Friday, February 15, 2008

Torchwood Plagiarizing Buffy?! What are the odds?!

Following my complete and utter disillusionment over what the first two episodes promised to be a decent series, I've decided to do a 'live review' of the latest episode Adam. First off, I'll list all my expectations and my hopes that for once I will not be crushingly disappointed. Again.

So, my predictions for this episode
  • It will be a one off self contained story that contradicts everything around it unintentionally
  • It will render Border Princes uncanonical
  • Character development of the regulars will not happen, or at least regress to the way it was in series one
  • It will completely rip off Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • It will completely rip off Farscape
  • It will not be as entertaining as the show it is clearly ripping off
Now, like or love it, Buffy is a rather large part of the fantasy sci fi bollocks genre, as is its spin off Angel. Amazingly enough, looking back on it, these shows managed to tackle big issues like high school shootings, child abuse, drug addiction, prostitution, corruption, racism, terrorism, religious fundamentalism... and never once started swearing like troopers. Or behaving so utterly stupid as Torchwood's finest have.

Ultimately, RTD has actually stolen very little from Buffy - bar the episode The Zeppo, a lovely comedy episode basically told from the view of a passer by which shows how utterly pretentious and ridiculous the whole format can be. It was, as they say, a Buffy lite episode and thus has inspired The Long Game, Boomtown, Love & Monsters and Blink. You could say RTD's nicked stuff like the emotional cores, family life, and self-aware comedy, but you could say Buffy nicked that first... hell, watch Survival then Rose and spot any differences!

But one of the notable Buffy episodes was Superstar. And when I say notable it was briefly the Utopia of Buffys, since I was there when the hype happened. Quite simply, there is a regular character in Buffy called Jonathon who is a meek nerd. Often in the background he would get a line or so an episode, usually being the random passer by Buffy saves from a monster. He was completely forgettable. Which is the point, so when it is Jonathon of all people who presents Buffy with an award on Prom Night where the apparently clueless Sunnydale population reveal like, duh, they noticed the hot blonde saving their asses from demons, it's a good moment. It's even better when you see the infamous banned episode where the mysterious figure in the high school clock tower with a sniper rifle is revealed to be Jonathon, and more to the point was going to kill HIMSELF before Buffy arrives and unwittingly saves him.

The point is, Jonathon is no one. And then... Superstar arrives. And suddenly Jonathon is living in a mansion, incredibly famous, with movie posters showing his face and every single character worshipping him and in awe of him. It doesn't take much to realize some kind of conspiracy has been hatched, what with a single and very short and weak human being stronger than the Chosen One specifically bred to fight vampires. The reveal is that Jonathon has cast a spell to make him godlike and loved - which is really sad and pathetic in a moving way. What was interesting was that although it was a comedy it was played completely straight, even down to the opening credits being edited to have shots of this short nerd kicking ass in a leather jacket.

This one off ep lead to Dawn Summers. Now, Buffy is an only child. She's the classic example of the only child. So when she comes home and finds a strange girl in her room, the audience are lost when it's clear Buffy knows this wierdo as her sister. After many episodes wondering just who this girl is and why everyone seems to know her like she's always been there, we discover Dawn is not human but an energy being in deep cover who has effected everyone's memories to think of her as a long-term regular.

I mention this because this plot was ripped off wholesale for the Torchwood novel Border Princes, which features the Hub team joined by James Harper a nice enough bloke who uses metaphors and similies in his work. Now, I can forgive such a steal because (a) it's done very well (b) the plot is explored properly and (c) the implication is, when James' true nature is revealed and everyone forgets about him, this leads to the apparent insanity of the crew on TV.

The fact the TV series is contradicting the books would not be a surprise - hell, try reading the novels and watch Tennant's first season where every single one of them is rendered uncanonical - but what gets me is that the books of Torchwood are much, much better than the parent show. Not only is half of the Torchwood canon being ignored, it's the only half worth knowing.

As for ripping off Joss Whedon, Torchwood perpetrated this crime far more than Doctor Who ever did.

Like Angel, Jack is an immortal good looking guy of dubious sexuality in a big coat, living in a city with a team to help him save humanity both collectively and individually from an undefined disaster in the twentieth century. Like Angel, there are ridiculous 'sweep shots of the city at night' despite the fact Torchwood is in Cardiff and the main character is allowed to move around in the day. Other steals from Angel are: a team regular dying shockingly in the early episodes and being hastily replaced; the second episode involving a sex-obsessed serial-killing non-human; the main character fighting demonic forces he encountered in centuries earlier without time travel; Greeks Bearing Gifts sans lesbian subplot is a line by line rip off of Earshot, down to the scene where the immortal's mind cannot be read... oh, and Spike turning up. That was a tad blatant.

