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Damn. I thought I was joking when I wrote that, but either I'm imagining things, or the cough medicine is really making my brain annoyingly unfocused and sluggish. (And people are apparently taking it for recreational purposes? That seems rather baffling...)


Anyway. This is really sketchy and incomplete, mostly stray thoughts and bits and pieces left over from the epic meta post, as well as some that made it in there, and I probably wouldn't have written it if I weren't marooned at home and too dazed and lethargic to do any serious Russian studying. It originally goes back to this post, about year ago when I was rewatching TW after CoE, and it struck me that that at least looking at it from a post-Utopia POV the Philoktetes reference fits Jack much better than Mary, and that a lot of Jack's story in S1 is told indirectly through all the things he doesn't say, the question he doesn't answer, and the themes the stories address, even when they aren't about him as such. And of course there are scenes and lines that take on a different, more serious meaning after S2, or CoE.

When I was rewatching again this summer what unexpectedly caught my attention was Sleeper. It's the one single TW episode I never paid much attention to, because for me the way Jack treats Beth comes close to being borderline triggering and I have major issues with the way the episode from the beginning operates on the assumption that she is guilty, even when this is far from clear to the audience, but if one looks at Jack's story from the mortality/humanity angle, it becomes really obvious that the question of what makes us human, the mind or the body, is far from irrelevant.

Maybe this is me completely overinterpreting, and maybe it's time I stopped writing about TW until I get new material to think about (I think it really is...), but for all that Jack is almost in the background much of the time, on some level he determines the mood of the show and the choice of stories a lot more than is immediately visible, as with the shift from the bleakness of S1 where Jack struggles with his immortality, towards a more positive mood in S2, once he at least partly and temporarily resolved his issues in Utopia/SotD/LotTL.


1.01 Everything Changes: It's interesting how one tends to take things for granted without really thinking about them, but it's a deliberate choice to start a story that is ostensibly about a group of people hunting aliens with a story about death and resurrection. And almost the first thing we hear from Jack, after the comment about oestrogen in the rain and never getting pregnant again, when he introduces himself to the recently deceased John Tucker, is, 'Tell me ... what was it like when you died? What did you see?'. Suzie may have become obsessed with the glove for her own reasons, but for Jack there is just as much at stake, because for him it's a chance to solve the mystery of his death, resurrection, and immortality, maybe even reverse it. Is there even any other reason for Jack to allow experiments with the glove? He outright tells Gwen he isn't interested in helping the police to find the murderer, and it's hard to imagine that he of all people would see 'resurrection on demand for the whole world' as something desirable.

1.02 Day One: This is tricky, because it's bound to come across a bit sex-negative, but it's hard not to see at least a slight analogy between Jack ('He'll shag anything if it's gorgeous enough,' not that we actually get to see that a lot on the show) and the alien possessing Carys ('Make me feel alive. Make me feel human.'). Especially not with the 'what it means to be human' theme of the episode, or Jack telling Gwen at the end of Cyberwoman: 'And just for a second there, I felt so alive.'

1.03 Ghost Machine: Not immediately obvious at the time since this was only the third episode, but in hindsight, considering Jack's story and how painfully aware he must be of all the ghosts he's living with day in day out in the Hub, rather relevant. 'We've just got to learn to live with them,' indeed.

1.04 Cyberwoman: Again, being human; love and what you're willing to do for it; Jack and Ianto, and 'Haven't you ever loved anyone?'

1.05 Small Worlds: Answers that question and begins to explore Jack's past, introducing the out-of-time theme (both with Jack and the faeries), and shows, through all the lies he told Estelle, and still tells Gwen, even though she already knows he can't die, how complicated it makes relationships for Jack.

1.06 Countrycide: Humanity and inhumanity ('He's meat. I'm afraid we're all just meat.'). What is revealing is the juxtaposition between Gwen's need to know and to understand why, and Jack's weary lack of interest, because for him this is nothing new. Been there, seen it, done it. Gwen's introduction to Jack's world, and Jack trying in vein and in the face of reality to protect her innocence.

1.07 Greeks Bearing Gifts: Not quite so obvious before Utopia, but considering how and why the Doctor left him behind, Jack is Philoktetes, much more then Mary. 'What are you?' — 'I don't know.' — 'And you would have put me in a cage? ' Jack isn't fully human any longer, but he has to strive to be human. And like in CC, there's the juxtaposition of Toshiko's despair after what she learned about humanity through the amulet, and Jack standing on the roof, waiting for the Doctor to finally find him and explain and fix this existence he can't understand and can barely bear. Jack has no answer for her, when she asks him how she can live with the knowledge of the darkness.

