Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Torchwood: Why Brits Do It Better

So I’ll admit, I haven’t kept to the intense blog catch-up schedule I wrote out for myself for the past few days, but I have an excuse! And I come bearing extra goodies to make up for it! On the recommendation of Sarah, I started watching “Torchwood,” the spinoff to “Doctor Who.” It’s a lot of fun- part “Fringe,” part “X-Files,” and part “Pushing Daisies.” Pretty much everything I could ask for in a genre show. So, instead of doing an abundance of episode rewatches so I can bring you more recaps, I’ve been watching “Torchwood.” Since she recommended it to me, I’ve brought Sarah back to tell you about her five favorite episodes of the series.


Hi, everyone. Jen asked me to drop by again to blog about one of my favorite recently-discovered genre shows; Torchwood. From the creator of Dr. Who, Torchwood is set in Cardiff, Wales and follows a team of alien hunters as they try to keep the world safe. And I have to say that British genre TV is far better than American. I have recapped my top five favorite episodes for you. Enjoy.

5. Day One

“Time to go to work.”

– Gwen Cooper

Day One is the second episode of the series and we see it through Gwen’s eyes as her first real day on the job at Torchwood. The episode begins with Rhys and Gwen out for a date. A giant flaming meteor soars over Cardiff and Gwen races off to join Jack and company at the crash site. In short order she accidentally releases a misty pink gas that darts off. The team spends the rest of the episode tracking down the gas (a sex-addicted alien life form) and manages to trap it before it kills the young woman, Carys, it’s taken over.

I like “Day One” because it was really the first episode where we got to see what the formula of Torchwood was going to be. Plus who doesn’t love alien sex gases, right? I liked that Gwen tried to take responsibility for what she did in letting the alien escape in the first place. It demonstrated that she was still a cop at heart. She has to prove to the group that she belongs there. It really balances the normal and the abnormal. I enjoyed that we got to see some of the fun gadgets the Torchwood team has collected over the years. Jack ends up using a sort of vacuum creating device to trap the alien in the end. He definitely accepted Gwen at the end of the day. Which I guess is the most important thing.

4. Exit Wounds

“There has been enough death.”

– Capt. Jack Harkness

The team must react to Captain John’s return. He’s set off explosions all over Cardiff and the team is spread thin. To make matters worse, John kidnaps Jack and takes him back to Cardiff in the first century AD. There’s a brief reunion with Jack’s younger brother, Gray. But Gray’s pissed that Jack left him behind during an attack on their home planet of Bo. Gray’s solution; bury Jack on the site of where Cardiff will one day be built and make him suffer. And he makes John do the burying. Luckily for Jack, Torchwood finds him in the early 1900s thanks to a ring John gives him and he climbs out of cryogenic sleep just in time to stop Gray. But there are casualties in this fight and it leaves the Torchwood team devastated.

“Exit Wounds” makes the list because it really wraps up the season arc and leaves us where we need to be for season 3 (Children of Earth). It brings back Capt. John and shows him not as much as the villain we initially thought. He’s been put up to his actions by Gray. It’s sad really. Because John really does love Jack and hates hurting him. That doesn’t mean he won’t though. He tells Jack before kidnapping him that he came back to force Jack to make time to spend with him. Not the best way to get attention but it worked. And John stuck around on Earth at the end, too. But the loss in this episode was pretty harsh. We lost Tosh and Owen. At least Owen was a sacrifice. He tried but failed to stop a nuclear reaction. And being dead and all, there’s no coming back from that. Not like Jack could have. And Tosh was a direct casualty of Gray shooting her in the gut. It’s amazing that Jack let Gray live after all the destruction he caused. But as Jack said, there’d been enough death and Gray was his baby brother. Jack felt responsible for everything that happened in the time since the attack. And that’s a very long time for a man who can’t die to be holding on to guilt.

3. Fragments

Here's what's going to happen: everything you love, everything you treasure, will die. I'm gonna tear your world apart, Captain Jack Harkness, piece by piece. Starting now.

– Capt. John Hart

The team, minus Gwen, is drawn to an abandoned building. They spread out and soon discover a trap. Bombs in different areas of the building go off, burying everyone alone. Through the rest of the episode, we see each member of Torchwood as they joined the team. Ianto was a member of Torchwood 1 in London. Tosh was rescued from a high security prison for treason and Owen was a doctor whose fiancée was suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s that turns out to be a tumor and he couldn’t do anything to save her. Jack was recruited to Torchwood in the late 19th Century when the leaders discovered his unique ability that he couldn’t die. Plus, he needed the money. In the end, Gwen and Rhys manage to save everyone, just in time for Jack to get a message for a certain Captain Hart.