So, now I've got it off my chest how utterly derivative this show is (even when it's not total crap), I can now suffer watching the first few scenes... AND WHAT A SURPRISE! There's this new bloke, Adam (dear god, why couldn't they get a name that hadn't been used already in Doctor Who?) mingling with Torchwood Three in the '21st century changing' monologue. Just like Superstar.

Dear God, Torchwood of late boasts the originality of Sparacus WILL YOU JUST GET SOME NEW IDEAS!!

The most interesting thing of the first few seconds is that Jack is handing out those Dalek Tommy guns to his newly expanded team... and, can I just ask why the hell are we having a story where the Torchwood team is going to have its memory altered? My god, they do it to the general populace every week, so it's hardly a new idea in the show. Will it actually make them realize how utterly stupid retconning humanity is? Will Jack, who left his whole life after his own memories were altered, actually react to this?

I'm hating the episode before it's started! That's just one editing "gag" can do to a fellow - I only hope that England isn't as telefantasy-wise as I am, or they might switch off at this dearth of new ideas. CANCEL THIS SHOW, SOMEONE! PLEASE! IT WILL NEVER WORK! Jesus, they can't even afford to alter the final 'action shot' of the entire gang to include Adam in. Go on, RTD, justify this cack-handed crap - I notice you distanced yourself entirely from Cyberwoman insisting "I'm gay, I don't have any input into this Cyber-sex-slave or why anyone would be interested in it, over to the hetros, they must know what they're doing!" - I DARE YOU!

Guess I better actually, you know, watch some of the ep. Oh, very well if you insist...

Our episode starts with Gwen and Rhys enjoying each other's company. Well, he wants a shag, she has to go to work and there's a wrestle, but it's full of laughter and love it requires a proper description. Tragically, I suspect this blissful coexistence will be one episode only. Dear God, wouldn't have been possible to have Adam there in the first episode when Jack returns? Built it up rather than suddenly change everything and change it back in one episode? Sorry, bitching again. Still haven't had any actual plot. And it strikes me that Gwen's "work" is not specifically mentioned as Torchwood. Is she still with the police?

To the Hub. Now I've got rid of my "Buffy-theft-hate", I have to like the way it's going. The day starts with Jack handing over a crate full of alien junk for the team to sort out. The team being Tosh (no real change, except she's wandering around rather than at her computer), Owen (wearing spectacles and now a timid McCallif-type gentleman) and Adam. God, three seconds and he's come across as more arrogant, poncy and self-absorbed than Owen managed in four episodes. I mean, show this episode to someone who's NEVER seen Torchwood before and they'll instantly peg Adam as the one NOT to trust, as he gives himself the lion's share of the 'working at computer' duty before Jack can say anything. At least we know there's a reason why this git was allowed through the door to join the team... and he looks ugly. I may not be expressing myself right, and attempt to look past external appearances, but this guy's face is... wrong. His head seems too large, or maybe his face looks too small. And that metrosexual quiff looks like some very crude special effect.

Maybe it's deliberate. Gosh, I'm waffling a lot. On with the plot.

Gwen arrives after a trip to Paris and immediately notices something odd. Owen is dressed like David Tennant and has not made a single suggestive remark. Tosh has realized she has breasts and dresses to emphasize this fact. And wrong-faced floppy-haird "I've been here for three years" git is sitting in her chair. So she demands Jack to know what the hell is going on while everyone stares at her like she's crazy and Adam himself looks even more dodgy and secretive than before. Adam then does the Vulcan nerve pinch and instantly Gwen's memories of season one are altered so this fun-loving ugly-faced git was in them.

Well, there goes the mystery angle. Just in case Whedon would soil his hands by suing the losers who commisioned this.

Now the whole plot has been pretty much boiled out in one minute thirty-three seconds, let's see where the plot can go now?

Oh. The opening titles. Shit. And it's Cathy Tregenna writing it - good old 'no monsters, more angst, suicidal self-sacrifice and an incredibly dodgy central premise' Tregenna. Jesus. When's Chris Chibnall coming back? Or Martha Jones? Or Spike? My enthusiasm has just stormed out and slammed the door behind it AND IT'S ONLY JUST STARTED! Maybe I need a sugar hit or something...

Plot. Adam's nefarious scheme has only started today, as he is already using the Hub computers to create a fictional history for himself as... "Adam Smith". Jesus. Why not call himself John Smith? Might get a laugh. However, Tosh has already twigged something is suspicious as to why wrong-faced floppy-haird "I've been here for three years" git is changing his personnel file. Gosh, at this rate he'll be out the door before five minutes are up. But Adam just retcons Tosh so they are lovers and she is too overcome with emotion for his fabulously... ugly body to notice his massively dodgy behaviour. Uh, why not just erase the last minute from her memory? Oh well, at least she get's a straight snog. Again. And it seems that the mystery object of alien origin today is a model of a Borg Cube. Nice to know the same level of effort goes into all aspects of the show.

