Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Torchwood: Everything Changes

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... outside the government, beyond the police, fighting for the future on behalf of the human race. We just forgot to tell them that, what with all the sex and violence and memory wipes. You see, the twenty-first century is when it all changes, when history is made, and when everyone realizes they’re actually bisexual. And Touchwood... well, it’s nowhere near ready if we’re honest. In fact, we’re completely out of our depth. I’m lying to myself. We live in denial."

Episode 1: Flotsam & Jetsam

During a murder investigation in Cardiff, PC Gwen Cooper decides she’d much rather like stalking a mysterious group of four drug-addled lunatics calling themselves "Touchwood", led by a drunken shambling piratical figure called Captain Jack Sparrow. One of his entourage, a disturbingly intense Goth chick called Suzie, uses a metal gauntlet to temporarily bring the murder victim to life to attempt to learn who his killer was. Unfortunately, when no one is looking, Suzie smothers the victim with a pillow before they can answer. Jack notes Gwen’s presence when she starts screaming "OH MY FUCKING GOD I DON’T BELIEVE I JUST SAW THAT WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?!" before she wets herself, causing her to flee the scene.
The next day, she runs into Jack again at a hospital when she is sent there for dangerous concussion she sustained trying to stop a pub brawl over the merits of Ben Aaaaronovitch’s attempted Blake’s 7 revival. Despite all the advice of the medics that her head is in danger of splitting open if she moves, Gwen decides to run through the hospital after Jack and the innocent porters that try to stop her are soon eaten by a weird pig-headed creature, no doubt an externalized representation of Gwen’s inner stubbornness. Jack shows up and gives Gwen the opportunity to escape, but she decides instead to steal a police car and follow Jack and his gang as they beat the creature up, Rodney King style, throw him in the back of an SVU with a flashing neon sign saying TOUCHWOOD and drive to Roald Dahl Plass. Despite following them all the way, Gwen still manages to the lose them in plain sight. Gwen is later found by her comic relief sidekick Andy Serkiss that she is delusional and none of this really happened.
Gwen tackles this reasonably by refusing to go home and stalking a pizza delivery man. Forcing him at gunpoint to strip off, she steals his clothes, his scooter and pizza and heads for the nearest tourist information centre to bribe the clerk to let her in on the undoubted conspiracy that exists. Amazingly enough, the clerk reveals that she is completely right and presses a button to reveal a secret passageway and lets her through. Following it, Gwen eventually finds herself at the Hub of Touchwood, where the rest of the Touchwood team initially tries to ignore her entrance but break out into fits of laughter, at how pathetic and deranged she is.
Jack decides to explain all his secret organization and everything they do to Gwen, that they control the flotsam and jetsam of the time-space vortex that falls to Earth due to the presence of the rift that exists right where the Hub is located. As Gwen wonders why Jack is telling her all of this, he explains that for some reason every Welshman has an auto-delete memory, and she will have forgotten all of this in the morning. This is explains why no one is discussing the global invasion of Cybermen and the millions slaughtered at the Millennium Centre right outside when an army of bling-lined dustbins materialized.
Gwen races home to try to type out a message to herself, but forgets why she’s there and falls asleep in her underwear, spilling coffee all over her laptop and erasing the message. This saves Ianto the trouble of hacking into her computer and doing this.
The next day at work, Gwen is idly downloading porn begins to trigger a series of memories. These solidify when she spots a detailed diagram of one of Jack’s sexual positions with the word "DISGUSTING" in her own handwriting at home, and she returns to the Plass. There, Suzie is
waiting for her, and explains that she is the one murdering people. Although she told the rest of Touchwood that is was to test the metal gauntlet and to try to learn how to make the resurrection permanent, Suzie has decided she hates Wales and everyone in it and has declared a Jihad against every living thing in Cardiff.
Gwen has no idea what the fuck Suzie is talking about and so they start to have a cat fight in the rain involving them losing most of their clothes and swearing dirtily. Jack arrives to perv on them and Suzie turns and shoots him in the head. However, Jack manages to survive, his wounds healing themselves, and tries to coax Suzie to call him "Sugar Daddy". Suzie, realizing that she’s lost, has one last brilliant escape strategy that curiously resembles putting the gun under her chin and killing herself. Gwen falls to her knees, remembering everything. Standing on the roof of the Millennium Centre, Jack tells Gwen that her unusual ability to retain short term memory sets her out from the rest of the Welsh, yet simultaneously she can speak their strange grunting language. He thus offers her a job. She refuses, so he threatens to give her "an instant lead transfusion" and this time Gwen agrees.

