B/C I Miss Ianto and Godric just . . . (TB Spoilers)

An unfinished thought piece (Torchwood vid @ bottom):

So I was sitting  here thinking about writing a post about the gay window dressing on True Blood between Godric and Eric. I’ve been intrigued by the character precisely because of the homoeroticism in an otherwise hyper-heterosexually saturated program. While the existence of Lafayette certainly argues against reading the show as completely heterosexist, I don’t think we can underestimate how his stereotypical flame-a-licious-ness helps to uphold the overriding depiction of sex and sexuality on the show; moreover, Lafayette’s storyline has been largely devoid of either sex or overt-sexuality for the better part of this season and last season he only had sex for money or drugs. Godric on the other hand, who never identifies but instead is read both visually and through innuendo and fact as a queer figure (in multiple senses of the term) allows for a counter-narrative to both Lafayette’s flamboyance and Eric’s misogyny. The connection between nativism, humanism, and queer identity wrapped in a childlike body that acts as “father, brother, and son” to a hypermasculine vampire who thrives on violence, erotic submission, and manipulation was an interesting one because it humanized Eric while playing off of both gender and “noble savage” stereotypes.

When Godric finally meets the sun, in a scene that is heartwrenching tho expected, I couldn’t help but wonder if his statement about being too different and concern about what punishment awaited from God was as much code as the desires that ground him as a queer figure. If we think of Lafayette’s own racialized “punishment” this season, the issue of hetero bodies vs. queer or queered ones becomes all the more salient b/c his response is to reject those outward signals that marked him as queer in the original season. Eric’s involvement in both storylines further complicates both the sexuality and racial narratives at play in this show, narratives that have been largely absent from fandom.

My attraction to these questions and these relationships as ripe for theory, and also as counterpoints to the Tom Cruise driven heterosexualizing of Lestat and the heterocentric Twilight, meant returning to the source material. Who is/was Godric in the books?

From what I can gleam through secondary sources, Godric in the books is not Eric’s maker. Nor is he someone who has evolved to a point where he “no longer thinks like a vampire.” Instead, Godric is a pedophile. His insatiable appetite for the violation and murder of young boys leads him to commit suicide via the Fellowship of the Sun.  Suddenly, the potential for heterosexist messages in the Godric character of the tv series transformed into potential homophobia and heterosexism in the books.  What does it mean that the True Blood creators, ppl who chose to use footage of kids at a Klan rally as part of the opening credits every week and who have shied away from showing same sex sex while saturating the show with unending hetero kink, transformed Godric into a god-like figure of latent sexuality and sorrow beyond measure? What does it mean that both Godrics meet the same death and both as atonement for their appetities? Is the lesson of his death different b/c he is no longer a gay pedophile or is it just more palatable b/c his quest to “make amends” is for something that dare not be named? Certainly the show should be applauded for undoing the stereotype of the gay pedophile from the books, but my question remains, did they do much more to reverse the overarching fear of the queer Godric seems to represent?

Somehow, these unfinished thoughts made me return to Ianto and something Gay Prof said about BSG killing its only gay character and making all the lesbian characters psychotic shrews who they also eventually killed. This year has been one of the worst for queer characters on televsion with more networks receiving a failing grade on representing positive images than possibly any other year since the ratings began in 2006. Ianto and Jack’s relationship has been both groundbreaking and profound in its depiction of love through the lifecycle, both normal and ever changing, comfortable and erotic, and most of all beautiful and compelling. Yet, as After Ellen so astutely noted, Ianto’s death seems to serve no purpose except heartbreak for fans and punishment for Jack. So it could be said his death and Jack’s subsequent retreat to the stars, not to mention the utter absence of homo- or bi-sexual desire outside of Ianto and Jack and manipulative Rupesh, is part of the disciplining and punishment of queerness on television.

