Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Everything Changes - Torchwood 1.1

In which WPC Gwen Cooper is called to a crime scene on a wet Cardiff night. The victim is a young man, murdered by a serial killer who has been stalking the city. All of the dead have been stabbed with an unknown bladed weapon. The police are suddenly told to withdraw when a large black SUV arrives. Torchwood are taking over. Gwen decides to enter a multi-storey car park which overlooks the crime scene, curious to learn more about the newcomers. They comprise Captain Jack Harkness, his second in command Suzie Costello, Dr Owen Harper, and scientist Toshiko Sato. Gwen sees them produce a metal glove, like a gauntlet from a suit of armour. When placed under the victim's head, the young man suddenly comes back to life. It appears that the effect only lasts a brief time, and the victims are usually too panicked to provide any useful information - such as the identity of their attacker. Whilst the gauntlet is being used, the rain suddenly stops. Jack shouts out that he knows Gwen is watching. The next day, Gwen asks a colleague to search for information about the Captain. It transpires that the only person of that name and rank on record died in 1941.

Gwen and her colleague Andy are attending a pub brawl when she is injured. At the local A&E department, Gwen sees Jack again. She follows him into a section of the hospital which has been sealed off. Here, she sees a bipedal alien creature. It attacks a porter, mauling him to death. Jack and his team appear and subdue the creature with a chemical spray and bundle it away. Gwen gives chase in the patrol car. She finds the SUV at Roald Dahl Plas, in the Bay area, but there is no sign of the occupants. Investigating further, she learns that there is a regular pizza delivery to an obscure tourist information kiosk under the boardwalk. She pretends to be a delivery person and enters, meeting a young man named Ianto Jones. He seems to have been expecting her, and she is allowed to pass through a hidden door. She descends a flight of stairs and finds herself in a vast chamber, full of strange equipment. There is even a pterodactyl flying around the roof space. Jack welcomes her and tells her all about Torchwood. They exist to monitor the Space / Time Rift running through the city, negating any threats which come through it. The creature Gwen saw at the hospital is a Weevil, savage creatures which normally live in the sewers. The one she saw is kept in the cells on a lower level of the base, which they call the Hub. Jack takes Gwen for a drink, exiting the Hub via a lift which brings them out onto the Plas by the water tower sculpture. It is covered by a perception filter, so passers-by don't notice them. Gwen wants to know why jack is telling her so much, and he reveals he has spiked her drink with a substance called Retcon, and she won't remember a thing by morning.

This proves to be the case, but Gwen begins to get flashbacks when she visits the incident room for the murders at the police station. The description of the killer's weapon seems to jog her memories. She suddenly remembers seeing a multi-bladed weapon in the Torchwood Hub, in the workshop area used by Suzie Costello. She returns to the Plas that night, and is confronted by Suzie. Obsessed by finding out how the gauntlet works, she had used the weapon to kill people in order to test the glove on them. Gwen had suspected that the killer was a woman, as the male victims were stabbed in the back, and only the female ones were killed from the front. Suzie has decided to flee, realising that she is about to be discovered by her colleagues. Jack suddenly appears via the lift. He too has realised that his deputy is the murderer. Suzie shoots him in the head. She then turns the gun on herself, claiming that no one can ever escape Torchwood. Once you join, it is to the death. Jack comes back to life, and explains to the shocked Gwen that something happened to him that means he can never die. Impressed with her skills, and the humanity she brings to her work, Jack offers Gwen a place on his team.

Everything Changes was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on BBC 3 on 22nd October, 2006 - giving the channel its highest ever ratings at the time. This will be Davies' only episode until the third series. He will act as executive producer, along with Julie Gardner, but Chris Chibnall will be the chief writer and general show-runner for the first two years.
The series was originally going to be called "Excalibur", but "Torchwood" had been used as a code to conceal Doctor Who material in its first year of production - Torchwood being an anagram of Doctor Who. The organisation then became the story arc for Series 2.
The series is the first spin-off from Doctor Who to reach the screen - the 1981 Sarah Jane / K9 spin-off never making it past the pilot stage. The new further adventures of Sarah Jane Smith were already being planned for broadcast on CBBC, and a Rose Tyler series had also been briefly considered.
Torchwood sees the continuing story of Captain Jack Harkness, as played by John Barrowman. When last seen, he had been exterminated by the Daleks in the year 200,100 AD, only to be brought back to life by the Bad Wolf Rose. How he has come to end up in Cardiff working for Torchwood Three is not explained at this stage. Two other Torchwood offices are mentioned. Number Two is in Glasgow, and is run by a strange man, whilst Torchwood Four has somehow disappeared, but is expected to turn up again. Torchwood One was Canary Wharf in London.
The series debuts on BBC 3 - a channel aimed primarily at young adults - and is post watershed, so the violence level is increased, with substantial blood letting and a gratuitous F-word, just so you know that the production team are aware this is more grown up than Doctor Who. There will be a sex-gas alien and a fetishised Cyberwoman along any week soon, just to labour this point.

