Torchwood: Everything Changes   Rewatch 
June 13, 2014 3:16 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

When South Wales Police Officer Gwen Cooper witnesses the resurrection of a murder victim, it begins her journey into a dangerous underworld of savage monsters and alien hunters. Her chance encounter with the enigmatic Captain Jack Harkness and the Torchwood team will change her life forever.
posted by zarq (35 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think this is a particularly groundbreaking episode of television, or anything, but I'll always remember it fondly for teaching me how TV pilots work. Especially Gwen as the audience viewpoint character who is as desperate as we are to know who the fuck these people are and what the fuck is going on.

Also, man, it must have been so sad to be Indira Varma and get the call that you're getting a lead role in a pilot, and then the script comes and they're killing you off in the first episode.

There are also a bunch of nice touches here, like the joke of Gwen pretending to deliver a pizza to scope out the Torchwood HQ, and everybody totally knows the deal but lets her pretend she's being an Intrepid Undercover Cop.
posted by Sara C. at 4:43 PM on June 13, 2014

It's a perfectly serviceable pilot, but my emotional reaction to it has been forever tainted by the Owen at the bar date rape scene. Not only is it gross and creepy (especially since behind-the-scenes interviews make it clear the writing team didn't think of it as date rape) but it torpedoes Owen's character right out of the gate. When I rewatched s1 a while back I pretended that Owen didn't show up until episode 2 and it was amazing how much better I was able to appreciate his characterization and the nuances of Burn Gorman's performance (definitely one of the better actors on the show, if not the best outright) when I wasn't sitting there hoping he would die.

Indira Varma was also a bit wasted as The One Who Dies, but at least she gets to come back in one of the better stories of the season.

On another note, I also wish I'd seen Torchwood before series 3 of Doctor Who, because that would've made the impact of Jack's death and resurrection so much better.
posted by bettafish at 5:31 PM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I always thought Owen's character was meant to be a huge and basically irredeemable dick. And I saw about half of of Series 2 before I saw this episode.
posted by Sara C. at 5:40 PM on June 13, 2014

Oh, Owen's definitely a huge jackass – I'm just saying he's a lot more interesting to watch if I'm not going, "Ew, don't the writers know they made this character a rapist, ew," every time he's on screen.

I wouldn't say he's irredeemable, either – Gorman's performance drops little hints that he was something approaching a decent human being once, which is borne out by his flashback in "Fragments." It's more that he was never going to be able to redeem himself at Torchwood, and Torchwood is forever.
posted by bettafish at 7:33 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I didn't know that Owen wasn't supposed to be a rapist, but I guess it's not surprising that the writers would be that clueless.

That was really jarring when I was watching the episode, but on the other hand, it seemed believable for an unpleasant character in that situation. I don't know if knowing the author's intent changes how I feel about Owen. It does change how I feel about the writers.

The one thing that really sticks out in my mind about the first episode is how much I like Gwen. She's totally normal and amazing at the same time.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:01 AM on June 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I like Gwen. I didn't like Owen for a long time. Once I finally did, of course, he died (again).

Everyone knows the Torchwood cat fanfic, right?
posted by jeather at 10:39 AM on June 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Really, the whole cast massively stepped up their game as the show went on, I really started to get involved in the characters... juuuust in time for most of them to die. Towards the beginning, when it was a bad episode it was kind of all-around bad, but towards the end you might get a clunker episode, but a cast doing great work to help make up for it.

Before the dark times... before Miracle Day...
posted by jason_steakums at 1:12 PM on June 14, 2014

As for this particular episode, besides Rapey Owen, what really sticks out to me is Barrowman's otherwise great American accent letting slip an "EEStrogen"
posted by jason_steakums at 1:14 PM on June 14, 2014

Also, man, it must have been so sad to be Indira Varma and get the call that you're getting a lead role in a pilot, and then the script comes and they're killing you off in the first episode.