That depressing thought, meant that I had to move away from my favorite research area for a moment and look at something joyful that celebrates not only queer characters (yes, Ianto, I keep saying queer even tho it isn’t 1950) but also the reality that more people are open and celebratory of our differences than the networks or the news wants you to believe. In this 2008 Comicon panel with Barrowman and  David-Lloyd, fan girls and fan boys, straight and gay, and all of the wondrous identities in between, laughed along as the boys delighted with decidedly queer innuendo. The heterosexual castmates and writers/producers were as astute in moving within a queer aethetic and humor as the gay ones, showing us that while the media has largely failed the people making it are becoming more and more clever about pushing the envelopes where they can.  (forgive the interrupting titles/captions on this video, I wish it just played through w/out editorializing but its still lovely):

Laughing along with this video (except mb that Mexican comment that I do not understand and worry about), I suddenly forgot how sad this season of scifi/fantasy television has made me through the killing of gay characters or worse, the creation of queer characters that are offensive or predicated on offensive originary texts. And again, I find myself wondering how Torchwood will look without Ianto next season much as I wonder how True Blood will continue to hold my attention for the rest of the season when all it can offer up is a crazed psuedo-God and a series of increasinly racially questionable moments, you know accept for the Jessica storyline which is both compelling and problematic for other reasons.

My first large lecture on the import of Torchwood to queer media is in a few months, so maybe by then I’ll have wrapped all these thoughts together in a pretty little academic bow. (If not,  I’ll just rock my heels and hope they miss my teary eyes, after all, it’s not TB so my eyes won’t leak blood.)

Sci Fi Quickies

I have a lot of serious posts in the works, but my own tone is set on cranky today, so I am going for the sure fire smile with a fluff-tastic post on Science Fiction media instead. Comic-con, no I wasn’t there, has left me with all kinds of excitement about upcoming movies and tv shows. While I am clearly geeking out with this post, I am not as geeky as the ever lovable Natalie who was actually there:

Movies I am looking forward to:

  • James Cameron’s Avatar – A lone warrior tries to help indigenous people survive on their planet. ppl at the con got to see 25 minutes for free but Cameron promises the rest of us will be able to see 15 minutes of the film free at special pre-opening screenings around the country. The film has an amazing cast, exciting graphics, and Cameron is a genius when it comes to sci fi . . . oh and if the images I’ve seen are at all correct, the film stars the actor who played Marcus Wright in T4
  • Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland – I’ve put up character stills of this movie before on the blog, but the trailer is beyond imagining! while it looks like the traditional book, I find myself wondering if it will borrow at all from Frank Beddor’s book The Looking Glass Wars which re-imagines the story in even more creepy detail. The post-structuralist in me, hopes it sticks to the original which is such a fun language game, the reader in me is leaning toward Beddor. Either way, Burton’s imaginary + Depp’s considerable, quirky, talent and graphics to die for, it has to be a hit.
  • Tron the Legacy – saw the trailer for this one and it doesn’t look like the special effects have been updated for modern audience, but for those of us who remember Tron it is  a treat. Looks like Jeff Bridges now controls the board and he is dark. Looks to be fun for those of who remember the original.
  • Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus – my excitement on this one is a mixed bag. Gilliam’s imagination is magical in a completely different, low budgy in a good way, from Burton’s and yet equally compelling. The elments of realism and the fantastical in his films have always raised important questions about humanity while moving us fully into imagined worlds. Based on that, and the early clips of the film, I am excited to see it. Unfortunately, one of those early clips includes a “pygmy” that looks like a white little person in black face. The plot: a traveling troupe made a deal with the devil to live forever. The buzz: Ledger died before completion and his part is being played by several other actors in the close of the film.
  • Zombie Land – If you are into Zombie movies this one looks good. It stars Woody Harrelson as the Zombie hunter in a part that was made for him. The total tongue in cheek script is reminscent of early Tarantino in a good way, tho the trailer does have some fatphobia. (Harrelson makes a joke about two fat zombies in a convenient story.)

