by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Greeks Bearing Gifts"

Posted 31 July 2009 in by Catriona

In the last five minutes, I’ve had a complicated conversation with Nick about where I fit in the spectrum of things he likes (apparently, I come first, but in a meta fashion, so he can still claim that his Mac products are technically first) and then failed to get Safari to work properly.

This doesn’t really bode well for the live-blogging of this episode. Let’s hope things don’t start crashing unexpectedly during the process.

(On a related note, my parents are visiting, but I doubt they’ll contribute in any active fashion to the actual live-blogging process.)

Somehow, what with this episode being called “Greeks Bearing Gifts,” I’m not anticipating a happy ending. But I am anticipating a giant wooden horse. And possibly some Romulans.

Now we’re in Cardiff in 1812, with a soldier and a prostitute. One of them is hitting the other, and I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which. Oh, wait: now she’s scratched his face, so really they’re hitting each other. But she, running away—and I think we can all agree that that’s the sensible solution—sees a series of bright lights in the sky. When the soldier comes up behind her with his musket, she’s grinning at him. He asks “Do whores have prayers?” and shoots her—and we’re thrown back into the present day.

Where Torchwood turn up at a dig site, to see the same woman, with contemporary clothes, watching from behind the safety lines.

Jack is picking up traces of alien technology—and I failed to notice what happens next while my mother is saying she doesn’t like Quincy. (Quincy, it turns out, after we move through a variety of other names, including “Gareth,” means Owen. I don’t like him, either.)

Wow, Torchwood is unprofessional. And why aren’t Gwen and Owen keeping their affair secret? And why are they being so terribly cruel to Tosh—and the whole giggly “Sorry, private joke” thing is childish and malicious.)

Meanwhile, the blonde woman we saw at the beginning and at the dig site is picking Tosh up at a bar. She’s chatting about Tosh’s history and her work for Torchwood—she says she’s a scavenger, a collector.

Cut to slightly later, where Tosh is quite clearly both quite drunk and intoxicated by the idea that she has someone to talk to, someone who isn’t malicious or dismissive.

Then the woman hands Tosh a pendant and tells her to put it on—and when she does, she can hear the thoughts of the people in the bar. She’s not finding it exciting, because it’s too overwhelming: she can’t block the sounds out, until the blonde woman starts talking to her, telling her to concentrate only on her thoughts—but when she hears the blonde woman thinking about how she wants to kiss Tosh, Tosh freaks out a little and tears the necklace off.

The blonde gives the pendant to Tosh, and Tosh says she’ll show the others, but the blonde says no, she won’t: she’s quite certain that Tosh won’t reveal it.

And, sure enough, Tosh is wearing the necklace and listening to people’s thoughts. Gwen is thinking about Owen and Owen is wondering what Tosh would be like in bed: “Catholic but grateful,” he thinks. Of course, all she can really hear is them thinking about each other, which isn’t something I’d want to hear.

Ianto, on the other hand, is thinking about how this, clearing up after people and brewing drinks, is all his life is, and he’s so full of pain it feels as though rats are gnawing his stomach.

Tosh tears the pendant off.

But when she gets home, Blondie is waiting for her.

Tosh, naturally, is freaking out, because she says these are people who should like her, but she can hear what they really think of her—but Blondie says that it’s not as simple as that, that people do like her, but they’re complicated.

She puts the pendant back on Tosh, and asks Tosh to read her thoughts, which Tosh says are “not exactly pure” and “pretty graphic.” And then they snog. Well, this is Torchwood.

Oddly, the girl-on-girl snogging is not dwelt on to the same extent that Torchwood dwells on boy-on-boy snogging.

Instead, we’re skipping straight forward to Tosh’s post-shagging despair.

But Blondie, after taunting Tosh a little about Owen, tells Tosh to put the pendant back on, to go to a public space and listen for something that she’ll know when she hears it. (She also gives Tosh another name, other than Mary, but I can’t spell it and don’t have time to check.)

And sure enough, Tosh, standing in an open space, hears a brain saying, “I’m going to kill them, I’m going to kill them” over and over again. We follow the man as he heads out to collect his son for a custody visit: he has a reluctant son and an ex-wife who talks non-stop about how much nicer her new man is.

Until her ex-husband pulls out a shotgun, that is.

I remain unconvinced that being shot with a shotgun is “just like falling asleep.” But we’ll never know because Tosh smacks him on the back of the head with a poker.

Back at Torchwood, we find that the skeleton from the dig site (which Owen had indicated was a woman dead from a gunshot wound) is actually a man dead of some unknown trauma.

Tosh, talking to Jack, asks about the person that Blondie mentioned: Philocteces? Maybe? Greek is not something that comes naturally to me. In fact, you might say, it’s all (wait for it) Greek to me.

Sorry about that.

Anyway, he was an archer recruited for the Trojan War and then marooned on the island of Lemnos for about ten years. I’m sure that’s metaphorically significant.

Speaking of Blondie, she and Tosh are in a wine bar, and Blondie is first snogging Tosh and then suggesting that she’s not as valued in the Torchwood hierarchy as she thinks she is.

This is clearly not a healthy relationship.

I would recap the next scene with Tosh and Owen (rambling about the skeleton/technobabble), but I can really sum it up like this: I really, really hate Owen. “Go do your computer stuff and think about shoes, okay?” I really, really hate Owen.

Of course, Gwen comes in and, since Tosh is wearing the pendant, she’s rapidly driven out of the room. She stands and stares at the hardware they pulled out of the ground, when Jack comes down and challenges her about hitting the homicidal man with the poker.

Jack, oddly enough, doesn’t believe her story about hearing the homicidal man muttering his plans to himself as he walked.

Jack’s not stupid, you know—he knows there’s something not quite right. And Tosh herself is freaking out, because she can’t hear Jack’s thoughts. There’s nothing there.

So when Blondie turns up that night (with crisps and coffee), Tosh says she’s giving Torchwood the pendant, even though they’ll want to talk to Blondie.

So Blondie reveals her true nature.

MY DAD: Oh my god! It’s the deep booming voice again! She’s going to take her face off now! She’s going to take her face off!

I knew we shouldn’t have let him watch “City of Death.”

But it’s true that she does, sort off, take her face off, to reveal that she’s an alien.

TOSH: So I’m shagging a woman and an alien.
BLONDIE: Which is worse?
TOSH: Well, I know which my parents would say.

Blondie explains something of her civilisation—and explains that the pendant is how her people communicate, since speech is “kind of gross to watch.” (She says this while lighting a cigarette, which seems a little inconsistent.)

Blondie has rather dropped even the pretense of being nice, but she refuses point-blank to go with Tosh to Torchwood, saying that ours is a culture of invasion, not a culture that wants to learn about alien civilisations.

This is balanced by Owen’s determination to learn what killed the man he has on his autopsy table—while Jack stands around on buildings, as is his wont, and Tosh, sitting with Blondie, breaks down under the effects of the pendant. She says it’s like a curse, like something that the gods send.

Owen, meanwhile, is tracing the removal of hearts back through time. He rings Jack and says, “You need to see this.” I say to Nick, “I think if I’m talking to Jack, I’m going to be more specific than that.”

Tosh, meanwhile, has broken down under the pressure of the pendant and Blondie’s conversation, and takes Blondie into Torchwood.

But Jack’s waiting for them, telling a long rambling story about a friend of his who had a sex-change operation—the point of that, he says, is that since then, he’s always been a bit worried when a friend starts behaving out of character.

He explains to Tosh—who is telling the story of how Blondie is a political prisoner, just as Blondie told her—that the transport is a two-man transport: Blondie killed her guard, took over the prostitute’s body, and killed the soldier. Since then, she’s been tearing people’s hearts out.

Tosh is wearing the pendant and she can hear her colleague’s voices—she stops Owen from grabbing Blondie, but Blondie grabs Tosh instead and puts a knife to her throat. Tosh can’t cope with the thoughts and the knife, but Jack projects his thoughts to her, telling her to do nothing until he says so.

He hands the transport over to Mary, but he’s set it to activate, and changed the co-ordinates to the centre of the sun.

JACK: It shouldn’t be hot. I mean, we sent her there at night and everything.
TOSH: You killed her.
JACK: Yes.

Well, that’s Jack for you. He’s more than a little past Chaotic Good in this episode.

But now Tosh has to face the scorn and distress of her colleagues, who are aware that she could read their minds for a couple of days. Owen is furious, but Gwen is less judgmental, because she knows that she’s on shaky moral ground herself.

But she does tell Tosh she should spend more time in love, because it suits her.

I have to say, this is a surprisingly hard episode to live-blog. Lots of talking, not much action.

Tosh and Jack chat about the pendant, and Tosh decides to smash it under her heel, because it’s a curse.

TOSH: Why can’t I read your mind?
JACK: I don’t know.
MY MAM: He doesn’t have one.

Tosh is still struggling with the after-effects of the pendant, but there really isn’t anything she can do about that. She’s just going to have to work through it—as we end the episode with an incredibly long pan out over Cardiff.

My mother tells me I need to point out that she thought that episode was tortured and not very good—she’s quite insistent that I put her opinion on the blog. Feel free to disagree with her in the comments.

Live-Blogging Doctor Who, Season Two: "Fear Her"

Posted 27 July 2009 in by Catriona

I would normally begin a live-blogging session with a brief, pithy account of my day thus far. But I can’t. So I shall only say this: I am so, so, so tired, and I haven’t even had a class yet this semester. If I don’t sleep through the night at least once this week, I think I might die.

Also, it’s going to cost me $700 to repair my car. (Which could be worse, I suppose.)

So it’s convenient that I really hate this episode.

And here we are for the London Olympics 2012. It looks to be a normal, if slightly Edward Scissorhands style, suburb, but there are missing-child posters up on telephone poles and a sense of foreboding.

RANDOM MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN: May, are you all right?
RANDOM OLD WOMAN: No, love I’m not.
RANDOM MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN: Do you want me to call a doctor?
RANDOM OLD WOMAN: Doctor can’t help.

Ow! An anvil hurts when it bounces off the top of your head.

Either way, the old woman is begging people to take their children inside, but as we see a young girl scribbling and singing “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,” a young boy disappears out of his own garden.

Then the TARDIS materialises the wrong way in between two shipping containers, so he can’t open the doors—he has to dematerialise and rematerialise so he and Rose can get out and enjoy the 30th Olympiad.

The Doctor is blathering about cakes with edible ball-bearings (they’re called “cachous,” I believe, Doctor), but Rose spots the missing-child posters and makes the Doctor behave himself for once.

Of course, once she draws his attention to it, he’s off down the street without paying her any further attention. Sure, he has great hair, Rose (apparently). But I bet he doesn’t listen to you talk about your day—and God forbid he would do the washing up.

Then Rose helps push a Mini down the street, and I have no idea how this relates to the rest of the narrative.

Nick laughs at this episode, and I tell him to behave himself.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is blathering in the front garden of the boy who disappeared in the beginning, and the father is not terribly impressed. Honestly? I can’t say I blame the father in this instance.

The Doctor claims to be a policeman, but no one believes him.