Three of the six Torchwood team have previous Doctor Who form. As well as Captain Jack, we have Naoko Mori as Toshiko "Tosh" Sato. This is the same character who we met in Aliens of London, investigating the Space Pig. Gwen Cooper is played by Eve Myles, who was servant girl Gwyneth in The Unquiet Dead. It will later transpire that there is a reason for her looking the same. Joining them are Burn Gorman as Owen Harper, Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto Jones, and Indira Varma as Suzie Costello. The latter was featured prominently in the publicity for the series, so it was a bit of a shock when she failed to make it to the end credits of this first episode. It's not the last we will see of her, however...
The episode introduces the series' signature aliens - the savage Weevils. They don't really do very much until the second series. The gauntlet - known as the Resurrection Glove (or the Risen Mitten as Ianto coins it) will also feature a few more times. Gwen has a boyfriend, Rhys Williams, played by Kai Owen. This character will be developed over the four series and become one of its most popular figures. PC Andy is Tom Price, and he too will feature on and off for the duration of the series.

Overall, the episode is the first of a new series, so it pretty much has to introduce the characters through Gwen, and bring her onto the team. No great spectacle. This new show is more adult, but uncomfortably so. It clearly doesn't know quite where to pitch itself - something that will plague this first season. That F-word in the opening scene is totally gratuitous - grating, as no-one else swears like this for the rest of the 50 minutes. One episode in, and we don't necessarily like all these characters. Captain Jack has had all the fun sucked out of him.
Things you might like to know:

  • The episode very much dwells on Jack, Gwen and Suzie. The others are introduced through what items they have borrowed from the Hub, apart from Ianto who is some kind of major domo and makes great coffee. Tosh has borrowed an alien device that lets her scan and download books, so she is clearly a bit of a swot. Owen borrows a pheromone spray that makes him sexually irresistible to anyone - man or woman. No-one is allowed to remove anything alien from the Hub, so we see that jack has little control over his team. They are quite dysfunctional and, as mentioned above, not necessarily likeable.
  • Doctor Who is mentioned obliquely in the dialogue, but there are a lot of visual references. Jack has the Doctor's severed hand in a flask - the one lopped off by the Sycorax leader. The Hub armoury has Dalek and Cyber weapons. Jack also has a piece of coral on his desk - a piece of TARDIS material which he is growing.
  • The pizza delivery firm is called Jubilee. This company featured in Dalek - a box is seen in Adam Mitchell's workshop - and is a reference to the audio origins of that story.
  • The working title for the episode was "Flotsam and Jetsam" - referencing the material that gets washed up by the Rift, which Torchwood has to deal with.
  • The title used comes from what will become the opening pre-titles monologue from Jack, when he describes the 21st Century as being the time when everything changes. We'll later learn that this is what his last boss claimed, just before he killed himself and the rest of his team on the eve of the millennium. 
  • Jack claims that the spot where the lift emerges onto Roald Dahl Plas is covered by a perception filter due to a chameleon circuit being used on that spot, made permanent by the Rift. The way he says this makes it sound as though he has forgotten that he was there when it happened - in Boom Town. We'll later learn that over a century has passed for him since that first visit to Cardiff.
  • Retcon derives from Retroactive Continuity. For many years fans have used this phrase to cover continuity holes in long-running Sci-Fi series.
  • The pterodactyl is called Myfanwy. We'll later see how Torchwood came to have it - at the same time Ianto joined the team.
  • The Hub appears to have a tube station in it, of the same design as those in London - implying that the two cities had a secret underground link. Presumably Glasgow and the location of the missing Torchwood Four were also connected.
  • The Risen Mitten prop will later become the Gauntlet of Rassilon.
  • Chris Chibnall - whatever happened to him?

No comments:

Post a Comment