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Jan. 14th, 2011

30 Days of Torchwood: Day 17: Something You’d Like To Re-write

Oh dear. This is really a brain vs. heart decision.

Brain: Exit Wounds and the whole arc with Gray and Jack's childhood.
Heart: The Jack/Ianto arc in the second half of S2.

Heart wins. I'm going to indulge my inner shipper. Partly, I guess, because I have the suspicion that something like 50-70% of the whole Gray disaster could have been fixed simply by casting a different actor. There are some things that could be improved writing-wise, but on the whole Exit Wounds is probably not a lot worse or more incoherent than many other TW episodes I love. Chris Chibnall's episodes mostly worked for me otherwise, both in S1 and S2, and Adrift and Fragments especially were really good. Exit Wounds I think might have worked already a lot better with an older and more experienced actor as Gray. (And now that I'm thinking about it, it might have been interesting to cast someone who even looked a bit older than JB. Older, more broken. Relative age is irrelevant anyway in this story, and it'd have emphasised Gray's anger and suffering.) Add an explanation of how Jack remained sane while being buried alive for almost two millennia and don't make him say 'I forgive you' still lying in the cryo-freeze drawer, and we'd be (mostly) good. I think.

So, Jack and Ianto. What went wrong here might not be as obvious as the flaws of Exit Wounds, but it'd need a lot more fixing on a much more fundamental level, because there is no Jack/Ianto arc after Ianto didn't die in Reset, and before that it consists of equal amounts relationship building and foreshadowing of Ianto's death. Sometimes, like in To the Last Man, both at once, with the episode juxtaposing the relationships between Jack and Ianto and Toshiko and Tommy, showing two couples divided by time ('I worried you'd see me getting older.'), and ultimately by death. Jack's 'You love him. Makes you vulnerable.' / 'That's your decision.' / 'You both have to live by it', to Gwen in Meat would also have taken on a different meaning with Ianto dead two episodes later. Both episodes explicitly refer to the fact that working in Torchwood and having a relationship in this environment may mean having to endanger the person you love, even having to sacrifice them. It's not just your friends you send 'into danger, knowing the stakes aren't the same for you, that you might get them killed while you walk away unscathed', it's also your lovers.

With the exception of Fragments, which wouldn't have to be rewritten, there are only are a handful of disconnected Jack/Ianto scenes after Reset, but no coherent arc, which in my opinion seriously weakened the relationship, because the other two relationship arcs are tied up meaningfully in Exit Wounds: Rhys completely supports Gwen and recognises that what she does is important after all the fights they had over Torchwood, and Owen at least in the end cares enough not to hurt Tosh any further and even apologises to her. Admittedly this isn't something you notice immediately—it took me about half a year to pinpoint the reason for my vague dissatisfaction—, but a lot of things in S2 would have fallen into place a lot more logically if Ianto had died in Reset.

Once again, heart vs. brain. Of course I didn't want him to die. But intellectually I can't help being curious what S2 with undead!Ianto would have been like, especially as this seems to have been something of a bigger plot point ('that strand runs throughout the rest of the series'—RTD in The Writer's Tale).

Day 01: Favourite Torchwood Member
Day 02: Least Favourite Torchwood Member
Day 03: Favourite Series
Day 04: Favourite Episode
Day 05: Least Favourite Episode
Day 06: Something You Liked That Most People Didn't
Day 07: Favourite Alien/Villain
Day 08: Favourite Minor Character
Day 09: A Scene That Made You Cry
Day 10: A Scene That Made You Smile
Day 11: A Scene That Made You Angry
Day 12: Favourite Quote
Day 13: Favourite Promo Picture
Day 14: Favourite Couple
Day 15: Favourite Couple Scene
Day 16: Favourite Piece of Music
Day 17: Something You’d Like To Re-write
Day 18: Character You Relate To The Most
Day 19: Favourite Outfit
Day 20: Favourite Gwen Moment
Day 21: Favourite Ianto Moment
Day 22: Favourite Jack Moment
Day 23: Favourite Owen Moment
Day 24: Favourite Toshiko Moment
Day 25: Shag/Cliff/Marry?
Day 26: A Torchwood Geek Moment You’ve Had
Day 27: Favourite Location Or Set
Day 28: Where You Think The Series Should Continue To
Day 29: Best Torchwood on Doctor Who Moment
Day 30: Why You Love Torchwood


