Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Torchwood: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

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.

"TOUCHWOOD... Not Excalibur. Or Bikini Girls. Or anything interesting like that. They live inside a water sculpture. Could they BE any more pretentious? The Initiative with better sex lives, basically. If ever you think Sunnydale’s the dullest possible site of mystical energy and demonic activity, be glad you’re in Cardiff. Mind you, the attention spans are about the same. Except Americans at least have SOME endearing qualities, whereas the Welsh... they don’t have a culture, they just have an attitude problem."

Episode 1: Separation Anxiety

Following the destruction of Cardiff in the Dustbin/Cyberman war of 2007, the once-mighty Touchwood Institute has been all but erased. The only survivors are a four-strong team of average Welshmen recruited to a reformed and rebuilt Touchwood to protect Cardiff from any further crap that happens to the city beyond economic recession, sheep-fondling and mine closures.
After the climactic events of yet another Doctor Who season finale, Captain Jack Sparrow-nee-Harkness decides to walk into the Touchwood team and hope his incredible personal magnetism and 51st century programmable pheromones will convince them to let him leader. This is ridiculously optimistic as he was actually the one who created the team in the first place before the gang turned on him and kicked him out for being unprofessional and irredeemably smug.
At the moment, Team Touchwood are dealing with the usual Friday night – an alien looking uncannily like the clown fish from Finding Nemo has arrived on Earth, taken a large amount of smack, stolen a Porsche and now got into a hostage situation. As the leader, Gwen Cooper (an ex-police woman after a crack on the head regressed her personality to a permanently-hormonal 13 year old girl) tries to talk the Fishman down, Jack shoots the defenseless alien through the head. Amazingly enough, this doesn’t endear him to the rest of the team, who, when told that he belongs at Touchwood, laugh bitterly and walk off.
On top of the Cardiff multi-storey car park, a bleach-blonde man in a long leather coat surfs through a rift in time and space on the pan-dimensional Surfboard of Rassilon. After saving a passer-by from a junkie, knife-wielding Weevil, the gaunt figure strides into a nightclub and causes a disturbance involving two handguns, some appalling poetry, and some period rock music. Upon hearing of this interesting happening, Jack immediately abandons Touchwood, steals their SUV and goes to check it out.
This undead anarchist is none other than Spike from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", who considers calling himself Captain John Hammond to keep the lawyers distracted but frankly doesn’t give enough of a damn. Having Shanshu’ed and become human sometime around 5091, Spike joined the debauched and violently erotic Time Agency of the 51st Century (itself the ultimate evolution of Touchwood). He and Jack were partners and – during a particularly boring case involving a time loop – lovers.
After alternating between having sex and trying to kill each other, Spike and Jack calm down and discuss for want of a better term we shall call the rationale of the plot. Spike has traveled through time and space to complete a scavenger hunt that started on the world Arcadia sometime during the Temporal Difference of Opinion. When Touchwood turn up, Jack and Spike immediately assume control and split into three groups to search for the remaining pieces.
Jack and wisecracking dogsbody Ianto Jones search an office block (during which Jack unsuccessfully asks Ianto to photocopy his genitals); blacklisted doctor Owen "Rapey" Harper and his Thai Bride and technical expert Toshiko Sato search the abandoned warehouse district, while Gwen and Spike search the nearby docks which unnervingly resemble the last shot from "Raiders of the Lost Ark".
It is clear that Spike is sick and tired of wannabe Scoobie gangs and amoral faceless corporations that people join to try and "change from the inside" and soon snaps. He locks Gwen in a crate, shoots Owen in the hip (he was aiming for Owen’s goolies), beats Tosh unconscious with a cricket bat, and throws Ianto down some stairs. Finally, he confronts Jack, who realises that his constant standing on tall buildings in long dark coats, not to mention his immortality, is annoying and reminds Spike of several other bastards he used to hang out with. Spike shoves Jack off the roof of the office block and easily breaks into Touchwood where he finds the last bit of the scavenger hunt – a pyramid-shaped object that luckily happened to be down the front of the clown fish’s Armani trousers.
The team, including Jack, hold Spike at gunpoint, but he doesn’t really consider any of this worth his time and couldn’t care if they lived or died or even if they chose Jack to lead them. Instead, he opens the pyramid and discovers that the person who set up the scavenger hunt – Evil Dark Willow with those scary veins – left a trap so the winner would get a bomb attached to their DNA. Swearing mightily at how unfair this all is, Spike decides to see if Touchwood are halfway as competent as certain Sunnydale alumni and handcuffs himself to Gwen, swallows the key and waits for them to find a way to save his life and stopping the bomb going off.
Unfortunately, Gwen is feeling particularly suicidal today and considers her life a worthy sacrifice to protect the idiots of all ages who live in Cardiff. However, Owen actually has a cunning plan involving jamming Spike with unclean needles until he gets enough blood diseases to corrupt his DNA and confusing the bomb which shuts down.
Deeply unimpressed, Spike uses his wristband time-vortext-manipulator to escape Cardiff of 2008 and, in an act of pure spite, leaves Jack behind with the others. It’s unclear exactly who this hurts more, as Jack immediately starts petitioning Touchwood to let him join...

