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Torchwood thinkie

Probably the last thing I need to do is write a long post about my thoughts on Torchwood: Children of Earth. I've been working much of the day on formatting a resources section in this book edit, and it's such a mess that my RSI is about 100x worse than normal and my head aches and my eyes are crossed. But I can't stop thinking about it and talking to myself about it, since there's no one else to talk to. The cats are usually quite unperturbed by Capt. Jack's manpain.


A lot of people have said things better than I could and also most people are smarter than I am, so I don't have a lot to add, especially since infinitemonkeys said a lot of it here for me anyway. In particular, one of my first thoughts when the final credits rolled is that it seems they are setting up for a different show, different stories. I'm not sure how I feel about that; Torchwood was one of the first things to come along in a few years that really thrilled me, fannishly.

I have never been a big Doctor Who fan, but Captain Jack hit a lot of my buttons and the show and later TW gave me what I wanted from him in a big way. I have a way of looking at things that seems very far outside the norm in my fandom circles, and I get a lot of shit for my beliefs or interests in fandoms -- the past few years, I've become less and less vocal about what I watch, preferring instead to vid if I feel really interested or on rare occasions, write. Every time I open my mouth, people get pissed off because they don't agree with me. I don't even do meta anymore, largely because I feel like so much of an outlier. So I hate to see the incarnation of Torchwood that I fell in love with changing to such a drastic degree (ending, I guess I can deal with). There isn't much left for me to feel that way about. I don't think it's ending, though -- the move on BBC alone would indicate that they want more from it, just a different more, but it feels as if it won't be a more I want.

CoE reminded me a lot of movies and books of the late '60s or early '70s. The early '70s in particular produced some of the darkest, grimmest, deepest entertainment, the likes of which we haven't seen since. A movie like Chinatown could not be made in modern America; we know that something rated X wouldn't even get booked into a regular theatre, let alone win the Best Picture Oscar the way Midnight Cowboy did. And I kept thinking of those sorts of movies, and how the independent film movement grew out of the seeds of those earlier films, when I watched TW last night. It's also clearly done with a British sensibility; I don't know that even HBO would touch a storyline so utterly bleak and cruel in this country. It really is one of the grimmest things I've ever seen, and I'm a fan of Deadwood and The Wire.

I've seen a few people comment that the reveal of why the 456 wanted the children was dull or stupid or what have you, but I thought it was pretty great and horrible because it's so far outside of what most of us in the western world could really see as a reason. It's mundane and horrific at the same time, and we're so programmed to think of these things in terms of large-scale catastrophe -- surely the aliens must want the children because they need them for something important, like maybe saving their planet? Their race? Keeping them alive? Powering their technology? But no, it's basically taking what we consider to be the most important things in most of our lives in order to get high. That's an incredibly chilling juxtaposition.

But that's kind of where my yay TW ends, because the rest of it... I felt angry and cheated, and no, it's not because my woobie Ianto died. (Though, my woobie Ianto died, and I am really, really sad.) It's because I thought most of it was cheapening and messing with these characters and what they do and yet another goddamn "I like to kill of characters" showrunner who seems clueless about what makes people love the work. I have this huge rant inside me about the cult of the modern show creator that I often consider writing about, but I don't think most people would care. I really should write it down just so the next time I want to rant I can link to something that's already written.

I don't have a lot of love for Davies. I think he's kind of a jackass. I liked him at first for the whole reboot spin he put on DW, but like a lot of people who develop this cult around their work, where they become as entwined with the stories as the characters are and too much of their personality pushes into the medium, crosses boundaries it should stay out of, he's moved from bringing a fresh sensibility to the genre into making it all about him. I think he likes to shove two fingers at the fans, the very people who brought him this success.

That's the only way I can explain something like Ianto's death. I really hate it when people die of Teh Dumb. That whole thing was so far beyond asinine that I couldn't quite wrap my brain around it. Like it had to be a joke. It's like Davies thought it would be really cool, and no one was willing to stand up to him and say, hey, you know, that's stupid and Jack wouldn't be that moronic and neither would Ianto. But possibly he sees Ianto as being so besotted, and thus stupid, enough to go up to the 456 and say "Stop it now" with Jack and expect them to stop it now. You know the minute Ianto says they should make the most of their time that he's a dead man.

