely comfortable with being part of Torchwood just yet.

Owen says “the amateurs” got her first: he means the army.

NICK: Don’t be in a greenhouse throwing stones there, Owen. Torchwood can be pretty amateur when it wants to be.

Jack calls for “usual formation,” and when Gwen asks what the “usual formation” is, Owen says, “it varies.”

GWEN: How can the usual formation vary?

Gwen bustles her way into a tent claiming to be Torchwood, but an army man tells her she can’t be Torchwood, and calls her “little girl.” I’m skipping over the fact that Jack tells them Gwen’s not a “little girl”—“from where I’m standing, all the right curves in all the right places”—but I do like the way Gwen rolls her eyes.

Of course, her attempts to stand up to Owen’s sexist patter while they’re at the meteorite crash site results in her releasing an alien life form from the meteorite. But, of course.

The alien life force settles on a very cute girl who is standing in the alley outside a club ranting at her boyfriend’s answering machine: “I wish I were dead. No, I wish you were dead. Call me back!”

She tries to get back into the club: when the bouncer tells her “there’s no readmission,” she snogs him, and he lets her in.

NICK: I don’t reckon that would work on a Brisbane bouncer.

In the club, the cute bar-hopper ends up frantically snogging some guy in the toilets. Well, “snogging” is a euphemism. This is the scene that made me warn my mother not to watch this show—or at least not to watch it with me.

The scene doesn’t last long (hee! I crack myself up) and the guy explodes in a spray of gold confetti, which the cute bar-hopper enthusiastically inhales.

Torchwood are bitching at each other—well, Owen is bitching at everyone. Jack says they can round the alien up, and Ianto comes across with a clipboard containing information about an “unusual” night-club death.

And there’s P.C. Andy! Gwen’s old stomping buddy. He’s not entirely comfortable with Gwen’s new role.

All that’s left of the body is a little trace of ash on the ground.

Jack asks how they knew that used to be a body, and we’re treated to a scene that I’m, frankly, not recapping. But Torchwood watch the death on CCTV, which leads to yet more bantering from Owen.

I swear, early episodes of Torchwood make me want to punch Owen in the face.

Jack says they have everything they need, and Jack asks Tosh and Owen to find a body that looks like the dead guy, disfigure his face, and dump it somewhere remote, so it looks like a suicide attempt.

Gwen is not thrilled by this, but is distracted by the CCTV footage of the alien adopting its host body.

The host body is called Carys, and it seems as though she can’t entirely remember what happened. It looks as though she’s sharing her body with the alien, so that she can chat—albeit a little oddly—with her father, but can’t remember what she did last night.

Or, perhaps she can and she’s repressing it.

Ah, since—after a brief scene that makes me want to punch Owen—we cut to Carys broiling herself in a hot shower and weeping hysterically, I think the second option is the more likely one. If we replace “repressing” with “desperately attempting to repress.”

Meanwhile, at Torchwood, they’re trying to identify the girl, now that they know what she looks like. They don’t have her face on file (insert “scary, pseudo-futuristic technobabble” here) so they plan to trace her journey back from the club to her home via the street-level cameras.

Carys, meanwhile, is freaking out in front of her mirrors—writhing in pain and screaming—and when a delivery boy knocks on the door, she jumps him. But Torchwood jumps in in bio-suits, and, as Carys is trying to escape, Owen nabs her with (technobabble) that he’s illegally removed from Torchwood HQ.

They take Carys back to Torchwood HQ, where Jack asks Gwen to find out what she can from her. Carys, in one of those perspex cells we saw a weevil in last week, is, at first, bewildered, but then she starts writhing and screaming again, and the alien comes to the surface again.

GWEN: Who are you and where are you from? And what do you want with Earth, because you can forget about enslaving us.

The alien says she just likes the energy: there’s nothing like it in the universe.

GWEN: Sorry, just to recap. You’ve travelled here to feed off orgasmic energy?

The Carys starts writhing again, and Gwen goes in to help—whereupon, of course, they start snogging.

Owen sees this—and do you think he should have warned someone a little earlier?

GWEN: Okay, first contact with an alien, not quite what I expected.

Why is Gwen kissing the murderous alien, by the way? Is she possessed? I mean, Carys is quite adorable, but, you know, there’s a murderous alien.

I’m not even going into the length of time it takes Jack and Tosh to decide that they should come and help Gwen—Owen never does arrive, because he’s too busy recording from the security cameras.

Still, Gwen’s in no trouble, because apparently the murderous alien has a distinctly heteronormative attitude to life—she tells Gwen it has to be a man.

Owen taunts Gwen, and she throws him up against a wall. I wish she’d punched him, though.

