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Torchwood 1x06 Countrycide

Torchwood thoughts, having read the "people" part of my flist but not the "communities" part, so there might be more later. (But I said that last week, and there wasn't.)
The impression I got from the episode more than anything else was of missed potential, somehow. All the ingredients were there, but they kept fucking up the details. And even Burn Gorman couldn't make much of the script.

This is an episode I definitely think would have worked better as a two-parter. By ten minutes in they were running around in absolute panic, and the music and direction had gone all suspenseful and spooky. It could have been effective - if the suspense had been built up over most of an episode, say, and they'd been out in the middle of nowhere and cold and harassed by the mysterious things-they-knew-not for a couple of days, or at least overnight. But it didn't feel emotionally true that they were in that much danger, so the suspenseful music and direction seemed at best false, and at worst trying to manipulate the viewer past the limitations of the script and the story.

The reveal that the big scary was actually the villagers was anticlimactic, I thought. I'm not sure why. Maybe because the "creatures" had been portrayed as alien or superhuman by the cameras (superfast, and so on) so I felt, again, cheated or lied to. Strangely, Torchwood has shown itself (in the first ep and last week, and maybe in others) to be perfectly capable of doing "seeing things out of the corner of your eye" well, and making it clear you're not sure quite what you saw. But this time, I definitely saw alien. Of course, I'll watch again to see if they seem more human when you know the ending. I also think, maybe paradoxically, I'd have liked it more if Jack et al had had an idea of what these aliens are, if they'd thrown around theories, if they'd decided how to fight it, only to discover the aliens are human. But I don't think (again, I could be wrong) they came up with any theories at all, or made any attempts to find out what the things look like. Actually, that *was* something I noticed when they questioned people - that they were asking dumb questions and not the obvious things like what the creatures looked like, whether they spoke, and so on. Which was badly-done misdirection, though they kind of got away with it because I assumed it was bad writing rather than misdirection. That doesn't say much for the show, though. But if the villagers they questioned had lied to them, said it was a monster, then Jack could have had theories, etc, etc...

In the Christopher Brookmyre book One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night (fabulous, buy it immediately if you haven't read it, and then buy all his other books too), the following conversation takes place:

"An action film establishes its own rules of gunplay. In some, every bullet is potentially lethal — even the old shot to the shoulder can look worryingly near to the upper-chest area. But in others, machine guns can seem the least deadly weapon known to man. To illustrate, at one end of the spectrum there's your Tarantino movies: reputations aside, there's not that much gunplay, so when somebody lets off a shot, it's for real, and it's usually fatal. High bullet-deadliness quotient. At the other end, there's your John Woo movies: zillions of rounds goin' off an' the only thing they ever hit is glass. Low bullet-deadliness quotient. In a high BDQ film, if the baddie draws a bead on somebody, get ready for ketchup. In a low BDQ film, that's just a bad day for the janitor. And both types are fine by me, as long as the rules are followed consistently."

"But you can't establish a high BDQ and then have a low-BDQ showdown at the end, that's what you're saying?"

"That's what I'm saying. And you cannae establish a low BDQ then have the hero take oot the baddie wi' wan shot while the air round about him fills up wi' lead."


It's very true, and especially now I have a name for it, failure to establish a consistent BDQ pisses me off and drags me straight out of the story. So when Jack came into a room where lots of people were armed, and we knew they weren't that hesitant to use their weapons, and he proceeded to *shoot each of them in the leg in one shot* despite people running around? Not impressed. I couldn't even tell if anyone shot at him. (Also, wouldn't the paramedics put you on a stretcher if you'd been shot in the leg, rather than just let you lean on their shoulder slightly for support? Maybe I'm naive.)

Getting a bit long here. Let's have some bullet points.

- A cannibalistic community = good. But one that only goes cannibal every 10 years? Somehow I doubt that much more, psychologically.

- I know "the harvest" is probably a very general term used a lot in SF/F/horror, but again I can only think of Buffy. It's nice that RTD likes Buffy, but some new ideas would be nicer.