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2011 12:04 pm (UTC)
Ok, FINE. You win. I'm rewatching Torchwood. :D

So, with that out of the way, is there anywhere I can read what I need to know about Jack and the Doctors and all that stuff? Preferably, a summary where I don't have to read through miles of internet in tiny print. Spoilers are no problem. Thank you!
Jan. 15th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
(pt. 1) (kürzer ging's nicht...)

*g* Me too, probably. Or at least some of the episodes. There might be something left I might want to write about after all. (God, I need new canon so badly. It feels like I'm starting to create my personal head-fanon. BTW, in case you haven't heard: S4 starts on June 1st!)

The Doctor is a time-travelling alien who travels in time and space in the Tardis (it's bigger on the inside!), usually with a human companion. He doesn't die, he regenerates into a new body and personality; characterisation varies according to that.

Jack meets the Ninth Doctor and Rose in 1942 in the middle of the London Blitz in (New) DW S1's The Empty Child. Jack is an ex-Time Agent with a grudge against the Time Agency, because one day he woke up with two years of his life missing. Now he's looking for those years, and meanwhile is passing time scamming other Time Agents: 'Simple enough, really. Find some harmless piece of space-junk... let the nearest Time Agent track it back to Earth. Convince him it's valuable, name a price. When he's put 50% up front - oops! A German bomb falls on it, destroys it forever. He never gets to see what he's paid for. Never knows he's been had. I buy him a drink with his own money, and we discuss dumb luck. The perfect self-cleaning con.'

Jack starts out as a rather ambiguous character and accidentally almost causes the entire human race to be transformed into gas-mask wearing kids asking from their mummy, because his latest piece of harmless space junk contained nanogenes that were accidentally set free, but by the end of the episode he's already willing to sacrifice himself to fix his mistake. He travels with the Doctor for the rest of the season (think Torchwood Jack minus the immortality angst, flirting with just about everyone, and with a bit of a crush on the Doctor) until in the finale they end up fighting the Daleks (aliens that look a bit like a giant salt-cellar, but are very, very deadly, and usually try to kill everyone who isn't a Dalek). It's basically a we're-all-going-to-die-either-way situation, so Jack kisses Rose and the Doctor good-bye and sets out to heroically defend the space station they're on with a mere handful of people and in the end heroically dies.

Meanwhile, the Doctor sends Rose home in the Tardis because he promised her mother he'd keep her safe, but she's having none of that. She manages to pry open the heart of the Tardis (it's not really a machine, more of a living organism that contains the energy of time and space) and absorbs the energy of the Time Vortex, which gives her essentially a god's power over life and death, comes back, vaporises the entire Dalek fleet, but also (permanently) resurrects Jack before the Doctor can stop her and take the energy from her again.

Absorbing that much energy kills the current incarnation of the Doctor, and he regenerates. The Tenth Doctor and Rose leave in the Tardis, while Jack is left behind on the space station. End of episode.

What happens next, in Jack's own words: 'So there I was, stranded in the year 200,100, ankle-deep in Dalek dust, and he goes off without me. But I had this. I used to be a Time Agent. It’s called a vortex manipulator. He’s not the only one who can time travel. All right, so I bounced. I thought ‘21st century, best place to find the Doctor’ except that I got it a little wrong. I arrived in 1869 and this thing burnt out so it was useless. [...] I had to live through the entire 20th century waiting for a version of you that would coincide with me.'

Jan. 15th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)

[Insert DW The Christmas Invasion, where the newly regenerated Doctor loses a hand in a swordfight on an alien spaceship. He regrows a new one, while the cut-off hand falls to Earth (onscreen) and ends up in a jar in Jack's office as a 'Doctor-detector' (offscreen).]

