So when RTD writes Torchwood it turns into exactly what always happens with RTD and stories longer than a self-contained episode: fantastic buildup with a muddled ending that still has some great individual moments but makes only the barest amount of sense on thematic/emotional levels and none at all on the level of logic and internal coherency. (It does make me wonder why Torchwood, which RTD was supposedly ultimately overseeing, was quite so faily up 'til now, though -- is RTD's level of talent that rare? Or is it just that Chibnall is that shit? You may be able to guess my answer to this from rants passim.)
There was good stuff in there, lots of good stuff. I loved all the Spooks-y conspiracy stuff, and Torchwood fighting back against impossible odds. The build up was full of little Moments of Awesome for major and minor characters alike -- I loved that Rhys got to get them to London with his knowledge of how trucks work; I loved Ianto's estate distracting the surveillance team by accusing them of being paedophiles; I loved loved loved the rescue of Jack, where Gwen, Rhys and Lois's plan is working really well, but eventually going wrong only for Ianto to turn up in the nick of time executing his meticulously-worked-out-even-in-no-time-a
And the direction was fantastic -- I have always loved Euros Lyn, right since End of the World, and he didn't let me down here. He really knows how to keep the pace up and he's got a genius for choosing interesting camera angles.
But I really do feel like the ending -- which I would claim started at Lois standing up in the meeting, i.e. the last 25% of the overall story rather than simply the final episode -- let all that good stuff down quite badly. Not because Ianto died -- to be honest, if none of the main characters had died in this Big Event version of TW after the casual killing off of Owen and Tosh at the end of S2, I'd have felt a bit cheated, and if you've got an actually-immortal main character it's very important not to have too much script immunity (side thought: I bet Moffat kills KG at the end of S5 to prove the point about companions not being invulnerable) -- but because it just didn't make sense on far too many levels. It was all of RTD's big finale things (doom-laden out-of-sequence voiceover/video diary! LOTS OF MEN WITH GUNS! Everything contributes to the main character's manpain, and never mind anyone else! [people have disagreed with me on this in my previous post, and I can see where you're coming from, but it did seem to me that the way it was written gave us Jack >> everyone else; he is the main character but still.])
I get that the whole thing was trying to make a point about the banality of evil, but the idea that everyone goes along with it that easily broke my suspension of disbelief. Nobody at all got sent out of the COBRA meeting (and probably shot) for saying "hey, look, guys, we're being incredibly evil"? The army went along with it, apparently because they'd been threatened with their families being taken, so they must have known at least something of the true nature of the exercise. A few parents and teachers shout objections when it's far too late, but apparently the only people who actively take measures to try and hide their kids are the ones who've been tipped off by Ianto. (Obviously I have slightly more faith in human nature than RTD.)
Actually, the army part is what bothers me the most. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm given to understand that the army recruits disproportionately from exactly the sort of social strata that they're taking the "undesirable" kids from. The idea that the whole army would go along with it (especially when they raise the idea of a mutiny, and specifically handwave past it) smacks to me of a particularly crude sort of anti-militarism that's rather at odds with RTD's love of giving characters big guns.
More to the point, using the army is stupid. In fact, everything the PM in particular and COBRA in general do is stupid, to the point where plot logic has been completely broken for what would be a swingeing satire on our relationship to our own youth if it wasn't so badly broken. If you're going with this inoculation cover story, do it properly, get people to go willingly, and work on the principle that you aren't going to get 100% takeup so build that into your projections. (This sort of business with statistics and projections and contingencies is exactly the sort of thing the civil service is Very Good At, and we're explicitly told they expected some kids to stay home. It's so much easier to satisfy the 456 that way rather than sending the army in to round up thousands of kids from individual homes.)
And the Prime Minister taking his revenge on Frobisher for dumping him in this mess in the first place by making him be the John Selwyn Gummer of the situation is the stupidest part of all, because then you give him nothing to lose. Tragic though Frobisher's ending was, I would have loved to see him blow it all wide open on TV like he threatened.
The other problem I had with it is that, while (minus the plot logic deficiencies at the end) it works fine as a self-contained SF miniseries, it doesn't really make sense in the wider context. If this was a "this is happening on contemporary Earth right now" standalone thing, the scared reaction to the aliens would make sense, but Torchwood and UNIT and whoever else have been fighting them off, quite often without the Doctor's help, for decades and decades now. And by the middle of the final episode, the absence of the SJA crowd (which obviously had to happen because you can't put those characters in something with an explicit "really not for the kids" warning) was really very noticeable indeed, because there's no way they weren't all over this and it would have seemed entirely reasonable to me for Sarah Jane, Rani, Luke and Clyde to turn up halfway through Day Five kicking ass and taking names, even though that would be a complete deus ex machina from the POV of this story. (How the SJA ending would have worked: they have to use a kid to do the resonance back; Luke volunteers himself and his Archetype-hood protects him from being killed.) I don't like the "the Doctor didn't come because we're not worthy" stuff at all, though it does make me want to reread Interference, because it is still the best answer to the why-doesn't-the-Doctor-intervene-with-co
The other other problem I had with it is that it really is turning Jack into RTD's Lonely Immortal Attended By Death thing. I don't object to it in principle, but we already have one of those now in the shape of Ten. To be honest, it felt like RTD felt freed by doing "adult" stuff to chuck all the angst at Jack that he stops short of giving to the Doctor. But it doesn't fit with Jack's character arc very well, to my mind, and I really didn't like that "I enjoyed it too much" idea in the six-months-later bit. It contrasts very badly with the way we're apparently supposed to like Ten-n-Rose's happy squeeful funtimes in S2. (Again, this is really a problem with fitting it into the bigger picture.)
