by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Everything Changes"

Posted 19 June 2009 in by Catriona

Do you know, I completely forgot this was on tonight. And then Nick didn’t fancy watching it—and there’s still some avoidance behaviour going on with that, frankly—and then I had an incredibly complicated conversation with my mother about this show that basically ran around in these circles:

MAM: Well, we thought we’d watch it anyone.
ME: Oh, sure. I don’t think it will be your cup of tea, though.
MAM: Anyway, we thought we’d watch it.
ME: I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I just didn’t think it was your cup of tea.
MAM: Anyway, we thought we’d watch it.
ME: I’m not saying you shouldn’t . . .

And so on.

Anyway (as my mother would say), here we are, after all.

I’ll be honest, while Rob Brydon is talking on this show I’ve never heard of: I had some serious concerns with the tone of Torchwood the first time I saw these episodes. I’m wondering whether I’ll have the same reaction this time around—and, if I do, if I’ll have time to talk about them while live-blogging.

I also felt, the first time I watched this, that it didn’t really hit its stride until episode five, “Small Worlds.” So we’ll see how I feel about these early episodes on a re-watching.

On a slightly hysterical note, why didn’t I know that Being Human was on tonight?! Why am I so out of the loop?

Ah, here we go.

Pan over lovely Cardiff—lots and lots of pans over Cardiff, and down onto a body, lying in the street in the rain, surrounded by SOCOs and some uniformed policemen, including Gwen. (We don’t know she’s Gwen yet, but she is.)

Now SOCO is leaving the scene, and the police have to ask what’s happening. SOCO says Torchwood are coming in: special access.

And so they are: four of them, with Captain Jack (spoiler!) in the lead, in his World War II trenchcoat, coming up in their enormous black car, and walking straight over to the body, while Gwen and a SOCO chat about the lack of proper procedure these days.

But Gwen is annoyed: she runs up into the multi-story carpark that overlooks the alley in which the body lies, and peers down.

Jack is ranting about oestrogen in the rain: saying he loves this planet, because there’s contraceptives right in the water—he’s never going to get pregnant again, Jack says.

Meanwhile, Suzie (Indira Varma) is telling Owen that her mysterious gauntlet “grants her access” rather than allowing her control: Owen says that if he gets punched again, he’s punching it right back—just before the gauntlet starts moving on its own, and Suzie brings the dead man (John) back to life for three minutes.

They’re asking John who killed him, but they’ve already told him he’s dead, and of course he’s just freaking out the entire time they’re talking to him. When he eventually reveals that he was stabbed in the back (and therefore can’t help them catch the killer), Jack jumps in and asks him what it’s like to be dead.

What did he see? Jack asks. And John says he saw nothing. “Oh my god, there’s nothing!” And he dies again, freaking out about the nothingness beyond.

Well, that was cruel.

Jack knows Gwen’s watching and when he challenges her, she—freaking out, as you would after seeing a man brought back to life—runs. She goes home to her boyfriend, for a scene that seems designed to show the relative ordinariness of her life.

The next day, Gwen, in uniform, is serving mugs of tea to CID (after asking a colleague to look up Jack for her)—though the next scene is her helping to break up a bar fight, in which she’s slammed into what looks like a hardwood bar, which had got to hurt. So she’s not just a secretary!

This means she ends up in the hospital—where she sees Jack going past. Chasing him up the stairs, she comes to a section that’s sealed off. She asks a janitor why it’s sealed, but he says it was that way this morning when he arrived at work: he thought the police had done it.

Gwen steps through the plastic seal—and she sees someone standing at the end of a corridor, and approaches him, looking for Jack. But it quickly becomes apparent that it’s not a man, and that he’s not actually human. Gwen assumes he’s a man wearing a mask, but he’s clearly not. And when the janitor comes in and walks up cheerily to Gwen, chatting away, the creature grabs him and rips his jugular out.

Wow. That is as grotesque as I remember the first time around. Gwen looks a little freaked—well, more than a little. But she’s not vomiting. I’d be vomiting.

And as she’s standing in the street looking freaked, the Torchwood car comes screaming past, nearly running her down. She leaps in the panda to follow, leaving her colleague behind at the hospital.

While she’s in the panda, Gwen’s colleague comes through on the radio, and tells her about the only Captain Jack Harkness on record: an American, who disappeared in 1941 at the height of the Blitz and was never seen again.

Gwen, chasing Torchwood, is told off by a security guard for parking her car in the middle of a plaza: by the time she glances at him and back, the Torchwood personnel have vanished, even though there’s nowhere to go.

Yes, sorry: the man who was killed was a porter, not a janitor.

Gwen’s colleague, who has followed her despite her nicking the panda, tells her that all the hospital personnel are accounted for. He tells her she’s not well, and that he’ll take her home. At home, Gwen tells her boyfriend that she has to work (“Do you forgive me?” she asks. “Say you forgive me.” It’s presumably a refrain in their relationship, but Nick wonders how often she’s been lying to her boyfriend) and she’s straight back to where she saw Torchwood disappear.

