Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Torchwood: Combat

The Singing Stone Horizon Guide to Touchwood
written without any permission (or consent) by anyone who would sue me
by Ewen Campion Clarke

DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized program guide to the stupendously awful Doctor Who cash-in Angel-rip-off. Neither the guide nor the series is to be taken seriously. Or orally. And if rash occurs – and it probably will – consult the Doctor immediately. Oh yeah, the really funny bits are down to Jared Hansen. So go him.

"TOUCHWOOD... fighting for the future on behalf of the human race while not paying our TV licenses. And recklessly endangering the human race for the foreseeable future. The twenty-first episode is when it all changes, and ITV is ready. Which is rather depressing."

Episode 11: Fight Club Cardiff

As 2008 dawns, Touchwood finally remember the infestation of a pig-faced, pig-brained, Dustbin-enslaved hybrid Weevils in the Cardiff sewers who are slaughtered innocent, well, FAIRLY-innocent Welshmen. Jack immediately starts hunting them through the streets of Cardiff with a can of pepper spray and some handcuffs, so it’s just the usual Saturday night as far as he is concerned. Gwen joins him, having spent the New Year her repeatedly drugging and mind-wiping her boyfriend Rhys for the sheer hell of it. Oddly enough, despite no matter how many times she triggers his Welsh Amnesia, he never forgives her for having an affair with Owen and thinks that she’s a selfish bitch with very poor taste in sexual partners. Gwen has been reduced to stubbing out cigarettes on his unconscious body and has a quiet cry.

But if Gwen’s holidays sound incredibly pathetic, wait till you hear what Owen has been up to since the last episode. Despondent over losing Amelia Earhart, the love of his life, Owen has rejected materialism, clean clothes, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper... and become a stinking bum stumbling around Cardiff picking fights with barmaid’s boyfriends as he struggles to regain his inner asshole. At the Hub, Tosh lets slip to Gwen about Owen’s affair with Amelia mainly because Tosh knows how much this will upset the unstable ex-copper and Tosh despises Gwen utterly.

Meanwhile, Jack congratulates himself on the lowering levels of Weevil-murder, even though he has managed to completely fail to capture a single one of the bastards since they are already being rounded up by ski-mask-wearing yobbos in a white van. Worse, Jack also notes that the Weevils seem to be gaining an immunity to the "anti-Weevil spray" that Touchwood has been using, (which Ianto reveals is just Lynx with a Touchwood logo glued on top but nevertheless still worked). While wandering Cardiff docks looking for unfussy sailors to whore himself to, Jack stumbles across a pile of Weevil-mauled corpses. Jack picks up a corpse’s mobile phone when it rings, and a distorted voice warns him not to interfere in things he does not understand. Jack assumes this is some kind of sex line and tells Ianto to trace the calls on the phone for future use but the records have been wiped.

Furious, Jack concludes that this is the work of Touchwood’s oldest enemy... the Estate Agent of Doom! The most dangerous and terrifying estate agent in the world! The estate agent with the strength of an army, the wisdom of all the scholars in history! The estate agent who has the power to DESTROY THE WORLD! The Estate Agent of DOOM! No one knows what strange and distant planet he comes from, or where he is going to, but wherever he goes, terror and destruction are sure to follow and if he is Cardiff then surely NOTHING will be the same again!

"Using Weevils to carry murders that cannot be traced back to humans is just his sort of bag, too," Jack notes.

Tosh discovers some embarrassing youtube footage of Owen promoting jellied eels franchises in Cardiff, and so Owen is blackmailed to confront the Estate Agent of Doom on the grounds he is the only one of Touchwood who has not been seen by the group. For maximum irony, Owen is assigned to go undercover as a jellied eel salesman seeking to set up in Cardiff. Owen does so with all the enthusiasm you’d expect and gets precisely nowhere with the Estate Agent of Doom, but they go for a drink at a pub, where they start a brutal bar fight and go back to the Estate Agent of Doom’s Swinging Bachelor Pad of Evil where they discuss the angry and frustrated 21st Century Welshman. They MAY be successful and completely ignorant of the countless alien invasions, but success is not worth having in and of itself.

The Estate Agent of Doom, the most powerful man in the universe, the man who can see through ten-inch steel, the man catches H-Bombs with his teeth, tells Owen that something is out there, in the darkness, and it is coming... before idly discussing the X Factor from the previous night. Owen nods thoughtfully and goes to the toilet. There, he discovers a Weevil chained to the toilet. The Estate Agent of Doom explains that he found the Weevil on the streets – some thing the Weevils are genetic experiments, radioactive mutants, even aliens. But the Estate Agent of Doom has seen the far future of Earth and knows that humanity will one day, when all they have left is their insane rage, ultimately evolve into Weevils.