Instead, the people start eating each other—blaming the council workers who are fixing the roads in preparation for the Olympics. Of course, I assume it’s coincidental that when they say “people like him,” they’re talking to the only Afro-Caribbean character on screen. Doctor Who has done some interesting work with immigration issues in the last couple of seasons, but not in this episode.

Oh, the plot? The Doctor is sniffing things (literally sniffing: Rose asks him if he wants a hanky) and blathering on about his “manly hairy hands.”

The girl we saw in the beginning is still drawing—her mother asks why she drew Dale (the boy who disappeared in the beginning) so sad, but the girl—Chloe—says she didn’t draw him sad: Dale made himself sad, so she’s going to draw him a friend.

The mother tries to distract her with the Olympic torch, but I’m with Chloe on this—the Olympics are dull.

Chloe is drawing Dale a cat, just as Rose sees and tries to befriend a tabby cat. But the cat dashes into a box, and when Rose turns the box up, the cat is done.

The Doctor is thrilled that something has enough power to pull a living organism out of space and time.

DOCTOR: I mean, this baby is like, “Whoa, I’m having some of that.”

What is wrong with me that I’m not seeing the dialogue in this as charming? It could be my general tiredness. This episode just feels distinctly flat to me.

Rose and the Doctor are wandering around looking for clues, and Rose finds a garage door that is banging ominously—behind it is an animated ball of string. Well, no—it’s an animated scribble. We just saw Chloe scribbling frantically on a piece of paper, furious that her drawings weren’t working the way she wanted.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor comes to the same conclusion as I just did. Which wasn’t really a conclusion, because we just saw it.

But Rose remembers the girl she saw in the street: Rose says even her own mother looked scared of her. (Rose’s conclusion is based on an apparent assumption that all children can and do draw, but that’s not Rose’s fault.) Chloe’s mother is not keen to let the Doctor in, but even though the Doctor doesn’t try to persuade her at all, Trish (the mother) lets them both into the house and, in passing, tells them that her husband was a bastard.

(And why would Rose ask why Chloe’s father isn’t involved in her upbringing? Rose of all people is familiar with the concept of a single-parent household.)

The plot? Oh, Rose is hiding in a cupboard and then sneaking into Chloe’s room.

In Chloe’s room, she sees the drawings (and we see that they’re changing, but not changing on camera), but she’s startled by something banging in Chloe’s wardrobe.

Chloe is downstairs: she’s aggressive and says she “tried to help them, but they don’t stop moaning.”

Rose, meanwhile, opens Chloe’s magic wardrobe, but instead of finding Narnia, she finds a drawing of a face of man, a drawing that bathes the room and Rose in red light.

Trish is furious and distressed that Chloe would draw her father. But she won’t accept that Chloe’s drawings are actually moving until the Doctor hypnotises her—or whatever you call that thing he does where he convinces people to trust him even though they’ve only known him for five minutes, and he’s been really rude to them and stuck his fingers in their jars of food.

Oh, wow! He’s doing a Vulcan mind meld on Chloe! That’s awesome. I wonder if Spock taught him how to do that.

Oooh, Shadow Proclamation! I wonder if that will come back at any point?

There’s been some technobabble about what Chloe can do, and now Chloe is whispering about being an alien, separated from her siblings. (Apparently, they’re intensely empathic beings, and they require their siblings and the imaginary worlds they build while floating through space for thousands of years. And this one has been separated from its siblings and its pod—the pod is drawn to heat, which will probably be a plot point later.)

At this point, the wardrobe doors start banging and the man’s voice behind it starts screaming again, but Trish’s singing to Chloe calms both of them down—her daughter and the drawing of the man.

I really don’t think Rose should be lecturing Trish about how she copes with the recent, sudden, traumatic death of her abusive, drunken husband. Rose is, after all, about nineteen. I’d be furious if she lectured me about my parenting.

The alien is looking to replicate her family, and we see a shot of the Olympic stadium as the Doctor talks about the vast number of siblings that the alien would have. But oddly the Doctor doesn’t seem to wonder about whether or not the alien would seek to trap a large group.

Ah! And there, as Rose says to the Doctor he doesn’t know about children, the Doctor says, “I was a dad once.” Oh, we know, Doctor. You were a grandfather once, too. But I don’t think your nineteen-year-old girlfriend needs to know that, do you? Or she doesn’t want to know that, at least.

In the interim, Chloe has drawn the Doctor and the TARDIS into a picture.

Cut to the Olympic torch getting even closer to the stadium.

Rose, on her own, chats to the council worker, asking him if anything has landed in the street—he chats about his lovely smooth road surface, which Rose starts hacking to pieces with an axe, trying to find a spaceship. Which she does, but I don’t think that’s much comfort to the council worker.

Yes, why did Chloe’s mother leave her alone? That makes no sense!

But Chloe has drawn the entire stadium of people—80,000 spectators plus athletes—into a drawing. This wouldn’t have been possible if her mother hadn’t left her alone.

Thankfully, Rose has an axe, with which to chop down a young girl’s bedroom door.

Wait, what?

Chloe is now drawing the entire world on the wall. But the Doctor has managed to add something to the drawing—how? Does his sonic screwdriver have a crayon setting?—and Rose realises that the Olympic torch will provide the heat necessary to restart the alien spaceship.

Wait, what?

The Olympic torch is a beacon of hope and fortitude and courage and love? No. It’s a torch. It’s a bloody expensive torch. And that’s it.

Oh, whatever. Rose throws the spaceship into the torch, and all the children reappear. The Doctor doesn’t, but why not?

Wait, if all the drawings have come to life, that means all of them have—and Chloe and Trish are trapped in the house with the dead, abusive husband. Except this is different, because he wasn’t a real person trapped in a picture, but just a memory and a nightmare.

But apparently he can be banished by a rousing chorus of “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.” As someone largely raised in Australia, I question whether that song has any particular magic to it. But what would I know?

The Doctor still isn’t back, but the spectators in the Olympic stadium are. But the torch bearer is in some trouble. He might be in trouble—well, he fell onto the ground.

The commentator asks whether the Olympic dream is dead. Well, the torch bearer is, apparently.

But, no! The Doctor grabs the torch and—leaping over the dead body of the previous torch bearer—carries it triumphantly to the cauldron. Because the torch is a beacon of hope and love! Except the love that might extend to a man who has collapsed in the street in the middle of a public event and might actually be dead.

I’ll repeat that: the torch bearer has collapsed in the street, but no one cares.

Some blathering about cakes and a reunion between Rose and the Doctor.

ROSE: They keep on trying to split us up, but they never, ever will.

Ow! And I’d only just shaken the headache from the last anvil to hit me.

But the Doctor says there’s a storm coming—and that’s the credits.

Only two episodes left this season, but thankfully they’re both better than this one.

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Countrycide"

Posted 24 July 2009 in by Catriona

This episode scared the living daylights out of me the first time I watched it. We’ll see how I cope with it the second time around.

Once we get past Clone, that is. I can’t say the ten minutes I’ve seen here and there have impressed me overly much.

Ah, Captain Jack standing on a building in the promo. Why does he like standing on buildings so much? And the last episode of Being Human tonight. Dammit: I’ve been loving this show.

And here’s Torchwood. It contains coarse language, horror themes, and violence this week. You have been warned.

Prologue. And slow-motion walking.

But here we are on a road: a blonde woman, in a car, driving under a lowering sky and saying she’ll be there as soon as she can, an hour and a half, tops. But there’s a body in the road. And she stops the car and leaps out, which probably makes her a braver woman than I am, though she does take a baseball bat with her.

Listen to the music here, and we see something dash across the road just before we see that the body is a dummy, with a football for a head. But in the interim, the woman’s tires have been deflated and her keys taken from the ignition. And she’s already noted that she’s lost signal on her phone.

And she’s dragged screaming out of her car.

Credits.

Same road, same lowering sky. But this is the Torchwood vehicle, with everyone crammed into it. Apparently, a number of people have gone missing over the past few months, all in this area, and the bodies never found.

Cue Owen whinging about the countryside and the smell of grass. They’re all eating burgers apart from Tosh.

NICK: Even the immortal man doesn’t want hepatitis.
ME: Especially him, I would have thought.

They’re setting up camp, and Owen is being even more of a total bastard than usual, including totally demolishing Tosh after an innocent double entendre. (And then mocking her again for the fact that he was the last person she snogged.)

Man, I hate Owen.

Of course, Gwen started this game, and Owen’s humiliated by Tosh’s admission, so he tells everyone about snogging Gwen. Then Jack asks if non-human lifeforms are included, and Ianto brings everyone down by telling them that his last snog was with his dead Cyber-girlfriend.

IANTO: Sorry you mentioned it? Or sorry you’d forgotten?
NICK: Well, it only comes up in Chris Chibnell episodes, so that’s fair enough.

Man, I hate Owen so much in this episode. (This is the Gwen and Owen in the bushes scene, by the way.)

Gwen becomes aware that someone’s watching them, and she and Owen split to circle around the person—but the person is gone, and she nearly shoots Owen. Pity she doesn’t.

Then they see what looks like a blood-soaked bundle—and, oddly, is. It’s a flayed body, maybe just a torso, from the size of it. It’s revolting, either way.

The gang debates why the body has been dumped here—and then they hear an engine, which is, of course, the Torchwood vehicle being driven away, and over the tents. It’s all Owen’s fault for leaving the keys in the ignition.

Jack realises that the body dump in the woods was a diversion, and Gwen says that means they’ve been watched since they arrived.

Ianto tracks the car to a small village, where it has been stationery for some time. Tosh says it has the hallmarks of a trap, and Jack agrees, but they all walk down to the village anyway.

NICK: Bloody hell, guys. Fan out a bit.

But no: they walk, shoulder to shoulder, up to an old building: behind its windows, someone is panting in a disturbing fashion.

The team splits into two groups here: Ianto and Tosh to find the car, and the others to head into the pub, where you would anticipate finding people. But it’s silent and dark, though there’s money in the till.

Then Gwen finds another flayed body, and vomits—which comforts me a little, because it seems such a normal reaction. She and Jack flee the room, and head into another building, guns drawn. It looks an ordinary cottage, barring the pool of blood on the floor and the presence of another body.

GWEN: Don’t you ever get scared, Jack? Huh?

But Jack just wants to check the other houses.

Meanwhile, Ianto and Tosh are heading towards where the car is, apparently, parked. Tosh’s equipment is all in the car, which helps explain her anxiety. Tosh noisily kicks some buckets over for no apparent reason, while Ianto leaves her to check around the back of the building. Strange screaming noises have Tosh on edge.

There’s no more sign of life at the back than at the front, and Tosh makes some attempt to kick a door in, but to no avail. Ianto walks up the hill a way.

NICK: Ianto, a cameraman’s behind you! Look out!

By the time he turns back, Tosh is gone. And Ianto finally—finally!—gets his gun out.

NICK: Jack, have you ever considered training your team? Because I swear to God . . .

Back with Jack and Gwen, they’re heading into another cottage, but as they kick the door open, Gwen is shot by a shotgun-wielding maniac. Well, a terrified young boy with a shotgun. Jack and Owen grab her and shove her on a kitchen table, so Owen can examine her while Jack checks upstairs. Apparently, though, the wound is in a good location.