That's just cheating. It's weak and poor storytelling and cowardly. I hate that kind of writing. I've hated it when Joss has done it, too. And that's where King of the Showrunners delusions of grandeur seem to come in, and wreck our entertainment. While I didn't want Ianto to die, I would have been okay if he'd died doing something brave and loving, the way Ianto is. Not being tagalong moron. And I hate seeing Jack, who can totally be an idiot, being SUCH an idiot that he'd throw Ianto into it without a second's thought. That's not really very Jack-like.

Anyway. I could beat that dead horse into a pulp if I don't stop now. There were some things I really loved, like pretty much every freaking thing with Rhys. I loved Clem but felt so agonizingly awful for him. At first I loathed Frobisher, even though he was played by Peter Capaldi, whom I've loved since Local Hero all those years ago, because that mindless governmental deceit always makes my blood boil, but pretty quickly it was the PM and that guy... what was his name? The frequency guy, who I hated even more. That frequency guy was just... as much as I hated the black ops woman, I was happy when she shot the fucker in the leg. He was a sick, evil little man. Loved Jack's daughter and grandson, and Ianto's sister. I hope if there's a future incarnation, Lois is in it.

So the characters had some life, but the story just... I dunno. I can handle the cracky dumb plots of TW and I'm happy with them, but it really did feel like we were being yanked around in ways I don't really enjoy. I knew Jack's grandson was a goner, but what bothered me more was thinking that if Ianto had been there for that, it could have driven a very interesting wedge between them. It probably wasn't a sustainable relationship, much as I loved it, but I think a less cheap and sleazy way to change it would have been to make use of the most powerful part of the whole story -- Jack being forced to kill his own grandchild to save millions -- and have Ianto be faced with just how much he can never really know or understand someone like that.

I'm not good at retconning stuff. It will be hard for me to keep this separate from seasons 1 & 2. I don't usually watch my vids over again much on my own, but I watched my TW vid from last year again, just to try to recapture some of the warmth I feel for the show. I'm not sure I'll get that back. I don't know what it's future will be, but it's going to be different, and I know I will feel quite differently about it. It's good to be challenged in your entertainment, like we were by those fabulous dark movies of the '70s, but I don't want loving them to be challenging. I think I'll hang on to those first three episodes, and try to learn how to retcon the rest.

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lost2mercy
Jul. 12th, 2009 07:42 am (UTC)
I agree with everything you said. Everything. Especially the bit with RTD. I think he believes he's being clever, when in reality he is being arrogant and shortsighted. Killing off the majority or the original set of characters (and in particular Ianto) has proabably alienated more viewers than he imagines.
trepkos
Jul. 12th, 2009 08:06 am (UTC)
Yes to all of that, though I can't see you Jack could have done anything else than sacrifice his grandson, given that the only alternative we were allowed to consider was sacrificing millions.
I thought the idea that the rest of the world would agree to roll over and give away 10 % of their kids without even attempting to find an alternative, even if Britain did, was ludicrous. Not my idea of sci-fi.
gwyn_r
Jul. 13th, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
Oh, don't get me wrong -- I thought Jack sacrificing his grandson was excellent. That was the one thing about the whole story at the very end I liked. But a lot of the other death and the actions people took felt very deus ex machina to me, scripted in a haphazard and cheeseball way.

And yeah, just accepting that people would do it... there are only so many soldiers out there, and they're not going to be able to round up that many unaccepting parents and kids.
trepkos
Jul. 13th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
the actions people took felt very deus ex machina to me, scripted in a haphazard and cheeseball way.

Exactly my complaint.
How does a virus get through bullet-proof glass? And how does it clear so quickly?
Ianto died for nothing.
gwyn_r
Jul. 13th, 2009 06:48 am (UTC)
You know, it's funny, I love a good vision for a show and whatnot, but I've really come to hate this devotion fans have to a certain creator. I see this a lot in SPN fandom right now, this blind Kripke is a god thing, and it makes me cringe.

But I also realize I'm a far more critical audience than most. I can't suspend disbelief at all, and I see everything through a lens of structure and narrative critique. The form is never outside my vision. And sometimes that just plain ruins things, especially when they're like this, where someone is, as you say, thinking they're so clever when they're just doing a crappy job.