Movies that Might also be good

  • The Surrogates – its based on a graphic novel of same name and stars Bruce Willis as a man who has disconnected from an elaborate surrogate system in which people plug in and live their lives through automated look alikes that cannot be killed, or can they? It’s a little bit Matrix, feels and looks a lot like I am Legend, could be good, could be derivavtive.
  • The Book of Eli – in a post-apocalyptic future Denzel Washington is the keeper of a book that could save the human race. The film looks like your basic futuristic action film with lots of explosions, gun fights, and some Kung Fu. I really haven’t seen enough to weigh in more.
  • Carriers – a zombie creating infection is spreading across the planet and people are desperate to escape before the virus reaches them. As the world’s population succumbs certain key characteristics of how the disease is spread become known. The film follows a group of friends trying to get to Mexico, where the disease is said to be not spreading as well, as they make choices about their own humanity vs. survival. It seems loosely based on this hit book the Z wars with critical changes so as not to pay the author.
  • Jennifer’s Body – on the surface, the film is a total teen-exploitation film with Meghan Fox playing her usually T & A with a new smattering of lesbian window dressing. Underneath, it was written by Diablo Cody and has a tinge of sarcasm and critique of sexualization of teen girls, the glorification of mindless boys trying to get with hot girls in film, etc. I just really am not sure that the writing can work against the amount of pointless semi-naked time that is Meghan Fox’s acting career.

Movies I am avoiding:

  • anything starring Robert Downey Jr. – he has two films coming out soon Sherlock Holmes (in which Sherlock becomes an annoying, womanizing, alcoholic, propped up by Watson and good luck) and Iron Man II (which fired Terrence Howard for daring to ask to be paid a similar salary to co-stars in a script that would have had him donning his own Iron Man suit and involved in a large part of the script. You uppity negro you!)

Television

  • Torchwood has been approved for a 4th season. No word on whether they will resurrect Ianto or if Jack will be given a new love interest and/or return to his flirting ways. Davies did apologize to fans for saying those upset about Ianto’s death needed to go watch Supernatural instead, so that is something. As someone devistated by both the loss of Ianto and the seeming heterosexualization of the plot over the course of the week, I have to say a show without him seems empty. At the same time, it could prove an ideal opportunity to discuss loss and rejoining life after one has lost a long time partner or great love. These are real issues we all struggle with and if Davies does his work up to QAF UK standards (he also spearheaded that show for those who do not know) then it will be tv to watch.
  • BSG Caprica – will start on 1/22/10 and have a gay couple among the main cast. If they do as poor a job as they did representing queerness (yes Ianto I said “queer”) on the original, this is not a good thing. However, the head of SyFy network has said they are trying hard to be more inclusive in their upcoming series. (They are also planning on a lesbian couple for the latest installment of Stargate. Unfortunately, the couple is split up by the Stargate project as Ming Na is with the team and her partner, who will have a recurring role, is still back on Earth.)
  • Doll House promises to take its original conspiracy theory trajectory in the upcoming season. Summer Glau, who is always fun to watch and a long time member of the Whedonverse, and Alexis Denisof (Wesley) are rumored to be joining the cast. Denisof says he is signed on for several episodes. However, I still cannot get past the fact that this show has essentially pimped out unwitting mind-erased women, allowing them to essentially raped as well as actually giving them over for rape fantasies. Tho the series finale included the female “boss” having her own “affair” with a “mind-wiped” male Doll, that does not change the basic plot of the episodes aired, that centered more often than not on female degredation, or the fact that rape is rape whether it is a male victim or a female one. Joss will have to step up his game in explaining why these things are part of a larger critique of human behavior and male privilege run amuck or it just more exploitation.
  • V – I am getting more and more jazzed about the V update even as my little heart says, don’t get excited, don’t get excited, they’ll ruin it, you know they will. It’s not a vegan friendly show but it is a campy good one and the update looks like it is going to take it to the dark intense places that the show warrants.

Shows I knew about before Comic Con and remain on the fence about:

  • Merlin
  • Warehouse 13
  • Being Human

So my geeky lurkers, what films or shows are you looking forward to?

Everybody Pays – Torchwood S3 E 5 (Spoilers)

tcoeregret2Torchwood 2009/BBC

As the government moves ahead on its plan to round up children, Ianto’s sister, Gwen, and Rhys fight to protect Ianto’s niece and nephew and the working class children they have gathered from the community.tcoeshame3 The men of the area take up makeshift arms to fight off the military and the police as they arrive for the children. Meanwhile, middle class and upper class families start to return their children to school, assuming that the government can be trusted and their children are safe; working class families without child care or misguided loyalty to the system do the same, and soon their children are loaded on buses headed to the aliens.