Realizing he has been caught out, Owen waits for the Estate Agent of Doom to use his incredible powers to destroy and lay waste all that exists around him. But instead the Estate Agent of Doom invites Owen to join the Cardiff Fight Club. Like the average Fight Club, this is a place for men who are trying to find meaning in life, in reducing themselves back to the basics of beating each other up. But unlike the other Fight Clubs, the Cardiff Branch is the only one to send the members into the cage to fight a savage alien life form. The Estate Agent of Death then throws the terrified Owen, kicking and screaming into the cage with a Weevil.

Luckily, Jack implanted his team’s brains with tracking devices and are able to track down Owen just as the Weevil attacks his biting his neck and chest. Jack shoots the Weevil in the foot as a token gesture, and is deeply disappointed when he discovers Owen is still alive. Annoyed, Jack orders the rest of the Fight Club to go home. But the Estate Agent of Doom – who, you will remember, is infinitely the most dangerous man in the world, he REALLY is – decides to give up his evil trade of world domination through weak-willed allies, covers himself in barbecue sauce and lets the Weevil eat him.

At the hospital, Owen tells Jack that he did not want to be saved. Satisfied that Owen has fully returned to being an asshole, Jack dislodges Owen’s catheter and tells the ugly git to be back at work tomorrow. Owen does return to the Hub, and in the most disturbing scene ever shown on British television, goes down to enter the cells to see the two captive Weevils. The episode ends on the hideous image of alien killing machines moaning with fear, backing up and cowering in the corner of their cell as Owen smiles evilly and drops his trousers...

Trivia Questions
1. Which Blake’s 7 episode does Estate Agent of Doom rip off when explaining his theories of the link betwixt man and weevil?
2. Which short story in Radio Times was Terry Nation ripping off when he wrote that particular episode of Blake’s 7?

Great Moments -
Owen’s neck and chest being ripped open by a Weevil. High pressure ketchup going everywhere. Awesome.

Fashion Crimes -
The barmaid at the beginning is wearing a top that shows precisely zero cleavage, despite her boyfriend accusing her of "flashing her tits". Damn.

Missing Adventures -
The Estate Agent of Doom later became a popular regular character in "Murphy’s Law" with James Nesbitt, as do some of the Weevils.

Technobabble -
Tosh tells Owen that "whatever comes out of your mouth is a meaningless waste of breath, an airborne toxic event of white noise".

Great Lines

Owen to the Weevils in the final scene -
"I hate to break it to you, but you’re not my first."

Rhys: Hey, hold on sunshine, who’s on the phone!
Gwen: Rhys, it’s is Jack. He’s my boss. NOW SIT THE FUCK DOWN!
Rhys: Yes, mistress.
Gwen: Stay here until I return. And if you touch yourself while I’m out – and I’ll know if you have – no oxygen for ten minutes!

Estate Agent: And yourself, what’s the point of your life?
Owen: Date rape and causing rats to explode. Why?

Gwen: I’m ashamed! And I’m angry! And because I want... I NEED you to forgive me. And because I’ve drugged you.
Rhys: ...and you don’t think there’s any contradiction there?
Gwen: No. Why?

Jack: You did this to him!
Estate Agent: He did it to himself. He had no consistent characterization. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Crap Lines -

Estate Agent: There’s something out there, you know. In the Darkness. And it’s waiting...
Owen: What?
Estate Agent: [laughing uncontrollably] Sub-prime apartment blokes, great deals. Want to see them?
Owen: Oh, yeah, really funny.
Estate Agent: I’m a fucking real-estate agent! How do I know about the afterlife?!
Director: [vo] Just say the lines!
Owen: We’ve been at this for three hours!
(The Estate Agent of Doom collapses in tears.)
Estate Agent: "There’s something in the darkness", this is THE FUNNIEST SHIT I HAVE EVER READ!

Jack: I have this selective deafness when I’m talking to cowards, murderers, Jehovah’s Witnesses or anyone who criticizes this show in the mainstream press.

Owen: I’ve had enough of your fuck-tricks, Gwen! OK, Janet, time for a trip out.
Gwen: ...you call your right hand "Janet"?
Owen: "Barbara" just never seemed right.
Gwen: You can be such a wanker at times, d’you know that Owen?
Owen: I do as a matter of fact!
Gwen: Fine!
Owen: Fine!
Gwen: Fine!
Owen: Fine!
Gwen: Fine!
Owen: Fine!
Gwen: Fine!
(NB: this goes on for a while.)

Ianto: The first rule of Touchwood is you do not talk about Touchwood. The second rule of Touchwood is you do NOT TALK about Touchwood. The third rule of Touchwood is no smoking.