I imagine her reaction was something like this (S4E8 GOT spoiler).
posted by homunculus at 1:19 PM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Though I think his accent here is his actual accent, or an accent that feels somewhat natural to him. He holds dual US and UK citizenship and lived in the US from childhood through at least college. He worked as an actor in the US (presumably playing Americans?) before ever doing anything for British TV.

I'm not sure if eeestrogen is how he really says it despite surely knowing an American would say estrogen, or if he was directed to say it that way for some reason.
posted by Sara C. at 1:21 PM on June 14, 2014

I am undecided if I am going to be up for rewatching Children of Earth, but I was one of the three people who liked Miracle Day.
posted by jeather at 1:29 PM on June 14, 2014

Also, man, it must have been so sad to be Indira Varma and get the call that you're getting a lead role in a pilot, and then the script comes and they're killing you off in the first episode.

I think she must be used to it by now. :)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:59 PM on June 14, 2014

I was one of the three people who liked Miracle Day.

I liked the ending, in fact, a lot better than Children of Earth, even though CoE had a better premise. (By the time I saw Children of Earth, I was so sick of the Harkness-as-martyr/savior storylines that it didn't pack as much of a wallop for me.)

Great idea to set up a rewatch! I watched S1 and S2 + CoE with the worst cold ever so curious to see if I like it as much as I did then. Adding to queue.
posted by mochapickle at 4:59 PM on June 14, 2014

I was unaware of the cat fanfic. I don't know how I got through life before that.

Also, I thought this was a good getting-to-know everyone episode and think just mentally deleting the Owen-is-a-date-rapist scenes or placing them later in the series is a BIIIIIG help.
posted by RainyJay at 7:38 PM on June 14, 2014

As a set up for Torchwood it was a good episode. I liked Miracle Day, but Children of Earth was the better series, added to by the appearance of Peter Capaldi.
posted by arcticseal at 9:10 PM on June 14, 2014

I always chalked up "eestrogen" to the fact that that's how they pronounce it in the UK, and since it's a show made in the UK that's what the default is. Kind of like "shhedule" instead of "schedule".

And Barrowman's interestingly dual-accented; what I heard is that he just tried real hard to adopt the US accent when his family moved here when he was a kid, and was just REALLY successful at doing so; but when he talks to his family, or is really tired or emotional or overly giggly, the Scottish is what comes out. (I've seen a gag reel for TORCHWOOD where he and one of his costars are in complete hysterics, and he repeatedly tells his costar that they're "fookin' roobish".)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:26 PM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

And if you like the Torchwood Cat fanfic, check out the author's real-person fic he wrote after David Tennant first was exposed to Doctor Who slash fic. He speculates John Barroman kind of leads the charge in teasing David Tennant by tracking down the most egregiously weird examples of slash fic to embarrass him with; somehow I can totally see John Barrowman doing exactly that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 PM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would not claim that MD was better than CoE. It was, however, way less emotionally draining.

I am so impressed that two of the three fans of MD are mefites.

The meta-RPF was also great.
posted by jeather at 9:57 PM on June 14, 2014

You know, I don't know if I ever actually finished Miracle Day, I think I gave up towards the end... I'll definitely push through it for the rewatch, though.

What is it about Burn Gorman where he can play characters so eminently punchable so well? Not villains, not always, but just dicks. I love it. And then he can turn around and play totally charming! I hope after his bits in the last Nolan Batman movie, Pacific Rim and Game of Thrones his career's on the up, I want to see more of him around.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:43 PM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

He also had a prominent role on Turn.
posted by homunculus at 11:51 PM on June 14, 2014

Ha, I haven't seen Turn, but that character description sounds right up his alley, total jerk you love to hate.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:56 PM on June 14, 2014

I think I checked out of Miracle Day in episode 7, but I might try and finish now.

I've also been meaning to check out Turn because I heard Gorman is in it. And now that I check on IMDB, he was in another espionage story called Spies of Warsaw in which the lead was David Tennant.
posted by bettafish at 5:53 AM on June 15, 2014

OK, so watched late last night! I haven't watched S1-S3 since my first watch in 2010, on a laptop, home sick so it felt even more like a fever dream. (I watched S4 a few months ago.)

1. I never realized how stunning John Barrowman and Eve Myles are.
2. I was so happy to see Ianto, but noticed he didn't seem to be wearing his trademark vests yet.
3. I was amazed that Jack let Gwen know so much, even knowing he was going to amnesiaize her. It seemed overly cocky and foolhardy, but then, that's Jack.
4. Torchwood really is horrifically mismanaged. But everyone's so likeable!

One confession: I haven't watched Dr. Who. I got through half of S1 of the reboot and stopped, but I liked Torchwood just fine. I'm curious how much they tie in -- there was a mention of a doctor in the pilot, and I'm assuming he meant The Doctor. Did I miss anything else in the pilot?
posted by mochapickle at 10:37 AM on June 15, 2014

Not really. There's very little tie-in. I think at a certain point Jack "disappears" for a while off on an adventure with The Doctor -- which I'm sure is significant if you watch the series together in airing order -- and there's some talk about it, but you don't have to have seen really any Doctor Who to understand what's happening on Torchwood.

Though you do miss out on a lot of Captain Jack fun in the Doctor Who episodes. It's interesting to see him as a "companion" rather than the leader of his own team.
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 AM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nice -- thanks, Sara C. I might try streaming some of the Harkness episodes on Doctor Who.
posted by mochapickle at 11:20 AM on June 15, 2014

For me Torchwood was one of those shows you weirdly keep watching even after you decide you don't like it, because of the occasional episode you do. But I gave up on Miracle Day after a few episodes.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:09 PM on June 15, 2014

There's something very cheesy and self-conscious about the way Torchwood lays the sex and violence on thick, as if to say, "We're not your father's scifi show, man."

It's sort of embarrassing honestly... like watching your dad try to be edgy after your folks divorce.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:31 PM on June 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

I watched this before I had watched any New Who (although I knew it was a spin-off), and the whole structure of this pilot hooked me in. Gwen is one of my favourite characters ever. In fact I really enjoyed Torchwood overall as a show, even most of the subsequent mini-series things, and then belatedly read stuff online which gave me the impression that a lot of people thought Torchwood was not that great.
posted by fever-trees at 8:59 PM on June 15, 2014

Schedule question: Is everyone okay with Torchwood rewatch threads being posted once a week on Fridays?
posted by zarq at 9:30 AM on June 16, 2014

I would prefer that they go in the Who narrative, for timeline purposes. But Fridays are okay by me.
posted by jeather at 9:37 AM on June 16, 2014

It's 41 episodes.... I'm OK with running into Spring 2015, but worried that might seem like a long time.
posted by mochapickle at 9:50 AM on June 16, 2014

A fun exercise with S1 Torchwood is keeping track of the body count caused by Torchwood explicitly and unambiguously fucking up and causing things, usually massively murderous things, to happen that never would have happened if they hadn't stuck their giant stupid ham hands into things.

I think -- but this might just be my brain misremembering things for comic effect -- it is "all". As in, by the end of S1, you are confronted by a world that is made worse, more lethal, and more miserable by dint of the fact that Torchwood exists.
posted by Shepherd at 11:15 AM on June 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

That's a great angle. So the pilot, you have the three people Suzie killed. And Suzie. And the custodian who ventured to the top floor of the police station only to get gnawed on by a weevil. So that's five unnecessary casualties, all for a pretty bloodless storyline.

Speaking of, did they even establish why Torchwood was hanging out on the top floor of the police station with a deadly, unguarded weevil, with only the flimsiest of dropcloth as subterfuge?
posted by mochapickle at 8:33 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to say that the other thing tying Doctor Who and Torchwood together is the fact that the latter's title is an anagram for the former's. In case anyone didn't know that.
posted by inigo2 at 3:43 PM on June 25, 2014

I just blitzed through this show and... People like Gwen? She starts off okay but really doesn't resonate with me. Plus her relationship with Rhys just blows my mind. I watched through the bad parts just to see if they'd split up.
posted by toomanycurls at 12:28 AM on February 22, 2016

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