Frobershire, who has done nothing but his job from the beginning of the series is told he will have to make one more sacrifice: his own children. The PM tells him that the only way to save the rest of the government’s children and pull off the plan to convince the British people that it is the aliens and not the government that double-crossed them, is to show at least one high profile government official tcoehorrorgladly handing over their own children.

Horrified, Frobershire returns home to find the press have already arrived to document his children boarding the bus. What happens next rings extremely inappropriate, at least from a N. American perspective where far too many cases of men making similar decisions as a result of the economic downturn warn against any media making those men out to be sympathetic victims. Frobershire pays for his complicity in the killing of Jack and the others from 1965 and for taking Jack’s family hostage, but so do his wife and two young girls.tcoeshame2 Women and children as “collateral damage” is one of the unspoken themes of this final episode and I think it is one worth thinking quite a bit about.

Jack too is not finished paying for 1965. After the devastating loss of episode 4, Jack gives himself over to despair, allowing himself to be arrested. He then discovers the solution to the 456 problem, but not in enough time to sacrifice another child “who won’t be missed.” (Barrowman’s performance on the final episode is spot on from beginning to end. He infuses the character with pain, regret, internal struggle, and the complex heroism we have all come to expect. It was brilliant!)

Despite being thrown in jail for spying, Louis Habiba continues to be a key player to the end. Torchwood has seemingly abandoned her, Gwen is off saving the children which means she cannot save Louis and Captian Jack gives up after he is told she’s been arrested for espionage marking her down as one more person he has failed. He is so caught up in his own stuff by the time he reaches the jail that he does not even answer her cries through the wall. And still,  Louis comes tcoelouisthrough. When she is asked to hand over the contact lenses for one last recording mission, Louis explains how they work willingly and for all the right reasons. Her actions ensure that the PM, who has put everything off on “the middle men” and the U.S., will pay with his career and possible prosecution.

While this final episode sees two black men taking charge of the handover of the children, one from the U.S. and one from UNIT, the Prime Minister and his aids are all party to the process. And while the visual narrative shows him relegated to the background, something he himself cherishes by episode end, Louis and her supervisor know better. Thus the way he pays is a testament to the women at the “bottom” of the government hierarchy: admin assistants. While much of the commentary about the season with regards to the government has been about the higher ups vs. the “middle men” civil servants, female admin have been a constant background. They make sure the work gets done, both good and bad, and their near invisibility ensures that they are perfectly placed to bring the corrupt down. The multiple ways that womentcoepm are pivotal in these roles is a critical example of engendered marginalization and the power that women take for themselves and exert despite it. (Bravo!)

Another woman also takes power here. The woman who came up with the entire selection plan and justified it through an apalling eugenicist narrative, is the only present at the meetings that does not pay for her complicity. She tries to exert power first with the U.S., then passively by taking unofficial charge of the office and the dismissing of junior staff, and then actively by claiming control over the government. One can only hope that the first video that Louis shot will reach the airwaves and she too will pay for her part. She does however commit to letting Louis out, so that is a good thing.

The good news is that despite being blown up, riding on her stomach on sacks of potatoes for miles, being shot at, falling down, and running on little to no food and adrenaline for days, Gwen is still pregnant at episode end. As a fan, the image of Gwen, with a swelling belly, flanked by Rhys and clearly rebuilding Torchwood while admonishing those who would “run away” is a powerful and satisfying ending for the character. As an academic, the heterosexist narrative surrounding motherhood, parental rights, and overt sexuality running through this season is problematic at best. (My thoughts on tcoefinalgoodbyesexuality from the first exciting exploration of multiple versions of bi-sexuality and/or same sex attraction in the first season to the “family romance narrative” ending of season/series 3 is forthcoming.)

I’ll wait to see the verdict on what people think of Jack’s ultimate decision. While he is initial decline into self-pity will be off putting to most, I think his final decision is fitting with his character going back to the Dr. Who days. However, I do wish he would have ended in his newly built office looking at a photo of Ianto and reiterating his promise to never forget. Perhaps Jack explains it best when he says, “I began to like it [playing the hero] and look what I became.”

I don’t really know how they can come back for a fourth season, but the groundwork is certainly laid if they do. Like most fans, I hope that the ending does not pave the way for predicted Tweenified sexually sanitized Torchwood Tubbies, but it certainly could.

