Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Torchwood: Ghost Machine

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... behind the conspiracies, just adjacent to the Cardiff Millennium Centre, fighting for the future of the human race. Or rather, fighting the future of the human race. We’re rather more likely to end all life on Earth than save it, but hell, what can you do? Especially when it all changes in the twentieth century. Twenty-first. God, don’t tell me we fucking missed it? FUCK!! FUCKING FUCK!!!"

Episode 3: Plot Device

Jack and Owen pursue Gwen as she chases her latest victim through the Cardiff streets, while Toshiko sits at base doing sweet FA and flipping through CCTV networks for any cases of public nudity. Crazy Stalker Gwen separates from the group, chasing down the suspect into a train station, and is able to grab the man’s jacket but he gets out of it and runs away. Furious, she prepares to set fire to the jacket when she finds a funky alien remote in the jacket pocket, and when she activates it, she finds herself seeing a brief vision of the past, that of a small kid in a gasmask wandering around demanding to know where his mummy is as he chases a big-eared guy in a leather jacket.

Jack immediately realizes that this remote is some kind of time machine, and after calling the rest of his team 'a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes', tries to use it... but it does absolutely sod all! Furious at this treachery, Jack orders Touchwood direct all its efforts into hunting down the guy Gwen was stalking - one Sean "Bernie" Fishnotes, a petty thief from Splott, and travel there to find him though it’s uncertain if Gwen or Jack will be the one to gut him like a fish for wasting their time.

After about twelve seconds search, they give up and go for some beans on toast when Owen idly tries to use the remote under a bridge. Instead of transporting through time, the device replays a moment of the past under the bridge – where they witness Owen raping and murdering a young woman and her boyfriend for a laugh. Returning to the Hub, the team investigates and discovers Owen is most likely responsible for most of the crimes in Cardiff and this is just ANOTHER reason why the ugly bastard deserves to die.

Owen insists that he is Darwinism in action and leaves work early to enjoy his hobby of scaring the living shit out of pensioners by pretending to know their dark secrets. Today he confronts the eldery Roger Blake, but the old man threatens to destroy Owen’s inhuman face with an alien sonic blaster cunningly disguised as a set of curling tongs. Since he is a pathetic jerk, Owen runs out and, upon leaving his house, he spots Bernie and gives chase, catching up with him and then... taking him to a pub.

As there is only one decent pub in all of Wales, Touchwood are already there and they threaten Bernie with violence unless he explains how the device is somehow able to perform completely spurious functions entirely at random. Bernie explains he found the device in a tin of random objects from a car boot sale, then smashes his pint glass over Jack’s head and runs away.

Tosh fiddles with the device and this time it teleports her into the heady future of later that evening, where she sees Gwen holding a bloody knife and standing over a gutted corpse of Owen Harper. Tosh returns to the present and tells everyone what she has seen. Jack insists they must do everything in their power to ensure this potential future comes to pass.

As the team work out ways to kill Owen, they realize that Roger Blake is a paranoid manic depressive; Jack becomes concerned that Owen may have triggered Blake to take action and murder the wide-mouthed bastard, so they beat up Owen and drag him to Blake’s house so he can do the murder there.

Bernie arrives and there is a huge slapstick fight with ends with Blake accidentally impaling himself on the knife Gwen was trying to kill Bernie with. Jack attempts to comfort Gwen, telling her Blake was suicidal and his death was not her fault, but cracks up with giggles when he realizes he assumed Gwen gave a tinker’s cuss.

The team return to the Hub, reassured at the knowledge that they can change their own future and that nothing is set in stone. On the down side, Owen is still alive. The device is put into the secure archives until they learn what the hell it’s actually for.

Trivia Questions
1. Where does Jack get his completely spurious and incoherent explanation that ghosts are merely residual recordings in the surrounding environment that are somehow played back?
2. Who ran the car boot sale Bernie got the plot device from?

Great Moments
The classic sequence where Owen and Blake discusses the fourth series of Strictly Come Dancing, which since it was screened directly before the episode, was foremost in their minds.

Fashion Crimes
The Touchwood branded ear-muffs.

Missing Adventures -
Owen has a 'WANK the UNIT' badge. Which might be relevant. He also has one of the Bakelite Televisions of Alien Death from The Idiot Box.

The plot device of the title runs on "quantum transducers, nano-technology, artron energy, non-determinate friction and loads of other bollocks nobody actually understands".

Great Lines -

Jack: Ever had déjà vu? Felt someone walk over your grave? Ever felt someone behind you in an empty room? Well, there was. There always is.
Gwen: A ghost?
Jack: Hmm. What? No, I was talking about the CIA!

Rhys: Look, I don’t mind you working all the hours. I really don’t. Just as long as you still want to come home at the end of it all.
Gwen: I do. I’m here. I’m stalking you, remember?

Owen: I used to see it in people’s faces when they looked at me. They knew. I tried to hide, but they knew.
Tosh: And yet I just can’t seem to care.

Jack: The city will be awake soon. All those people. All that energy. Gwen: All those ghosts.
Jack: We’re surrounded by them. We can’t see them. We can’t touch them. But, they’re there all right. A million shadows of human emotion. We’ve just got to learn to live with them. I’m still talking about the CIA, you’re aware of this, right?

Crap Lines -

Blake: Have YOU betrayed ME?
Owen: I’m not gonna betray you, old man. I’m gonna bloody kill you. And I do that a lot. I’ve got history. Prepare to die, bitch.