She heads to a pizza place, where she asks about “Jack Harkness,” “J. Harkness,” or just “Harkness”—but no such deliveries. On her way out the door, she asks, “I don’t suppose you’ve got a Torchwood?”

“Oh, aye,” he says. “We deliver to them all the time. Good customers they are.”

NICK: It’s like UNIT. With their big sign out front saying “Secret UNIT Headquarters.”

So Gwen grabs a couple of pizzas and is buzzed into Torchwood’s secret underground base by Ianto. (We don’t know it’s Ianto yet, but trust me on this.)

I’ve always found the secret underground base—ack! Hand in a jar!—to be rather amazing. Very steampunky, though it looks as though it would be cold in winter.

And there’s Jack, in his suspenders and leather wrist cuffs—and as Gwen’s walking towards him with the pizzas, Tosh (spoiler!) suddenly bursts out laughing, and sets Owen off. And Suzie says that that didn’t last long. Of course, they’ve been watching her on the monitors, so they knew she was coming.

(In the meantime, Jack has been asking which idiot has been ordering pizzas under the name “Torchwood.” It’s Owen, for the sake of completeness.)

There’s some banter about what happened to the porter, and to John Tucker in the alley—Jack pushes Gwen to admit that she saw John brought back to life—and she’s clearly terrified (even before she sees the pterodactyl, and we’ll talk about the pterodactyl later). She keeps mentioning that she’s a police officer, as though it keeps her safe.

Jack asks if she wants to see the porter’s murderer? She’s does, sort of—and Suzie pushes her to go with Jack. They have the creature who killed the porter—they call him a weevil—sedated in a cell.

Gwen sits in front of the cell and stares into the weevil’s eyes while Jack tells her that it’s an alien, and provides some details about weevils’ lives in Cardiff.

Back upstairs, Jack introduces Owen, Tosh, Suzie, and Ianto—Gwen’s still uncertain about what will happen to her, and Jack tells her to come with him.

GWEN: I’m getting a bit tired of following you.
JACK: No, you’re not. And you never will.

They take the “scenic route” out of Torchwood. It’s a paving stone that rises up like an elevator right into the street. But no one can see or hear them: Jack says it’s a perception filter. People can see them, but don’t really pay attention to them.

There’s some techno-babble here that plays back into the TARDIS’s arrival in Cardiff in “Boomtown,” but Gwen’s distracted: “But there’s a bloody big hole in the ground! Don’t people fall in?”

JACK: That is so Welsh.
GWEN: What is?
JACK: I show you something wonderful, and you find fault.

Sitting in a restaurant, they talk about the other alien encounters the Earth has had recently—you know, the ones in Doctor Who. And they have this piece of dialogue, which I love:

GWEN: You catch aliens?
JACK: Yep.
GWEN: You catch aliens for a living?
JACK: Sure do.
GWEN: You’re an alien catcher?

During the discussion about what Torchwood does, Jack explains that no one is allowed to take alien artefacts off the base—and, of course, we cut to the other members of staff pulling various items out of their bags. Suzie, for example, has taken the gauntlet home with her.

Back in the restaurant, Jack is explaining that their only purpose in bringing John back to life is to test the glove. Gwen thinks they could help find the serial killer, but Jack says they’re busy. Gwen asks if their work is more important, and Jack says yes, it is.

GWEN: Well, that’s tough shit.

Of course, around about this point, Jack tells her that he’s fed her an amnesia pill (with a sedative mixed in) and she’ll have forgotten all about this by tomorrow morning.

JACK: Most tragic of all, you’ll have forgotten all about me.

Jack, is there anyone you won’t flirt with?

Gwen sprints home, and starts trying to write down the information about Torchwood.

Cut to Owen, trying to pick a pretty blonde woman up in a bar. She’s not interested, not least because he says he can’t be bothered with all the chat because he has to be up early. So he sprays something from the bottle he brought home in his mouth—like breath freshener—and she’s all over him.

I have problems with that scenario, but I’ll come back to that later if I have a chance.

Tosh, meanwhile, is using her device to scan books (by touching it on the spine) and download them to the computer. Suzie is bringing flies to life.

Owen is challenged outside the club by the woman’s boyfriend, and uses the alien mojo again—which results in the boyfriend deciding to join in rather than, as had been his original plan, punching Owen in the face.

Ianto, meanwhile, has shut Gwen’s computer down remotely, and she’s so groggy by this point that she hasn’t the faintest idea what’s happening.

And Jack’s standing on top of a building! Jack has some curious fondness for standing on the tops of buildings. Maybe he’s Batman?

