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Feb. 3rd, 2011

It's strange. I've started rewatching TW because there's a bit of meta I want to write after all before we get new canon, and while I've always loved S1, I'm actually surprised at how good it is, and how much sense it makes. Rather more than I remember.

And this is where I stop and wonder—is it me? Obviously it's me. The show hasn't changed since I first watched it four years ago. But am I bringing my head-canon into it and am I subconsciously using it to patch the holes? Or does the show yield something different, depending on the angle from which you look at it?

It worries me a bit, because I've always been very careful to avoid the trap of getting lost in my own headspace and interpretations with my meta-writing. I rewatched for every bigger post. I made myself rewatch CoE the first time because I wanted to write about it, and there was no way I could do that based only on a completely overwhelming one time impression. I rewatched S1 to CoE again for the big Jack/Ianto post. For the death/life/being human post I rewatched all of DW, all of TW, and then went back and watched all of RTD's DW episodes once more. So, for the most part I'm convinced that my meta is at least more or less canon compatible and hasn't veered off on some absurd tangent yet.

At the same time... my perception of canon has definitely changed during writing. Not in radical ways. I changed my opinion about certain aspects of the stories or characters, but I never intentionally tried to make myself like something I hated; I don't think I even could do that. CoE always felt right to me, right for the characters, right as a story; it just took me a lot of time and words to explain why. It's rather that the stories become richer, better, the more I think and write about them.

The first change that genuinely took me by surprise was when I rewatched TW the last time and deliberately shifted the focus away from any kind of ship-related agenda and suddenly found the Jack/Ianto arc a lot more satisfying. Now I'm rewatching it with the 'time' theme in mind, and I keep thinking, even in those few S1 moments there is a story being told, and it isn't a bad story at all.

The question once again is, though, is it me? Did I create this meaning in my head over the last few years, writing meta post after meta post? Is this why it makes sense now? Is canon still full of holes that I simply don't notice any longer? Or was the story always there and I just didn't see it the first (or second) time around, because I wanted to see a different one? Because on some level that was definitely the case.

It's fascinating, really, this discrepancy between the stories we want and the stories we get and how we project the one on the other. And all the frustration that ensues.

And sometimes all this subjectivity scares me. Sometimes I just want to be—simply, childishly—right or wrong.


One thing I've learned, though, is that I write better meta when I don't try to gloss over my doubts. If something doesn't seem to fit, doesn't seem to make sense, don't ignore it, look at it in a wider context and perhaps there is a way it might fit, after all. Connect the dots. The results can be interesting. It may not work for every show, or every aspect of it, but in DW and TW on the whole it has served me really well.

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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
snakeling
Feb. 4th, 2011 12:10 am (UTC)
I think that RTD is a far better story-teller than we tend to give him credit for, especially when looking at the narrative from a shipper's point of view.

As you've noticed, if you're watching TW for the J/I relationship, there's never enough of it to be really satisfying. But if you're watching from more of a distance (the dynamic between the whole team, the overall Jack arc, etc), then it becomes just right, and in just the right dose.

Also, I'm in admiration of Fragments, because it's one hell of an exemplary retcon. If you pay particular attention to the team's body language, you can notice, for example, that Jack never, ever flirts with Tosh. He lets her close, but will reduce his personal space when he does, so as not to intrude on hers (while he has absolutely no compunction to introduce on most other characters'). It made no sense, up until we learnt that Tosh was, for all intents and purposes, his indentured servant. Jack may act like he doesn't know what boundaries are, but the truth is that he knows exactly what they are, exactly where they stand, and most of the time ignores them anyway because it's a quick and effective way to destabilise his interlocutor. But because their relationship is not one of equals, he doesn't do it to her.

When I watch Fragments, I have difficulties believing that RTD hadn't planned it this way all along, that he was more or less winding it. He's really good at CHekov's guns, and I think the backstory was there all along.