Jack: Hold it firmly; don’t grip it. Breathe in. Focus. Breathe out. Squeeze gently.
Gwen: Wow.
Jack: See, this is much more fun than teaching you to fire a gun, huh?

Plot Oversights
- How on Earth does Gwen manage to run all the way down Queen Street and through Cardiff station (quite a distance!) without breaking more than a bit of a sweat? What sort of antiperspirant is she using?
- Come to think of it, why were Jack and Owen chasing Gwen anyway? Why are Jack and Owen so far behind her despite only being held up a few seconds? And why did it take Tosh so long to track him down? Why does Jack get so annoyed when they can’t locate Bernie? Why does he give up finding where the device came from so quickly? Why does Bernie say “I knew you’d come for me?” to Gwen when he hadn’t met her yet? Why, why, WHY?!?
- Touchwood’s amazing data store consists of a phone book two years out of date
- Whilst Jack’s recommendation of Gwen’s posture during sex is aesthetically pleasing, it’s certainly not best for first time karma sutra positions, as the recoil can be much greater than expected. And I know where of I speak.
- Why in the name of all that is sane does Gwen take the plot device home and try to have sex with it? Doesn’t she remember the huge deal made out about taking alien tech home in the last two episodes? Is her memory not as good as we all initially assumed? Nevertheless, why does she think it can staple Rhys’ genitals to his leg? Why not use a bloody stapler instead of a random alien time macguffin?
- When Jack’s running a search for Sean Harris the same list of names scrolls through twice, all of them being the names of all the science fiction writers who turned down writing for Touchwood
- Ianto appears to be shooting up with heroin; why didn’t the others join him?
- Why the hell does Jack jump out of the way of the gun if he’s immortal? What kind of stupidity is THAT?!

Viewers’ Quotes

"Unlike everyone else I loved the rape scene. I want more."
- Sparacus 'Flamingo' Jones (2006)

"Touchwood believes in Wild West justice, with no judge or jury, and the death toll is just something that happens when they’re busy trying to investigate aliens and have group sex. Solving crimes is not the purpose of the institute. Nor is providing proper storylines the purpose of the television program. This show is shit."
- Mickey Webb (2006)

- RTD (2006)

The Author Speaks
"I know that I didn’t write this one, but you’ll have to talk to me instead. Helen Raynor doesn’t talk to fans anymore, after that time she visited Outpost Gallifrey and read that thread 'What I Will Do To Helen Raynor If I Ever Meet Her Down A Dark Alley'. Almost makes me regret posting it in the first place, really. I didn’t know a soul here. And, there was a mix up. I’d kept my head down so much they forgot all about me. So, they left me, all on my own. Felt like the end of the world. I wandered through this forum. Totally lost. Forgotten. Looking for someone, anyone, who’d look after me. Why don’t they come for me, I kept thinking. No one knows me. I’m lost. My sig. isn’t funny. Tragic."

Trivia Answers
1. "The Stone Tape" by Knigel Kneale.
2. The Preachers from the Parallel Earth, which is sealed off from the entire universe. Yes, I KNOW this is impossible. Did I write this crap?

Rumors and Facts
Helen Raynor had been a script editor on the first two seasons of the revived Doctor Who series, but the phallocentric oligarchy never gave her a chance to contribute a script despite the fact she wrote for Brief Encounters, radio and money. It was decided that Raynor could write a script that would only be used in case of emergency during a hypothetical second season and Raynor was by no means to take this as a legally binding verbal agreement.

Unfortunately, the production team were so utterly useless and contemptibly stupid they decided to use it anyway. Raynor’s undoubted strength lay in short, character-led scenes, and so she had written hundreds of them, jammed into a rough chronological order and handed them together in lieu of plot. Hence the completely random scenes of Jack and Gwen having sex on a rifle rage, Tosh going to a pub, Owen taking part in a Benny Hill chase sequence with Bernie, pointless stock footage from Shell Shock, Roj Blake hiding from the Terran Federation in pre-space-age Cardiff, and Tosh getting completely pissed in a local pub and singing "Ooh La La!" on the karioke machine.

Chris Chin-Balls was so disgusted by the final result he personally demanded that RTD never employ Raynor ever again. And so Raynor was immediately contracted to write two episodes of Doctor Who, in the belief that if Chin-Balls hated something, it HAD to be brilliant.

Plot Device Colin Teague, whose other credits included Colin Teeg and Col Tea Gue. A last-minute rewrite had to be undertaken on the story’s opening chase sequence. Originally, this would have featured Jack, Owen and Gwen pursuing Bernie Fishnotes through the streets of Cardiff. However, John Barrowman twisted his ankle while filming, the big girl, so instead of the scenes where he backflips over a turnstile, the image cut to pre-filmed footage of a monkey tucking itself into bed and quietly going to sleep.

These scenes are now ranked the most popular of the whole first season of Touchwood and regularly ranked fifth greatest moment on Welsh television.

Plot Device bristles with potential, yet somehow doesn’t explore any of it, or indeed explore anything at all beyond Owen’s incredibly disturbing private life. Even the plot device of the title is ignored for most of the episode, Ianto gets only five seconds of screen time this week to explain the proper Welsh pronunciation of "Splott", and Rhys STILL hasn’t been killed off! Exactly why Gareth Thomas returns to play Roj Blake only to die horribly is unknown – is it a metatextual continuation of the sequences in the pilot episode about the awful Blake’s 7 revival? Or is it completely random crap without rhyme or reason? Will the team use the plot device again to solve future problems? Who was insane enough to dub this show worth a second series?

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