Trivia Questions
1. What music is playing at the pub when Gwen sprains her ankle? 2. Is this in any way worth knowing?

Great Moments - The bit where Jack gets up after a gunshot wound in the head might count if this wasn’t the SECOND time we’d seen him die horribly and instantly recover. Plus, it kind of gets old in this show.

Fashion Crimes
Jack’s 3D glasses. More specifically the fact he wears nothing else when using an arc welding torch with metal sparks going everywhere.

Missing Adventures
Given that we last saw Captain Jack marooned in 1869 Cardiff in Attack of the Grinch and he has somehow lived to the present day, some 138 years later, lost the ability to die and is now working with Touchwood, there might, just MIGHT, be some story behind that.

Technobabble - "If I were to guess, I would say that there was once a dimensionally transcendental chameleon circuit placed right on this spot, which welded it’s perception properties to a spatial-temporal rift. But, that sounds kind of ridiculous. Since it was actually parked about five metres that way when we were filming ‘Funky Town’. Good times."

Great Lines - Jack: That is so Welsh! Gwen: What is? Jack: I show you something fantastic, you find fault. Gwen: I just don’t think it’s very hygienic to do that to pizza!
Suzie: You do this job for long enough and you end up thinking how come we get all the Weevils and bollocks and shit. Is that what alien life is – filth? But maybe there’s better stuff out there, brilliant stuff, beautiful stuff... just they don’t come to Wales. Cardiff is so dirty that’s all we get, the shit. Why couldn’t we be in Roswell? That gets all the class act stuff!
Gwen: What was that?!
Tosh: An orgasm.
Gwen: I did some research. And, there’s only one Captain Jack Sparrow on record, and he is played by Johnny Depp in The Pirates of the Carribean film franchise for Disney. Jack: Well, that couldn’t be me. (long pause) Jack: Could it?
Gwen: No.
Jack: Just checking.

Crap Lines – Jack: Touchwood’s got a vacancy, job going spare. Do you want it? Gwen: No. Jack: You sure?
Gwen: What do you need me for, anyway? Jack: Because maybe you were right. We could do more to help. Like actually stop killing people. What do ya think, wanna join up? Gwen: No.
Jack: Oh well, I’ll just have to kill you. We can start being ethical tomorrow. Maybe.
Suzie’s last words before she shoots herself through the head:
"Trust me, I know EXACTLY what I’m doing!"
Owen: There’s contraceptives in the rain, and still these Welsh keep breeding. They truly are a superior race.
Gwen: I’m getting tired of bonking you.
Jack: No, you’re not – and you never will. Gwen: Whatever, asshole.

Plot Oversights
- Did Jack really become pregnant once? Am I the father?
- There are posters for the Brighton Doctor Who Exhibition at the police station
- Why does Gwen lie to Rhys about being at a pizzeria? Surely this is standard in her line of work?
- Andy seems to physically repel water as he does not get wet after falling into the bay and nearly drowning
- If Jack lives at Touchwood, how have they become "good customers" at the local brothel without him even realizing prostitutes are being ordered under the company name?
- Why does anyone believe that Gwen is a fully-trained police woman when her warrant card is actually a BBC Wales swipe card?
- According to the clocks, Gwen seems to spend four years staring at a Weevil in gap-toothed wonder
- Why the hell is Jack urinating off the top of that large building in broad daylight? Why is Gwen there watching him from the top of Plas Roald Dahl? Is there really nothing better to do in Wales?
- When Gwen runs away from Jack, she passes seventeen Starbucks Cafes, the Dustbin Emperor in its throne room, then another four Starbucks Cafes. Why would Starbucks lose prime real estate to a BBC prop?!
- Isn’t it a bit dangerous to have all that water freely flowing through a room with so much electrical equipment? Is Jack deliberately making the Hub a death trap for a laugh since he’s immortal?