OWEN: Right, do you want a quip about feeling a small prick?
GWEN: No, but thanks for offering.

Owen tells her he has to retrieve the pellets, so she should just lie back and think of Torchwood.

I suppose she’s lucky she’s been shot with a shotgun, instead of a rifle? But, then, I’d rather have bad luck than that kind of luck.

Owen is much less of a total bastard in this scene.

Now, finally, Jack is worrying about Ianto and Tosh. Honestly, Jack! The boy with the shotgun is hysterical, telling Jack that “they” are too strong and not human. But he rejects the suggestion that they should check on Ianto and Tosh.

Ianto and Tosh, meanwhile, are in a basement somewhere. Well, it looks like a basement. Tosh wakes up, and Ianto says that “they” took the guns.

Tosh says she never met a cell she couldn’t get out of. I’ll remember that, come season two.

Ianto’s really not comfortable. But he says to Tosh that the others all share a facial expression, that the danger excites them. Ianto’s not coping with this, at all.

Tosh notices dozens and dozens of shoes, and wonders how many people have been down there and what happened to them. But the question of what happened to them isn’t so much of a mystery after they open the fridge and see the neat piles of flesh inside. They know, then, that they’re food.

Meanwhile, the others are barricading themselves in, to protect the boy. But there are noises and movements outside the house. The boy said they’d come back, and that’s what they’re worried about—especially when the lights go off.

For some reason, they’ve let the trigger-happy teenager have the shotgun again. But they’re not worried about that, because someone is coming up from the cellar, which, apparently, they didn’t bother to check when they barricaded themselves into the house.

Promiscuous shooting.

Keiran (the hysterical teenager) is dragged away. Jack tries to stop Gwen going after him, but she insists. Jack, meanwhile, insists that whatever was in the cellar took three bullets, so he should be able to find out what it is.

Meanwhile, Tosh and Ianto are trying to get out when a woman comes in, asking to see injuries: she says she’s a nurse, but says she can’t help them. It’s the harvest, she says, and it comes once every ten years. She’s been sent to take Tosh and Ianto to “them.”

Jack, in the cellar of the other house, looks for the body of the thing he shot, which he heard fall. There’s a blood trail, but the only body is a man in an anorak, who says he’ll tell them everything if they help him.

Jack tends to combine “helping” with “threatening.”

He successfully threatens the man into telling him everything, just as Owen and Gwen (who is surely less than useless: she can’t even stand up on her own) come across a police car, complete with policeman. But beyond him, they can see the “big house” of the village, where there’s a special meeting, and they make a break for it.

Tosh and Owen, meanwhile, are in another room, where they find a slaughterhouse. Tosh asks the woman who the creatures are, and do they look like us—but a man steps in and says “How else are we going to look?” and snogs the woman.

They knock down and bind Tosh and Ianto, and the man says they’ve found the boy, as well—that’s Keiran.

Tosh asks if he’s going to put them on meathooks, but he says no: he’s holding a baseball bat, and says meat needs to be tenderised first. Ianto manages to distract him long enough for Tosh to make a break for it, but the man chases after her with a machete. She hides in the undergrowth, while he laughs and says he knows she’s here.

Sure enough, as she leaps up to run, he grabs her, and says no one’s coming for him. But she kicks him in a sensitive area and legs it.

Cut to a chase through the woods scene that’s quite hard to recap. Tosh, of course, has her hands bound behind her back this whole time, which makes it harder for her to run. But as the man grabs her and starts choking her, Owen and Gwen come up with the policeman.

Tosh tells them that they’re cannibals, and Gwen tells the policeman to arrest the man—but the policeman says that would be unlikely, wouldn’t it? And he pulls his own gun on Owen.

There’s a brief, tense stand-off, though Nick thinks, and I think he’s right, that Gwen had a pretty clear shot before the policeman even took the safety off his gun.

Either way, Gwen and Owen are caught, and Tosh recaptured. Ianto is still alive, but unconscious—though that might not be a good thing, since they plan to bleed him like veal.

Well, that’s the plan before Jack drives in, all guns blazing, and just—not to put too fine a point on it—shoots everyone.

Oh, he doesn’t shoot his own men, though it might be a close-run thing.

Jack makes a move to shoot the ringleader in the head, but Gwen begs for a chance to question him. She says if she doesn’t find out why this happens, it’s just too much for her.

Gwen’s covered in blood and she asks the man to make her understand. He doesn’t know why she cares, but she says she’s seen things he wouldn’t believe, and this is the only thing she doesn’t understand. But the man simply says, “Well, keep on wondering.”

As Jack moves to drag him out, the man whispers to Gwen, “Because it made me happy.”

Everyone in the village is turned over to the police.

But Gwen, sitting on her sofa with Rhys, can’t cope with it. She says she’s changing, and so is how she sees the world. And as the extradiegetic voiceover turns to diegetic speech, we see she’s in Owen’s apartment, wearing one of his shirts for reasons that soon become apparent.

And that’s a bit of a blow to my love for Gwen.

Next week: Tosh-heavy episode.

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Two: Love and Monsters

Posted 20 July 2009 in by Catriona

I’ve developed a tendency to say “I’ll be honest” at the beginning of these live-blogs, so I’ll do that again here.

I’ll be honest: the last four days have been the worst four days all year—and, hopefully, the worst for some time. (Though everyone’s still alive, so it can always be worse.) As a result, I’m tired and jumpy, and I still have a conference tomorrow. Also, I had real problems with this episode last time around.

Be warned.

We start with a man running—it’s Marc Warren, who is occasionally fabulous and occasionally terrible. (Dracula. Shudder.) He comes to a set of warehouses, where he sees the TARDIS. He’s just approached closely enough to put his hand to the door when he hears Rose shouting, “Doctor! Doctor!” from inside the warehouse.

He goes in. We can hear Rose and the Doctor shouting, but can’t see them. He walks slowly through the building (and it is a seriously fabulous location), opens a door—and sees a monster. Well, an alien. But we’ll call it a monster, because of the title.

Cut to the man telling his webcam that if you think that was the most exciting day of his life, wait till you hear the rest.

Credits.

Back to the man talking to his webcam—and then we’re flipped back into the episode, where the Doctor has appeared behind the monster, distracting it with food, as Rose comes up and throws a bucket of water in its face.

There’s a bit of repartee about her making it worse with the blue bucket, and then there’s a great deal of screaming and running.

Then the Doctor approaches the man, saying, “Don’t I know you?” And the man stumbles out of the warehouse as we hear the TARDIS dematerialising.

Back to the webcam—he says that wasn’t the first time he met the Doctor and it wasn’t the last, but it made a good beginning.

He says he’s going to narrate the story, and now we’re outside with a handheld camera, being operated by Ursula (we only see her hand).

The man, Elton, is telling Ursula about the first time he saw the Doctor (in his tenth incarnation), when he was a boy of three or four, and came downstairs at night to find the Doctor in his living room. He doesn’t know why.

Elton has had an ordinary life, he says—until the new series of Doctor Who started up again.

Well, until the Autons attack, anyway. He survives that, and also witnesses the alien spaceship flying through Big Ben, and the Christmas attacks with the Sycorax. This is the first two seasons of Doctor Who through a bystander’s eyes.

All this, Elton says, is how he met a variety of people we haven’t met yet, including Ursula, and how he realised the truth about the Doctor. (Also? Elton loves ELO. Which is fair enough, but not for me.)

We come back to Elton’s narration with the Sycorax ship—and how he found Ursula Blake’s blog, which included a photograph of the Doctor from Christmas Day. Ursula—who is played by Shirley Henderson, and I’ll be honest here, too: I would kill for her skin. How does she look so young?—is explaining to Elton about a group of people, including Mr Skinner, who are an “inner sanctum” studying the Doctor.

Ursula—“poor Ursula,” he says, and we see a shot of her screaming—was like a real mate.

The other members of the group are Mr Skinner, who they always call Mr Skinner, and Bridget, who lived way up north, and Bliss, who was “ever so sweet” and is a mad artist.

Ursula says they need a name: Elton adds they need a “good strong” team name. London Investigation ‘N Detective Agency: LINDA.

Shirley Henderson is so damn cute.

So LINDA meets up every week and they talk about the Doctor—for a bit. But then they segue into Bridget cooking for them, and Mr Skinner reading bits of his novel. Bridget explains about her missing daughter, who was a drug addict—Bridget comes to London in case she can see her daughter.

And Bliss sings. Then they all start singing. Then they become an ELO tribute band.

I know: it sounds odd to me, too—but it all develops quite organically within the episode.

Then, as Elton says, it all changes. Another man arrives: Victor Kennedy. He doesn’t shake hands because he suffers from eczema—there’s a verbal pun there that I can’t reproduce.

Victor says he’s their “saviour”—he’s bringing them back to the focus on the Doctor, saying that they’ve lost their purpose. He shows them video footage of the Doctor, and the sound of the TARDIS—which triggers Elton’s memory of the night he saw the Doctor. The noise of the TARDIS woke him up, and he went downstairs.

Then Victor gives them homework, telling them the Torchwood files give them access to more information about the Doctor. He gives them all instructions, but keeps Bliss back after the others.

Ursula is chafing against Victor’s rule, but Elton says it’s what they’ve always wanted—and as they walk away, no one hears Bliss scream.

Now they’re all sitting behind desks, with big piles of books—but Bliss is gone. Victor says she’s getting married, but it will never work, because she’s a stupid girl.

At this point, we flash back to the point where we came in, with the warehouse at Woolwich. (My spelling might be shaky, there.) Victor is furious, and makes a move to hit Elton, but Ursula forces him to back down.

So Victor has them search London for Rose, instead—despite knowing nothing about her, not even her name. But someone points him straight to Jackie.

Elton is planning his espionage moves as he sees Jackie going into a laundromat, but, of course, Jackie comes straight up to him, and starts chatting. I can’t really replicate this scene without transcribing the dialogue (“I’ll tell you what, Elton: here we are, complete strangers, and I’m flashing you my knickers!”), but it’s perhaps my favourite scene with Jackie in the entire series.

It’s so strangely banal and yet terribly sad when she says, for example, that Elton should put the television on because she can’t stand it quiet.

So Elton and Jackie sit and chat about Rose, and Jackie’s opening up more than she would normally, though she’s still keeping a tight grip on herself—she insists Rose is just travelling with “friends,” but she can’t stop herself saying how lonely she is and how rarely Rose calls.

Victor is thrilled, but he also asks Bridget to stay back after class. As the rest leave, Mr Skinner gives Bridget a little kiss—Ursula and Elton chat to him about it, as we hear Bridget screaming in the background.

Elton’s now spending most of his time doing little tasks for Jackie—and revealing himself to us as incredibly naive, especially seeing how dolled up Jackie is here, and how short that skirt is. And the Il Divo CD on in the background.

Elton’s fairly helpless in the face of Jackie’s brute force seduction techniques—he’s not even sure what’s going on, to begin with, until she pours a glass of wine all over him, deliberately.