“Beware of the Man Who Can’t Die” Torchwood Episode Guide S3 E4 (Spoilers)

If you watch no other episodes in the mini-season, you need to watch this one. Underneath the basic SciFi plot of aliens coming to Earth and demanding something in exchange for the continued survival and sovereignty of the planet, is a complex discussion of the role of government (the privileged and the “peons”) and what ongoing investment in unearned privilege means to the world’s citizens. Women once again play a pivotal role in this episode as do those continued problematic questions about reproduction and parenting.

tcoesacrifice

Torchwood 2009/BBC

Episode 4 of Children of Earth opens with the team assessing the revelation that Jack helped hand over 12 orphan children to aliens without even asking what will happen to them. While Clem’s impassioned plea:

The man who sent me and my friends to die, can’t die

provides some painful energy to this moment, the scene lacks the usual intense pathos and anguish that has typified the hard decisions in the series to date. While it’s true that Gwen is clearly confused by the image of the man who “saves people tcoedisappointmentfrom aliens” and the man who hands them over, and Ianto is heartbroken over the revelation, Barrowman seems more disconnected from this moment than he has been in any other such scene during the run of the series. His response is done in flat affect, perhaps meant to show shell shock at his own culpability in both the past and present situations. Without that powerful investment from Barrowman/Jack, the scene plays out far less well and the quick shift back to heroism seems disingenuous.

Particularly telling is that Ianto’s major concern about the revelation of the 456 mystery is that Jack did not tell him about it. His complain that they are “merely scratching the surface” with one another, is part of an ongoing thread that will end in tragedy tonight. Ianto worries that if Jack does not lean on him or show him the complex pieces of himself that they really are not as committed as he believed. And yet, there is irony in his disappointment, in that with every piece of Ianto’s past that is revealed in this season/series, we find out no one on the team really knows him either.tcoeevil

Tonight 456 reveals that they want 10% of the world’s children or they will destroy the planet. Where series/season 3 drops the ball on these questions with Jack this time out, they put them in startling relief in a discussion about who should be sacrificed and why in this and the next installment of the mini-season. Thus as world leaders debate who should be sacrificed eugenicist arguments abound. Taking charge of the discussion is a British woman whose position in the government is undefined, but who plays on both the power that position affords as well as her status as a mother to silence non-parenting participants around the table who call for reason and even challenge fathers’ rights to speak. In a particularly mercenary move, she says their “first responsibility is to the best interests of this country [Britain]” and then defines that as saving the privileged while culling from the rest.tcoeiantossis

Ianto’s family and the multi-culti working class neighborhood in which they live stand in stark contrast to this discussion. While the government sits working out how to protect their own and the unearned privilege at the top, Ianto’s sister and brother-in-law work to watch over the children in the neighborhood and make sure all of the families are safe and well-informed. Their efforts will be the shining moment in an otherwise bleak concluding episode tomorrow.

Ultimately, the government, led by the nameless woman in question, determine the following eugenicist criteria for selection:

  • low performing students from “lesser performing schools”
  • homeless youth
  • children with chronicle illnesses or diseases
  • immigrant children and the children of asylum seekers/those granted asylum
  • children on the dole

As if excusing this list, she adds “God knows we’ve tried and we’ve failed” arguing that low performing students are destined for the dole and prison.

Yet Ianto’s own valiant effort to help save the planet from the 456 contradicts her elitest assumptions. Ianto, who has proven to be a key component of the Torchwood team throughout the series run, came from the very working class tcoegoodbyebackground she is vilifying. Despite being an abused child from the wrong neighborhood, he was entrusted first to watch over the world, first as part of Torchwood London then Cardiff. His invaluable efforts are part of the reason that the people of the world are alive and the government is still functioning to face the current threat. And yet, if they had their way, it would be children like Ianto who would be sacrificed.

As if to drive this home, Ianto and Jack head to Thames House guns blazing to save the planet. Everyone, including the world’s governments, believe Torchwood will save the day as they always have. To underscore how powerful Jack is, both his daughter Alice and Ianto explain how much fear a man who cannot die should inspire. Alice uses it as a warning to Johnson while held captive; Ianto tells it to 456. Both of them will be surprised by what happens to each of them next.

