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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Torchwood’ blogging: “Day One”

(before commenting, please read the intro to my Doctor Who blogging; the same caveats apply to Torchwood / previous: Episode 1: “Everything Changes”)

Talk about first contact.

It’s almost glaring now, when you look back, the utter absence of anything even approaching the sexual in the old Doctor Who — of anything even approaching the sensual in any way. Surely part of the thrill of traveling through space and time with the Doctor would be the chance to taste new foods, quaff new drinks, and try new drugs, and — oh yeah — shagging sexy creatures you’d never even imagined before. It might not always be fun or turn out quite the way you’d want it to — not just the shagging but the food and the drink and the rest — but it would always be interesting.
And I say “Doctor Who” quite deliberately, because it becomes very clear as this debut season of Torchwood unravels that these are Who stories, beyond the fact that they’re taking place in the same universe as Who: Jack is the Doctor, Gwen is the companion, and the rest of the team is, collectively, the tin dog. And these would be Who stories if they weren’t so damn, well, hot.

Like this one: Alien lands on Earth, wreaks some havoc, gets taken care of by the good guys. We’ve seen this story before — it just so happens that the havoc this particular alien is wreaking involves orgasms, the human variety of which, we learn here, are just about the most delicious kind to be found in the universe. (That’s not too much of an ego boost, eh? We’re the best bang since the big one? Woo-hoo!) Now, it’s impossible not to imagine — and fanfic writers have been imagining this kind of stuff for decades — that the Doctor has encountered sexually voracious aliens before, or sexually irresistible aliens, and, you know, has probably not resisted himself. (Maybe the Doctor likes humans so much because we’re “the best hit there is.”) But we can’t let the kiddies see that, even on the new Who, so this case gets turned over to Captain Jack and Co.

Jack is alien to our culture, though, however human he may be, so he still gets to make the snide and funny comments on our weird hangups, still gets to serve as the contrast that makes a point. “You people and your quaint little categories…” The debate among the team about whether Jack is gay or straight or bi or what becomes almost its own antithesis, and not just because Tosh gets to say, “He’ll shag anything as long as it’s gorgeous enough.” Jack is, by the example of just being what he is and not being categorizable, holds up our prejudices about how narrowly we label people.

And then the really ironic thing about Jack is that, for all his banter about sex, he’s so unconnected to the rest of his team. Except… there’s a moment at the end of the episode, when Gwen kisses Jack, and there’s no passion in it — the kiss is all about gratitude and friendship. It’s only a thank-you, and yet Jack seems particularly moved by it. Is the something special in that kiss merely genuine feeling — not that it’s romantic feeling but just human feeling?

Like the Doctor, Jack is lonely… really lonely. Who knows how long it’s been since he really connected with someone else?

Random thoughts on “Day One”:

• Scariest thing about this episode? That the blanket surveillance of the city isn’t part of the science fiction — it’s a real part of life in the U.K. in the 21st century.

• Jack has the Doctor’s severed hand! And it’s important to him! Interesting…

• Great quotes: “Sometimes a bit of technobabble is good for the soul.” — Jack. “Period military is not the dress code of a straight man.” –Owen.

• The inflatable cell reminds me of the ghost trap in Ghostbusters

(next: Episode 3: “Ghost Machine”)

[Torchwood screencap from The Institute]


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
posted in:
tv buzz
  • Drave

    Best line of the episode? “He just… came and went!”

  • We’re the best bang since the big one?

    Nice HHGTTG reference there, MaryAnn. ;-)

    Torchwood is holding my attention so far, even if the title sounds like a nickname for Lindsay Lohan’s (aka “Firecrotch”) boyfriend. Love the humor and double entendres, even if the science is pretty questionable.

  • Why did the team just sit there slobbering and watching Gwen make out with a dangerous alien? Why didn’t the alien shag Owen to death like all the others instead of just leaving him tied up naked? Because bisexual party jokes are more important on “Torchwood” than any actual story logic.

  • MaryAnn

    The alien didn’t shag Owen because it was more concerned with escaping. The matter of Gwen and the alien is more problematic, I’ll agree, but if you’re so down on the show, John, why are you watching it?

  • Katie

    How sad is it that Carlys (sp) doesn’t care about her own orgasm, her own pleasure, almost as if she doesn’t know that she’s suppose to be enjoying sex as well, that her pleasure and her release is important too.

    “Like the Doctor, Jack is lonely… really lonely. Who knows how long it’s been since he really connected with someone else?”

    Poor Jack. This is a huge topic of conversation in the Torchwood fandom just as it is in the Doctor Who one.

    “Period military is not the dress code of a straight man.” –Owen.

    I love that comment. In fact, the whole conversation about Jack’s sexuality is great because it could have been so heavy handed and preachy but instead it comes off just like it should have: as co-workers gossiping about their boss. And because of that it makes it all the more obvious how ridiculous our narrow, restricting need to continually define people and their sexuality is.

    John Barrowman continues to make me giddy.

  • MaryAnn

    How sad is it that Carlys (sp) doesn’t care about her own orgasm, her own pleasure, almost as if she doesn’t know that she’s suppose to be enjoying sex as well, that her pleasure and her release is important too.

    Well, she’s *an alien* at this point. It’s very possible that she doesn’t know these things. Or maybe she does. Who’s to say that she’s not sucking down the orgasm of her human host as well as that of her partner? She certainly looks like she’s enjoying herself in that image posted at the top of the blog.

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