I don't mind the fear of a character dying, either, because it keeps things fresher in a lot of ways, but I think there's a point past where it's obvious the showrunners are carried away with what they want to do and the way they want to play with their show, regardless of what their audience cares about.
hypertwink
Jul. 12th, 2009 08:52 am (UTC)
I have to applaud you (and a lot of people) who can actually write complete sentences about CoE. Because I can't and when I try, the visual of The Hulk just appears screaming "Me angry. Me smash."

I was never a Jack fan, it was always about Ianto for me -- even when he was just this glorified extra in the background in the first few episodes. He made Jack palatable, he made the wonkiness and the un-science fiction tolerable. Now, he's gone and it's sad, And it's not even a good sad -- like frigging Titanic. Yep, a whole shipload died but you see them as angels in the end.

This one just kicked you in the balls and then crapped on you after. But it's RTD's world, right? It;s his creation, his characters so he can do what he wants with it...but I agree with you; it's like he didn't respect the fans enough, or didn't care how we would feel, when he kills off a popular character. And for many, the most popular character. Anyway, I think I'm rambling.
gwyn_r
Jul. 13th, 2009 06:54 am (UTC)
Yes, definitely, there's good sad and bad sad, and this is definitely in the bad sad category. For me it's also bad sad because initially what Davies was doing was so cool. But he really seems to have gotten carried away with this idea that whatever he can do he should because he's a demigod. I always think of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, his excellent tone of voice when he says that no one ever stopped to think that just because they *could* do something didn't mean they *should* do it. I get this feeling Davies doesn't understand that. And that he took such a cheap, corny, ridiculous way of killing Ianto off just confirms it for me. So many other possibilities, and that's the way he did it.
yinkawills
Jul. 12th, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)
Hi,:)here via the 'friends' page of cesperanza's LJ

>CoE reminded me a lot of movies and books of the late '60s or early '70s. The early '70s in particular produced some of the darkest, grimmest, deepest entertainment, the likes of which we haven't seen since<
True. And a lot of that stuff was fantastic. The bleakness etc of COE didnt bother me. But then, I'm a Battlestar Galactica fan *smirk*

>..the reveal of why the 456 wanted the children ..pretty great and horrible because it's so far outside of what most of us in the western world could really see as a reason. It's mundane and horrific at the same time<
I agree!It shocked me more than the eating them/needing them to live standard approach would have.

>I don't have a lot of love for Davies. I think he's kind of a jackass. I liked him at first for the whole reboot spin he put on DW, but like a lot of people who develop this cult around their work, where they become as entwined with the stories as the characters are and too much of their personality pushes into the medium, crosses boundaries it should stay out of, he's moved from bringing a fresh sensibility to the genre into making it all about him.<

There's..an element of truth in this. RTD is in danger of ruining the big rep he's built up in tv circles if he continues down that path. But there IS a lot ot praise in COE.
The brilliant, believeable, chilling discussion at the COBRA cabinet meeting about which kind of children should be offered up.The actor playing the PM was.. frightening. Absolutely believable. The female Cabinet Minister who came up with the idea of how to select the children, scared the crap out of me.And the 456 noting that 300+ children die globally every second and that is accepted.The flawed heart of COE was the character of Frobisher- Peter Capaldi should be up for a BAFTA-showing how a decent person can carry out evil acts (shades of Nazi bureaucrats who were 'following orders')

The casting was fantastic. A combo of distinguished stage/tv veterans, and up and coming new talent.Lois! Ms Spears!(Frobisher's PA) The scary special forces team leader Johnson! Rhiannon! Her feckless but ultimately brave husband-leading the charge against the troops to buy a little time for the kids to escape. The character arcs for the subsidiary characters were brilliant.RTD does 'little people stepping up in a crisis' well. And he obviously has a lot of credibility with British actors-the queue of talent to work with him on Who has been amazing.

I have a soft spot for RTD because as a black woman growing up in the UK (I'm in my 50s)I am thrilled to see black and asian characters included in a natural way in Scifi tv here.Casting in Who and Torchwood has been great for that. And I've loved some of the women in COE, we've had a wide range.