Trivia Questions
1. What song can be heard while Jack and Spike make out?
2. What flavor is the paralyzing lip gloss Spike uses on Gwen?

Great Moments - Every scene that makes it clear Season 1 was just a nightmare, a drug-induced and electronic dream on BBC3. Ah... bliss...

Fashion Crimes
It’s painfully obvious that Jack doesn’t wash his greatcoat and after the Year That Was Reset, it really is starting to pong. Gwen’s New York Dolls T-shirt is only slightly less irritating.

Missing Adventures
Jack tries to convince Gwen he is worthy of joining Touchwood by listing the numerous times he saw the end of the world and often did sweet FA to save it, like The Parting of the Legs, Dustbin –vs- Cyberman!, Dystopia and also mentions an unseen "dirty weekend" with a professional Face of Bond impersonator in the 49th Century.

Technobabble - Spike discovers bondage gear in Touchwood is "deadlocked sealed".

Great Lines - Gwen: You are unbelievable!
Jack: And yet you find me strangely attractive...
Gwen: No. I don’t. No one does. It’s those teeth.
Jack: Like you can talk!
Gwen: Ianto? Kill him.
Jack: You only ever kill me because you know I won’t die!
Gwen: Hope springs eternal.

Man: I’m not bluffing!
Spike: Ah, well, you see, you’ve given yourself away. Only someone who’s bluffing ever says they’re not. Now I’m going to kill you, and I’m not bluffing.
Man: But you said...
(Spike kills him.)
Spike: There is always an exception to the rule.

Gwen: Excuse me. Have you seen a clown fish driving a sports car?
Old Lady: What... like, 'ever'?

Spike: This is the entrance for tourists?
Jack: I remember the last time you said that.
Spike: Was it my fault you missed the sign saying "STAFF ONLY"?

Crap Lines – Jack: Hey kids. D’ja miss me?
Gwen: ...who the fuck are you?

Willow: Pitiful. For all your grandstanding, you fold on the first strike. I can respect attempted decapitation, but you believe that a scavenger hunt can be a higher priority than I. You intercourse with lesser ones. This is your fate. I can find a better pet, one that doesn’t obviously try to steal glances at me while I soak!
Spike: What? I was merely making sure you... were free of hell-lice is what it was... hang on, we’re missing the point here, aren’t we?

Jack: Was a time you couldn’t get enough of ME on YOUR territory!
Spike: Oh? Did I mention I’m able to move on?

Jack: Down on one knee?
Gwen: He tried to, and then he had a twinge in his back and had to lie down on the settee, that's when he popped the question
Jack: And you said yes?
Gwen: Well, no-one else will have me.

Jack: That’s gorgeous!
Spike: It’s a poodle.
Jack: It’s NICE! I wonder if I can bribe the owner to give me a night in its kennel?

Gwen: Because it’s typical Jack, isn’t he. We tell him to piss off, he comes back, then he runs away again. He shuts us out – we don’t even know his real name! He’s wants to be our boss and we know nothing about him. Drives me crazy!
Ianto: It’s more camp when he’s around though.
Owen: Yeah, yeah.
Tosh: Definitely.
Gwen: Yeah, it is.