Plot Oversights
- For a team so obsessed with Bluetooth earpieces, why does Jack have a wired landline?
- Who dresses the Weevils? And how do they get their clothes? It’s a puzzler, isn’t it?
- When Tosh and Jack are searching the warehouse, Tosh appears to be a cardboard cutout on wheels.
- Owen STILL doesn’t die in this episode

Viewers’ Quotes

"I was so hoping this story would get Owen fucked up bad or, preferably, killed off. Because Owen Harper really, really, really pisses me off. He’s like the guy you know who makes all the wisecracks but with all the wit and charisma sucked out of his soul, along with any sense of moral fibre and good looks. He’s essentially the most unlikable and ugliest 'good guy' on TV. And every week he’s fucking another hot chick! Argh! So, anyway, imagine my delight when it turns out that Owen gets mauled by an alien. w00t indeed, my friends. Thing is, we’re meant to feel SYMPATHY for him. Nah. He’s a prick. In fact, Owen poutingly complains to Jack about saving his life. Yeah, we feel the same way. I think it's down to Noel Clarke (understandably) assuming the show was meant to star likeable characters. Blissfully unaware that Owen’s character was modeled after an amalgamation of every unsavory crim to have ever appeared in The Sweeney over the course of the previous episodes..."
- Jared "No Nickname" Hansen (2006)

"Why talk about this episode of Touchwood when it’s far easier and cost effective to compare it to the superior, and completely identical, Fight Club?"
- Sensible and Efficient Sci Fi Reviews Quarterly (2007)

"Seriously, why the hell did they create a spinoff show about Captain Jack and then sideline him in every single fucking episode?!"
- Ewen Campion-Clarke (2006)

The Author Speaks
"Yeah, it’s true that this episode totally rips off Fight Club, but it did it a lot better before that Chin-Bollocks idiot got his claws into it. Originally, it turned out that Owen was the guy in charge of the fight club himself, using the Welsh Amnesia thing to create a completely different personality you didn’t want to choke to death. All the clues were there, man, the disguised voice on a mobile, the Weevils being scared of him, the way everyone at the Fight Club bought him a drink, gave him high-fives and congratulated him on killing monsters. With that bit cut out, the plot seems totally retarded. I’ve learned from this, though. No more working for total nutters. My next job is in Dustbin Umpire 4, with the bald guy who does the voices. He can’t be worse than Chin-Balls. Mind you, what DOES he do with that toothbrush?"

Trivia Answers
1. "Terminal Finale", Series C, 1980.
2. "ZOMFG! Mankind Turns Into Dustbins!" by Terry Nation (1973)

Rumors and Facts -
Now completely desperate for material, Chris Chin-Balls turned to Noel Clarke for a script. That’s right, Chin-Balls was so fucking desperate he turned to Mickey Smith for help, even though Clarke had left Doctor Who months earlier in Dustbin Versus Cyberman. Luckily, Clarke was actually a brilliant writer, having penned many a screenplay for film and television, and agreed to pen the script solely on the reason that since only HE was actually giving a dawn, his script would automatically be the only decent episode of Touchwood ever.

Tragedy struck during recording. First of all, legal reasons meant that Tosh couldn’t murder the entire cast in the first scene and use their bloody remains in a diabolic black magic ceremony to resurrect Destrii. Even when rewritten, similar reasons meant that Owen HAD to survive the episode. But most awesome of all was the fact the plot relied on Touchwood hunting down Suzie Costello, only to find her running a boxing club to work off nihilistic male aggression. With Indira Varma out of the country, Chin-Balls hastily changed the script to replace Suzie with a completely new long-term enemy of Touchwood:

Some Guy from a real estate agency!

This of course is the episode’s main fuck up, since it makes a fair bit of sense for someone who has died and gone to the afterlife to have seen "something coming from the darkness", but a real-estate baron who’s decided the peak of human achievement is beating the shit out of people for fun makes slightly less sense. Especially when he's just having a casual convo over a beer with a mate when he just happens to mention something coming in the darkness.

This bit of poor script-editing was so bad that when it eventually reached the ears of RTD as he luxuriated in the Bahamas, he immediately hired the Order of Turaka, an ancient guild of demonic assassins to seek, locate and destroy Chris Chin-Balls once and for all...

Ruminations -
More than any other Touchwood episode, Fight Club Cardiff demonstrates the series’ intention to be absolute crap. Even with almost all science fiction surgically removed and replaced with gritty, US boxing drama, and it STILL becomes completely un-enjoyable fare. It asks deep moral questions and delves into the underbelly of human life and comes to the conclusions that we’re all fuckwits and estate agents can pierce the veil of reality itself. Why do people do what they do? Because we’re all retards, that’s why!

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