It's fascinating, really, this discrepancy between the stories we want and the stories we get and how we project the one on the other.
Ever since COE aired, I feel like I've been watching a different show than a lot of the shrilliest people in the fandom. For example, TW was never a fun campy show, to me. It had its moments, of course, but I always thought it was one of the darkest and most nihilistic shows on TV. In the very first episode, one of the characters the BBC had advertised as a regular turned out to be a serial killer; actually, most of the really awful villains have been human, not alien; it's been repeatedly emphasised that there is nothing after death, and that there is no god either (DW has no god, but it has the Doctor; COE made it very clear that TW didn't even have that). For me, COE was just in keeping with the first two seasons.
solitary_summer
Feb. 4th, 2011 10:08 am (UTC)
I think that RTD is a far better story-teller than we tend to give him credit for, especially when looking at the narrative from a shipper's point of view.

I think you're right. I never prioritised shipping over everything else and I was always pretty realistic about all the issues involved in their relationship, which I guess is why unlike to a lot of fans Jack and Ianto in CoE seemed very in character to me, but to an extent I still fell into this trap where I wanted a happy, normal (in the 'eat lasagna, kiss your boyfriend' kind of way) relationship for them. Even though Jack himself realised that Gwen needed someone else for that, not him.

Also, I'm in admiration of Fragments, because it's one hell of an exemplary retcon.

Completely agree.

Jack may act like he doesn't know what boundaries are, but the truth is that he knows exactly what they are, exactly where they stand, and most of the time ignores them anyway because it's a quick and effective way to destabilise his interlocutor.

Oh, yes. Adrift is a perfect example of this. It always baffles me that people keep saying the 'naked hide-and-seek' comment is a joke or an actual invitation, because Gwen? Isn't laughing. She was laughing a moment earlier with Ianto, but not then. Jack does something very similar in TKKS when he doesn't want to talk about the Suzie fiasco, but there he even lets her know what he's doing with his 'I had a boyfriend...' story. In Adrift he desperately doesn't want to talk about this, and everything he says and does is meant to make her uncomfortable enough to give up and leave. No matter how much Jack may love Gwen or be attracted to her, this scene isn't about that; he's using her attraction to him against her, and he's using Ianto against her.

(On the other hand, the flirtation with Ianto stops entirely after CW until ianto makes the first step in TKKS.)

For example, TW was never a fun campy show, to me. It had its moments, of course, but I always thought it was one of the darkest and most nihilistic shows on TV.

I couldn't agree more. This is one of this instances where it's almost impossible for me to understand where 'the other side', that is, the people who claim it's been nothing but camp fun, is coming from. It's not as if all the death and loss and existentialist despair is exactly hard to miss, seeing as it's staring you in the face in almost every single episode especially in S1.

I still remember how much John's suicide and the fact that Jack in the end agreed to it and just sat in the car with him, holding his hand, shocked me. It's TV; you expect the pep-talk, after which the suicidal person realises that life is worth living, and everyone lives happily ever after. Not Jack essentially saying, 'I'd also do that, if only I could.' I rewatched Cyberwoman a few days ago, and somehow every time I do that I expect it to have less of an impact than I remember because of all the people I've seen arguing how it's just crack, bad acting, etc. in the meantime, but that's another episode that won't ever be anything but tragic to me.
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solitary_summer
Feb. 4th, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
That scene was the moment when I fell in love with the show.

It was definitely the moment where the show really caught my attention. It's so rarely you see something on TV that is genuinely unexpected and this was... I can't really find the right words. Tragic, obviously, and shocking, but also touching and... I guess what fascinates me is that John's suicide isn't put in the context of mental illness, but as claiming control over one's life and death. Objectively, I guess someone probably should have talked him out of it and got him help, but I still like the idea.
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solitary_summer
Feb. 4th, 2011 10:12 am (UTC)
I'm definitely enjoying it...
elisi
Feb. 4th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
It's fascinating, really, this discrepancy between the stories we want and the stories we get and how we project the one on the other. And all the frustration that ensues.
*nods a lot* I've realised that one reason I'm usually such a happy camper is that I tend to try to watch the show that the creators are making. Although sometimes is takes a while to work out what they're doing. Torchwood, especially, was tricky when it was first broadcast, because they kept all of Jack's backstory secret which made it very difficult to connect with him. So when going back and re-watching it, everything should make more sense I think. Knowing where the writers were going always helps.

