Friday, July 03, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 1x02: "Day One"

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by Brian Kelly

Gwen: “What do you do to relax then?”
Owen: “I torture people in happy relationships.”

If ever there was a snappy way of silencing one of those people who loved having a stable relationship and being all too open about it while they quiz the people who are single, then Owen’s embittered comment would be it.

Some people are single by choice, others by default. There are some people out there are better built for relationships while others prefer sex without emotional entanglement. The last bits there I pulled from Six Feet Under and The L Word but given my own track record and indecision about being with someone for the long haul, there is an element of truth in it. Love and sex are weird things.

Sex is basically the driving force of this episode as it begins with Gwen having some much needed down time with her boyfriend, Rhys, who I do like but I don’t find terribly exciting, which I suppose is kind of the point as Torchwood represents Gwen’s more dangerous lifestyle and thirst for excitement and Rhys is more her normal life.

Anyways the two lovebirds mildly argue over some naff movie that Rhys liked and Gwen fell asleep to but it gets interrupted when something extraterrestrial in the shape a comet comes crashing to Cardiff and specifically a forest within minutes. Are the residents of Cardiff ignorant enough to get over their shock and not really care about the implications of what they’ve seen? Yes, they really are! Also are the police in Cardiff actually competent enough to find out anything useful. Maybe but it’s not like Torchwood are going to give them an opportunity to act savvy.

Although Gwen is easily dismissed by soldiers due her little girl lost act, Jack manages to shoo them away long enough for him, Gwen, Owen and Toshiko to have a look at the artefact itself. Gwen is an excited girl as this is after all her first assignment with Torchwood.

This episode covers the idea of first day work jitters pretty damn well. Gwen is naturally excited and curious about starting with Torchwood and I couldn’t help being a little excited but Owen’s annoying and eerily funny penchant for winding Gwen up also causes her to make her first blunder when a tool she throws at Owen hits the alien artefact instead and release a purple gas within the air.

Although I did think Gwen was silly for what she did, I was half amused by her constant apologising (reminded me of a recent incident when I was out with a few friends), though you can say sorry until you’re blue in the fact and Owen will still act like you’re the biggest imbecile in existence. Geez Owen, I bet Gwen wishes she was as perfect as you. I got that she messed up but she’s essentially new to the team so I’m gonna bust her chops too much on the situation. Even the leader himself, Captain Jack didn’t give her a hard time and got that it was a mistake.

Of course there’s a consequence to Gwen’s little error and the pretty purple gas we saw airborne makes its way to outside a nightclub where a young woman named Carys Fletcher is arguing with someone on the phone in a distraught manner. She’s soon possessed by the alien entity and proceeds to return into the nightclub where she finds a strapping bloke, fucks his brains out in the toilets and at the point of climax, the poor bloke is reduced to dust.

Yes folks, we have gotten our first clichéd episode, the one in which every sci-fi series (Angel, The X-Files and The Outer Limits are good examples) were some sex addled alien or demon uses fornication in order to survive. It’s rarely engaging to watch and for those who moaned about the first episode containing swear words, the excess amount of sex really must have annoying them. While most of the sexual were a bit childish, this episode was actually far from the disaster it should’ve been.

Childish or not I had to admit to have laughed at the scene where Jack said about Carys’ victim just “came and went” and how Gwen jested about arranging a similar fate for the sleazy bouncer who were able to alert Torchwood about the alien’s whereabouts due to the fact he had been masturbating to the whole thing before the poor bloke was dusted. Dude, just buy some porn, instead of violating people’s actual privacy.

The strongest point of this episode is the casting of Carys. Instead of going for the stereotypical femme fatale type, I liked how they picked an ordinary looking but beautiful actress in Sara Gregory who could actually act and who you actually feel sympathy towards and I did.

To Captain Jack, Owen, Toshiko and maybe Ianto, Carys is mainly viewed as a vessel to a real threat that is being used for survival. Gwen on the other hand views the girl’s safety just as much of a priority as the alien threat itself and it’s great to see using her blunder to learn more about Carys’ background and about her as a person because Carys may shows moments of strength but she also comes across as a bit of a damaged girl in some way, which is maybe why the alien was drawn to her of all people.

I liked that Carys’ possession isn’t totally simple and we have moments where she is struggling to regain possession of her own body. We see this done in private before the alien’s intent to use to shag her postman to death and during her captivity at Torchwood where the alien impulses having her and Gwen locking lips like moths to a flame (boy, I bet The Sun readers just loved that). Owen seemed to generate great pleasure in Gwen’s brief Sapphic moment and I was amused at Jack’s reaction to Toshiko’s wonder of Gwen mentioning her boyfriend earlier on and then making out with a woman.