1.08 They Keep Killing Suzie: One of the more obvious ones, because it's the first episode that really addresses the problem of Jack's immortality and how much he hates it: 'I wouldn't wish that on her. I'd sooner kill her right now.' / 'One day, we're going to run out of space.' Here it's Suzie who asks, 'What am I then?' If Gwen represents qualities that Jack realises he needs, Suzie's negativity reflected Jack's own love/hate relationship with Torchwood and his more pessimistic world-view. She remained a mystery to her coworkers, much like Jack. The meaning of live, or lack thereof. Ianto and the stop-watch; time, time running out.

1.09 Random Shoes: '[...] but that's because I was waiting for the alien Doctor to collect his eye come back and change fix my life. And while I was waiting, I joined Passmore Telesales Torchwood. [...] Selling life Saving lives and still waiting.' Not very obvious at the time, but the parallel between Eugene's alien eye and Jack's hand in a jar was already there.

1.10 Out of Time: Once again, dislocation in time. The parallel between Jack and John is explicitly stated ('Who are you?' — 'A man, like you, out of his time, alone and scared.'), but John's refusal to take on another name ('You can't take away our names. For God's sake, man, it's all we've got left.' ) takes on a different meaning after CJH, and the meeting between John and his son is even more painfully poignant after CoE. It's also about the death that for Jack isn't a choice any longer.

1.11 Combat: The danger of nihilism and despair. Life and death as a choice. 'I think he got in there and realised he didn’t want to live enough.' Owen, who didn't want to be saved by Jack, the only other team member besides Jack with an outspoken death wish, and Jack's shock when he realises that.

1.12 Captain Jack Harkness: The other really obvious one. The positive counterpart to Combat and OoT; responsibility, duty, and the heroic self-sacrifice that also isn't a choice any longer for Jack. As in OoT, loneliness, fear, death. Mortality vs. immortality, death and time running out, and the only solution for Jack, 'Well, then make the most of now.' There's also a certain irony (or significance?) in the fact that the two people in the episode who chose duty over emotion end up with one another.

1.13 End of Days: Where Jack first insists on the randomness of existence, and then goes on to sacrifice himself, believing this might be why he's been kept alive, and thinking he finally can reclaim both heroism and death. 'He would have been so proud that you took his name. 'Cause here you are, saving the world' On the other side there's Bilis Manger, another character dislocated in time who'd been given a gift that turned out to be a curse, and is bent on destroying the world he can't bear to live in.


2.01 Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: The past coming back to haunt Jack in the shape of Captain Hart, the man Jack could easily have become if he'd never met the Doctor. The temptation of meaningless hedonism vs. duty and chosen meaning, and Jack making a decision, drawing a line. But there is a part of Jack that is still tempted; he and Captain Hart share the kind of easy, comfortable connection that Jack and Ianto never quite have, not until the end, and 'But what does it cost you? Every time you have to drag yourself back, how does it feel? All that pain and trauma? Plus, you're reborn into this godforsaken mess,' probably echoes thoughts Jack had plenty of times over the last century. 'We're a cosmic joke, eye candy, an accident of chemicals and evolution,' is not so far removed from EoD's 'You people love any story that denies the randomness of existence.' When the bomb activates, it's once more Ianto who is counting down the time left.

2.02 Sleeper: Is actually a loaded episode when you look at the connection between Jack and Beth. It's worth noting that throughout the scene in the cell whenever the camera is on Beth, Jack is always reflected in the glass beside her, which may of course be entirely coincidental, but then again, maybe not. It's impossible to be sure, but it certainly looks like Gwen very deliberately aims the question of what makes us human at Jack. Beth, who also just wanted a normal life. ' I want to have kids one day. Is feeling human' enough for that?' which after CoE is a very painful question. Beth's 'Can you fix me? Can you make me human?' vs. Jack's own 'And what about me?  Can you fix that?  Will I ever be able to die?' at the end of LotTL. And the answer is the same both times, no. Beth knew whom she picked when she made Jack promise her to kill her if they couldn't make her fully human again, and Jack knew what she was doing when he shot her.

2.03 To the Last Man: Once again, dislocation in time, and the impact it already has on Toshiko and Tommy's relationship, and, by implication, will eventually have on Jack and Ianto's, even if Jack says he's happy where he is now. Toshiko's 'I'd worried you'd see me getting old,' is echoed by Ianto in TDL and CoE. There's also the danger of getting oneself involved with Torchwood, Tommy's fate, the Torchwood employees from 1918, Ianto's premonitions of dying young. When Tommy asks what time it is, how much time he has left, it's (once again) Ianto who answers.

2.04 Meat: 'Imprisoned, chained, and drugged. Welcome to planet Earth Torchwood.' Noticeable even then, more so after Fragments. Also, love and how it makes you vulnerable, and having to live with the consequences, although the line didn't gain its full significance until CoE, since Ianto did survive S2 after all.