I cannot discuss the end of this episode except to say that I am still heartsick over it. I’ve sat down many times to discuss the changing perspective on “alternative” sexuality over the course of the series and the important ways that Torchwood has committed to showing a same-sex relationship over a life-cycle and simply gotten stuck at the first and only thought that occupies my brain: the way tonight’s episode ends. Having seen this moment twice now, I am unsure that I can sit through it a third time tonight. Whatever you do, do not get up until the show is over. If you leave the room, you will regret it.

“We are Here” Torchwood S3 E3/4 Episode Guide (Spoilers)

tcoechildrenb

Torchwood 2009/BBC

The third and fourth installments of Torchwood Children of Earth establishes why the 456 have chosen Britain and what they want. It also implicates Jack in the heinous decision to give children to the 456 in 1965 in exchange for a vaccine to a virus the 456 say is going to devastate the human population. No one involved asked what the 456 were going to do with torchwoodteamthe children but only that they were going to continue to live. (The reason the 456 take them is the most anti-climactic moment of the entire series’/season’s plot.)

The bulk of Episode 3 is taken up with the regrouping of the Torchwood team in the forgotten London Office, where Ianto initially worked. They use “criminal techniques” to rebuild their computer, cellphone, and transportation needs and make a makeshift command center. They also rescue the only surviving orphan of the 456, who is horrified to discover the only man who can save him is also the man who has been haunting his dreams for the last 40+ years. His revelation about what happened to him and his friends, coupled with Jack’s assertion that sacrificing a handful of orphan children was worth the lives of those presumed saved, tcoealicegunshifts the way the team sees him in E4; it is only momentarily, but does serve to undermine the triumphant return of Captain Jack Harkness (E3) that is a key component of this mostly boring episode.

As predicted, Louis also becomes a key player. Gwen convinces her to wear video cam contacts that record both the alien arrival and the initial contact. They will later hope to use this footage to stop the child sacrifice.

Other things in this episode: The government holds Jack’s daughter and grandson hostage after she puts up a valiant fight. This may seem minor, but will prove to be a pivotal plot twist on the final episode.

“We Are Coming Tomorrow” Torchwood S3 E2 Guide (Spoilers)

captjackThe second episode of Torchwood Children of Earth is defined by the strength of female characters. With Jack literally blow to bits and Ianto and Gwen on the run, this episodes focuses in on the woman hunting the Torchwood team and both Gwen and Louis’ attempts to stop the government conspiracy out to destroy Torchwood and hide the truth.

Gwen in particular shines as a well-trained bad-ss in this episode. She escapes the explosion only to have to fight her way out of a second assasination attempt bytcoeeve men pretending to be fire and rescue. She then returns home long enough to make sure Rhys is safe, before taking off with him to regroup and save Jack. Her rescue attempt involves a powerhouse shoot out where Gwen is outnumbered and surrounded, and yet she marches into the military prison, guns blazing, only backing down when she can no longer fight.

Gwen receives help from Louis Habiba, who has become increasingly concerned about the conspiracy unfolding around her. When Gwen calls the Home Office for tcoelahelp, Louis intercepts the call and meets Gwen to explain that it was actually her boss that ordered the hit on Captain Jack. She also comes up with the plan to rescue Jack by putting together pieces of overheard conversations in the Home Office and accessing maps needed to successful intercept a transport vehicle and navigate the containment facility. Louis outlines this plan for Gwen, complete with schematics, despite Gwen’s initial shortness about her showing up instead of Frobershire. Louis also pays for their food without complaint and commits to continuing to keep her eyes open back at the Home Office. Her role will expand even more in the next episode. (As expected, Gwen offers her a jobjohnson_446 when this is all done; however, as we will see in the final episode, the Torchwood team’s treatment of Louis deteriorates inexplicably at the end.)

The woman heading the assault on Torchwood, Johnson, proves to be increasingly heartless. Not only has she tortured Jack (shooting him and blowing him up) and shot Rupesh in the back, she also relentlessly hunts down Gwen and continues to torture Jack when he miraculously survives the explosion. Despite being a crack tracker and shot, she does however manage to miss every member of the Torchwood team as they escape the military prison.