- I like Gwen/ Owen more than Gwen/ Jack. I still love Rhys more, but now I want Gwen to lose him because of this, and regret it hugely. Ha. Scene against the tree was OK, though again it just made me think Owen was behaving like a wanker even if he had a bit of a point. But why didn't we see the first proper kiss, etc? (The locker one was under fear of death, and doesn't count.) Surely not just so that the fanfic writers can do it themselves without being non-canon.

- I totally buy that Owen wanders around naked in his huge-windowed apartment. Heh.

- Seriously, I know I said I liked Torchwood being a bit incompetent, but they're verging on completely bloody useless. Owen throws a strop about tents (and, nobody mentioned to him they'd be camping and to bring camping-friendly stuff?) and leaves the keys in the SUV. Tosh, in the first sign of actual character we've seen, turns into a 14-year-old cos Owen fancies someone else, despite the fact that he goes off shagging people all the time and she's presumably fine with it. Gwen is also 14 - why do the "Who was the last person you snogged" thing in the first place? And she's completely useless under pressure, and somehow thinks she's going to get a great insight into the human condition from a cannibal under her arrest. Ianto completely falls apart at being imprisoned in a perfectly serviceable cellar. Neither Ianto or Tosh seem to think of asking any Excellent Questions of the middle-aged lady cannibal, or of overpowering her. Neither can they tell the difference between being abducted by an alien or a human. (They might have been knocked unconscious, but still.) Gwen gives up her gun in the Mexican stand-off for no reason I could see. For some reason, nothing Jack did seems to have stuck in my memory at all.

- Teeny logic quibbles - why, when he started before her, did it take Ianto longer to get round the side of the house than Tosh? Why could we see an alien-looking thing lying in wait for Tosh as she went back, but she couldn't? (Again, will have to rewatch to check on alienness.) How could a human completely escape Gwen and Owen when they'd been in view? (See: uselessness, I suppose.) Why was there a burger van in the middle of the countryside? (Someone said they should have at least have asked afterwards what was in the burgers...heh). Why were there shoes stacked neatly all round the cellar, when the clothes, if they were there at all, were in a big heap? Why did Shot!Gwen go from apparently unconscious to hyperactive shrieking to gazing at Owen to absolutely fine in about five minutes?

- I liked the use of The Automatic's Monster on the soundrack at the beginning, but it made me laugh because there have been vids of Doctor Who monsters, with Monster as the soundtrack, on youtube for months. There are tons of them. It's such a cliche already. There are so many of them I can't find the one I originally saw and loved, which had monsters from all the series (or at least, not just the new series) and they were actually coming over hills. If anyone has a link to it, tell me?

Bah. Not that I was expecting wonders. But I keep wanting to give Torchwood points for effort, which even to me seems patronising and not something I should have to do for a major BBC programme. Anyway, points this episode for: decent premise; all cast involved and with a reasonable number of lines; their car got nicked (heh, but they got it back, boo...); reasonable amount of character development, and a lot of it seems in-character but, unfortunately, taken to extremes; and oh! tractor rescue, continuing the New Who in-joke of "unlikely vehicles can be great".

Warning: excessively long again. Must learn to express thoughts concisely.

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Comments

( 13 comments — Comment )
andrewducker
Nov. 20th, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
When I hear "The Harvest" I think "Children Of The Corn"

And I know what you mean - they want to have it every which way - be serious _and_ funny, with no coherence. They're managing it even worse than RTD does himself. It's all cool ideas with no idea how to tie it all together.
pickwick
Nov. 22nd, 2006 01:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah - they're having trouble with the plot and characters, because they're too busy concentrating on the funny and the sexy.
andrewducker
Nov. 20th, 2006 10:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, and your post isn't excessively long - it's long enough to get your points across. You're not having to fit any particular boundaries, you write what you want to.
tanngrisnir
Nov. 21st, 2006 09:33 am (UTC)
Yes, I meant to say that too.
pickwick
Nov. 22nd, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC)
Meh, I quite like writing long rambly posts, but other people seem to manage to make the same points much more concisely. I always assume people won't read stuff that length ^^^ :)
fajrdrako
Nov. 21st, 2006 02:56 am (UTC)
I want Gwen to lose him because of this, and regret it hugely.

I do want to see consequences of Gwen's actions - and I think we will get that. In spades.