While Elton’s stripping his shirt off, Rose rings, so Elton comes out to a distinctly different Jackie, who’s almost crying, and saying she’s just here alone so often that she goes a bit mad and does stupid things.

Elton’s planning on leaving, but he’s a bit touched by Jackie’s situation, and says he’ll grab a pizza and come back to watch telly with her, just as mates. He says (t us, not Jackie) he does like Jackie, but he likes someone else a lot more—Ursula, obviously.

But as he comes back, he sees Jackie coming out. She’d been slipping a tenner in his jacket, and finds the photograph of Rose. She knows Elton is looking for the Doctor, and she says being left behind is hard, “and that’s what you become: hard.” But she says she’ll never let Rose and the Doctor down. Poor Jackie. She’s so fragile in this scene.

And Elton can’t cope any more. He’s railing at Victor about what’s happened to the group since Victor arrived. He says they’re all leaving—and he makes a pass at Ursula on the way. Such a lovely husky little voice she has, Shirley Henderson.

So they’re all planning on walking out, though Victor asks Mr Skinner to wait—Victor says he has numbers for Bridget and they can track her down. We hear Mr Skinner screaming as they walk away—but Ursula has left her phone behind, so they head back in.

Victor is hidden behind a newspaper, but they can see his claws, and they can hear Mr Skinner screaming from somewhere, a muffled scream. Mr Skinner’s face is on Victor’s abdomen, and we can see Bridget’s face on his shoulder. (Bliss is there too, but the less said about that, the better.)

Ah, the Blue Peter naming competition joke.

Ursula says he needs to let those people go, and threatens him with the walking stick—Victor pretends to be craven but only long enough to start absorbing Ursula. Elton tries to pull her away, but she shouts at him not to touch her, since the absorbing process occurs through touch. And there’s Ursula’s face on Victor’s chest.

Elton begs him to return the people, but Victor says no—the process can’t be reversed. But Ursula says he can read Victor’s thoughts, and Elton is next, since Victor can’t risk anyone else seeing his true form.

Cut to the running portion of the evening’s episode.

But Elton can’t run for long—he doesn’t have the will. He says everything he wants has already been absorbed. But as Victor is about to touch Elton, the TARDIS materialises, and the Doctor steps out—followed by Rose, who is furious that Elton upset Jackie.

Apparently, he’s from the twin planet of the Slitheen home planet, but I can’t spell the planet names.

Victor threatens to absorb Elton if the Doctor doesn’t just hand himself over, but the Doctor tells him to go ahead. But the Doctor also talks to the people inside Victor, and they start pulling against Victor—who drops the cane, which Elton snaps over his knee, so that Victor just falls apart.

What’s left of Victor is sinking into the paving stones, and we see a shadow of Ursula’s face and hear her say, “Goodbye, Elton.” Rose asks who she was, and Elton says, “That was Ursula.” Rose embraces him.

ELTON: And that’s it. Almost. Because the Doctor still had more to say.

Seriously? The episode should have ended about then.

But the Doctor explains that the night Elton saw the Doctor was the night his mother died—there was a living shadow in the house, an elemental shade, and the Doctor stopped it, but couldn’t save her. And we see the dead body of a woman from the perspective of a three year old.

Cut to old home movies of Elton with his mother.

Elton says he’s had the most terrible things happen and the most brilliant things, but sometimes he can’t tell the difference—they’re all him.

And he says the Doctor might be amazing, but he remembers the special little gang that was LINDA, and they were all destroyed. He says it wasn’t the Doctor’s fault, but maybe that’s what happens when you touch the Doctor, even for an instant.

Then we hear Ursula’s voice, saying he still has her, and we see the Doctor doing something.

What he’s doing is preserving Ursula’s face sticking out of a paving stone.

I’ll just let you think about that for an instant, shall I? Come back when you’re done.

And Elton doesn’t care what anyone thinks—he loves her. And he says the world is so much stranger, darker, and madder than they tell you when you’re a kid—and so much better.

And that’s the episode. Next week: “Fear Her.” No holds barred for that one, I promise you.

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Small Worlds"

Posted 17 July 2009 in by Catriona

Now, the first time we watched this, this was the first episode that I genuinely thought showed what the programme could do.

Actually, does that syntax make any sense? It’s been a long, odd, and confusing day—sometimes sessional academia involves being able to sleep in quite late on a weekday, but other times, it all goes completely haywire in the blink of an eye.

Hmm. I hope the episode starts soon. I have a feeling I’m making no sense. I need the taut script-writing abilities of Sapphire and Steel creator and primary script-writer P. J. Hammond to give my writing some structure.

Of course, nothing’s due to start for another four minutes, so I think I’ll stop rambling now.

And here we are, with the opening monologue.

Yes, yes: outside the government, beyond the police. Or maybe the other way around. Who knows?

We start in the woods, with a woman claiming to be returning to “the same spot.” “I do hope they’re here,” she says. She’s moving carefully, so as not to frighten “them.”

We hear a fluttering, and she says “they’re here.” We see fluttering shapes—Victorian-style fairies, bird sized, fluttering around a stone circle. The woman takes some photographs, but as she turns away, there’s a discordant noise, and the fairies appear as sinister, human-sized figures.

Cut to shirtless Captain Jack, asleep, and having nightmares about a time when he was a soldier, seeing his comrades lolling dead with rose petals falling out of their mouths.

Jack wakes, and finds a rose petal on his desk. And Ianto’s there, catching up on some paperwork.

Jack asks what Ianto has, and Ianto says “funny sort of weather patterns.”

Children are leaving a school, and a young girl with pigtails seems to have attracted the attention of a man in a silver car. The girl’s looking for someone—and we see a man saying he didn’t see the time, because he was on the phone. He gets into his car, as the woman with him frets and says she should call the school.

But Jasmine leaves to walk home, and the man in the car—who is being watched from afar—pulls up and says Jasmine’s mum told him to fetch her. Jasmine, not being daft, tries to walk past, and as the man grabs her, he’s thrown around by some kind of force that’s whispering “Come away, human child.”

Jasmine, totally unfazed, skips away.

Meanwhile, I spill an entire glass of wine all over myself and my rug, but not on my computer. I am cold and smell of alcohol.

On screen, Jack and Gwen are wandering up to see an old friend of his, who is talking about what shy, friendly creatures fairies are, but Jack says she always gets it wrong. Apparently, she and Jack have always disagreed about fairies.

This is the woman who was photographing fairies in the woods.

The man who tried to abduct Jasmine is walking along a street, with muttering voices around him, mopping at his bloody nose. He starts running from the noises, knocking into bystanders. And then he’s choking, and starts vomiting up rose petals.

I always though that fairy tale about the girl who was polite and so roses and diamonds fell from her lips when she talked was uncomfortable at best and fairly revolting at worst. This scene is definitely revolting.

He tries to climb into a police car, and is arrested.

Jasmine is brought home by her stepfather—“You’re not my father,” she says, when he chastises her—and her mother tells her never to walk home alone. But Jasmine says no-one can hurt her.

Meanwhile, Jack and Gwen are at his old friend’s house—where Gwen finds a photograph of Jack. But Jack says that, no: that’s his dad, and he and Estelle used to be inseparable, until the war parted them.

Estelle doesn’t know anything about Jack’s father these days, but Jack says to ring them if she ever sees fairies again, night or day. Jack doesn’t call them “fairies,” though: he says they’re something from the dawn of time, and you can’t put a name to them. He says they’re not aliens: they’re part of us, but we can’t put a name to them, can’t even see them. They’re part of the spirit world, like something we can only see out of the corner of our eyes.

Jasmine is sneaking out of her garden, into a wilder part of the country. Her stepfather says there’s something not right about her, as we see her skipping away, and hear the fluttering noises. Again, the voices are saying, “Come away, human child.”

Back in The Hub, we’re now looking at photographs of the Cottingsley fairy photographs—Owen points out that Conan Doyle believed in them (I have his monograph on the fairies, somewhere on my shelves), but Gwen says the women admitted that the photographs were faked, when they were old.

The man who attacked Jasmine is admitting his attraction to young girls and begging to be locked up somewhere safe.

Gwen and Jack are out in the woods, and Gwen’s pushing on the subject of Estelle, again. Owen natters about the mystical elements of the wood and its unsavoury reputation, as we hear more fluttering.

And in the police cell, a winged creature darts down on the man who tried to attack Jasmine, who screams.

Jasmine’s mother sneaks up the stairs to see what her daughter is up to: we can hear her talking and laughing, but when the mother opens the door, she’s on her own, in bed. She’s distant and withdrawn.

Now Gwen and Jack are in the police station, talking about the man who attacked Jasmine—who is dead, of oxygen deficiency, says Tosh, looking at the symptoms. But why isn’t Owen dealing with this? Why is he a folklore expert and Tosh suddenly has the medical degree?

Regardless, Tosh pulls a rose petal out of the man’s throat—and then another, and another.

Jack says he’s seen something like this before.

Estelle, meanwhile, is sitting with a variety of semi-precious stones and candelabras, saying, “Oh, let me find them again.” And sure enough, we hear fluttering noises, just before her kitchen window smashes in.

Jack’s talking about the torments dished out by these “creatures,” in protection of the “chosen ones”—generally children.

And then the phone rings, and it’s Estelle. She says they’ve come to her, and she’s clearly terrified. Jack says they’re on their way, and she’s to stay where she is. But she wanders back through the house, to where she has the candles, and she hears her cat wailing, as though scared or tormented. She calls to him through a crack in the back door, but when he doesn’t respond, she heads out into the garden. We can hear the fluttering and then the door slams shut. And it starts to rain. Hard.

Estelle is driven from her feet by the weight of the rain, which is just on her location—her cat, a short distance away, is unaffected.

Torchwood pull up outside Estelle’s house, but there’s no response—when they dash around the house, she’s lying dead in the back garden, drowned. (Though this time it is Owen who confirms the death.)

Jack just embraces Estelle. And Gwen whispers to her that she knows it was him who was in love with Estelle, not his father. He says that they vowed that they’d be with each until they died. (Which raises questions about Jack’s continuity, though I have a theory about that.)

Jack, over a large drink, tells Gwen about how he and Estelle met.

And Gwen asks how he knew about the petals in the mouth, and was that during the war? But he says no: it was long before that. And he goes on to narrate the events—he says he and troops (on a troop train, long before the war) were too noisy, too happy. They hit a tunnel, and could hear the fluttering. But then came the silence, and when they came out of the tunnel, everyone was dead but Jack. All dead, with petals falling from between their lips.

Gwen asks why they were killed, and Jack says about a week earlier some of them, drunk, had driven a truck through a village, and struck and killed a child. The child, he says, was a chosen one.

And we cut to Jasmine, still looking withdrawn. Jasmine’s mother, still locking up the house, hears the fluttering noises, but locks the back door.

And Gwen, coming home, finds her apartment trashed, with rose petals layered over everything.

Jasmine, heading to school, isn’t excited about her forthcoming party: she says she’d rather play down the bottom of the garden. Her stepfather says he’ll put an end to it, and taunts her about her lack of friends and about her father leaving when she was a baby.