Viewers’ Quotes

"It’s thanks to whiny moronic OG posters like me that we have Touchwood! Sorry to boast, but it does SEEM like RTD has listened to everything I’ve been saying on here about the need for a more hard-hitting and off peak series. By constantly slagging him off and threatening to kill him I feel that I and others who were critical of juvenile stories like Alias of London have achieved something. I TOLD you lot that if we kept up the pressure we'd get a more serious show. This is BRILLIANT news – GREAT news! At least all the people who’ve criticized my bitching on here will now have to bow and scrape for forgiveness since RTD's decision to make a more serious, post-watershed show VAGUELY SUGGESTS that I was right! If RTD were here I'd kiss him!!!!!!!! And I’d LOVE to write an episode for Touchwood. I’d REALLY LOVE to be given that opportunity *hint* especially since Jack will be the lead character. Maybe Ben Chatham could be used as his sidekick – I’d have no objections! I'm always here as an ideas man should RTD want me. This will be superb – a cross between Dr Who, the X Files and Terry Nation's 'Survivors'. Its just perfect!!"
- Sparacus "Flamingo" Jones (2005)

"Anyway I notice that some of my fiercest critics are strangely silent now that I have been proven correct in my view that a more serious post-watershed show should be made. Where is YOA??? WHERE? Normally he’d be on here posting a 4000 word essay on why I am wrong. Since I suspect some posters cannot find the right words, I’ll post the apology for them: 'sparacus, we humbly apologize for doubting your integrity and arguing that a more serious, post watershed series could not be made. We were wrong. RTD clearly has come round to your way of thinking and we must also accept the correctness of your arguments. Thank you sparacus & RTD for Touchwood'. Thanks - I accept your above apology."
- Sparacus "Flamingo" Jones (2005 – two minutes later)

"Touchwood? Shithouse. Now, CSI Cardiff, I’d like to see that. They’d be measuring the velocity of a kebab." - Nev Fountain (2007)

"Has anyone tried to rate the episodes using my patented John Barrowman Sit-On-My-Face-O-Meter? No? Just me then."
- Si Hart (2006)

"The first episode is an economical waste of my time introduction of a bunch of losers who could only be more endearing if they died screaming in a biological warfare test."
- The Stage Entertainment Industry Newspaper (2006)

"It’s slick, scary, funny and expensive looking, but it’s also very much an affront to God-fearing TV viewers everywhere. The Welsh should undergo ethnic cleansing to prevent this fiasco ever happening again."
- Mark Braxton-Hicks, Radio Times (2006)

"They’ve done their best to sex the place up with lots of helicopter shots of that posh bit where Charlotte Church lives, but it still looks like Cardiff, to be honest. Do they REALLY think Eve Myles as new
Touchwood recruit PC Gwen Cooper can fill Billie Piper’s boots? Are they OUT of their FREAKING MINDS? Have they GONE MAD? Have their BRAINS been REMOVED from THEIR HEADS by STRANGE PEOPLE? OH, ROSIE, COME BACK!"
- The Guardian (2006)

"Arguably better than Dr Who. Arguably nonsensical and full of holes and unexciting as the genre always is. Arguably about date rape. Arguably arguable. Argue-argue-argue. Goo-goo-ca-choo." - The Sunday Times Culture Mag (2006)

The Author Speaks
"People say to me that this script is a cut and paste rewrite of Ruse, the first episode of the revived Doctor Who. Utter bollocks. Ruse is the rewrite of this! You pathetic people just can’t accept that because it apparently doesn’t make sense. Like. I. Care."

Trivia Answers
1. "We are Cybermen" by Cyberleader Zheng and the Telos Trio (as used as the theme music for the Eighth Doctor story Hostile Takeover) 2. No. Rumors and Facts
With the revival of Doctor Who proving enormously successful, it was decided that the series would make an ideal launching pad for a spin-off series. And not just one! The BBC were confident that by 2010 their entire output would be nothing more than Doctor Who and its relevant spin-offs, though whether this was some attempt to transform the British populace into Who zombies or make everyone so sick of the franchise as to get rid of it altogether, no one knows.

Nevertheless, thanks to a sordid night between Greg Dyke and Lorraine Heggesy, the BBC’s internal strategy was to make BBC Wales do all the production of drama and stuff from their single Newport studio that was timeshared between a Tai Kwon Do centre and a drum clinic. This forced pretty much every bit of filming to have to occur outside the studio and in the depressing reality that it was all happening in and around Cardiff and all the cast artists were from this self-same region.

It was no coincidence that executive producer and head writer Russell T Davies was himself a Welshman, although he now made his home in Manchester and was facing charges of killing three small children who made limp-wristed gestures and called him "boyo". Nonetheless, Davies was conscious that Doctor Who should not appear TOO Welsh, with aliens abruptly targeting Cardiff as a regular site for their schemes and invasions; but it just got too pathetic trying to pretend that every episode WASN’T set there, even the ones in orbiting space platforms. Indeed, Big Finish had been ordered to set all their Eighth Doctor adventures in Wales, with the Time Lord seemingly being cursed to spend there forever in the seminal tale "Cardiff".