Tosh, in the first sign of actual character we've seen, turns into a 14-year-old cos Owen fancies someone else, despite the fact that he goes off shagging people all the time and she's presumably fine with it.

I had no problem with this: there's a difference (from her point of view) between Owen having sex with strangers she hasn't met, and Owen making out with someone she works with every day. The crux of the trouble isn't her feelings towards Owen, but her jealousy of Gwen.

wen is also 14 - why do the "Who was the last person you snogged" thing in the first place?

Because Gwen has a self-destructive tendency to stir up trouble. We've seen it numerous times. It's one of her more intriguing qualities and it often gets her into trouble.

(Someone said they should have at least have asked afterwards what was in the burgers...heh).

Better not to know, I think. I thought the burger vendor was there because it was a scenic view right off the highway - I've seen many such places in many countries. All the better if it's a fair distance to the next town in either direction, for those who might be hungry.




pickwick
Nov. 22nd, 2006 01:56 pm (UTC)
I had no problem with this: there's a difference (from her point of view) between Owen having sex with strangers she hasn't met, and Owen making out with someone she works with every day. The crux of the trouble isn't her feelings towards Owen, but her jealousy of Gwen.

True. But she should still have been able to disguise it better. They all seem emotionally incompetent :) but I suppose a bunch of well-adjusted adults could be a bit dull...
fajrdrako
Nov. 22nd, 2006 04:13 pm (UTC)
she should still have been able to disguise it better.

I'm not sure she wanted to disguise it at all. She was willing to pick a fight.

They all seem emotionally incompetent :)

Stressed, too.

I suppose a bunch of well-adjusted adults could be a bit dull...

I'm hoping we'll see some emotional growth in some or all of them.
tanngrisnir
Nov. 21st, 2006 09:32 am (UTC)
So when Jack came into a room where lots of people were armed, and we knew they weren't that hesitant to use their weapons, and he proceeded to *shoot each of them in the leg in one shot* despite people running around? Not impressed.

Quite. Plus, in a situation like that, only a complete idiot would aim for the legs since this is life-or-death. I don't know why the production team are so pusillanimous about having Torchwood kill bad guys.

- A cannibalistic community = good. But one that only goes cannibal every 10 years? Somehow I doubt that much more, psychologically.

Perhaps the harvest is every ten years, and the rest of the time they are munching on the contents of their freezers? Not that I care really.

And you are right about the development of tension, lack of. It is very difficult to convince the audience that the protagonists are in the middle of nowhere, with peril all around, if the first shot of them on the scene is at a burger bar. Unless it is an Evil Burger Bar, of course.

Gwen gives up her gun in the Mexican stand-off for no reason I could see.

Absolutely. In that situation, the only thing to do is blow the guy's brains out. Preferably before he has the gun pointed at Muppet Mouth. Incidentally, it looked to me as though at least one of the guns had a bit of rust on it... What, they don't look after their firearms properly?

If you are going to give points for effort, there really has to be some sign that they are making an effort in the first place.
redatt
Nov. 21st, 2006 09:35 am (UTC)
This is an episode I definitely think would have worked better as a two-parter.

I think could have been better as such, too. They could definitely have built more on the camping idea, as you say.
arborophile
Nov. 21st, 2006 11:44 am (UTC)
Why Gwen didnt shoot him..this pissed me off more than other stuff..maybe it was the uniform, him being a copper..plus lack of blood. As for the disappearence in wood...thought they'd have had hidden pits around as traps or bolt holes, plus [as know from experience]woodland can be a very deceptive place..you can be really near other people who could blend in to woodwork, literally by being sat or layed downbecause of ground not being as flat as it seems[not just by hiding behind tree..unless youre Tosh..got what she deserved doing the 'look around just after hidden trick!] And Jack not killing them all..too soft for his own good probably]
pickwick
Nov. 22nd, 2006 02:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there's so much you can do with a wood! And Tosh's "hiding" until he'd got, ooh, three feet away was the most pathetic thing I've seen in a while!
momentsmusicaux
Nov. 23rd, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC)
I agree with all the rubbishness above... and yet this was the episode I probably least hated.
( 13 comments — Comment )

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