JACK: Strictly speaking, throttling the staff is my job.
NICK: Oh, Jack. That’s just a euphemism.

Torchwood staff sit and eat Chinese around the conference table, but as soon as Jack heads off to the toilet, they all ask Gwen what he’s told her about himself. Apparently, he ‘s told them nothing—they don’t even know where he’s from. Owen thinks he’s gay, though Tosh and Gwen disagree—and Ianto says he doesn’t care.

I can’t believe they don’t know that he’s an alien, when he was ranting about how much he loves this planet last week. Isn’t that an odd phrasing for someone who isn’t an alien?

Gwen tells Torchwood they’re too far removed from how humanity works, hidden down in their bunker, so Jack tells her to remind him of what it means to be human in the twenty-first century. So Gwen prepares a dossier of Carys’s life—she wants to bring in Carys’s father, but Jack is reluctant.

Tosh explains that the alien is releasing powerful pheromones—and Gwen says she did wonder why she snogged her. So that answers that query. In the interim, they all realise that Owen is missing—he’s naked, hand-cuffed, and protecting what’s left of his modesty in Carys’s cell, while Carys frantically searches for a way out.

Jack and Carys fight, but he’s left unwilling to fight back when she grabs the Doctor’s hand in a tube.

JACK: Put that down! That’s worthless to anyone but me!
NICK: Oh, Jack: that’s the worst thing to say.

Jack order Ianto to open the door and release Carys, but Carys, instead of putting down the jar as requested, throws it to the floor and smashes it—Jack is only interested in rescuing the hand. He has no interest in chasing Carys.

Gwen upbraids Jack, and he suggests she get her friends to chase Carys down.

GWEN: Fine, I’ll call them. Put out an APB: woman possessed by gas, knobbing fellers to death.


Ahem. Sorry about that. Did I mention that a rat just exploded?

Following the exploding rat, we have a brief section of social commentary, questioning society’s exploitation of human nudity and the reproductive process in order to increase the movement of consumer goods.

In other words, Carys is walking round staring at half-naked people in advertisements.

Gwen asks her team-mates what they’d do if they were possessed by such an alien.

OWEN: I’d come round and shag you. What? It’s a joke! Can’t I have a joke with my team-mates?

Tosh suggests something—and, true enough, Carys has gone for her ex-boyfriend, who is, to be fair, a total jerk. Well, now he’s a dead total jerk, and they don’t know where to go next.

JACK: Good thing she’s fairly young. If we had to work through my back catalogue, we’d be here until the sun explodes.

Carys, though they don’t know it, has already worked through her entire back catalogue, but luckily she works in a fertility clinic, and has a never-ending supply of sperm donors. This is convenient, because she says that the energy isn’t lasting.

Cut to Carys trying to seduce a sperm donor who is reluctant because he bats for the other team.

Torchwood burst into the fertility clinic, where they see that Carys has worked her way through a fair number of sperm donors. They corner Carys, and we bounce straight back into social commentary about advertising.

OWEN: Any moment and she’s rat jam.

That’s . . . that’s just lovely, Owen. Right in front of the dying girl and all.

Carys says she needs “one more,” and Jack says that he has a “surplus of alive.” He thinks he can spare some for Carys. He snogs her, and her entire body glows golden. Wow: that’s never happened to me.

But Carys faints—she’s too weak for anything else. So Gwen begs the alien to adopt her as host and let Carys live. It agrees, and leaves Carys’s body—only to be trapped in the (technobabble) that Owen used to trap Carys in the beginning.

NICK: Oh my god, it’s a giant energy condom!
ME: Honey, please.
NICK: It is! I’ve just realised. It’s ribbed, and everything!

It does have horizontal striations running up it.

Meanwhile, Carys is fine, and Jack manages to make a comment about dying alone despite travelling halfway across the galaxy for the best sex.

NICK: Jack, I don’t think that’s as deep as you think it is.

Back at Torchwood, Gwen interrogates Jack about who he is. She, at least, seems to recognise that he’s probably an alien. But Jack tells her to go home and be normal “for him.”

She does, and we end the episode spanning over Cardiff.

And that’s it, until next week’s distinctly disturbing and terribly Sapphire and Steel episode.

Share your thoughts [7]


Wendy wrote at Jun 27, 01:51 am

i wondered if it was just me who found Owen annoying? Does he remain so? don’t spoil it if you think I shouldn’t know…

distinctly disturbing next week? I’m looking forward to that already :)


Catriona wrote at Jun 27, 03:01 am

Oh, next week’s episode is intriguing. Have you ever seen any Sapphire and Steel episodes?

