Watching: Torchwood, Day One

“Day One” the second episode of Torchwood picks up right where the pilot left off – Gwen Cooper has joined the Torchwood team and this episode revolves around her first day.  Of particular interest to current Doctor Who fans this episode was written by future show-runner Chris Chibnall.

To be frank this isn’t the best introduction to Chibnall’s work.  The entire episodes revolves around a gas based sex monster, which given that context the episode can only be expected to do so much.  At times the episode really felt like it was trying to prove how ‘adult’ Torchwood was in comparison to Doctor Who and what better way to do that then focus an entire episode around sex.

Though I do love some of the very sex positive lines given to Captain Jack in this episode.  His line “you people and your quaint little categories” is by far one of my favoruite of the entire Torchwood series.  This is one of the many examples of Jack’s refusal to conform to  (gender or sexuality based binaries.

The episode also positions Gwen as having an amazing snog with the female character possessed by the sex monster – drawing attention to the existence of bisexual people and the range of sexual orientations beyond straight and gay. Plus Gwen actually uses the word snog to describe her actions — which is adorably British and I had a minor squee moment when she talked about it.  The Verity! Podcast episode looking at this episode does a good job of diving into some of the specifics around this and find hints of redemption in the sex monster story.

On a whole I think watching Chibnall’s contributions to Doctor Who proper are a bit more inspiring than this in terms of faith in a showrunner. It’s a sex monster story.  “Day One” is not a bad story – but it is what is.  The Radio Free Skaro Miniscope on Chibnall’s Doctor Who contributions does a great job of looking critically at Chibnall’s contributions but the general assessment of his DW work is positive and highlight the huge range of genres, themes, and ideas Chibnall is capable of carrying. And I think watching Broadchurch is probably a better example of the possibilities of what can happen under Chibnall than this slightly over the top sex monster  and I absolutely loved Broadchurch.

Watching: Torchwood, Everything Changes

The past few weeks I have been working my way through Torchwood.  Given my love of Doctor Who and Captain Jack Harkness as  a character this is probably not surprising.  Despite this love and the fact that Torchwood originally aired starting in 2006 what is probably most surprising is that this is the first time I’ve watched the spin-off.  I saw some of the Torchwood: Miracle Day series when it aired originally and I’ve listened to a number of the Torchwood audiobooks but somehow missed watching the series proper.

Everything Changes” is the first episode of the Torchwood series.  It serves the standard pilot role of introducing all of the main characters, the general premise and setting up the show itself.  The episode is setup from the perspective of Gwen Cooper (played by Eve Myles) who is a police officer who stumbles upon a Torchwood investigation, finds herself embroiled in the mystery of the alien filled world that is Torchwood, with the episode ultimately ending with Gwen joining the Torchwood team.

The placement of Gwen as an outsider in this episode works well.  It provides an identification character for the audience and allows for the introduction of Torchwood to be done in a logical and easy to comprehend way.  Plus you get to see Gwen’s police work and snooping skills in action.  She is immediately established as someone who cares, who is inquisitive, and as someone who doesn’t take no for an answer.  Gwen is presented as strong female character in this episode and that’s something that carries on throughout the series.

The tone of Torchwood was also beginning to be established in this episode – it’s witty, dark, and is being established as firmly ‘adult’ television – a marked step away from the family oriented Doctor Who.

One of the things I’ve grown to love about Torchwood as I’ve made my way through the series is the open challenging of sexual boundaries and identities.  That being said, this opening episode had an uncomfortable segment in which Owen uses an alien perfume/glamour to make himself irresistible to the nearest person — removing free will and decision making powers of the impacted person.  Some have likened this instance to date rape and heavily criticized the interaction. It made me uncomfortable. But it also did an excellent job of setting Owen up as a character with a huge range of sexual relationship related challenges and as someone who is that stereotypical ‘player’ archetype. It served it’s purpose but perhaps could have been frame with more sensitivity.

A solid introduction to the series. With more goodness to come.