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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “Boom Town”

(tons of spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! and no comments from party poopers — this is a love fest only / previous: Episode 10: “The Doctor Dances”)

I’m rewatching the first series of the new Doctor Who with an eye toward looking where the show has gone since.
It’s “six months later,” Earth time, from the events of “Aliens of London” and “World War III,” and I think it’s pretty clear that it’s quite a bit of time on from just the previous episode, “The Doctor Dances,” too, at least in the Doctor’s subjective timeline (and Jack’s and Rose’s, too, of course). It sure feels like Jack has been with the Doctor and Rose for a goodly while as this episode opens. They’re all so cutesy and comfortable with one another — what with their “into time… and space!” nonsense and all the high-fiving and the teasing (“Buy me a drink first” / “Such hard work” / “But I’m worth it”). They’re very chummy… and that’s not something that happens till you’ve been through a lot together. Plus, Jack seems to be very familiar with the TARDIS systems — and the Doctor is okay with Jack messing about with the TARDIS! — which could not come about in a matter of days.

I say all this because this is catnip to writers of fan fiction, who are always looking for gaps in canon stories in which they can slot their own tales. (For instance, the story I’m in the middle of writing, “Tristan’s Father” — and will have another installment of soon — occurs between “The Doctor Dances” and “Boom Town.”)

Ah, so Rose didn’t really need her passport: she just wanted to see Mickey. For all Jack’s “how come I never get any of that,” I think he has been getting some of that from Rose — she seems as equally infatuated with her and she seems overwhelmed by him, like she thought that Jack wouldn’t be too intense and learns that hard way that he is… and now tries to retreat into the uncomplicated Mickey. And he turns out not to be so easygoing and forgiving as she’d expected! Not that I blame him for being pissed that she ran away, and pissed that all she can talk about now is all the cool places she’s been with the Doctor. And not that I can blame her for being unable to talk about anything else. I do blame her, though, for not fully appreciating either the Doctor or Jack… I mean, really: Mickey? When you’ve got these two at your beck and call? Sheesh.

Margaret the Slitheen is the first in what will become something of a tradition for the new Doctor Who: villains who really aren’t so different from the Doctor, or who at least get him far better than the baddies ever did before. The scene with the two of them on their “date,” when he refuses to hear her pleas and her excuses and dismisses her capriciousness as merely quirks of kindness, is brutal in its reassessment of the Doctor, when she turns it all back around onto him: “Only a killer” would understand her the way the Doctor does, would understand the whim of “sometimes, you let one go.” And he doesn’t dispute it. Granted, it’s probably mostly a matter him having far too much firsthand experience with psychopaths, and a matter of him being too hard on himself… or maybe not. We don’t know much of what he did during the Time War, but I bet most of it was very very bad indeed.

Oh, and the sting of her “I bet you’re always the first to leave, Doctor — never mind the consequences, off you go.” She’s got him pegged, all right. A “magpie mind” — that’s one of the best descriptions of him ever.

Here’s something that stings me, an an American: it’s only evil alien planets that have the death penalty, and what’s all that about the wrongness of delivering someone — even a criminal — to a place where you know they’ll be tortured and executed? Sounds familiar

Random thoughts on “Boom Town”:

• I love Jack’s story about Brockovich and running naked from the thing with tusks, I mean tusks! There’s so much great material Jack could give us, and he’s hardly even gotten interesting yet… not like he will, at least.

• “As if they intended this city should be wiped off the map…” the doomed bloke notes who’s noticed how “poorly” designed the nuke plant seems to be. Makes a nice fictional change that it’s not London or New York that’s the center of destruction. Well, not so nice for the fine people of Cardiff, I guess…

• Bad Wolf Watch:

“Everywhere we go, two words, followin’ us: bad wolf.” –the Doctor
“How can they be followin’ us?” –Rose
[long dramatic pause]
“Nah, just a coincidence. Like hearin’ a word on the radio and then hearin’ it all day. Never mind.” –the Doctor

• Okay, it’s Jack’s messed up timeline again: at this point, Jack is “already” heading up a branch of Torchwood in Cardiff, and the Torchwood Hub is right beneath the TARDIS here:

I know Jack has to rebuild Torchwood after the Battle of Canary Wharf, and I used to think that the implication was that Torchwood in Cardiff came after Canary Wharf, but now I’m not so sure. It sure seems like all the stuff in the freezers and all the stuff in all the vaults under the Millennium Plaza have been there a long time, far longer than just a few years…

Whether the Hub is present or not at this point, surely future-Jack is hiding out so as not to run into “this” Jack at this point? And after Margaret’s “pandimensional surfboard” activates the Rift, is Torchwood — if the Hub is there — just hunkering down during this Rift event happening right over their heads?