The next morning, Gwen wakes up still on her keyboard—only she’s not in her study, she’s in the kitchen now. She can’t really remember what’s happened, and believes her boyfriend’s suggestion that she was out with her friend Diane. Similarly, she blows off the colleague whom she asked to look up Jack, because she can’t remember who Jack is.

Gwen wanders into CID, and sees an artist’s rendition of the murder weapon, an odd pronged implement that clearly resonates with Gwen somehow, though she can’t put her finger on it. But throughout the day, she keeps flashing back to the sketch. Two o’clock in the morning, she still can’t sleep, but now she’s thinking of a physical object. Has she seen it somewhere? Or is she projecting from the sketch?

Well, the answer to that becomes more apparent when she’s sees a brochure for Wales Millennium Centre (Torchwood is under the Millennium Centre) with “remember” written on it.

And when she heads back there, she does start remembering—especially as Suzie comes walking slowly towards her. She’s so beautiful, Indira Varma.

Suzie thinks that Gwen knows what’s going on—that the image of the knife has tripped the amnesia—but Gwen has no idea why Suzie has suddenly drawn a gun on her.

Suzie is freaking out: she says Gwen is the only one who can “make the link.” Well, the only one apart from Torchwood. She’s planning on running, but she doesn’t know how she can do anything else apart from working for Torchwood.

There are strong shades here of various speeches in Doctor Who—except there’s no Doctor here, just the monsters that the Doctor is, apparently, worth.

Suzie’s explaining what she’s doing—trying to get the glove to actually resurrect people—while Jack comes up behind her on the lift. But Suzie says the perception filter doesn’t work on her, and shoots Jack in the head. She draws the gun on Gwen, and Gwen’s freaking out, because she has no idea why she’s going to be shot.

But just as the perception filter doesn’t work on Suzie, guns don’t work on Jack. He rises up behind Suzie again, telling her its over and to give him the gun. And Suzie knows it’s over, and she shoots herself in the head.

That’s enough to counteract the amnesia pill.

And Tosh and Owen give Jack the alien devices they’ve stolen from the lab, before Jack locks Suzie’s body away in Torchwood’s very own vault.

And he and Gwen stand outside (on top of a building, from the looks of it), and Jack explains that he can’t die—not until he finds a doctor, the “right kind of Doctor.”

Gwen’s worried that she’s going to be fed another amnesia pill, but Jack offers her a job instead.

And, of course she accepts.

We pan back from the two of them—yep, they’re standing on a roof—past a pterodactyl (yes, a pterodactyl) and into a trailer for next episode. Until next week!

Share your thoughts [4]

1

Wendy wrote at Jun 20, 06:16 AM

I’m a total Torchwood newbie so I enjoyed it a lot. But I’m wondering if you can help me…where does this series fit in terms of intersecting with the DOctor Who timeline?

I found all the standing on top of large buildings a little bit odd but liked the character of Gwen. Please tell me she has potential and develops nicely….

2

Catriona wrote at Jun 20, 06:26 AM

Well, Torchwood itself was formed by Queen Victoria after the events of “Tooth and Claw” (in season two of Doctor Who). We still know very little about the events between then and 2005, when the first season of Torchwood starts up.

Then, remember when Captain Jack joined the Doctor and Rose? That was his disappearance from the record (as the police officer said, the height of the Blitz in 1941).

Then he died and was resurrected at the end of season one of Doctor Who, and it’s that incident that, as he said to Gwen, caused his current inability to die.

What happened to Jack between then and the beginning of Torchwood is something we hear about slowly over the next two seasons, so I won’t say anything about that.

Then, at the end of season two of Doctor Who, where the Cybermen came through the rift and the Daleks were released from the ark? That was the Battle of Canary Wharf, which saw the London branch of Torchwood destroyed and Torchwood itself largely discredited.

This show starts after that.

The two shows then intersect, as you probably remember, at the end of season three of Doctor Who, which was also the end of season one of Torchwood, with the three-episode Master story arc.

Does that help?

Yes, I like Gwen, too, though she frequently drives me nuts. They all frequently drive me nuts, except for Jack, who can do little wrong in my eyes because he’s so pretty.

I liked season one: there was one simply sublime episode (no spoilers!) and a handful of very good ones. There were also some shaky ones.

I loved season two: I thought it was far more consistent in both quality and tone. (Of course, their chosen tone was “drive our audiences to self-harm” and I ended up weeping in front of certain episodes, but I thought it was much better than season one, much as I enjoyed that.)

3

Wendy wrote at Jun 20, 10:32 PM

that is helpful!
I remembered the Queen Victoria episode and the Battle of Canary Wharf so now am getting it.
Jack is very pretty..no other word for him really.
I will be watching for the sublime episode! I hope they play them all….

4

Catriona wrote at Jun 20, 11:12 PM

Yes, I hope this doesn’t end up like the re-playing of season two of Doctor Who. I don’t even know what happened there—why on earth couldn’t they play that entire season? I was looking forward to live-blogging some of the crappy episodes!

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