But back at Gwen’s apartment, Jack is strolling around while Gwen frets about her lack of safety in her own home. She wants to know about the “chosen ones”—Jack says all of the fairies were children once, from different moments in time, going back millennia. He says they’re here because they want what’s theirs: the next chosen one.

Now we’re back with Jasmine, who is being tormented by two other girls, while roaring winds develop in the playground—to the tune of “Lord of the Dance,” which one of my favourites.

Jack hears about this from Tosh, and dashes out.

The children are freaking out, and the teacher’s not much happier—but Jasmine is just grinning and grinning as the teacher shields the two children who tormented Jasmine with her own body.

But now it seems the creatures have another purpose, as Jasmine’s stepfather starts nailing up the gap in the fence through which she passes to get to the woods.

Jack and Gwen are at the school, and Gwen flees as she hears the fluttering. The teacher mentions how odd it was that Jasmine was untouched.

Meanwhile, here we are at Jasmine’s house, where the party is building up. Her mother is trying to talk to her about her “friends” from this morning, but she can’t really follow what Jasmine is saying.

The stepfather BBQs, while the mother suggests that Jasmine could have invited her friends to the party. The discussion becomes more and more disturbing for the mother.

Jasmine, wandering outside, sees the fence boarded up—when her stepfather grabs her, she kicks him. But he slaps her—he’s screened behind the shrubbery, so no one sees. But we hear the bad weather building up, and Torchwood are on their way.

The stepfather starts making a speech about Jasmine’s mother and their desire to have their own children—when Jasmine steps out from behind the bushes and the fairies, no longer invisible or benign, leap into the garden. The stepfather, standing out in the garden, is vulnerable, and one creature shoves his hand right down his throat and, seemingly, crushes his heart, while Jasmine watches, smiles, and leaves through the hole that one of the creatures smashed in the new fence.

The stepfather’s mouth is full of rose petals.

Torchwood were too late to save the stepfather, but they follow Jasmine—she says they’re walking in a forest, an old forest, in which she wants to stay forever.

Jack says the child isn’t sure, and that they should find another chosen one, but Jasmine says she is sure, and the fairies say she is the chosen one, and that she lives forever.

Jack asks what happens if they make the child stay, but Jasmine says they’ve promised to kill many, many other people. If she doesn’t go, she says, the whole world will die.

Gwen wants them to save Jasmine, but Jack says no: he tells the fairies to take her, and Jasmine says, “thank you” as she skips off into vapour. Gwen is distraught, but Jack says they have no choice.

That’s not a great deal of comfort for Jasmine’s mother, and the rest of the Torchwood team look pretty shattered, too.

This is what happens when your leader is aligned Chaotic Good, guys.

Back at The Hub, Gwen takes a closer look at the Cottingley fairy photographs, and sees that one of the fairies has Jasmine’s face.

And that’s it for this week.

Beware of next week—and don’t watch it in the dark.

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Two: The Satan Pit

Posted 13 July 2009 in by Catriona

And, once again, I nearly wrote that as “The Stan Pit.” Which would be amusing, admittedly, but might skew my Google results.

(Though, on that note, I had to be very careful moderating the blog and checking the visitor logs during the recent airing of the Torchwood specials. Many, many people were coming across my season-one Torchwood blogging while searching for things that were, to someone living in Australia, absolute spoilers. I don’t want to be spoiled on my own blog!)

According to the ABC voiceover chap, this is a battle to save the universe.

Cool.

(Yes, I’ve seen it before. I’m cultivating a deliberate and charming naivety.)

And we’re starting the recap of last week’s episode with a lovely CGI shot of the sanctuary base. I do wonder why they’re digging down to find the power source that keeps the planet in stable geo-stationary orbit, though. What if they accidentally turn it off? Of course, waking Satan is second on my list of “why this is a bad idea,” so let’s see how that turns out, shall we?

We come back where we ended, with the menacing Ood approaching Rose and the base staff (who open fire on them). Rose’s only concern is to contact the Doctor. Danny turns up, hysterical, and tells them that the Ood are using the interface device as a weapon—just in time for them to get the door open and kill the man-at-arms.

The Captain is also being menaced by the Ood, and has no weaponry.

Rose has just enough time to freak out about the Doctor’s silence, before the Doctor pops back on the comm and tells her he’s fine, but was just a little distracted. I don’t really blame her for being thoroughly annoyed by that.

Rose demands to know whether the beast is Satan. She asks the Doctor to tell her that there’s no such thing as Satan, but he won’t.

The Captain demands that the Doctor and Ida return to the base so that he can implement strategy nine. We don’t know what that is, yet. He also points out that the planet is shifting, and that they’re at risk of falling into the black hole.

The Doctor and Ida, though, want to go down the pit. Ida wants to know why the beast hasn’t risen from the pit, but the Doctor says they may have opened the prison but not the cell.

The Doctor has a lovely monologue here about the human impulse to throw themselves over the brink, but he says, finally, that they’re going to retreat this time. (He’s getting old, he says.)

Jefferson wants to shoot Toby, but Rose stops him—she says Toby is clean now. Toby does look well freaked out now.

Ida says that strategy nine is to open the airlocks and flush the Ood out into space. The Doctor’s not thrilled about that, but he climbs into the lift anyway—which doesn’t really matter, since the lift isn’t working.

The Ood start monologuing through the monitors (Torchwood reference! Drink!), but it’s not them talking: it’s the beast.

And the Doctor responds, wanting to know which beast it is who is speaking. But the beast says he is all devils to all religions.

DOCTOR: What does “before time” mean?

Yeah, you know he’s going to have trouble with that concept. He’s already off balance because the beast calls him “the killer of his own kind.” (He also challenges all the others, telling the Captain that he’s scared, that Jefferson is haunted by the eyes of his wife, Danny is the boy who lied, Ida is still running from her father, Toby is the virgin (And?), and Rose is the lost girl who will die in battle.)

They’re all freaked out by this, and the Doctor heads into one of his “humans are brilliant” monologues—which they are, but I don’t have time to transcribe it—before the cable snaps and the capsule is destroyed.

They have air for an hour, Ida and the Doctor, but they’re ten miles down and there’s no way for the others on the base to reach them.

Meanwhile, on the sanctuary base, the Ood are cutting through the doors. The Captain might last a little longer than the others because he has a security door. He also has access to base controls, which allows him remote control to the rocket—he can channel the rocket’s power into the base, which helps them.

Rose is all in control in this scene—I’m a little surprised that people are listening to her (though I suppose part of it is channeling the Doctor’s authority by proxy) but I do like her when she’s being proactive.

Ten miles down, the Doctor and Ida are squabbling about who is going to go down into the pit. Of course, the Doctor wants to go down—and I have a feeling Ida is not going to win this argument.

Well, of course there’s a series of maintenance tunnels honeycombing the base. Have we learned nothing from Aliens? But they need to get to Ood Habitation, so that they can broadcast a “flare” from the central monitor and cause a “brainstorm” in the Ood, taking them out.

Ida and the Doctor have a discussion about where the human urge to drop over the brink comes from, and then the Doctor throws himself into the pit. Of course, he’s attached to the cable from the elevator, so there is that.

Everyone else jumps into the maintenance tunnels, where there’s plenty of time to banter about what a cute bottom Rose has. (And she does.) Just to make things more perilous, the Captain has to feed air into each section of tunnel at a time.

So they need to sit for a little time, bantering and generally freaking out—but the Ood are in the tunnels, scrambling along. Yes, whose idea was it not to register the Ood as proper lifeforms on the computer? That seems stupid.

The Captain can’t cut off the Ood’s air without cutting off everyone’s air. So Jefeerson says he’ll take “defensive position,” which requires staying behind while the Captain aerates and opens the next section of passage. If Jefferson can’t get past the junction though, the Captain can’t aerate and open the next section.

And, in fact, Jefferson can’t get to the doorway in time. The Captain says he can’t open the doorway without killing everyone else. All Jefferson can do is choose how he dies—and he doesn’t want to be killed by the Ood, so he convinces the Captain to blow all of the air out of his section.

And when the final door is opened, there are red-eyed Ood waiting just on the other side. The three still alive have to push up through a hatch into a corridor. Toby struggles to get out in time, so it’s convenient that the beast is still within him—his eyes flash red, and he indicates that the Ood should shush.

But they get to Ood Habitation, and Danny broadcasts the pulse that is designed to kill all the Ood.

Back in the pit, there’s a lovely shot of the Doctor being slowly lowered through pitch blackness, while delivering himself of a scholarly discourse on whether or not there is an “original” devil, which would explain the similarity of imagery across the cosmos.

Then they run out of cable, and the Doctor wonder how much depth is left. Could he survive a fall? What if it’s only thirty feet? Ida doesn’t want to die on her own, she says, but the Doctor—while acknowledging this—still starts unbuckling his harness. While he’s doing this, he and Ida talk about their religious beliefs. I always thought that Gallifrey was a largely secular society, but I could be wrong on that one.

I don’t for a minute believe that the Doctor keeps travelling “to be proved wrong,” though. That doesn’t sound like my Doctor.

The Doctor tries to give a message to Ida for Rose, but he can’t articulate it.

And he falls backwards into pitch blackness.

IDA: He fell. Into the pit. And we don’t know how deep it is: miles and miles and miles.

So Ida is left to die alone, after all. The Captain says they have to abandon the base—and abandon Ida, as well. He’s declaring the mission unsafe.

The Captain says they’re leaving in the rocket—but Rose says she’s not going. She’s waiting for the Doctor, just like he’d wait for her. She’s going to stay, because he’s not dead. And, she says, even if he was dead, how could she leave him, all alone down there?

(Whimper.)

But the Captain has Danny and Toby restrain her (he won’t lose another person) and has her sedated. As they rush to the rocket, the Ood are starting to stir.

The Doctor wakes in the remains of his helmet, but there’s an air cushion to support the fall, and he can breathe.

Rose wakes in the rocket and freaks. She has the Captain’s bolt gun, and threatens to shoot him if he doesn’t take her back to the planet. The Captain calls her bluff, though. And Rose isn’t a killer.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is telling Ida (who almost certainly can’t hear him) what the paintings on the wall mean. He does this for some time before he notices the enormous devil chained directly in front of him.

Toby, in the rocket, is chuckling manically to himself.

Now, the beast is tugging at its chains while the Doctor is demanding it tell him why he’s been given a safe landing. But the beast won’t talk—or, the Doctor hypothesises, it can’t talk. And he wonders where its intelligence has gone, because now it’s just a beast, the physical form of the creature, while the intelligence has gone.

Cut to Toby chuckling manically in the rocket, again.

The Doctor’s realising that only the beast’s body is contained by the cell—the beast also has a non-corporeal form, in that it is also an idea. And the Doctor realises that he can destroy the prison and destroy the beast’s body—the destruction of the beast’s body will also kill its mind.

But then, if he destroys the prison, the gravity field will collapse, and the rocket will be dragged into the black hole.

DOCTOR: I’ll have to sacrifice Rose.
NIKC: Well, and all those other people.