Bloody hell! They've remembered that Owen fancies Tosh! Even when Owen has now been so lobotomized he is the awkward Hugh Grant, so meek he seems not to question the fact two people he works closely with have suddenly been an item for a year. My ep is still buffering so we must cut to Jack, who is down in the cells hurling abuse at the Weevil. Jeez, he must be pretty pissed off considering his overall compassion for these wild animals. Alas - it's Creet from Utopia (well, someone who looks like him)! And those two hands from Jack's flashback in KKBB! JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! Someone's been paying attention! My enthusiasm has returned for its car keys, but I urge it to stay and see how things develop. Maybe that run of two incredibly shit episodes was a brief downer? We can only hope.

Jack is his "usual" flirty self with Gwen (usual as in "whenever we remember his characterization") but he's distracting her from the spooky ghost of the little boy that does the whole 'vanish when you look' away thing, and he don't want to talk about it. Upstairs, Owen is trying to act cute with fluffy bunnies to seduce Tosh. Well. Yes. Awkward, but it's a darn sight better than drugging her and raping her as RTD's version would have done with an infuriatingly wide toothy hiss. I like Hugh Grant Owen. Let us keep him. A Torchwood Three member who is able to think beyond the contents of their underpants would be a real weapon in their arsenal of non-specific weapons against a non-specific threat (the Sleeper Cell? We can only hope CC is paying as much attention as CT is...) However, Tosh thinks she's getting all the sex she is and is unspeakably rude to Owen. I mean, hell, that sort of dialogue is reserved for John Simms' Master it is so cruel. BITCH! Gwen then coups de gras by calling him "a little puppy dog with no chance" - fuck off! Thank God we're not supposed to think the regulars are in their normal state of mind this week, but aren't they getting a bit suspicious of Adam repeatedly giving them all nerve pinches?

That night, Gwen returns home where Rhys is waiting for her. Gwen, however, has completely forgotten who the hell Rhys is and pulls a knife on him. Jesus Christ, girl! OK, I understand you're surprised, but it's a guy wearing nothing but a bathrobe, no need to pull out a knife - and you'll notice his photo all over the place. Let's hope Rhys remembers Torchwood... In fairness, however, he's not given a chance to talk when Gwen pulls a gun on her "stalker" and calls in Jack. And Adam. Oh dear. Rhys' future ain't looking bright.

No, wait, Jack still knows Rhys and together they point out the photos and her engagement ring (CT... I think I LOVE YOU!!) and what's more, Rhys remembers the events of the previous episode! WOW! It's like the writer KNOWS what the hell she's doing! My enthusiasm admits it is willing agree to differ on the Buffy theft.

Adam for whatever reason is unable to nerve pinch Gwen to remember Rhys, or wipe this incident from everyone's memories (I'll give the rest of the episode the chance to explain why not) and thus the Hub turn themselves onto finding out why Gwen has completely forgotten the love, ahem, of her life. Owen doesn't have a clue why she's forgotten - and just why ARE those Cyberman X-rays so important? - and Rhys is forced to record a video diary of their life to help her remember. It's a refreshingly believable and realistic sequence, marred only by the lack of Rhys admitting what really attracted him to her was the gap in her teeth... The gang decide to leave Gwen and Rhys alone, with Jack insisting he trusts Rhys not to hurt her, probably the most mature and professional move he's EVER done in either series. Instant karma however strikes as Silent Little Boy appears outside the SUV, scaring the shit out of Jack (and, you know, that really is rare, when I think about it - even when a giant demon is sucking out his life force, he's never been terrified...) Indeed, so deeply is Jack traumatized, he turns out Ianto's offer "to go hunting together".

To calm down from this unearthly encounter, Jack climbs into a pitch dark sewer and searches for a cannibalistic monster. Yeah, I think when you need THAT to calm down, things are serious. But instead he finds an old guy with an American accent, a blocked nose, and some vaguely Saracen clothing telling his son "to get out and run". "Dad?" Jack gasps... I'm sorry, it might be a very deep and significant moment, but Jack's voice is so high pitched and camp, I honestly expected canned laughter as he squeaked that monosyllable. Jack flees the sewer only to find Adam, who does his voodoo shit and makes Jack think he was on the same mission (uh... OK... maybe he needs time to build up his memory-altering skills, or maybe can only do one person at a time or something).