And now a list! Of more minor stuff, including my thoughts on certain fannish reactions:
- The trouble with having characters go "ooh, it's just like in ancient myths, sending virgins to the gods" is that I'm 90% sure that RTD knows that myth from the same place most of the rest of us do: namely the fact that Greek myths are the Four era's second favourite source of plots after Hammer horror. What I'm trying to say is that that was so a stealth Nimons reference. NIIIIIIIIMON!
- I felt a bit grumpy that we had repeated mentions of "Torchwood software" and not a single throwaway reference to Tosh being responsible for at least some of it. I get that this was a retooling-for-a-wider-audience, but it needn't have been done in a way that would have been offputtingly "you don't know what we're talking about, ha". Yes, I am still bitter about Tosh's death, which is why I'm not going to get on my high horse about the Ianto fan's reactions. Though I do feel that at least you guys got decent character development, whereas I never got the sense they knew what to do with Tosh. And I am pissed off with the sort of reverse intentional fallacy, massively and bogglingly-to-me prevalent in fandom-as-a-whole, that writers do this stuff because they hate the fans, rather than because they know it's good drama.
- Having said which, certain parts of fandom's reaction to the "I love you"/"Don't" bit confuses me. Partly because I think a certain set of Hollywood memes overvalues the specific words "I love you" very strongly, partly because I don't really believe they haven't said it to each other before now (though to be honest, I find the progression of their relationship very confusing -- they seem to have been shagging from very early on, then started going on dates in season two, and apparently only now are feeling out whether they're a couple or not), and partly because if we're supposed to believe they haven't, then it still makes perfect sense -- in this version, Jack knows that Ianto's only saying that because he thinks he's about to die, and is hoping against hope that he won't and is still in his "we have all the time in the world" mindset. It's somewhat ironic that for a show that's finally fixed it's "show, don't tell" problems, people are up in arms because they wanted something telling. (Oh, and there needs to be a deeply upsetting Jack/Ianto fanvid to Louis Armstrong. Does it exist yet?)
- I was quite annoyed with Rhys's "forty-four years" line because it's yet another fail on the remembering-that-we're-a-year-ahead front. I mainly get annoyed with that because it struck me as such a stroke of genius at the time in terms of developing the plotlines. (Also, I find it hard to use my bad-mental-arithmetic handwave on Rhys, because he strikes me as the sort who only trusts his company's accounts spreadsheets if he can check them independently ... and it is entirely possible I have way too much fanon about minor characters floating around my head.) Unless they're deliberately resyncing with broadcast date, which is doable because The Next Doctor wasn't set in a contemporary Christmas, so the Titanic could have missed Buckingham Palace "last year" in this year's stuff (assuming they make explicit Christmas references, which they might not if it's all Big Epic Regeneration Time). The problem here is which Easter Planet of the Dead takes place in, though I suppose there's no actual reason the Doctor's visits to Earth have to be quite so linear -- he did go to the Olympics in S2, after all.
- I wish they'd cleared up exactly what qualified as a "child" from the POV of the 456's needs. Torchwood speculate puberty's involved in whether they get used as mouthpieces, but to be honest several of the kids in the playground chanting scenes and Frobisher's older daughter in particular look post-pubescent. The government does a curfew on under 18s but targets primary schools for the round up. It does make sense that it's about puberty if there's "a chemical", and it explains Clem's survival (though I got the impression to start with that that was just that he was sensible enough to run), but it's still annoyingly vague. The numbers are no help, because checking the census RTD clearly pulled them out of his ass. 325,000 is 10% of under 4s alone, and the primary-age population is almost five million, so 10% of that would be half a million. If you take 14 as some sort of average age of onset of puberty, then that's ten million kids so the 456 should have wanted a million. (Yes, I'm exactly that sad, so sad in fact that I also feel obliged to give you a link to my source.) I do find it mildly interesting that RTD, who so often goes on about the importance of child viewers when discussing Who, underestimates the number of children in the country so much -- even a simple back of the envelope calculation based on extremely naive set of assumptions involving a flat population pyramid between birth and three-score-years-and-ten ought to lead you to an estimate of 12 million or so.
- Incidentally, it is a good thing they went for the primaries, or you would all have been subjected to a long rant about how the areas that still have the 11-plus would have been disproportionately hit by their criteria and the bogus nature of the "National Challenge" and all the other stuff that I would put on an education blog if I had the guts to start one.
- And finally: I can't help but wonder if "Agent Johnson" isn't a (possibly subconscious) S.H.I.E.L.D. reference. We know from the backmatter to the Flood collection that RTD's read Doctor Strange (they discussed having DWM regenerate Eight, but apparently they couldn't show him turn into Nine and still have Destrii around, so RTD suggested having the regeneration go wrong and the Doctor spend the getting-rid-of-Destrii story wandering around looking like Dormammu; I'm so glad they decided not to do this, because the ending of The Flood is still one of my favourite bits of Who canon ever) and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the co-feature with those in the Strange Tales run that I basically consider the source of all things good and pure about the Marvel universe. RTD's the wrong age to have read them first time round, but maybe someone he knew in childhood had them in the attic or something? I have decided that one of the other members of Johnson's team is called Agent Sitwell, but I haven't decided which yet.
Anyway, I need to go write my femslash09 fic now.