Two things mediate Johnson’s image as the stereotypical heartless witch: the presence of Dekker (an equally, and by series end more, vile character) and her role as a “true believer” who chooses the protection of humanity at every turn. She believes hunting down Jack and destroying Torchwood is protecting the Earth. When protecting Earth requires other choices, she makes them. In this way, she is a lot like Jack. And I think it is important to look at the gender differences in how the two are played, written, and received.

Other key things that occur in this episode:

  • we discover Ianto was abused as a child
  • we get our first glimpse at working class resistance to the government that will increase in the episodes to come
  • the area where the 456 will arrive is built on top of the MI5 building
  • it is almost completely confirmed that the Brits have a specific relationship to the 456 which will be revealed tomorrow

——

all images: Torchwood Children of Earth 2009/BBC

“We are Coming”: Torchwood Children of Earth Day 1 (Spoilers/Pics)

I have decided to spend more time on the Torchwood wrap up post, ie to re-watch all 3 seasons before weighing in on this seasons clear end to certain storylines, but thought since the series is starting tonight in the U.S. some readers might want to know what they are in for, so I’ll be posting a synopsis each day with a spoiler or too.

Torchwood Children of Earth: Episode 1

hospital

The new season of Torchwood starts off after an undetermined amount of time has passed from last season. What this means is that the season end cliffhanger involving Jack’s brother and the ongoing revelations/relationship with John (James Marster) are both “resolved” off screen. It is unfortunate for fans, as this story line was reaching a key crescendo that would likely have revealed at least some of Captain Jack’s origins. The first Episode of Children of Earth does tcoedoc2however, promise us new insight into the pasts of both Jack and Ianto and soon we will find that neither is who we’ve come to think of them to be.

This episode opens with the team trying to replace Toshiko and Owen, whose positions remain unfilled. (Interestingly, the show pays a tiny homage to Owen, in the form of Gwen saying hello to his picture as she arrives for work that first morning, but no similar one to Tosh.) Martha Jones is unavailable for either position as she has chosen to remain with UNIT and is currently on her honeymoon. Enter, dashing doctor Rupesh who helps Ianto and Jack extract an alien from a dead man in the hospital and alerts them to men of color seemingly going missing in the hospital. After thinking over the paperwork involved, Jack and Ianto seemingly decline his invitation to investigate but are actually using the refusal to lure him to the hub for recruiting.

This recruiting tool, not only allows the series to revisit its recruiting techniques from Torchwood’s, rather than the recruit’s, vantage point but also to complicate the meaning of alien life on earth. Dr. Rupesh is well aware of aliens and says that the alien attacks thwarted by both Torchwood and Dr. Who have become big enough that everyone knows, “tho 1/2 the world still denies it.” And he also talks about the impact that has had on the world’s people, from tcoekidsuicides to loss of faith in their chosen Deity/ies.

Unfortunately, Rupesh’s recruitment and “mystery” are put on hold as the team tries to figure out why children around the world have all started chanting in unison “we are coming.” Flashbacks to the past in which a bus load of scared orphans ride alone into a rainy night and to the order to destroy Torchwood.  It seems aliens, dubbed simply the 456 for the frequency on which they communicate, are using the world’s children to speak to the world’s governments; the children, speaking English, and the time in which they began chanting, also indicate their specific targeting of Britain for reasons that will also be revealed.

We are also introduced to Lois Habiba, a bi-racial temp, whose first day in the Home Office puts her in the exact right tcoelouisplace to help the Torchwood team as the story of the children unfolds. Lois’ character will prove to be critical in the series and to saving Torchwood, and yet in the final days, the team leaves her behind in a prison cell with Captain Jack refusing to even say “hello” to her as she calls through the bars.

In the meantime, Jack and Ianto continue to have missed opportunities to talk about their now cemented relationship with Ianto asking for clarity about their commitment and Jack shrugging off Ianto’s need for definition. At one point he says

I hate the word couple.

To which Ianto can only pathetically, and unconvincingly, reply “me too.” Ianto clearly needs to hear Jack say they are a couple outloud and Jack, who we will see this season has loved and built families far too many times, believes living tcoejackfamtogether is commitment enough. Before series end, he will regret that.