Spike: So, uh, how was rehab?
Jack: Rehab’s... cool.
Spike: Drink, drugs, sex and...
Jack: Being an asshole.
Spike: Haha! You went to personality rehab?
Jack: I know, it’s ridiculous! The odd quip after casually killing innocent bystanders... who does it hurt?

Plot Oversights
- Owen’s sucking chest wound seems to come and go, sometimes appearing even before he get shot.
- Why don’t the bouncers at the club even try to disarm Spike? Are they secretly in the employ of Wolfram and Hart? Or are they just really new at their jobs?
- So Spike throws Jack over the west side of the building, but finds the body on the EAST side of the building, splayed out neatly without any hint of blood and gore and the millennia-old vampire ISN’T even REMOTELY suspicious about this?
- If all Time Agents have Vortex Manipulators, why the hell doesn’t Jack have one? [The tie-in novel "Doctor Who & Only Askin'" reveals Jack lost his manipulator in a game of strip poker bargaining for his life with a Selachian death squad... but the books aren’t canon! HAH!]
- Gwen’s ringtone is the Touchwood theme tune at the start of the episode but the Angel theme tune at the end. Is this a metatextual reference at the acknowledgement they’re stealing everything from the Buffyverse NOT nailed down to the official website?
- Where did the clown fish come from, and why does he know such intimate details about the Torchwood team? Have they been on facebook again like the losers in Season 1?
- If Spike is wearing paralyzing lip gloss... how come he doesn’t paralyze himself? And why does it just make Gwen do the funky chicken, fall over and boggle for ten minutes rather than say, affect her breathing about three seconds after the snog? And if Jack really wanted to make a good impression, why didn’t he warn the others about Spike and his moist lips of doom beforehand?
- Why did Willow want to kill Spike? Why does he call her "Illyria"? Don’t tell me they got their 'cute science geeks possessed by pure evil from the dawn of time' MIXED UP?!
- New lows for green-screen work in ANY Doctor Who related show EVER occur in the sequence where Jack and Spike break into Touchwood. Even the Pertwee era hands this scene its ass.
- Why is Jack, a 51st Century grifter, so bothered by Gwen’s engagement? Why does Gwen seem so defensive about it? What are her feelings for Jack? Is she really a concussed thirteen year old or is some creepy sex game with Rhys that’s gone utterly out of hand?

Viewers’ Quotes

"This is absolutely awful and an insult to Doctor Who. Complete and utter rubbish and offensive to boot. Gratingly urban, violent, amoral and with characters that are completely unsmoothe or cultured. The characters behave like teenagers – pretending to NOT be obsessed with sex and violence, as if life is somehow worth MORE! The plot was to say the least rather thin. The new 'Captain' with his cowboy holsters was ridiculous and the best thing that can be said about the episode is that its over. Presumably the production team think that this kind of vacuous 'gritty' depthless and entertaining drama with fast urban music is the way to pull in the 18 - 25 year olds. As a gay man I found the gay sex irritating as it seemed to be enjoyed rather than a shameful and humiliatingly freakish act that will make you go to Hell forever and ever. And just to reinforce this they had a drink afterwards to associate gay sex with having a good time!"
- Sparacus "Flamingo" Jones (2007)

"What the fuck was that? A human/clown fish hybrid? If I were running 'Touchwood' I would have a No Seafood policy! And no 'Buffy' crossovers, for that matter, even! And what about the Scooby Gang? Give me a break! Did you SEE those pansies? They can’t do a damn thing without Jack! But when he returns, they don’t want to put up with his bullshit! Make up your freaking minds fer Chrissake! And DON’T get me bloody started on all of that shagging! What kind of reboot IS this?! SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!"
- Adolf Hitler (1940)

"Far too pleased with itself and surprisingly amateurish... was how I described the first season. This is very, very cool and largely a hoot. How can anyone not get turned on by a series that begins with a clown fish driving a sports car and ends with a three-way?"
- Jo Ford Prefect (2008)

"This shows a fast-paced plot in contrast to the puerile humor of yesteryear, the meandering between soft porn and Scooby-Doo. As dramatic cocktails go, Touchwood 2’s mix of gadgets, sci-fi gobbledegook and loose libidos is out of this world. I won’t be watching the rest of the series as I fear it won’t keep up this quality and revert back to Carry On Up The Asteroid."
- The Metro (2007)