For anyone who hasn’t, Sapphire and Steel (1979-1982) was ITV’s answer to Doctor Who. Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) were two elements (yes, I know neither of those things are elements. And yes, I know steel is actually an alloy. Apparently, ITV neither knew nor cared about that) who are interdimensional agents charged with guarding the integrity of Time. The Wikipedia page is here. It’s fascinating and creepy, though I don’t have the love for it that I have for Doctor Who.

Well, this upcoming episode feels very Sapphire and Steel to me. And, in fact, P.J. Hammond—who wrote almost every episode of Sapphire and Steel—wrote the fifth episode of this season, “Small Worlds,” which is where I really felt the programme showed some promise.

As for Owen, I can’t stand him at this point in the series. I don’t know if they intend his patter to come off as charming, sexy, alpha-male stuff—to me, he’s a vicious, misogynistic borderline rapist.

Some of this is either toned down as the show progresses or my sensibilities become blunted. I couldn’t say which. I remember discussing my distaste for Owen extensively when the show first aired, and people disagreeing with me. But, if anything, he’s striking me as worse this time around.

Then again, almost all the Torchwood characters are damaged in some way—it’s how we know this is an adult show, and not another children’ show like Doctor Who.


Wendy wrote at Jun 27, 07:45 am

no I’m completely ignorant of Sapphire and Steel but it sounds intriguing.

I am also desperate to know if Gwen ever gets rid of Rhys but am not going to look it up anywhere. So matter what I say – don’t tell me!


Catriona wrote at Jun 27, 08:03 am

Sapphire and Steel is very, very much of its time, of course. The costumes are hilarious and the special effects laughable. But, then, they were in Doctor Who, as well—at least much of the time. Doctor Who could pull out some brilliantly insane or seriously sexy costume design when it needed to.

But Sapphire and Steel can also be creepy in its own brilliant way, and I just adore David McCallum—who wouldn’t love a man who was both Steel and Illya Kuryakin?

But don’t worry—I do try to be conscious of spoilers on the blog. I’m not avoiding general spoilers (like mentioning the point at which I thought the show really took off, or saying I preferred the second season, or mentioning that, in my opinion, there’s one truly sublime episode this season). But I will avoid more specific spoilers (like naming the truly sublime episode, or prefiguring any later plot points/character developments).

The same goes, of course, for any other comments, if people want to join in the Torchwood discussions. (And where have all my lovely commenters gone? Where?) Generalities are great, but we’ll leave the specifics until we get to them, I think.


Wendy wrote at Jun 27, 10:33 pm

yes where are all your other lovely commentators? I am feeling lonely…..


richard wrote at Jun 28, 07:30 am

I’m sure they’ll be along any minute. Just finding somewhere to park the bus, I expect.

I must admit I found the first few episodes of Torchwood so underwhelming when they originally aired that I didn’t persist. This time around I’m going to try to do better, because people whose tastes often gel with mine tell me it’s all worth it for the second season.

But really I just popped in to say: I can’t believe I’ve never come across Sapphire and Steel before! Patsy and Ducky do Sci-Fi? Oh my! A quick trip to YouTube… well! It’s like The Tomorrow People on acid…


Catriona wrote at Jun 28, 08:31 am

Plus, this time around you have slightly snarky live-blogging to help you through the early episodes!

I have a theory as to why Sapphire and Steel isn’t terribly well known here (and why it’s never available in shops). I don’t know how tenable the theory is, and I’m open to suggestions about its flaws.

It seems to me that in Australia (and New Zealand, Nick tells me), we were exposed more to BBC programming, so there’s a strong, passionate love for Doctor Who in the most unlikely places.

But it seems, from my unscientific scan of the Internet, that in the U.S., they were exposed far more to the programmes from commercial British stations, particularly ITV: so while there are patches of old-school Doctor Who love in the U.S. from its time on PBS (and, of course, the new series is going gangbusters over there), American geeks are far more likely to revere The Prisoner than Doctor Who—and you can also get Sapphire and Steel box-sets on Amazon.

(That might also help explain the fact that I see so many American commentators expressing the opinion that people complaining that American don’t “get” Doctor Who should be thrilled that it is doing so well in the U.S., since it makes it more likely that the BBC will keep renewing it, which strikes me as an argument based entirely on commercial network practices and not on the BBC’s charter. Not that I can blame them: it must be annoying to keep being told that you don’t “get” something.)

My theory may have holes in it—and, I freely admit, my parents’ hatred for commercial television is such that I exclusively watched ABC and SBS until I was about fifteen, and we would never have been allowed to watch ITV programming even if had played on the ABC—but that’s my current theory.

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