The rocket is almost beyond the reach of the black hole. And the Doctor is on to what must be his fifth soliloquy of the episode. This is the Hamlet of Doctor Who episodes! This time, he explains that he believes in Rose—and smashes the vases protecting the prison.

He and the beast will fall into the black hole together. And at that, Toby reveals that the beast is still riding within him—and now he’s breathing fire. At least, he is before Rose shoots out the windshield and he’s sucked out into space.

The rocket is still falling into the black hole, though.

The planet is falling into the black hole, and the Ood are huddling together. Ida runs out of oxygen and lies down—just as the Doctor stumbles backwards into the TARDIS.

Well, if anything fits the term “deus ex machina” it’s the Doctor and the TARDIS.

And just as the rocket is about to fall into the black hole, the TARDIS grabs it—the Time Lords practically invented black holes. He’s managed to grab Ida, as well, but he only had time for one trip, and he couldn’t save the Ood as well as Ida.

Then we have a running and hugging reunion between Rose and the Doctor, while the sanctuary-base staff talk about what the TARDIS actually was.

The Doctor does consider telling them not to go sticking their noses into things any more, but decides that would be futile.

Rose is still worrying about the fact that the beast told her she would die in battle, but the Doctor says it lied.

IDA: But, Doctor, you never really said. You two . . . who are you?
DOCTOR: Oh, the stuff of legend.

And we end with the Captain’s voice fading out as he records the various Ood, “deceased, with honours.”

Next week, “Love and Monsters.” Put your commenting hats on for that one!

Some Random Thoughts About Captain Jack Harkness (No Spoilers!)

Posted 10 July 2009 in by Catriona

Well, I say no spoilers. I’ll qualify that: nothing here counts as a spoiler if you’ve seen the Doctor Who episodes that have thus far aired on Australian television—which is to say, all of them.

1. If Torchwood were actually a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, Captain Jack would definitely be a rogue. Say you’re fighting the boss. Do you think Captain Jack would be standing next to you? Or is he more likely to pop up behind the enemy and stab him in the back for twenty-five points of damage? Sure, my base comparison there is more Puzzle Quest than Dungeons and Dragons, but the analogy still holds.

(If you prefer to play Fallout 3, I don’t think you’d have any trouble seeing Jack as the Mysterious Stranger. As Nick says when he’s playing Fallout 3, the Mysterious Stranger isn’t the most useful bonus you could enable, but when he turns up, it’s always awesome.)

2. And still on a Dungeons and Dragons theme, not only would Captain Jack be a rogue, he would absolutely be Chaotic Good. He’s the sort of character who has a basic good alignment, but is entirely unpredictable in how he manifests that.

As Nick points out, the Doctor is basically Chaotic Good, as well. Lawful Good is always by the book, like The Middleman. (And if you’re not reading that, or haven’t managed to see the excellent television series—now sadly axed—what are you waiting for? Who doesn’t want to watch something in which the hero says to his sidekick, “It’s bad apples like you that put J. Edgar Hoover in a dress”?)

But Chaotic Good has more of a mischievous side. And we’ve seen more of this with the Doctor in the last season or so—I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog that I’ve been disturbed on more than one occasion by the glee that the Doctor takes in chaos and disaster.

He hasn’t always been that way: I would argue that the fifth Doctor, for example, had far more of a Lawful Good alignment.

The touchstone episode, for me, is increasingly becoming “Warriors of the Deep.” I don’t know when this started, but more and more over the last season or two of Doctor Who, I’ve been drawing comparisons in my mind with that story and particularly with that last shot of the fifth Doctor and that last line: “There had to be a better way.” It doesn’t seem to me that the Doctor always looks for that other way, these days.

And Captain Jack doesn’t, either. Watch season two of Torchwood and tell me that he’s always looking for the better way. (Or, for that matter, let’s just think about the time he fed Ianto’s ex-girlfriend to a pterodactyl, shall we?)

3. And that brings me to my final point: Captain Jack is now basically the Doctor. Don’t mistake me on this: I think that’s fabulous. And now that Torchwood is increasingly—in Nick’s words—“grown up” television rather than simply being “adult” television, now that it has found its feet, we’re seeing this more.

True, Captain Jack is a fixed point in time, something that the Doctor fears rather than something that the Doctor is. But he’s directly analogous to a Time Lord, these days: though his regenerations come faster and always bring him back to the same body, he has the same distance from humanity now that the Doctor has always had. Like the Doctor, he will not age or die—at least, not by any means measurable by or conceivable to the human mind.

Captain Jack is the Doctor without a TARDIS.

He’s the Doctor trapped in a single location.

He’s the Doctor who can’t just leave after he’s reduced another planet to chaos.

He’s the Doctor, in short, who has to stay and clean up his own messes.

Poor man.

(Please, feel free to shred my Torchwood/Dungeons and Dragons analogy in the comments, but keep them spoiler free.)

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Cyberwoman"

Posted 10 July 2009 in by Catriona

I’ll be honest at the beginning of this post: I seriously hated this episode last time I saw it. I thought it was frankly ridiculous.

Plus, I’m exhausted. My neighbours, for reasons best known only to themselves, have taken to standing out in their front garden—directly under our bedroom windows—at 3 a.m., taking flash photographs of themselves, and laughing loudly about them.

And by “have taken to,” I mean last night wasn’t the first time they did this.

Though, apparently, today is Silence Day, so if they do it again tonight, I’m definitely going to lean out of the window and deliver myself of a brief discourse on the followers of Meher Baba.

Also? Everyone should be watching Being Human. That’s my public-service announcement for the day.

Tonight’s episode of Torchwood contains violence. Just for a change.

We open on Ianto, walking down into the Hub—where there’s a great deal of screaming, as everyone plays a friendly game of basketball while the pterodactyl wheels above.

As everyone else leaves for drinks, Ianto orders two pizzas and a tub of coleslaw—as a mysterious gentleman wanders into the Hub. Ianto greets him cheerfully, and takes him deep into the complex. He unlocks a mysterious door, while telling the man that “I did all I could. I really did.”

In the mysterious room, we see reams of medical equipment, all attached to a woman who—as her bed is slowly raised—we see is partway converted to a Cyberman.

Ianto kisses the woman, and—as the mysterious man says, “My god, it’s impossible! One of them survived!”—says, “This is Lisa.”

I’m pleased to see that the Cybermen were protective enough of her modesty to put her in that fetching silver bikini, even though they never finished the conversion.

The man is delighted: he never thought he’d have a chance to work with “something like this.”

“Someone,” says Ianto firmly.

He says Lisa was working for Torchwood London and that at the end of the Battle of Canary Wharf, the Cybermen, desperate for new soldiers, starting converting whole bodies, instead of just transplanting brains. Lisa was halfway through the process when the machine shut down and Ianto dragged her out of there.

The man—Dr Miyazaki, an expert in cybernetics—asks Ianto how he knew to convert the Cybermen technology to keep Lisa alive, and Lisa wakes up to tell him that she told Ianto how to do it.

So she’s awake and sentient, but in constant pain.

Ianto wants Dr Miyazaki to make Lisa human again, but he has to wean her from the Cyberman technology, starting with the respirator. Ianto is terrified that Lisa is too weak to make it through the process.

But no: she starts breathing on her own. That Cyber-brassiere is distinctly distracting from that camera angle.

At this point, Ianto sees the team members coming back to the Hub. He has to hide Lisa and the doctor, but Lisa is still quite weak, though she’s delighted to be free of the machinery.

The Doctor and Lisa clank through the centre of the Hub as the others head down through the main entrance. Ianto dashes back up as staff are settling down to work, and straightens his tie in an effort to seems normal.

Lisa, meanwhile, is strangling Dr Miyazaki. Guess she’s not so weak, after all.

CYBER BIKINI! Drink!

Now Dr Miyazaki is attached to the former Cybertechnology—Lisa, her voice all Cybermanny, tells him that she can make him strong, and starts the conversion.

CYBER BIKINI! Drink!

The conversion drains a heavy amount of power, but Ianto dashes in before Jack can order a diagnostic. He says they’ve been having cabling problems all night, and promises to check on it himself.

He’s in time to see Dr Miyazaki on the floor, dead and mangled.

IANTO: What happened?
LISA: His upgrade failed.
IANTO: Was it an accident?

Ianto, you moron. But he’s heartbroken—all the work they put in to keep her alive, and now she’s ruined it all.

IANTO: This can’t happen again, Lisa.

So she gets one free dead body? Or has she done this before?

Ianto needs to hide the body (and, dear me, that’s revolting), but he’s also breaking down at the thought that he caused this problem.

CYBER BIKINI! Drink!

The staff are back at work, talking to aliens, but this sub-plot isn’t either very interesting nor very important.

Meanwhile, there’s another power drain. Jack asks Ianto to check into it (“Ianto, I need to hear those beautiful Welsh vowels”) but Ianto’s too busy dragging a dead body through the corridors to hear. Jack assumes they’re under attack—that the Hub has been breached. He says they’re going to battle mode, and assumes Ianto has been the first casualty.

Ianto’s too busy apologising to the corpse of Dr Miyazaki to pay too much attention to the comms.

Gwen and Owen are down at the store-room where Lisa is—in Futurama terms—jacking on. (In a more delicate phrasing, she’s abusing electricity.) Jack and Tosh, meanwhile, can see the security footage of Ianto letting Dr Miyazaki into the Hub.

Owen tries to see through the door grill, but he can’t see well enough, and unlocks the door. He and Gwen kick the door open, and see the Cybertechnology—there’s no sign of Lisa. Owen recognises it, and is horrified. He tells Gwen about the fall of Torchwood One and about what the machinery is.

The comms come back on, and Owen (who sounds seriously spooked) tells Jack about the powered-up Cyber conversion unit, just as Lisa appears behind them.

Gwen tells Jack what’s happening, and Jack dashes down to help, leaving Tosh as the last line of defense, to stop the Cyberman getting to the outside world.

Lisa grabs Gwen and throws her into the conversion uni, which she powers up.

CYBER BIKINI! Drink!

Ianto appears and tackles Jack, who shouts, “You’re attacking the wrong man!” With the Cyber conversion unit powering up, the only way to save Gwen is to shut down all power in the base (“No! Shut down all the garbage compacters on the detention level!”), which puts the Hub into lockdown. Since Lisa has escaped, this now means that they have a Cyberman on the loose and can’t themselves get into the outside world.

With Jack carrying an unconscious Owen over his shoulder, they start back to the Hub. When Ianto is relieved to see Lisa alive, Jack draws his gun on Ianto.

Back in the Hub, Ianto is on his knees with his hands on his hand. But when Jack challenges him, Ianto explodes. “Why would you care? I clean up your shit, and that’s how you like it. But when was the last time you asked me about my life?”

Ianto still thinks that Lisa can be cured, but Jack says no: that Cybermen (and those like them) spread by exploiting human weakness.

Ianto says he can’t give up on Lisa, that he loves her.

JACK: You need to figure out whose side you’re on. Because if you don’t know, you’re not going to get out of here.

Lisa appears in the Hub.

CYBER BIKINI! Drink!