The point of SciFi is to reflect on society and certain trends in society extrapolated to show what they could lead to. This series did that...and then some! Given the hysteria in Britain over asylum seekers, and chavs etc, the 'solution' to the 456's demands was both credible AND evoked chilling echoes of the holocaust-which my teenage son watching with me noted, stunned.
The weakest thing, for me was John Barrowman. He is a gorgeous, sexy man. But I would say his talents lie in comedy or lighter fare. I don't think he has a wide enough range for where they took this emotionally. There are a whole load of British tv actors- Dominic West,Jonathan Rhys Meyers, David Morrisey, John Simm David Tennant himself, James Callis (Bltar in Battlestar Galactica)to name but a few- who could do both playboy and monster, and all the shadings in between: Barrowman can't. But then,the writers would have to be able to do the shadings in between in a much subtler, sophisticated way than we've seen them handle Jack.So they actually can't continue TW with Jack Harkness. Because how they've written him and how Barrowman plays him means it would freak audiences out if he sailed back a few years later, with a bit of wallowing in his manpain..


gwyn_r
Jul. 13th, 2009 07:05 am (UTC)
First, I have to say that I love your icon. That is so awesome! And second, I want to say how much I appreciate your point of view about seeing black and Asian characters in RTD's shows. That's something that I don't remember often enough, and you're right, that is a huge plus on his sheet -- not to mention that there are canonical same-sex relationships and a bisexual character and all that, which makes me terribly happy.

I think my feelings about RTD really came to a head in this because I used to love his risk taking but then he seemed to become quite taken with himself and his "set them up, knock them down, and then stomp on them" approach to the audience, and the more a cult kind of builds up around a show creator, the more out of touch with their creations they seem to become these days. I felt like he took the easy, cheesy way out by killing Ianto that way, when it could have been even darker, bleaker, and emotionally stunning to have him either die another way or live to see what Jack had to become. It was almost like after setting everything up so well, he started throwing around crap and just giving up to take the easy way out.

But you are absolutely right about a lot of what you're saying. I think if I separate some of my emotions about it, I'd probably be less crankypants over it. And I did love that stuff about the solution -- you're right, it's really putting a very fine point on a lot of those current issues over there right now (and our own, as well, here in the States). At one point I was kind of stunned to realize that while I was listening to the female cabinet minister talking about who to pick and thinking "well, she's certainly Hitlerianly interesting" I also found myself thinking, "but I guess that's a reasonable plan in the face of things" and then I went WHOA. Because wow, that's easy to start thinking yes, yes, we're desperate, let's do that evil thing. Christ.

I don't know where they can/will go from here. I'm not so much a Barrowman fan as a Capt. Jack fan, but whoever that guy was I fell for, he's gone. I don't know yet what to make of that.
leela_cat
Jul. 12th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
All of the things that you've mentioned are why I haven't watched CoE yet. A friend is making me a DVD, and I have a feeling that it will simply sit on the shelves.

I don't want RTD's new "vision" for TW. I want his original vision, with Ianto and Jack and even Gwen (who annoys me to a ridiculous degree on a frequent basis). And if thie season is goin gto destroy that for me, then I'm not interested in watching.

I'd rather go back and watch the DVDs of the previous seasons.
gwyn_r
Jul. 13th, 2009 07:11 am (UTC)
Yeah. The ticket I paid for wasn't for this leg of the trip! I actually love the dark bleak quality about it, and most of the story is pretty great, but it falls apart at the end, and I think taking the easy way out about Ianto just sent me over the edge.
klia
Jul. 12th, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
I have this huge rant inside me about the cult of the modern show creator that I often consider writing about, but I don't think most people would care.

I would care! I suspect it's the same rant I have inside me that I'll never write.
gwyn_r
Jul. 13th, 2009 07:12 am (UTC)
Yeah, i guess I'm going to have to start writing and see where it takes me. Probably to a much smaller friends list since I have bad things to say about everyone and most of my friends think their different show creators are gods.
keiko_kirin
Jul. 13th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
I have this huge rant inside me about the cult of the modern show creator that I often consider writing about, but I don't think most people would care. I really should write it down just so the next time I want to rant I can link to something that's already written.

I'd still like to read that rant! I think it's a really interesting subject and would love to read a good rant about it.
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