"Did Spike remind you of anyone? Like, say, THE DOCTOR? The Cockney accent, the frippery, the casual attitude to murder, it all reminded me quite a lot of Doctor Number Ten. Except he never said 'Jings!'. Or maybe he’s the BASTARD?!"
- Fan who has never watched an episode of Buffy (2008)

"Good, salacious, knockabout fun. If it had been as po-faced and self destructive as the last season, I would have murdered my mother in law and shoved the body under a steam roller – and I’d STILL have had the moral high ground over the characters. It turns out the first series never happened? FIVE STARS!"
- The Times (2007)

"Heh. Cool."
- Ewen Campion-Clarke (2007)

The Author Speaks
"Chris Chin-Balls is gone! You and I should get together, have a coffee sometime – we’re both fellow sufferers. All girls together... now the bastard is DEAD! BWAHAHAHA! Oh, lighten up, for Christ’s sake. Can’t even misquote a bit of Jekyll nowadays. I’m tempted to give up on Touchwood altogether. I mean, if ONE side of the bread is mouldy, it doesn’t matter how much jam you put on the other, as Rusty would say. I wonder if Law and Order: Cardiff need a creative genius on their side?"

Trivia Answers
1. Song 2, from Blur’s fifth album. Or "Rock & Roll Pt 2" in the CBBC afternoon repeat for small children and dubious adolescents.
2. Cinnamon-flavored. Rumors and Facts
RTD was displeased with Touchwood, and slagging off the entire concept of the show throughout his third season of Doctor Who while making the series uncanonical was not enough. At his order, Chris Chin-Balls was hunted down and placed into the Chameleon Arch, which was a working prop that rewrote the biology of Chin-Balls, changing every single cell and transforming him into a vaguely decent writer in control of his own hormones. Thus, Chris Chin-Balls was transformed into Chris Chibnall, a gaunt figure in a long black leather coat and sunglasses looking uncannily like Morpehus from The Matrix Trilogy if he was a pale, overweight white guy living in Cardiff.

Chibnall would be RTD’s instrument at the Hub and he immediately set to work on turning the five lines of stage directions that the Welshman had bothered to write into a full season. It would be confirmed that the previous thirteen episodes never happened and would be contradicted at every point – much to the disappointment of Burn Gorman who noted that removing the sex offender aspect of his character would be worse than simply killing him off. Chibnall took this on board and decided to do both before the season was out.

The philosophy of the day was simple: instead of stealing randomly from the Whedonverse and hoping for the best, Touchwood would actually use the stuff that worked and screw any pretense of originality. At first, the episode (entitled Kiss Kiss Bang Bang STD Treatment) featured Jack encountering Captain John Hart, a rogue Time Agent who just happened to be exactly the same as Spike the Vampire With a Soul Savior Squared from the Buffy franchise. Chibnall decided it was time to go further and turn Hart into Spike, and get James Marsters to play it to be absolutely clear they knew what they were doing.

For the initial scene between Jack and Spike, John Barrowman was inspired by the naked wrestling scene from "Women in Love" and 80% of the acting in the scene was done by Marsters and Barrowman themselves, which is quite impressive as no one actually told Marsters about the brutal sex scenes until they happened. This truly shows what an intuitive and improvisational star Marsters is. He would, quite simply, quick ass on Thank God You’re Here.

The episode was watched by 4.22 million viewers and its Appreciation Index figure was 84. Ironically, this was the biggest and best rating Touchwood had ever received, and you need only check out the disgust on Outpost Gallifrey, the Doctor Who Forum and certain toilet walls to see why. Chibnall had saved Touchwood from everything except its own fans!

What an awful start to the new series! A valiant but mistimed attempt is made to reintroduce us to the show and while Chibnall succeeds where Russell T Davies never even bothered to try, the segment suffers. After the appalling first series, the only people willing to tune in were those so divorced from reality they enjoyed such trash, or those that got a vicarious thrill from getting such trash to hate passionately. With a solid storyline, largely likable characters and a great cast, this was un-Touchwood as you could get! The true fans hated it and the haters hated the fact they now had nothing to hate!

It just goes to show that there is no pleasing some people...

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