Lisa claims to be “Human.2,” so Jack asks, “Why do you still look like Human.1?” Seeing herself in a reflective surface for the first time, Lisa realises that her upgrade is incomplete. Ianto’s still trying to talk to her, but she declares that they’re not compatible, and throws him to one side.

CYBER BIKINI! Drink!

In the conference room, Jack sends Tosh out to reception (CYBER BIKINI!) to (technobabble). Owen and Gwen are to find weapons. Jack is “buying them some time,” largely by taunting Lisa.

CYBER BIKINI! Drink!

Taunting doesn’t work out so well, and Lisa electrocutes Jack, just as Tosh manages to get the gate open with alien technology. Jack comes back to life and is electrocuted again. Lisa goes after Tosh, but she’s managed to lock the door behind her—though that doesn’t stop Lisa slamming her fist through it.

With Jack down and Tosh gone, that leaves Gwen and Owen (CYBER BIKINI!) who hide—on top of each other—in the medical centre.

NICK: Oh, lord. Cyber high heels, as well.

Then everything kind of goes snoggy for a while there: Owen and Gwen are snogging in their hiding place, and Jack is snogging Ianto for a reason that may have escaped me while I was typing.

And then Gwen’s mobile phone goes off: it’s Rhys, asking her to video Wife Swap.

Owen manages to—he thinks—kill Lisa (before he and Gwen have a frustrating snogging-related conversation that I’m not going to transcribe here), but Lisa’s not that easy to kill. Ianto still wants Jack to save Lisa, but instead Jack drenches her in “a kind of barbeque sauce that helps it identify its food.”

Helps what, you ask?

Well, that would be the pterodactyl.

Yes, we now have Ianto being forced (until the lift starts working) to watch his partially converted girlfriend being eaten by a pterodactyl. No, I am not making this up. I promise.

Ianto punches Jack in the face. And I can’t say I blame him.

Oh, but Tosh points out that the power is coming back on—just in time for the pizza delivery girl to turn up. Turns out, Cyberwoman aren’t so easy to kill.

Ianto’s dashing back down with a gun to save Lisa, but he’s not really prepared to kill anyone, and Jack easily disarms him. He demands that if Ianto wants to go back in, he has to execute Lisa if she’s still alive. He gives Ianto a gun and ten minutes, and says they’re all coming in after that time.

Ianto heads in, and sees the blood everywhere before he notices that the power is being drained again. But Lisa’s dead on the floor of the Cyber conversion chamber, covered in blood. Ianto’s keening over her body when the pizza delivery girl steps out from behind a door, with a cut straight across her forehead, insisting that she’s Lisa. She says she’s human again—that Ianto fought so hard for her, that she had to fight for him, so she took the pizza girl’s body and transplanted her own brain into it.

Ianto looks like he doesn’t know whether to cry or to vomit, so he’s sort of doing both at the same time. Lisa asks him to hold her, and he does—but then draws his gun on her.

Lisa says he wouldn’t shoot her, that she did this for him. And, in fact, Ianto can’t do it. He walks away, as Lisa says they can be upgraded together—just as the remaining members of the team turn up and shoot her.

Ianto sinks to the ground between both of Lisa’s corpses.

No one’s terribly pleased to see him when he comes to work the next day. He seems to still have a job, though—he’s picking up the rubbish from the previous day’s activities. (Which is to say, his ex-girlfriend’s brutal death.)

Well, that was bloody depressing. Next week: the P. J. Hammond episode, “Small Worlds.”

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Two: The Impossible Planet

Posted 6 July 2009 in by Catriona

I’m quite pleased, as I think I’ve mentioned before, that ABC2 has brought these episodes back on, because there are two particular episodes coming up that I’m keen to live-blog and discuss (should people feel so inclined) because I found them highly problematic.

This, however, is not one of those episodes. I found this one sincerely creepy, mostly because I’m easily frightened by stories with demonic aspect. (Oh, come now: that’s not a spoiler. You can’t spoil an episode that aired three years ago, and, anyway, the next episode is called “The Satan Pit.”)

I’m hoping that I won’t actually be overly frightened this time around, since this is maybe the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen it.

I’m also thinking that I should probably have taken off the ridiculously large plastic rings I’m wearing on each hand before I started typing, since they’re really starting to annoy me. So I might get on with that now.

Once again, I have started live-blogging too early. I always panic, thinking that I’m going to miss the start of the episode, and then I spent fifteen minutes waffling on about costume jewelry and the like. Still, it’s a fairly accurate representation of my actual conversational style.

And now the TARDIS materialises. I miss you, TARDIS! Have I mentioned that?

The Doctor’s worried about the TARDIS: he says she’s sounding a little queasy. They’ve landed in a cupboard, the Doctor says—while opening door after door. He knows they’re in a base, but doesn’t know whether it’s a sea base or what, until they come out into a bigger room.

“Oh, it’s a sanctuary base!” he exclaims, in monkey-with-a-tambourine mode.

“Welcome to Hell!” says Rose. The Doctor says it’s not that bad, but she points out that it’s written on the wall, and, under it, some writing that the TARDIS translation circuits haven’t translated—which, the Doctor says, means it’s “impossibly old.” He wants to find someone to explain it, but before they can, they’re confronted by a group of Ood (spoiler!), walking forwards chanting “We must feed!”

But after the opening credits, it’s revealed as a cheat, as the Ood taps his speech bubble, and repeats, “We must feed . . . you, if you are hungry.”

More importantly for the plot, the people on the base are astonished to see Rose and the Doctor (and equally astonished to find that they don’t know where they are). But there’s no time to worry about it now, because there’s “incoming”—whatever that means. Everyone’s strapped in, except Rose and the Doctor, who are just clinging on to things as the room explodes.

NICK: Yes, no—flames should not be coming out of your control panel! Sparks are bad enough!

The sanctuary-base staff are astonished—now they have time—that Rose and the Doctor don’t know where they are. Apparently, the “sight of it sends some people mad,” the acting Captain says, as the science officer opens the roof of the room to show that they’re in perpetual geostationary orbit around a black hole.

The Doctor can’t cope with this, because they’re not being sucked in, when everything else is—including time. And you know how the Doctor feels about time.

But that at least explains the buffeting the base is taking, as we’re pulled out to a lovely CGI shot of the base on its asteroid, with the dead constellations streaming into the black hole behind it.

Meanwhile, Toby (the archaeologist), who has been sent to assess damage, is hearing mysterious voices chanting his name. That’s where I start to find it creepy.

Though it’s balanced by the technobabble in the next scene, explaining how they managed to successfully land on the planet in the first place. I can’t recap that—except that if the “gravity tunnel” down which they flew the ship ever closes, they cannot escape from this asteroid. I think that might be significant, later.

Rose is trying to make friends with the Ood, and is slightly worried to find out that the Ood are a slave race. The ethics officer (who pointed out earlier that it’s not as boring a job as it sounds, and we start to see why, here), says that the Ood offer themselves as slaves, that if they aren’t given orders, they pine away and die.

Toby is talking about what’s buried away in the deeps of the planet and what it might mean.

ROSE: What’s your job? Chief Dramatist?

The Doctor’s in serious monkey-with-a-tambourine mode in this episode—watch him and the Captain having a lovely cuddle at this point, while the Doctor’s ranting about how much he loves humans.

He slips into a less cheerful mode, though, once he realises that he parked in Storage Six, and the Captain said that Storage 5 to 8 were damaged during the earthquake—the section in which the TARDIS was parked has collapsed into a void. The ground gave way, and the TARDIS is in the centre of the planet somewhere.

The Doctor wants them to divert the drills that are working down towards the power supply, hidden in the planet, that is keeping them from falling into the black hole, but the Captain refuses: he says they only have the resources for one tunnel.

So the Doctor and Rose are trapped: Ida, the science officer, says she’ll sort out the duty roster, since they need someone in the laundry.

Now we get a series of short scenes showing the various staff at work: Scooty (maintenance) [and, damn, I’ve spelt her name wrong all the way through this] outside drilling things, Danny (ethics officer) overseeing the change in Ood shift, and Toby (archaeologist) being haunted by creepy voices while reading scraps of the mysterious writing. Toby thinks Danny is doing it, which, as Nick points out, is an unfortunate reputation for your ethics officer to have.

Meanwhile, Rose is getting dinner from an Ood server, who, as she tries to talk to him about his pay conditions, says, “The Beast and his armies will rise from the pit to make war with God.”

While the Captain is working, we see a demonic face appear in the display behind him.

And while Danny is closing doors, the electronic door voice says, “He is awake.”

And then we’re back with Toby, who hears a voice directly behind him, but is warned not to look: “One look, and you will die.” Meanwhile, the voice is claiming to be getting closer and closer, and to be able to touch Toby—but when Toby turns, there’s nothing there.

On the other hand, the mysterious script he’s been reading is now printed all over his hands and face, and his eyes are bright red. He collapses on the floor of his room.

Back in the control room, they watch a star system—once home to a mighty civilisation spanning a million years—being sucked into the black hole. Ida sends Scooty out to check out the lock-down, and Jefferson (security) to check the seals.

Rose and the Doctor chat, and Rose notes that her phone is out of range, for the first time. He tells Rose that TARDISs are grown, not built, so they’re stuck. The Doctor just freaks out about the idea of having a house, with doors and carpets—until Rose suggests the two of them getting “the same mortgage,” and it turns into just one of those terribly awkward and sweet conversations that these two do so well.

Then Rose’s phone rings—and a voice says “He’s awake.”

Coincidentally, Toby is awake.

So Rose and the Doctor trot down to the Ood habitat, to ask Danny how the Ood communicate—he says they’re basic empaths, but that the telepathic field is monitored at all times. He says they should only be registering Basic 5, but they’re registering Basic 30—which means they’re screaming in their heads.

When Rose admits that her phone said “He is awake,” the Ood turn simultaneously and say, “And you will worship him.”

Scooty, heading down to Toby’s quarters, hears the computer insist that someone has gone outside, but that no spacesuits have been released. Scooty can’t get in contact with Zach (the captain), and all the door will say is “He is awake. He bathes in the black sun.”

But as Scooty backs up to a window, she sees Toby—still covered in writing—standing outside without a spacesuit. He smiles at her, and gestures—and the glass smashes, while Scooty is pleading with the computer to open the door for her.

The staff (and the Doctor and Rose) race back through the base—including Toby, who is the last through the last safe door. The hull breach is contained, but there’s no word from Scooty. According to her bio-chip, she’s in Habitation 3. But she’s not responding, so they go down to check whether or not she’s unconscious.

But, in fact, Scooty is not in Habitation 3—until the Doctor looks up, and sees her body floating past the skylight. She floats towards the black hole as the Ida closes the skylight, and Jefferson quotes one of Macauley’s Lays of Ancient Rome:

For how should man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his father
And the temples of his gods.

And just at that point, the drilling stops. The Doctor begs permission to go down into the shaft, and is given permission (though the Captain wants to go himself, the Doctor convinces him to stay with the ship). So the Doctor suits up and, despite Rose’s reservations—because she’s entirely dependent on the Doctor now, in the absence of the TARDIS and of her mobile-phone connection to her mother—heads down in the elevator with Ida.

The shaft extends beyond the oxygen field of the ship, so they’re entirely dependent on their suits.