*aaarrrggghhh*

• Margaret’s pandimensional surfboard looks like a big piece of LEGO to me:

• Speaking of…: The entrance to the Torchwood Hub — the one camouflaged as the tourist-info place — is usually right there, in the wall we see between Rose and Mickey:

But I guess they laid on some extra obscurement for this occasion…

• I tried to find this restaurant when I was in Cardiff:

But it seems to have been replaced by a French bistro…

• Wine for the Doctor and Margaret:

Though they don’t seem to actually ever get around to drinking it.

• More hugging!

• Great quotes:

“She’s got a teleport. That’s cheating!” –Jack

“What are you captain of, the innuendo squad?” –Mickey, to Jack

–Jack, to Mickey

“Don’t worship me: I’d make a very bad god. You wouldn’t get a day off, for starters.” –the Doctor

“Dinner and bondage — works for me.” –Margaret (we never would have heard anything like that on the old Doctor Who!)

(next: Episode 12: “Bad Wolf”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
  • eric-jon rössel waugh

    Series two of Torchwood goes into a bunch more detail on the history of Torchwood 3.

    It’s been there since at least the late 19th century; Jack has been a member in some form ever since. One episode shows the events at Torchwood 3 on New Year’s Eve, 2000 (popular date in the Whoniverse).

    Before Canary Wharf, though, who knows what shape the Hub was in. Presumably the “invisible lift” wasn’t constructed until after Boom Town (set in late 2006, maybe six or eight months before Canary Wharf). Perhaps the information bureau was added in the remodeling? I guess previously Jack must have gotten in and out through the tunnels, or through wherever they kept the SUV? (I guess that’s the exit he used at the start of “Utopia”?)

  • Plus if Jack was actively trying to avoid bumping into himself then maybe he convinced his team to go on another location for the next few days or so.

    Then again wasn’t he still sort of looking for the Doctor? I mean that’s sorta the whole point of why he started working for Torchwood?

    Gah, timey wimey.

  • Joanne

    I’ve read a fair amount of fanfic involving Jack hiding away from the TARDIS at this time – sending his team away and so on. And a bit of fanfic in which he goes and says hi to himself when the Doctor is off with Margaret and Rose and Mickey are also off-ship. It’s all very timey-wimey. But was this the first time the Doctor’s parked there to refuel, or has he done it before? When was Torchwood’s invisible lift installed? Because it’s clearly a result of the TARDIS being parked on that spot (cf TW “Everything Changes”.)

  • Jackie

    Jack might have been looking for the Doctor (this one in particular) but knows that he didn’t show up at this point, so made sure that he didn’t. He does seem quite responsible about not mucking up established timelines.

    The thing that gets me about that restaurant is that they get wine (which they don’t drink) but no waiter comes past and asks for their order, nor do they get fed. Meanwhile everybody around them gets served. I’ve been that person in a restaurant…

  • LaSargenta

    I remember thinking in this episode that Jack’s costume was all wrong. Those trainers/sneakers, for example…

    And I do like Margaret’s role. Gave her lots of good lines.

  • Lisa

    Like it has been mentioned Jack shows some responsibilty about the timelines watching Rose grow up and not meeting her for example

    so as he was actually present during these events he would have known they turned out ok and also he would have known not to meet the doctor and that he would have to wait for the next rift re-fuel

    does the re-fuel make the rift act up – I’ve always wondered how a Tardis refuel would affect it.

    However I get confused how many times Jack has passed thru this timeline

    once – normally from 18-whatever date he the wrist watch took him to

    then again from 27 ad partly buried and then in a freezer

    and then however many times with the dr

    is there a wikipedia entry somewhere?

    Plus I’m assuming that as this is season 1 of Doctor Who that Torchwood 3 hasn’t been built as it was constructed after the Battle of Canary Wharf which took place in Dr Who Season 2. but who can tell really? maybe the writers don’t care at all

  • Matthew

    I’ve always guessed that Jack was busy keeping Torchwood away from the Doctor the whole time that he was with UNIT in the 70s (or was it the 80s?*). And that extended to events in Cardiff that he already knew about. Perhaps, also, the Doctor’s hand would alert him to the presence of a Doctor that he was temporally compatible with.

    *As the joke in the Sontaran Stratagem went. There’s an explanation here, but you probably don’t want to read it. Actually, my other time-wimey theory is that since Torchwood only exists because of the actions of Doctor Ten, they can’t interefere in the timelines of earlier Doctors without wiping themselves out. Perhaps that, combined the Time War and Bad Wolf, led to some weird eddies in the UNIT timeline.

  • Henry Sepulveda

    I always thought that Rose turned to Mickey because Jack became more interested in The Doctor than in her. Think about it; the way he kept searching for 10 during the Torchwood series and finally finds him in Series 3 of WHO. And The Doctor freely allowing Jack with the running of the TARDIS. Rose was no longer their primary focus and didn’t like it.

    Of course Jack still cared deeply for Rose; he mentioned that more than once. But I really think Jack fell in love with the Doctor and Rose had trouble dealing with this competition.

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