All three characters relationship to children are also tested in this series. Tonight’s episode reveals that Ianto has a working class family with nieces and nephews who see him more as a cash machine, while Jack has a grandson who knows him only as “uncle Jack.” And both men think to exploit these relationships and these children to sort out why the 456 is communicating through them. The condemnation that Jack’s daughter has for his attempt will come back with deadly consequences at series end.

The revelations about both men’s pasts are no less poignant than when Ianto’s sister asks him about his sexuality. While tcoeiantofamIanto argues that he is not gay, he has simply fallen in love with Jack, he and his sister have a very open heart-to-heart about the meaning of love, attraction, and the Jack-Ianto relationship that is not only helpful to see in general but a pleasant contrast to the way working class communities are often depicted as “more homophobic” than middle class urban ones. Ianto’s sister’s openness and strength will also play a key role in this season.

The conclusion of this episode is exhilerating! It moves at the speed of some of the best action-based episodes of the series to date. And in those last few moments in the Torchwood hub, you will never believe what happens. (Tho the parallels between what is in Gwen’s belly and what is in Jack’s are more telling than you might think, and part of a problematic thread on the issue of parenting.)


Torchwood Series 3 Quickie

tcoeregret2

Torchwood 2009/BBC

I’m trying to plot it all out in my head before I write a post, particularly since the scholar in me has as much to say as the fan (tho the real scholarly piece is going to take sitting down with all three seasons and my previous posts on them to really get right). I can’t say that I would have predicted this “ending” for Captian Jack but I also won’t say that I am surprised by it.

Until I figure out how to say more than that, I will simply leave you with the image above, that I think best sums up the (mini)season.

Ok, one more:

tcoeshame3

(more to come)

Torchwood Children of Earth Day 4

tcoeiantoyjackIanto and Jack. Torchwood 2009/BBC

I know I said that I would write a complete synopsis after series end today, but I am still shaking from the surprising end to CoE Day 4. Not only did it address key issues about citizenship, nation, and “disposable people” in ways that made me think of Britain’s historical involvement in Diego Garcia or current decision to send asylum seekers from the DRC back to gang rape and war, but also about the wars we choose to enter and those we do not, the lives we mourn and the ones we pretend are not lost, etc. And while I think that the third season of Torchwood gave short shrift to Captain Jack’s usual pathos about being “fixed in time” and making “hard decisions,” there is nothing spared on the emotional connection between he and Ianto in this episode. While the cultural theorist in me is slowly waving a few alarm bells about heteronormativity both w/regards to the narrative on children and the last wo/man standing . . . my hands can’t stop shaking and my heart still feels a little broken even a day later. Well done.

Torchwood Children of Earth

Consider this a place holder for more information to come . . .

tcoeteamTorchwood 2009/bbc

Long time readers know that I have an insider in Whoville who I hoped could get me a sneak peek at this (mini)season of Torchwood. While zhe was not able to do so, I am currently watching the series, which means my review will be all spoiler goodies for your folks in the states. The season wraps up tomorrow, so I’ll write my review then rather than now. What I will say is that the latest season:

  1. gives us an interesting progression in the narrative of queer identity in the show particular around issues of family, children, and commitment as well as sexual identities, some of which have fallen out while others remain
  2. introduces two new characters of color both of whom would have been compelling additions to the franchise but only one of whom who might (seriously Whoville, never kill the eye candy when s/he can act)
  3. continues the vein of moral responsibility and heroism that has been the best part of the series – all tho it fails to offer that same melancholy introspection that most single episodes mining the same material in the longer seasons has done
  4. reminds why the whoville franchise is a frightening prospect without Russell T. Davies at the helm – he really packs this one with heart stopping moments at every turn & the Dr. Who specials have been equally enjoyable

tcoecapt

And yes, the rumors you may have heard about Jack Barrowman being naked this season are true. It is both frontal and backside not just backside as he reported (unless there was a body double). However, it is part of the script and completely unrelated to Ianto-Jack sexiness which is utterly missing from this season.

So sit back dear friends and wait with the knowledge that Torchwood’s (mini)season is mostly worth it. It will air two weeks from now on BBCAmerica at 9pm.

(my review coming soon)