For some time, Davies had been contemplating a drama which could represent something of an adult counterpoint to the family-friendly perspective of Doctor Who: a moodier, more visceral take on the concept of alien activity on modern-day Earth. A gut-wrenching supernatural thriller known only as... Excalibur.

When he was approached about developing a Doctor Who spin-off, Davies seized upon this idea. Not only would it give his office the chance to tackle more mature material, but he also saw this as an opportunity to feature Wales more prominently on television.

The next day, he realized that it would be a lot of hard work and decided to simply do Touchwood instead.

At this stage, Davies had already begun seeding references to an organization called the Touchwood Institute in some of the stories for Doctor Who’s 2006 season, rightly knowing the general public would note realize that Big Finish had been using the entire concept regularly in their audio plays since 2000.

On October 17th, 2005, it was announced that Touchwood would debut the following year on BBC3, the Corporation’s flagship digital channel. As with Doctor Who, it was decided that RTD would serve as an executive producer on Touchwood alongside Julie Gardner, Head of Drama for BBC Wales. RTD however insisted he was no one’s bitch and refused to do a damn thing about the series and took a holiday in the Algarve for the rest of the year. In the meantime, one of RTD’s hired goons Chris Chin-Balls would put on a Hawiian shirt, a fake beard and some novelty spectacles left over from Elton John that spelt out the word "BOOM!" and pretend to be RTD for the rest of 2006.

This would be detectable if you watched any of the output in that miserable year of wasted promise and really shit writing.

Rather than come up with everything new, Chin-Balls decided the best thing to do was simply stick slavishly to the continuity laid down by himself already while pretending to be someone with genuine writing talent. Thus, the series would pick up where Dustbin Versus Cyberman! left off, with the Welsh branch of the Touchwood Institute in ruins run by the five least-qualified staff members with libidos more powerful than certain nuclear weaponry and emotional IQs lower than the expected ratings for the new show.

Touchwood also gave Chin-Balls the mechanism by which to bring the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, played by John Barrowman in an unerring Johnny Debb impersonation, back to television after appearing in almost every episode since he first inflicted his presence on Doctor Who beginning with Shell Shock. After Barrowman was seen singing "Springtime for Hitler" a cappella with the Dustbins in The Parting of the Legs it was quietly decided to fire his ass for scaring children.

Unfortunately, Barrowman had nowhere else to go and since Doctor Who was forced to be filmed in Cardiff, he would regularly gatecrash scenes on location, in studio or even in rehearsals. He eventually handcuffed himself to David Tennant, forcing a complete rewrite of The Santa Tip to explain what the hell Captain Jack was doing back in the show.

But this was a blessing at the rewritten tale of kindly old elfs turning out to be the spawn of Satan meant that the rest of the main cast of characters were already and waiting for Chin-Balls to use for every sordid whim that took him.

First off was a girl-next-door character to provide the audience’s point of view, was Gwen Cooper who Chin-Balls decided to make mentally retarded and act like a 15 year old girl before going completely homicidal. This apparently reminded him of his mother. Cast in this role was Eve Myles, who had dragged up to play the ill-fated Headhunter Danny in The Presuming Ed. What’s more, she was Welsh.

Toshiko Sato was eerily similar to character of Toshiko Sato who had been one of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s more notable sexual conquests in Alias of London, and both had been played by Naoko Mori when she wasn’t being absolutely fabulous. Since Sato was established as a medical doctor with a rampant sex life, Chin-Balls decided she’d work much better as a repressed, introverted computer geek. This also apparently reminded him of his mother.

Dr. Owen Harper was best known for being an incredibly ugly, unfunny, sarcastic asshole with no wit or humanity in his diseased soul. Chin-Balls decided that this character was fine on the grounds he reminded him of himself every time he looked in mirror. Burn Gorman, chosen to play Owen, was best known for his truly huge mouth which indicates he is of Canadian descent. Well, a South Park style Canadian at any rate.

Ianto Jones would be portrayed by another Welshman, Gareth David-Lloyd, who had been seen in programs including Casualty and The Bill, often doing vitally important tasks like ordering pizzas. Chin-Balls did not change this character in any way whatsoever and indeed, for two years replied "Who the fuck is Ianto?" when asked.

