Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Day One - Torchwood 1.2

In which Gwen Cooper goes out on a date in Cardiff city centre with her boyfriend Rhys. She has not told him of her new role with Torchwood, telling him only that she has been assigned to special duties. That evening they see a massive fireball cross the sky, and Gwen gets a call to go to work, much to Rhys' annoyance. She is picked up in the Torchwood SUV and taken to the crash site of the meteor, only to discover that the army have got there first. The team take charge. As they investigate the huge boulder, Owen and Gwen lark around and a chisel breaks the rock open. A purple gas pours out and vanishes into the woods. Soon after, a young woman named Carys Fletcher has emerged from a night club. She is in an alley, leaving a voicemail for her boyfriend Eddie as he has stood her up yet again. The purple gas appears and pours into her. She returns to the club, full of pent up sexual urges. She takes a young man to the toilets and has sex with him. At the point of climax, his body dissolves into dust whilst his life-force is absorbed by Carys, who then rushes out.
The manager of the club has been spying on the ladies toilets, and reports what he has seen to the police. Torchwood soon arrive, and view the hidden camera footage.

The next morning, Torchwood attempt to locate Carys using local CCTV cameras and the national identity database. She, meanwhile, is withdrawn through breakfast with her father. Later, in the shower, she is gripped with a terrible pain. When the postman visits, she tries to have sex with him, but the Torchwood team arrive in time to save him. Carys tries to run off, but Owen has an alien device on him which sets up an impenetrable force-field. They take her to the Hub where she is locked in one of the cells. The gaseous parasite invading her body does not just make her sexually aggressive, it can arouse others in her presence. Gwen finds herself kissing Carys when she goes to talk with her. She is furious to learn that Owen and the others have been watching her on CCTV.
That evening, the team try to quiz Gwen about Jack, and she is shocked to find they know nothing about him. Tosh has found no record of him on any databases going back to the 1950's. Later, Gwen starts to research Carys' life, and Jack tells her this is why he employed her - the team needs someone who can see the human dimension. He is happy that she has Rhys in her life. When Owen goes to fetch some medical records and does not return, the team find him naked and cuffed in Carys' cell.

She has gone, taking his key. Jack tries to stop her leaving the Hub but she takes the Doctor's hand in its jar and threatens to smash it, so Jack lets her go.
They have worked out that the gaseous parasite needs sexual energy to thrive, but the process is killing its host. By way of demonstration, Own infects a rat and they see it explode.
Carys goes to Eddie's place. When he admits he was only ever using her, she kills him. She then makes for a local fertility clinic where men go to make sperm donations. She starts to kill the various patrons waiting there. Torchwood arrive and find that Carys is dying. Gwen offers to act as a new host for the gas. When it emerges and makes towards her, Jack traps it in mid air using the force-field. Deprived of a host, the gas is reduced to dust. Carys survives.

Day One was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on 22nd October, 2006.
Things will be slightly complicated later when each episode of Children of Earth is subtitled Day One, Day Two and so forth.
The "Day One" here, obviously, refers to Gwen Cooper's first full day working with the Torchwood team, and the episode very much focuses on her. There is much talk of her relationship with Rhys. The rest of the team do not have anyone like him outside the organisation, and Jack stresses to her how important it is that she holds onto him. She shouldn't end up cynical and alone as they seem to be. Gwen also spends a great deal of time looking into Carys' life - friends, family, childhood. Again Jack is happy that she should do this, as he and the others often fail to think about the human dimension to what they do. They focus on aliens and technology, and eliminate or lock up threats rather than try to understand them. Gwen can see that Carys is just as much a victim as those that the sex gas kills.
We also learn just how little the team know about their own boss, so we who have seen Jack travel with the Doctor and Rose know far more about him than they do.

This is the good stuff in the episode. The actual alien menace is embarrassingly naff. Chibnall, and Davies, have decided that this is for adults, so they can do things like swearing and sex. There's absolutely no subtlety to any of this. I'm reminded of the New Adventures authors putting swearing and sex into their books just because they could, and several have since said they were embarrassed to do so - feeling like naughty school children looking up rude words in a dictionary. An alien sex gas that kills as people orgasm is a rubbish idea.
There was a serious story to be told, about how we live in a sexualised society (note Carys seeing images of partially dressed men and women in advertising all over the city centre), but this isn't the way they should have gone about it. As I said - no subtlety at all.
Carys is played by Sara Lloyd Gregory. PC Andy (Tom Price) makes one of his semi-regular appearances, as he's on duty at the club when Gwen and her Torchwood colleagues arrive.

Overall, one of the many misfires in the first half of Season One, as the show struggles to work out what it is and what it should be doing.
Things you might like to know:

  • An early episode title was "New Girl", which as well as referencing Gwen as the new member of the team could also have referred to the new life that the parasite initially gave to Carys.
  • The first episode established that team members often removed alien technology when they weren't supposed to. Seems that Jack does not have a great deal of authority over his team. This will play out in later episodes.
  • The Doctor's severed hand features. Jack is prepared to let Carys loose onto the streets rather than lose it. When she smashes the container and Jack picks up the hand, there is a brief snatch of the Doctor's theme.
  • Russell T Davies did subsequently admit that the premise was laughable. Apparently the episode was supposed to have been much more light-hearted, but most of the humour was cut as drafts proceeded. It might have worked better later in the series and more tongue in cheek.
  • There's a photograph of Torchwood House noticeable in the Hub.
  • Fans of filming locations might like to know that the alley where Carys encounters the gas is the same one where Martha Jones first sees the TARDIS.
  • The scene where the team discuss Jack was a late addition, suggested by Jane Tranter, BBC controller of fiction.
  • The exploding rat was achieved by cutting away from a real one to, appropriately enough, an inflated condom filled with red dye and chicken offal.

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