2.05 Adam: Already an obvious Jack episode, but it's interesting to compare Jack's determination to forget his past with Ianto's habit of recording it, or the fact that everyone has to forget the false memories Adam gave them, while Jack is the only one who has to give up real ones.

2.06 Reset: An interesting episode in view of Jack's effort to effectively reset his own past, even more interesting in view of CoE and the events of 1965, when Jack apparently did think that saving the lives of millions was worth 'a few sacrifices'. And Jack is once again completely over-identifying with the trapped aliens—'slavery, exploitation, a war crime'—, much more than with the human victims.

2.07 Dead Man Walking and 2.08 A Day in the Death: Owen's resurrection reflects Jack's own story, and the painful process of coming to terms with his immortality, getting himself killed 14 times in 6 months, when he'd lived 23 years before dying the first time. Owen regrets losing what he took for granted and was willing to throw away in that cage with the Weevil, and Jack maybe reconsiders his 'forever is overrated' jadedness a bit. Now it's Owen who finds himself asking 'What am I?, and his 'Maybe I wasn't meant to die so I'm being kept alive,' echoes Jack's 'Someone saved my life. Brought me back from death. And ever since then, it's been like they're keeping me for something and I don't know what it is,' in CJH. Owen willing to sacrifice himself and at the same time get rid of an existence he hates at the end of ADitD mirrors Jack's sacrifice in EoD.

2.09 Something Borrowed: Pretty straight forward as far as Jack's relationship issues go, and the fact that he's reminiscing over a century old wedding photograph with himself in it recalls SW, the ongoing out-of-time problem, even Beth's question whether feeling human is enough to build a family on. That he actually offers Gwen and Rhys retcon at the end of their wedding speaks volumes about his rocky relationship with his own past.

2.10 From Out of the Rain: Should have served Jack as a reminder that the past isn't so easily forgotten and erased, that it has a power of its own. SB ended with Jack and memories he wouldn't have if he were still human and mortal; FootR is a strong, although not very relationship-focused Jack/Ianto episode where the past once more plays an important part. It connects them through Ianto's love for it, but also divides them because Jack's out-of-time-ness potentially threatens their relationship, which Ianto's unhappy reaction to Christina talking about Jack not belonging anywhere clearly shows. Oblivion and remembrance and attempts to preserve the moment against the flow of time.

2.11 Adrift: Another episode where Jack tries to bury and forget the uncomfortable past with obsessive determination, and ends up hurting not just himself, but Gwen and Nikki. There's also the parallel between Nikki and Jack, because at the end of EW Jack too might have preferred the uncertainty that still held the hope of forgiveness.

2.12 Fragments: The dreariness and moral ambiguity of the best part of Jack's life in Tochwood that still overshadowed S1, but also Alec asking him to give Torchwood a purpose, the start of Jack's journey towards gaining control of his life and finding a meaning again. Owen, who was also looking for a purpose, and Ianto, who although unintentionally, in the end also found it in Torchwood. Pain and death and trying to find meaning in spite of it.

2.13 Exit Wounds: Burying the past really doesn't work, just in case there still was any doubt about that. Also, although admittedly I only noticed that during the last reviewing and it's impossible to say whether it's accidental or intentional, there's an uncanny analogy between Gray's 'I've heard people say, "Death is such a waste." I imagine it more as a relief. [...] What's it like? How does it feel?' and Jack's obsession with death at the beginning of EC: 'Okay, John. Not long now. [...] Tell me ... what was it like when you died? What did you see?'


Children of Earth: Picks up a lot of motives from S1 and 2. The out-of-time theme is maybe most prominent. It dominates Jack's relationship with Alice and Ianto, it's there in the story of Clem, who remained mentally stuck in 1965, whereas Jack has changed and is the same only physically, and it's not only the most terrible aspect of the fate of the children Jack delivered to the 456, but the one that truly shocks Jack. (Effectively) killing these children he could live with. But seeing them still alive, stuck in time like himself, condemned to live, is what really hits him on a very personal level. Once again, on so many levels, the curse of immortality. Being human. But the really interesting, and maybe the most unexpected parallel is that at the end of CoE Sleeper and Beth's fate suddenly become relevant again. Beth used the last bit of her humanity to at least die still human, still remembering the husband she loved and killed, the pain and the guilt, because forgetting was worse. And there's Jack, remembering even though he could make himself forget because he promised, living with all the pain and guilt that makes it unbearable for him to even remain on the planet, but at least still human, still feeling it.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
elisi
Oct. 15th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
Good thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

(That's all I've got for now. Might be back.)
solitary_summer
Oct. 15th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
Eh, they're not really new thoughts anyway, or at least most of them aren't. I really need to stop writing about TW, it's starting to feels embarrassingly like I'm repeating myself all the time, and I guess can't blame it all on the Paracodin...
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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