Sadly though only men can provide the alien inside Carys with a sexual high and survival so it’s strange at after stripping Owen down to get his swipe card to escape that she didn’t kill him, although then we wouldn’t have gotten both Gwen and Toshiko teaming up to tease the cocky medic.

A brief but mostly entertaining fight with Jack and Carys breaks out as it looks like he could be the only one to contain but when leverage comes Carys’ way; even Jack is unfortunately put in the position of stepping aside. Shame because a few more scraps would’ve been fun but then you’d probably get people thinking that this series is glorifying misogyny or what not.

Once Carys gets free and we have the car ride to catch her as she goes looking for more and more hits to survive, the only place where she’ll get all the supply to live is the only place Carys actually works on a regular basis – a fertility clinic. It’s fun but creepy as Carys pulls in all kinds of blokes to shag to death until Jack and company finally catch up with her.

The defeat of the alien is a really great scene because not does the alien articulate reasonably well it’s need to survive but both Jack and Gwen are willing to put their own lives on the line in order to save Carys. Jack does it by kissing her and Gwen offers to be a vessel but the fact she’s prepared with Owen’s invisible cell weapon which traps the alien as it dies felt a bit too obvious.

Still though the alien died as it should and more realistically things aren’t so happily ever after as Carys appears to be even more traumatised than before she was possessed. The girl has had a hard life with her mother’s death and the stupid naivety that the married man she was seeing would leave his wife for her. It’s nice that Jack didn’t tamper with her memories.

Another strong success of the episode was having the Torchwood interact as people. Although I do dislike Owen, I have to admit to enjoying his sniping with Gwen and both Ianto and Toshiko (despite their element of mystery) are interesting to me. I also had to enjoy everyone having an opinion on Jack’s sexuality during their Chinese food. I did however find the Gwen/Jack kiss a little meh for my liking.

Also Jack’s attachment to The Doctor’s severed hand and his determination to find Number 10 and answers to some other mysteries about himself is great. If Russell can avoid the romantic route with him and Gwen and strictly keep them on a friendship basis, I think their relationship will be a lot more interesting and resonate with more viewers. I smiled when he told Gwen should enjoy her normal life even if she was distant with Rhys at the end.

Also in “Day One”

No “Previously On” bit, which made sense as this episode aired straight after “Everything Changes”.

Gwen (to Owen): “It’s a shame your tool’s not big enough for the job, darling.”

Owen called Gwen “Sweet Cheeks” (a bit sexist that), “Freckles” (how very Lost of him) and “New Girl” (the original title of this episode).

Matthew (to Carys): “I don’t even know your name. Overrated names are.”

This bloke’s name was Matthew Stevens and he died at 3:07am. It was Ianto that actually gave Torchwood their first lead on the alien.

Gwen: “Oh my God.”
Captain Jack (re Matthew): “He just came and went.”

Gwen: “Are you gonna help me? I don’t know what I’m doing”
Captain Jack: “Better to not say that in front of the prisoner.”

Info dump on Carys: She was born 13/11/1987, her mother’s dead due to car crash, her father seems doting but distant and the man she was sleeping with was Eddie, whose wife was called Beth. The clinic she worked in was called Conway Clinic.

Owen (re Gwen): “I thought she said she had a boyfriend.”
Captain Jack: “You people and your quaint little categories.”

Is it me or does there seem to be a generation gap between Gwen and Rhys? He’s definitely older than her but I did like her hyping his job as a transport manager to Jack.

Captain Jack (to Gwen): “You know strictly speaking, I throttle the staff.”

Toshiko (to Owen): “You got away lightly. Be glad she was only interested in your swipe card.”
Gwen: “Are you alright or do you feel a bit of a cock?”

Was it me or did The Doctor’s hand swell when Carys broke the jar it was in? I almost pissed myself laughing when the Weevil spooked Gwen as well.

Gwen (re Carys/alien): “Where would you go?”
Owen: “I’d come around your house and shag you.”

I liked the brief reunion with Gwen and her former work buddy, though she was a bit off with him. Also Captain Jack kissing Carys so freely gives me the impression that he’s been testing his mortality.

Carys: “So much beauty, so much fear, it’s too much.”

Captain Jack: “You travel half way across the universe for greater sex and you still end up dying alone.”
Gwen: “Thank you.”

Chronology – It can’t be more than a day or two since “Everything Changes”.

Gwen: “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Captain Jack: “Go home. Be normal, eat lasagne, kiss your boyfriend. Be normal for me.”

Standout music: Goldfrapp’s “Ooh La La La”.

For a premise so lame, I’m very surprised that I enjoyed “Day One” as much as I did. Maybe it’s because Chris Chibnall has previously written for Life On Mars and managed to do as good a job with his debut script for Torchwood as he has done for Matthew Graham’s hit TV series. This bodes well for as his involvement in Torchwood is supposed to be pretty big.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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