[Insert DW S2, where we get bits and pieces of the history of Torchwood, which was founded by Queen Victoria to protect the Earth from the Doctor and other alien threats. (The Doctor isn't evil, but he tends to turn up in times of crisis and maybe enjoys the danger a little too much even while he's helping people, and she had a bad experience with him and an alien werewolf.) The season ends in a very tragic finale where Torchwood—not the Cardiff office, but the main office in London (think big, skyscraper, offices, scientists, military; nothing like the Hub)—explores a hole in the fabric of space and time and inadvertently makes it possible for the Cyberman (humans with their emotions removed in metal suits; they'll either kill you, or convert you) to cross dimensions and come to Earth. Also the Daleks. Both Ianto and Lisa worked for Torchwood London, and this is where Lisa got half-converted. The Doctor can defeat them in the end with the help of Rose and her family, but Rose is left behind in a parallel universe, apparently forever. It's all very heartbreaking.]

[insert Torchwood S1]

At the beginning of DW S3 Utopia the Doctor and Martha come to Cardiff to refuel the Tardis energy, Jack hears him (that's the sound you hear at the end of End of Days) and runs after him. The Doctor sees him and tries to leave him behind, but Jack clings to the outside of the Tardis, and they all end up a hundred trillion years in the future, at the end of the universe. It's all pretty dark and depressing, with the last humans trying to escape to a mythical utopia promised to them. (I won't go into the details of the plot, which is quite complicated; there's a wikipedia article for each episode, if you want to know more.)

In the middle of all this the Doctor and Jack have a heart to heart where the Doctor explains why he left Jack behind: 'It’s not easy even just... just looking at you Jack, ‘cause you’re wrong. [...] You are, I can’t help it. I’m a Time Lord. It’s instinct. It’s in my guts. You’re a fixed point in time a space. You’re a fact. That’s never meant to happen. Even the TARDIS reacted against you—tried to shake you off. Flew all the way to the end of the universe just to get rid of you', and Jack finally learns what happened to him and why he became immortal.

[Insert a lot of plot, in the middle of which Jack has to confess his involvement with Torchwood, which the Doctor obviously isn't happy about, considering that it's because of Torchwood that he lost Rose. Jack swears it's all different now. And makes coffee for the Doctor and Martha. He also gets himself killed lots of times, although mostly offscreen.]

At the end of Last of the Time Lords the Doctor asks Jack if he wants to come with him, but Jack refuses: 'I had plenty of time to think that past year, the Year That Never Was. And I kept thinking about that team of mine. Like you said, Doctor, responsibility.' He also learns that the Doctor can't fix him and that he's stuck with his immortality. (However, we, the audience, learn, that it won't be quite like that.)

[insert TW S2 & CoE]

Relevant episodes, in case you want to download them:

S1: The Empty Child, The Doctor Dances, Boom Town (not strictly necessary plot-wise, but it's a good episode), Bad Wolf, The Parting of Ways
S3: Utopia, The Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords
If you want a tiny, as in, maybe two minutes at best, bit of canon post-CoE closure for Jack there's also The End of Time, pt. 2
Jan. 15th, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
Wow, thank you! *hugs and smothers with chocolate cherries* I didn't mean for YOU to write the whole thing... but then again, that was brilliant, because you're the one who can explain it best. I so owe you a dinner!

The only thing I don't understand, and sorry for being so dumb: that thing that the Doctor says to Jack about being a fixed point in time and space - that means his immortality, right? But isn't the Doctor also immortal? Or is that different? And does that mean that normal humans are not fixed in time and space, meaning that death is not pre-ordained, i.e., that not even Time Lords know when people are going to die? Arrgh, I need "DW and Torchwood for dummies", extra-dummy version.
Jan. 15th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
I know you didn't, but I didn't find anything, so. Also, mmm, chocolate. ;)

(And no apologies necessary; it is complicated.)

that thing that the Doctor says to Jack about being a fixed point in time and space - that means his immortality, right?