If something doesn't seem to fit, doesn't seem to make sense, don't ignore it, look at it in a wider context and perhaps there is a way it might fit, after all. Connect the dots.
Oh yes.
solitary_summer
Feb. 4th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
I've realised that one reason I'm usually such a happy camper is that I tend to try to watch the show that the creators are making.

My problem, if you want to call it that, is that I need to be able to connect to the creators' vision/worldview/basic ideas. I'm very much an 'author' person, when I find an a writer I can connect to, I'll most likely go through their entire body of work, but I need the initial connection.

Torchwood, especially, was tricky when it was first broadcast, because they kept all of Jack's backstory secret which made it very difficult to connect with him.

Maybe that's projecting, but looking back I find it surprising how much information and characterisation they managed to convey regardless, and without being either info-dump-y or too blatantly repetitive. I watched TW S1 before DW (I must have been the only person who had absolutely no idea what was happening at the end of End of Days with the strange noise and Jack's disappearance, or what the hand was all about), and even without knowing Jack from DW I felt I had a good grip on the character, despite all the mysteriousness. In some ways I even connected better to Jack in S1 than in S2 despite the fact that only S2 really fleshes out the character.
fajrdrako
Feb. 4th, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
One thing I've learned, though, is that I write better meta when I don't try to gloss over my doubts. If something doesn't seem to fit, doesn't seem to make sense, don't ignore it, look at it in a wider context and perhaps there is a way it might fit, after all. Connect the dots. The results can be interesting.

That's good advice. In practice, I have trouble doing it: I want to sort things out, in my head, so that (on the one hand) it all makes sense to me, but (on the other hand) so it fits my idea of what these characters are and what they should be.

And with Torchwood, these two considerations are often incompatible. Or have I just not thought it through well enough yet? I know there are canonical events that I am in denial about, and I'm not sure how to get past that - or if I need to. Or if my enjoyment would be enhanced if I did.

Well - it would be no fun if it were simple.

My perception of series 1 changed after series 2 came out, and then again after Children of Earth.
solitary_summer
Feb. 4th, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC)
I guess I'm lucky insofar as I never had to change my perception of earlier canon in any major ways with Torchwood. Some of the revelations came as a surprise, but they also always fit surprisingly well with my view of the characters.

Having no imagination whatsoever probably also helps in this respect. I need the dots to connect because I'm incapable of making up a picture myself. It's probably harder if you have a definite idea of what the characters are and what they should be.
fajrdrako
Feb. 5th, 2011 12:07 am (UTC)
Yeah. We all came to series 1 with, obviously, no preconceptions except about Captain Jack. And many of my assumptions (and hopes) regarding him were shattered - though not in a bad way. Readjustment was sometimes necessary, but that was also part of the fun.
solitary_summer
Feb. 5th, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
We all came to series 1 with, obviously, no preconceptions except about Captain Jack.

Actually, I only started to watch DW after TW S1, so Jack was a completely blank slate for me at the beginning of the show. That probably makes a big difference, because in my head the darker, more complicated Jack from Torchwood takes precedence.
fajrdrako
Feb. 5th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
in my head the darker, more complicated Jack from Torchwood takes precedence.

While I started with - well, I suppose I started with Jack as a Trickster, and then I saw what I now think of as the happiest part of his life, living with the Doctor and Rose. Then he becomes a darker Jack, and we see the reasons for it. Neither really has precedence for me, they're two sides of the same man in different circumstances.
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