Finally, the recurring role of Gwen’s boyfriend, Rhys Williams, went to Kai Owen, because he was a noted porn star and Welsh. Indeed, he could be the only Welsh porn star in existence. Bar, perhaps, Charlotte Church, admittedly.

Chin-Balls also decided that they weren’t ruining the lives of the audience QUITE enough, and so wrong-footed them in appearing to cast a sixth Touchwood regular, Indira Varma, as Suzie Costello who would be actively promoted as another prominent member of the Touchwood team, and them killed off right away. This would be a ridiculous waste of money and publicity, but it might confuse any people still watching the first episode and this was good enough for Old Chrissy Boy.

Production on Touchwood was originally scheduled to begin in January 2006, but everyone was too drunk and only got their acts together by May. James Hawes, who had directed several Doctor Who episodes was booked to produce the series but after actually reading the first script (which was simply the lyrics to The Seeker’s "Turn, Turn, Turn" 550 times) abandoned the show and swore to kill in cold blood anyone who tried to bring him back.

Replacing him was Richard Stokes, who had previously been an executive crawler on series which didn’t include Doctor Who but he’d often lie and say he’d been offered the chance of producing it in 2004 but turned it down because he wanted to give others a chance at worldwide fame, adoration and lots and lots of cash. He’s such a generous guy.

It was planned that Touchwood would share many of the same crew and facilities as Doctor Who, including the brand-new Upper Boat studio space in southern Wales. This was unsurprising, since pretty much every show made in Wales shared the same crew and facilities as Doctor Who – this is why the National Lottery takes place in the TARDIS Control Room, why Fiona Bruce often shares news-reading duties with Nicholas Briggs and why Strictly Come Dancing was turned into a bloodbath on live TV when all the competitors were slaughtered in the all-out war between Cybermen and Dustbins.

Work on the script of Flotsam & Jetsam began on May 1st, 2006, some six weeks after they’d finished filming. Realizing his mistake, Chin-Balls forgot all about this script editing lark and developed a morphine habit to, in his words, "block out the pain".

There was no consideration was given to broadcasting Flotsam & Jetsam simultaneously on both BBC1 and BBC3, which is why it was only shown on BBC3. Amazingly enough, the new series lived up to the success of its parent show, securing an audience of 2.5 million viewers – which was less than a third of the average Doctor Who episode, but the largest ever for non-sport programming on digital cable in the UK!

The phenomenal popularity of Doctor Who appeared to have embraced Touchwood as well... but it hadn’t. It really hadn’t. Before the week was out, all the living Doctors had disowned it, RTD insisted this was nothing to do with him, and Chris Chin-Balls was found face down in his own body waste screaming it was better than anything Pip and Jane Baker had ever done. Whether he was talking about Touchwood or his own feces is not clear, but the asshole could have meant either.

Doctor Who spin-offs have never really worked. Apart from the ones that did like "The Son of a Bitch" with William Hartnell as the Doctor’s evil progeny; "Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill Strike Back!", the 1960s answer to Jay and Silent Bob; "The Men from WANK" about UNIT’s misadventures; "Sammo and Jackie" featuring the two more memorable characters from The Talents of Wong-Jin; "Minyas Business" about the mythic adventures of underpants-loving freaks; "K9’s Bitches" with the return of Sarah Jane Smith; "One Foot in the Gravis", the Australian soap about Tractators; "How Much For Just The Planet?", the sickening sitcom with Glitz and Mel; and of course "Dustbin Umpire" by Terry Nation and Lucille Ball.

Apart from those, they were all crap with a giant Doctor-Who-shaped hole in the middle where the best bit of it was missing. Touchwood promised to be sufficiently unlike Doctor Who, and more like Buffy, to avoid this pitfall, ignoring the fact that if I want to watch Buffy then I will rent the fucking DVDs.

How would Touchwood rise up and assert its own identity, while still being of interest to the stoic Who fan? The answer of course is, it didn’t even bother. Nor did it try to be entertaining, unpompous and simplistic enough in its own right to maintain the interest and, crucially, make you want to see more. That’s all it had to do really, and it couldn’t even manage THAT.

It’s going to sound like bullshit to say that this opening episode of Touchwood was won by its characters, because it wasn’t. In fact, the unlikable, selfish and hideously unattractive characters were only memorable in the sheer loathing they inspired in an audience that wouldn’t remember any of their names even if they could.

This episode is now officially considered a war crime against humanity by the Geneva Convention, the United Nations, Greenpeace and the Outpost Gallifrey opinion forum.

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