If you can’t already tell, I like the episodes that give us some back story on the characters. “Fragments” is back story on crack. But in a good way. I really liked how we got to see everyone’s pasts. I found Ianto and Tosh’s stories the most compelling. Ianto bringing Jack coffee every morning, hoping for a job was adorable. Doubly so because he’s the coffee boy at Torchwood Cardiff. But his coffee is the best, ever. No lie. Anyway, Jack offers Ianto a job finally when they trap a pterodactyl in a warehouse. It involves some tackling and an almost kiss. Tosh was working for a company and she stole designs to build what appeared to be a weapon of some kind. She gets caught and put in a horrible little cell with no bed and not told how long she’s going to be there. Guess the Brits don’t have Habeas protocols like the US. Then again, I guess it could be something like the Patriot Act. Either way, it made the legal side of me extra grumpy. Jack comes and rescues her for her brilliant mind. Everyone had their purpose and it wouldn’t be the Torchwood team otherwise. I really enjoyed the flashbacks. They told the stories in the chronology of who joined the team when. And of course the return of Captain John was a fun bit, even though it was at the very end. You know he set the bombs in the first place. And he’s still pissed that Jack can’t make time for him. Well, now Jack’s got no choice.

2. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

“Yeah, but I was a good wife.”

– Capt. John Hart

In the season two premiere, Jack returns from his trek off to find the Doctor to discover the Torchwood gang has been doing their best in his absence. Their reunion is short-lived however when Jack gets a holographic message from a man. It turns out this man is one Captain John Hart, an old friend and lover of Jack’s. John’s motives for showing up seem innocent enough until he takes out the Torchwood gang and pushes Jack off a roof. In the end it’s Jack that comes through to save John’s life before he blows up and take’s Gwen with him.

This episode makes the list not only because it’s an awesome episode but because it’s the first episode in which the wonderful James Marsters (Spike on Buffy and Angel) appears. It’s always fun to see people from Jack’s past, even if it is some 30 centuries in the future. Jack and John were stuck in a two-week time loop for five years in which they apparently had quite the relationship. I liked that they do the whole Western film approach and instead of starting with violence, they kiss. Then they kick the crap out of each other. You get the feeling a part of Jack is happy to see John. But it doesn’t last long. And it’s pretty funny how John takes Gwen down. With paralyzing lip balm. A trick, he claims, he learned from Jack. Plus there were some inappropriate sexual noises while Gwen’s on the phone with Rhys. It was just so James Marsters (and almost a little bit of Spike thrown in). It’s amazing how much I love this episode. You also have the cute (and a little insulting) nickname he gives Ianto – “Eye Candy”. Guess he acknowledges Jack’s attraction. There’s definitely some jealousy going on there.

1. Captain Jack Harkness

“He’d be proud you took his name.”

– Toshiko Sato

Tosh and Jack, investigating mysterious music at an old dance hall, get sent back to 1941 to a “Kiss the Boys Goodbye” dance. Jack is immediately at ease in the past. He wishes he could stay there but they have to get back to the Hub. Too bad they’re stuck. Through the night, Tosh attempts to send equations back to Ianto, Owen and Gwen in the present to get them back to the right time. And Tosh and Jack meet the real Captain Jack Harkness, who is quite hot as Jack remarks. Torchwood Jack took his name because the real Jack dies during a training exercise. By the end, Jack is reluctant to leave as he starts to discover the man whose identity he’s been using for the last fifty years.

“Captain Jack Harkness” is one of the best episodes of the first season. We get a fun story for the team to solve and we get some interesting back story on Capt. Jack. The fact that we meet the real Captain Jack is one thing. But that he and our Capt. Jack share a dance and a kiss at the end makes it all the better. It’s beautiful that the person Jack would fall for was for all intents and purposes himself. I believe this episode works so well because we see the real Captain Jack make the first move. That made me really happy. We also got some fun stuff in the present with Ianto, Gwen and Owen. Most of it was Owen trying to find some way to use the rift manipulator in the Hub to bring Diane back (woman he fell for that flew into the rift). It works (to bring Tosh and Jack back) but they’re pretty royally screwed. And it’s the real first concrete thing we have (aside from the stopwatch conversation in “They Keep Killing Suzie”) of the Jack/Ianto relationship. This for me, being a diehard Jack/Ianto fan, was wonderful.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. here via Google alerts- huge Torchwood fan. Some of your favourite episodes are the same as mine (though I love Small Worlds and Countrycide dearly).
    Just thought I'd let you know that the holding cell Tosh was in was NOT a British Government one- it was a UNIT cell (Doctor Who universe, remember?). Btw, habeas corpus came from the British legal system originally.
    If you want info on UNIT, try this: