SEASON ONE: EPISODE 1: “Everything Changes”

A brutal murder leads WPC Gwen Cooper to Torchwood, a journey that will change her life forever.

This is definitely Gwen Cooper’s episode, all the way. Essentially it’s the story of an ordinary police officer who accidently stumbles into the world of Torchwood, and by the end of the episode proves she has the right stuff to join the team. I watched this episode with an eye toward how well it stands on its own: quite nicely, I think. Although technically a spin-off of Doctor Who, I think of it as more of a “parallel” series, such as CBS’s various CSI shows. That is, they occupy the same universe and may occasionally cross over, but remain independent of each other.

That’s not to say the Doctor Who references aren’t there, merely that they’re not integral to the enjoyment of the show. For example, the Doctor’s hand (from “The Christmas Invasion”) is seen in the Torchwood headquarters, but it’s no more necessary to know the story behind it in order to follow the story at hand (no pun intended) than it is to know the history of a trophy seen in the background of the Batcave to enjoy a Batman story. The story differentiates four different versions of Torchwood, and unless I haven’t been paying close enough attention to Doctor Who (always a possibility), more than one of these versions have yet to be fully explained.

While still told from Gwen Cooper’s point of view, about midway through the first episode the spotlight of attention is thrown on Jack Harkness, a character with a mysterious two-year gap in his history which I look forward to seeing revealed. Gwen learns the secret of his longevity in this episode, but apparently his teammates remain unaware at this point. The next episode is titled “Day One,” which makes me glad “Everything Changes” isn’t listed as “episode zero.”

Perhaps I read too many comics books.

BIG FINISH AUDIOS:

ALIENS AMONG US - Part 1
   1.1 Changes Everything - p14
   1.2 Aliens & Sex & Chips & Gravy - p14
   1.3 Orr - p14
   1.3 Superiority Complex - p15

ALIENS AMONG US - Part 2
   2.1 Love Rat - p15
   2.2 A Kill to a View - p15
   2.3 Zero Hour - p15
   2.3 The Empty Hand - p15

ALIENS AMONG US - Part 3
   3.1 Poker Face - p15
   3.2 Tagged - p15
   3.3 Escape Room - p15
   3.3 Herald of the Dawn - p15

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SUPERIORITY COMPLEX by AK Benedict:

“Poverty and homelessness are on the rise in Cardiff. The streets are full of the desperate and the dispossessed. So, of course, it’s the right time to open a 7-star luxury, all-inclusive hotel. And, naturally, the hotel is for aliens only. As the humans stand outside the gates and look hungrily in, there’s one thing that makes them smile. Someone is murdering the guests.”

COMMENTARY: This one is a pretty decent murder mystery with lots of suspects, Ro-Jedda among them. The hotel is a “smart” hotel, which aids in the investigation. The real clue as to what’s really going on is when [SPOILER WARNING] the sexual psychomorph Orr develops an internal, mechanical elevator as part of his/her reproductive system. Don’t ask me how that works. The sound effects are enough to convey what’s happening. Yes, the smart hotel is also a sentient hotel (hence the pun in the title), murdering its guests. [END SPOILER]

In the set-up for the second set, Ro-Jedda has the mayor of Cardiff “removed” and has set herself up to take his place. She also strikes a bargain with Tyler Steele to betray Torchwood.

I’m going to be honest… I’m afraid I let myself get carried away by the prospect of new Torchwood stories which take place beyond the point at which “Miracle Day” left off. These are good stories (don’t get me wrong), but there’s nothing particularly “post-Miracle Day” about them other than Big Finish says they are. They’re good stories, but they could just as easily be untold tales (apart from the new characters, I guess). I really wish now I would have concentrated on catching up on Doctor Who stories and keeping up with Dark Shadows. But what’s done is done. “Aliens Among Us” volume two shipped from England October 17 so I should have it shortly. I already have “The Tony & Cassandra” mysteries, which I should get around to next week.

Tracy has been in the mood to re-watch all of Torchwood at least as far back as October 6 (see previous page). She recently started listening to Aliens Among Us, and has already finished parts 1 & 2 (which means she’s ahead of me). She’s not interested in participating in this discussion, but insisted we start watching the TV show from the beginning, which we started last night.

In the post above I lamented buying Aliens Among Us instead of more Doctor Who audios, but watching the first episode of the TV show last night coupled with Tracy’s enjoyment of the audios has really put me in the mood to listen to the rest of Aliens Among Us. this morning, Tracy was positively giddy at the prospect of me listening to “Love Rat”.

ALIENS AMONG US – PART 2

LOVE RAT (by Christopher Cooper):

“Captain Jack Harkness is dead, and that’s the simplest thing that’s happened to him in the last few days. Even the manner of his death is surprisingly complex, especially when it turns out that he hasn’t come back alone. While Torchwood try and cope with a new mayor and a terrorist cell, they also have to deal with what, at first, looks to be a plague, and then turns out to be something far, far worse.”

COMMENTARY: I might have guessed this plot from the title: an extraterrestrial species of rat carries with it a terminal disease that is spread through sex and makes you horny. Jack sends Tyler to negotiate the cure from Ro-Jedda and ends up owing them both a favor.

ALIENS AMONG US – PART 2

A KILL TO A VIEW (by Mac Rogers):

“Ritz Towers is a luxury tower block so exclusive not even aliens can get a place there. Mr. Colchester has somehow secured a flat at the Ritz. With the streets increasingly troubled, his husband feels safe there. The problem is that Ritz Towers is anything but safe. For a start, the building has more tenants than it has flats. Then there are the endless dinner parties. The whole new definition of upwardly mobile. And finally, there is the very mysterious caretaker.”

COMMENTARY: One side of Ritz Towers faces the new Cardiff skyline; the other faces the less desirable part of the city. A room with a view of the new skyline is highly desirable. Colchester’s husband, Colin, is a bit more outgoing than Colchester is. Colin is a Muslim, but he feels safe in Ritz Towers in this age of increased prejudice (not only racial and religious, but against the influx of extraterrestrials as well). Colin accepts a dinner invitation from a lesbian couple in the building, supposedly only to use each other as excuses not to attend other dinner parties.

It turns out that the caretaker, Bilis Manger, is pitting tenant against tenant in death duels, the winner to Take possession of the loser’s flat. Manger is anti-alien, and is actually using these conflicts to generate energy to send a message across The Rift to the refugee aliens’ enemies. When it comes to light that Ritz Towers has more tenants than flats and that no one has ever moved out, Torchwood becomes involved.

This one has lots of witty dialogue although the threat is deadly dangerous.

ALIENS AMONG US – PART 2

ZERO HOUR (by Janine H Jones):

“Welcome to Deliverables. Thanks to us, Cardiff is enjoying an economic miracle. We have created thousands of jobs. We have wiped out homelessness. More importantly, there are so many benefits to you. Deliverables will deliver your post, your packages, your meals. We are Deliverables, and we never stop. Deliverables – we always know where to find you. Deliverables – put your life in our hands.”

COMMENTARY: It turns out that the Caretaker’s plot from the previous episode has destabilized The Rift. A delivery company is sending its many employees on a serious of meaningless errands, the patterns of which are creating an improbability field further destabilizing The Rift. (The technobabble is a lot more impressive than I’m making it sound.) Each episode is more entertaining than the last, and each builds upon the one before.

ALIENS AMONG US – PART 2

THE EMPTY HAND (by Tim Foley):

“An innocent refugee has been shot point-blank on the streets of Cardiff. It causes an upsurge in terrorist attacks. An innocent refugee has been shot point-blank on the streets of Cardiff by a policeman. It’s a catalyst for protests in the streets. An innocent refugee has been shot point-blank on the streets of Cardiff by Sergeant Andy Davidson. It’s the end of Torchwood as we know it.”

COMMENTARY: Andy has been a supporting character on Torchwood since the very first episode of the TV series. He is a genuinely nice guy who was Gwen’s partner when she was on the police force and who, along with Gwen’s husband Rhys, provides the “everyman” point of view. The evidence against him is pretty damning: surveillance footage with sound of him killing a refugee in cold blood. He has no defense, really… only that he has no memory of the incident. Weeks ago, another such incident occurred involving another police officer who was a real horse’s neck to begin with. He claimed to have no memory of the incident he was involved in, either, and ended up committing suicide.

Andy is complaining of pain in the palm of his hand, but a medical examination shows nothing out of the ordinary, although Gwen’s investigation uncovers a sort of “blueprint” of a hand with a blank spot in the center. The new and long-time supporting characters continue to have scenes together and play off one another; in this case it’s Colchester and Rhys. The way the plot is resolved clears Andy, but it also makes the truly racist police officer (who was never actually “activated”; the refugee he killed, he did of his own volition) appear a hero. Although Andy is innocent, he is assigned to a desk job.

Jack has been inexplicably absent through much of this, sowing seeds of distrust among the rest of his team, particularly Gwen. At the end of the episode, they capture a woman who has been spying on them, and she immediately announces her intention to take over Torchwood.

CLIFFHANGER: The woman is Yvonne Hartman, who Doctor Who fans will remember as the head of Torchwood 1 during the Battle of Canary Wharf in the two-parter “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”. But wait a minute… wasn’t she turned into a Cyberman at the end of that? I asked Tracy (who is several episodes ahead of me) and she replied, “Do you want me to tell you?” No, no I don’t. But apparently the mystery of her survival will be addressed in the next set.

“By dawn tomorrow, the whole of Torchwood will be mine. The team, the base. You can keep the coat.”

Good cliffhanger! I’m glad I don’t have to wait for the resolution.

ALIENS AMONG US – PART 3

POKER FACE (by Tim Foley):

“Torchwood are in trouble. Terrorist attacks are rocking the city. Control of the police has been ceded to Cardiff's alien masters. And it looks like it's all been arranged by Captain Jack Harkness. Worse, there's a dead woman in the cells who says that Torchwood will be hers by dawn.”

COMMENTARY: Here’s why you shouldn’t keep secrets from your teammates. Jack has been working on his own to infiltrate the Red Doors. But Yvonne Hartman has been observing him and is very manipulative. She releases just enough information to lead the team in a certain direction, and the evidence they find convinces them that Jack is guilty. By the end, Yvonne suggests that Jack use his skills to actually join the Red Doors. She may even hire him back some day.

ALIENS AMONG US – PART 3

TAGGED (by Joseph Lidster):

"I know what you've done. I know what you'll do." The phrase starts appearing everywhere around Cardiff. On posters. On the internet. It's just a prank, isn't it? Only a wave of vigilante crime spreads through the city. People are taking revenge. Suddenly everyone knows what you've done. And they know what you'll do.”

COMMENTARY: These cards and memes have the psychic effect of causing victims to seek revenge on those they feel have wronged them. Apparently this technology originated with trying to get a team to more readily follow a lead, but it was perverted the Red Doors. The implication is that Jack let this technology fall into the wrong hands. The story doesn’t even raise the question that it was the fault of Yvonne Hartman. I don’t know if that’s significant or not.

ALIENS AMONG US – PART 3

ESCAPE ROOM (by Helen Goldwyn):

“Gwen Cooper, Rhys Williams, and the Colchester-Prices go to try out an escape room. They've heard a lot about them. Especially this one. People keep going into the game and not coming out. But Torchwood will be fine. After all - partners can trust each other. Can't they?”

COMMENTARY: This is a pretty straightforward action/adventure. Shortly after they enter, Gwen and Colin become separated from Colchester and Rhys. The challenges are set up to pit the teams against each other. I had hoped that the story would be structured in such a way as to allow the listener to pit his own problem-solving skills against the characters’, but it’s not, really. The escape room is the test of an elder god to determine whether or not humanity is suited to serve/worship it.

ALIENS AMONG US – PART 3

HERALD OF THE DAWN (by James Goss):

“It starts normally enough: a car park full of ramblers is incinerated by a thunderbolt. But the next day it's clear there's something very wrong. Something's changed. Something's coming. It's the end of the world. And that's what Torchwood are best at...”

COMMENTARY: “Herald of the Dawn” brings Aliens Among Us to an end. Although it is a soft ending (i.e., very open ended), I don’t plan to listen to any more Torchwood audios for quite a while. Although I might expect the next release it be “Aliens Among Us, Pt. 3,” It will, in fact, be “The Death of Captain Jack” (whatever that may be). I will be off the board until Monday, so I wanted to finish this up today and start the next “Diary of River Song” next week.

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