In the interim, Danny orders the Ood to stay exactly where they are, and tells them that no other order can over-ride his. But it doesn’t look as though they are inclined to behave themselves.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Ida have reached the bottom of the shaft, and it’s a clearly man-made hall, with massive statuary and carved columns.

IDA: Well, we’ve come this far.
DOCTOR: Oh, did you have to? “We’ve come this far”? That’s nearly as bad as “Nothing can possibly go wrong.”

Meanwhile, Danny says the Ood are at Basic 100 (which should mean brain death) and that they’re “staring at him.” He’s told them to stop, but they won’t. The Captain tells him to stay where he is, and sends Jefferson (and a man-at-arms) to keep an eye on them.

Down in the pit, the Doctor and Ida have found a seal covered in the mysterious writing. But when, back on the base, they ask Toby if he’s decoded the writing, Toby stands up slowly, and shows that he’s covered again in the mysterious writing. Walking slowly towards them he asks Jefferson, “Did you wife ever forgive you?” and assures him that, in fact, his wife never did forgive him.

Jefferson, looking distinctly rattled, tells Toby to stand down and be confined, but Toby, somehow, infects the Ood—who stand and declare themselves the “legion of the beast,” electrocuting the man standing by Danny with their speech bubbles. They declare that the “beast” is called, by some, Satan, as the base staff (with Rose) flee, and the seal in the pit begins to open.

Back on the base, the Captain says the gravity field is going, and they’re losing orbit—they’re going to fall into the black hole.

And we have a final shot—as the beast gloats, “The pit is open, and I am free!”—of the Doctor and Ida staring down into the abyss.

I suppose that would explain the title of next week’s episode: “The Satan Pit.”

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Ghost Machine"

Posted 3 July 2009 in by Catriona

So this is the episode I’ve been calling the Sapphire and Steel-style one. I don’t quite know why it reminds me so much of Sapphire and Steel, but there’s something about the eerie tone of the story that reminds me of David McCallum.

On a slightly related note, I’ve flown back from Sydney today, still with a fairly unpleasant cold that I’ve had for a week now, and I’ve been self-medicating with a rather nice riesling, so be prepared for a slightly surreal (and possibly rather delayed) live-blogging experience.

In the interim, I’m watching the end of Clone, which I intended to watch all the way through, but didn’t. Can’t say I feel at this stage as though I’ve missed much.

Okay, I tell a lie. I have giggled a couple of times in the last minute or so. Plus, I like the red telephone box. My parents have one of those: my dad keeps his tools in it. Now I think about it, I posted a photograph of it at the beginning of the year, here.

And apparently they’re starting up season two of Doctor Who again! On ABC2! Wow, that’s going to be a lot of live-blogging, folks.

But here we are with Torchwood and Captain Jack’s monologue.

And Gwen and Owen running frantically, getting advice on where to run from Tosh, back at Torchwood HQ. Jack’s in the car, coming from the other direction. Tosh is trying to get a visual, as Gwen comes up on the suspected alien, even sliding under a descending door, which traps Jack and Owen, leaving Gwen as the only one chasing the suspect.

Gwen grabs the suspect. The man shrugs out of his jacket and escapes, but Tosh says she has whatever was causing the alien readings. Gwen rummages through the jacket and comes up with what looks like a computer mouse. Of course, being Gwen, she clicks the buttons on it—and suddenly she’s in a green-tinged railway station, talking to small boy, carrying a suitcase and a teddy bear, and dressed in fashions from fifty or sixty years ago.

The boy says he wants to go home: he’s lost and no one knows him here—as he walks away, Gwen snaps back to the modern railway station in which she caught the original suspect.

Back at Torchwood HQ, Gwen says she could hear what the little boy was thinking and feeling, as though she herself felt lost. Gwen says the boy had a tag around his neck, reading “Tom Erasmus Flanagan.” Jack says the unusual name will help them track him down—no matter how long it takes, they’ll track the boy down—just before Owen finds him in the phone book.

So Gwen and Owen turn up at the address in the phone book, to find a seventy-odd-year-old man, telling the story about how he was forgotten at the Cardiff railway station in 1941, when he was evacuated to the Welsh countryside from the East End of London. He was found again and evacuated to the home of a lovely, childless couple, so Gwen isn’t sure what she’s seen. Is it, she thinks, just a bit of him, left behind?

But we’re interrupted by a nagging phone call from Rhys, who wants to know if Gwen’s in or out tonight, and gets stroppy when she says she can’t say.

Back at Torchwood, Tosh and Jack have found that the boy with the alien device in his pocket is a Sean Harris, with some minor theft convictions.

According to Jack—who is speaking with his mouth full: thank you, Jack. That’s revolting! Swallow, then talk, like Ianto does—the alien device is gorgeous, with nano-technology that makes NASA look like Toys ‘R’ Us.

They can’t find Sean Harris anywhere, so Jack says they’ll go back to the railway station, and try and replicate the original results as far as possible. Wow, Jack is in a hell of a mood today.

But before they can come to a decision, Owen sees the device lighting up as Gwen said it had in the railway station. He clicks it—and flips into a green-tinted version of the bridge they’re under in the present. There’s a girl, dressed in a pink party dress, crying to herself and saying her Mam was right, and her boyfriend is a “bad one.”

Owen tries to talk to her, but she can’t hear him.

And, sure enough, here comes the boyfriend, calling her “Lizzie” in a singsong tone—“Liz-zie”—and saying he can see her the way she really is. He kisses her, and when she pulls back, he slaps her across the face—an open-handed slap—and pulls a knife out, telling her he doesn’t want to hurt her.

It’s fairly clear what happens next, but thankfully we’re given a tight close-up on Owen’s horrified face.

It’s interesting to me that it’s Owen who witnesses this—but I hope there’s some realisation for him about the consequences of his own behaviour.

Back in Torchwood HQ, Tosh finds the newspaper reports that show Lizzie was raped and murdered under the bridge some forty-odd years ago. No one was ever convicted of the crime.

Tosh is explaining what the device does, while Owen is paying no attention: he’s flipping through the file, trying to find something. He’s obsessed with the idea that he knows who did it: Ed Morgan the “bad news” boyfriend. But it’s not enough to re-open the case, as Jack points out.

Also? I’ve skipped over some technobabble about what the device does, in favour of watching the gun-porn scene with Gwen and Jack.

Gwen’s stunned:

GWEN: I’m sorry: I don’t even kill spiders in the bath.
JACK: Neither do I—not with a gun.

This is serious gun-porn—though the porn is more about Jack than it is about the gun. Well, it’s a little about the gun. There’s nothing subtle about the treatment of guns as phallic symbols in this scene.

I love it. Mostly because I love Jack and Gwen.

I also like the fact that the focus on guns here draws a sharp line between old-school (and also new-school) Doctor Who and Torchwood.

We also get the revelation here that Jack actually lives at the Torchwood Institute, and apparently can’t sleep any more than he can die.

Back home, Gwen listens to an answering-machine message from Rhys, who is at a mate’s house, and reveals that she snuck the alien device home. (Owen, home alone, is haunted by memories of Lizzie’s death.) Gwen, clicking the flashing device, sees memories of herself and Rhys when they first moved in, and then of Rhys in a suit with a broken zip, heading out to Gwen’s Mam’s sixtieth birthday. She’s feeling nostalgic just as Rhys comes home, and they make up.

Owen, meanwhile, has laid all the material relating to Lizzie’s death out on the floor of his apartment, and is working himself up into a serious state with the help of a bottle of whiskey.

The next morning, he heads over to a derelict house, whose address he has tracked down through the phone book, and finds a “Mr Morgan”—Owen is masquerading as a gas inspector. He induces Morgan to go into the living room, where he asks him about Lizzie Lewis, and watches Morgan’s hands start twitching.

He tells Morgan that he knows what happened that night—and Owen’s monologue is intercut with scenes of the attack on Lizzie. Morgan snaps, and Owen is so furious about the whole incident that he seems to have missed Morgan shouting “I told you before, you’ll get nothing from me!”

But he doesn’t miss Sean Harris, sitting on a park bench near Morgan’s house. He chases Sean, who is only nineteen, but doesn’t seem to be in as good shape as Owen is.

The advantage of a nice long chase sequence is that it gives me time to catch up with the narrative.

Sean says he and a mate were using a lock-up that used to belong to an old man who was a bit soft in the head. They’d thrown most of it out, but Sean thought that was maybe worth something—he took it home, and it started flashing. He could see real people, doing terrible things.

Because all the people are local, he’s been recognising them and blackmailing them with their secrets.

The Torchwood personnel start walking away, but Sean asks them whether they want the other half. (The box it was in was also full of alien coins and alien rocks.)

Sean says he’s scared of the other half—he used it once, and it showed him dead, not an old man, but young as he is now, and he wants to know if he’ll die soon.

Gwen chases Jack out to the car, to ask him about Sean, but she accidentally clicks the other half of the machine, and see herself clutching a knife, with her hands covered in blood—her future self says she “couldn’t stop it” and that “Owen had the knife.”

Back at Torchwood HQ, Jacks says it was only one future of many possible futures.

Tosh and Owen are sitting in a pub: Tosh says she found Ed Morgan by running a trace, and Owen admits he paid him a visit that morning and “put the fear of God into him.” He asks Tosh what she found, and she says she found the medical records: Morgan is paranoid, claustrophobic, and has barely left the house in years. And in this discussion, Owen reveals he heard what Morgan said about “I’ve told you, you won’t get any money from me.”

At the same time, Jack is remembering what Sean said about having seen Morgan’s attack on Lizzie.

Gwen has gone to see Sean. Meanwhile, Owen has admitted what he did to Morgan, to Jack. Jack’s thinking Morgan thought that Owen was part of the same blackmailing outfit as Sean.

Morgan, meanwhile, is walking towards Sean’s house. Sean has seen him and headed out—to the same road in which he saw himself dead in his earlier vision. Gwen dashes down, but Morgan is armed with a knife and raving about the fact that people knew his guilt. Jack and Owen are there, as well.

They disarm Morgan, but it’s Owen who disarms him. And Owen’s gone a little mad with the fact that he’s so close to the man whom he saw raping and killing a girl forty-odd years ago.

But Gwen takes the knife off Owen, and as she’s saying delightedly to Jack that no-one died this time, Morgan says, “I knew you’d come for me!” and throws himself onto the knife.

Frankly, I’m not thrilled about that. There’s some argument in Torchwood HQ about who is to blame, but I’m not recapping that because the scene seems a little implausible. Morgan looks as though he was trying to embrace Gwen, but how could he not have seen the knife? We could argue about his self-loathing misogyny, his conviction that people were out to get him, and his sense that women would destroy him, but the scene is still rather implausible.

It’s a shame—it’s a strong episode, otherwise.

Also, Jack and Gwen were talking at the end there, but I became distracted.

Oh, lord—I’ve just remembered what next week’s episode is about. Oh, I didn’t want to watch that one again. But see you next week! And before that, see you on Monday at 9:30, as we pick up our season two Doctor Who live-blogging where we left off, with “The Impossible Planet.”

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