But isn't the Doctor also immortal? Or is that different?

It is. I have watched exactly two Old Who stories, so I'm not exactly an expert, but I think originally the Time Lords had something like 12 lives. Since we're currently at the Eleventh Doctor and no one wants the show to end already, this has been sort of retconned recently, so that there is at least the possibility for more incarnations. They can be killed (if it's fast enough), and, unlike Jack, they can chose not to regenerate (the Master did that at the end of S3). In fact, in New Who the Time Lords as a race are dead.

And even regeneration is a bit like death, or as Ten put it: Even if I change... It feels like dying. Everything I am, dies. Some new man goes sauntering away, and... I'm dead.' (Then again, a lot of old-school DW fans criticised Ten for making too much of a fuss over something that is normal for a Time Lord, and RTD for writing him too human and too 'emo'.)

And does that mean that normal humans are not fixed in time and space, meaning that death is not pre-ordained, i.e., that not even Time Lords know when people are going to die?

Mostly, time is in flux. There are a few 'fixed events' that have to happen, or history changes dramatically, which creates a couple of interesting moral dilemmas in the later seasons, but other than that, nothing is fixed. You can travel in time and change events, although there of course are consequences. You can travel back in time and die there.

But if it's aliens setting off the volcano, doesn't that make it all right? For you to stop it?

Still part of history.

Well, I'm history too. You saved me in 2008. You saved us all. Why is that different?

Some things are fixed, some things are in flux. Pompeii is fixed.

How do you know which is which?

Because that's how I see the universe. Every waking second, I can see what is, what was... what could be, what must not. That's the burden of the Time Lord, Donna. I'm the only one left.

Edited at 2011-01-15 08:22 pm (UTC)
Jan. 15th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Ahh! Thanks again. I do think that with all that background, especially on Jack, I will be able to be much more invested and interested this time round. I already watched the two first episode and it is so much better than I remembered! Also, they are all so pretty. Prettiness is always a good thing. The remark of Gwen's partner at the beginning made me LOL really hard: "CSI Cardiff. I'd like to see that. They'd be measuring the velocity of a Kebab." Must be one of my favorite TV-quotes ever.

Plus, I just had a moment of shock. At the end of "Day One", when Gwen is having lasagna with her boyfriend, as instructed by Jack, and she tells Rhys to go to bed and he gives her this brilliant smile - is it me or does he look like - Jack? I must be going nuts, but there was a moment when I thought "OMG, Rhys is Jack! Now I understand everything!" Clearly, I'm hallucinating.
Jan. 15th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
The remark of Gwen's partner at the beginning made me LOL really hard: "CSI Cardiff. I'd like to see that. They'd be measuring the velocity of a Kebab." Must be one of my favorite TV-quotes ever.

I'm going to miss Cardiff. I've been going through episodes for screencaps for tomorrow's question, and I got all nostalgic. I even miss Gwen's more 'normal' S1 outfits. I hope American Torchwood isn't going to be too big and smart and stylish all of a sudden.
Jan. 15th, 2011 10:39 pm (UTC)
So, let me get this straight - Torchwood is going to be in America now? Where? And who's going to be in it? Is Jack coming back? I am so out of the loop, it's not even funny.
Jan. 15th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
I don't know much at all, because I'm trying to remain relatively unspoiled; Jack and Gwen are going to be in it, and Rhys, and I think at least part of it is going to be filmed in Cardiff, so it's not going to be entirely American; but there are a lot of American actors and it's apparently going to be a big, international story.

Sorry to be so unhelpful; check out the newsletter (torchwood_three) for more information.
Jan. 15th, 2011 10:54 pm (UTC)
Nah, that's all I need to know. Yay for Rhys being in it. I love Rhys.
Jan. 15th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
*nodnod* Bringing Rhys more into the story in S2&3 was definitely a good idea.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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