Doctor Who #740: Day One

"Oh, my God! He just..." "Came and went."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.22 2006.

IN THIS ONE... Gwen's first day and an alien with killer orgasms.

REVIEW: Head writer Chris Chibnall is very much responsible for everything that's bad about Torchwood's first season. In an effort to be "adult", his A-plots actually hit "immature". They're exercises in seeing what Torchwood can get away with past watershed. His other two episodes have objectionable gore, but in Day One, it's the prurient sex angle that's at fault. Day One ALMOST has something to say about our culture of sexualization, but given the only real sequence in line with this is silent - Carys walking through sexy Cardiff under a Goldfrapp track looking for Ooh La La - it seems to be the director's doing, not the writer's. The alien's need for orgasmic energy and subsequent disintegration of sex partners (while a pervy bouncer jerks off, at one point) are regrettable because the story would have worked just as well (and I actually mean BETTER) if the monster was just looking for body heat, affection in the larger sense, whatever, something that only required kissing, let's say. It would have remained a possession story that was essentially about need and loneliness, and could have cut the adolescent sex scenes, including the girl-on-girl action they put Gwen through on her first day while, absurdly, the rest of the team watch like it's Internet porn, even though they know the monster kills with sex. I'm no prude, mind you. I just like sex in fiction to have a point other than titillation.

Because otherwise, great episode. I mean it. The making of Gwen as a Torchwood agent is compelling stuff, and shows us what Jack saw in her to begin with. Of course she's making mistakes, and running a little behind everyone else, and Owen is all over her when she does, never letting her forget she's a newbie. Her role quickly develops into the human expert in a group of alien experts, something they never knew they needed. Building a Facebook profile of Carys to find out how to get through to her, help her fight the monster inside, and later, to track her down is a brilliant use of that expertise and natural empathy. I would hope that in a different reality, PC Gwen Cooper would have eventually been promoted to detective. She's got the stuff. Her old partner Andy is probably not on that career trajectory, so his resentment at "special ops" Gwen getting an all-access pass would have happened sooner or later. Rhys stuck at home doing the cooking and waiting for her to come home, a "special ops widow", as well. Hey, he's an ordinary schmoe with a hot girlfriend and he knows it. I love how frisky they still are, and how Rhys is super-willing to let himself be manipulated by offers of sex (this is sex used the right way).

As the rookie, she makes the the other characters explain things to us, so of course, we get all the lowdown on Torchwood's kit, but also on their lifestyles. They're all surprised Gwen is in a solid relationship, something they've never managed in the job. They probably don't think Gwen's will last very long now (and Owen will go out of his way to make it happen), but Jack wants her to focus on that part of her life and let it keep her grounded and normal. After all, that's what he hired her for. He may also be trying to deflect the attraction she obviously feels for him (in a Rose-Doctor kind of way), after the kiss she gives him after he saves her life from the... Orgasmotron? Orgasmotrix? Orgasmoloff? It's interesting to hear that the team doesn't really know very much about Jack. He becomes the subject of gossip when he leaves the room, and there isn't even a consensus on whether he's gay or not. Crucially, Gwen doesn't betray his immortality secret, though his ability to give life energy to the alien at will should have raised a few eyebrows. It raised mine. Not sure it's a justifiable use of his abilities. Oh, and he's got the Doctor's hand in a jar (from The Christmas Invasion). That's crazy. In this second episode, Jack is far more dour and thoughtful than in any previous appearance, and actively distraught when the jar gets smashed. Something's happened to him since The Parting of the Ways, and his usual flippant banter seems that much more of a front.

VERSIONS: The deleted scenes on the DVD show Gwen arriving at Torchwood just before the mission, and Carys sex-killing the first boy she ever kissed (when they were 8).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The B-story about Gwen's integration into the team is excellent. The A-story about the sex alien is a big misstep.


Lentilite said...

I love that Doctor's-hand-in-a-jar thing. I remember when this episode was first on, thinking "Why does the Torchwood Hub have a hand in a jar? Weird." and then a few minutes later, realizing... "OMFG Jack has The Doctor's cut-off hand in a jar!!" It *is* crazy, and also awesome.


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