Owen meanwhile is trying to discover the truth of the Borg Cube and seduce Tosh at the same time with some lunchboxes of home made sandwiches. God, he really is the Anti-Chatham in this as he tried to get into her goodbooks but still do the important work at the same time... he might fail, but it's the thought that counts as beer-swilling, put-downing, charge-taking, thigh-flashing, tight-shirt and deeply-sexually-satisfied wearing Tosh looks at the lonely geek with nothing other than deep pity. It's also worth noting that the Hub has "grown" a kind of conference room to replace the upstairs one they used in the first series, which looks identical to the flight deck of the Valiant. Why? Well, we're too busy caught out by Owen's incredibly heartbreaking pathetic speech where he tells Tosh he loves her, whereupon she acts like he's just thrown up on her dinner.

Meanwhile, Jack is having a flashback to his childhood at the Boeshane Peninsula in the 51st century (looks like Bondi to me, only with wierd art deco castle)... dear god, THAT is supposed to be a young John Barrowman?! Hell, Freema Agyemen would be more convincing! Maybe that's why Jack keeps having plastic surgery in RTD scripts. He was some ugly dork, and those desert scarf clothes don't help either! Anyway, if you remember Captain Jack Harkness, the 51st century was a time of war between humanity and "the worst thing you can imagine" (still no new evidence here, except they sound like vortisaurs... damn, I assumed the enemy would be humans themselves), and Jack's childhood was kind of like the Blitz, with the invaders swooping over head all the time. Jack was told by his father to take his little brother "Grey" to safety while he went to save their mother. The fact Jack is haunted by "Grey" pretty much tells the story from here on in. Ah, but you say, Spike has found "Grey" - yes, he did. "Grey" simply vanished, while the rest of Jack's family were apparently slaughtered and though our omnisexual hero searched for his little brother for years, never found any trace of the bastard. Suffice it to say, remembering this day has devastated Jack, further muddying his stance on memory revision - is he for or against already? And looking at this flashback, surely travelling with the Doctor would remind him of that awful day, what with all the running and monsters and holding hands and stuff?

Still, at least there's an explanation for why Jack hasn't mentioned Grey before. Plus, there's no evidence my theory he was joking about being the FOB is wrong. So, yay me. Anyway, we find out that Jack's mum survived, but not his dad "Franklin". "Franklin"?! VERY 51st century that... Still, on the bright side, Jack is never addressed as such by his mum (cause it's not his name) and we finally discover WHY Jack likes standing on those tall buildings (reminds him of his home where he did that a lot). And it does CT think that the two years Jack lost were these ones? If so, she ain't been talking to Steve Moffat, who makes it clear those years saw him become the most wanted war criminal in the universe... or at least that's what he says to Rose...

But surely, there's someone we've forgotten? Of course! Ianto - and surely no memory revision can possibly defeat the most anally retentive butler in Cardiff - AND WE'RE RIGHT! Ianto realizes that his incredibly detailed diary does not mention Owen as anything other than a neanderthal with moisturizer, Tosh as a pair of glasses lusting after Owen, or Adam. At all. However, Adam does a spooky teleport thing and confronts Ianto. It turns out Adam is an ALIEN! And the reason why he's so judicious with the mind wiping is that it can lead to side effects - making Gwen remember him made her forget Rhys, for example! (CT! WHY DID I EVER DOUBT YOU!) And then, in the most disturbing sequence since the off-screen murder of a toddler in Sleeper, Adam whups Ianto's ass, leaving him convinced he is a psychotic rapist and serial killer. When Ianto resists these false memories, Adam leaves him in a dreamscape surrounded by the corpses of "his victims" and poor little Welshman cracks...

This is, typically, interspersed with Gwen and Rhys Do "50 First Dates" as she starts to remember her boyfriend, and whatisname proves once again he's a good actor with a decent character, as Rhys admits he was always worried Gwen stuck with him out out of convenience rather than love, and thus offers to let her go and not make her marry a man she's not happy with. Well, as you can imagine, that pretty much earns him a snog for being so selfless and loveable. Cunning bastard. Mind you, it'd be interesting to see if Rhys could pull this trick on Tosh, the Ego that Walks Like A Human... who is, at this very moment, shagging Adam like her life depends on it - none of that girly romance shite in To The Last Man for her! Adam wants Tosh to be willing to die for him, and she agrees in such a way to make a cynic like me think she'll agree to anything so they can get back to making the mummy and daddy dance.

Next morning, Jack returns to the Hub to find the shattered Ianto insisting he is "a monster" who murders people - and thanks to the fact Ianto BELIEVES it to be true, Jack's lie detector agrees. But Jack for once is not going to take the easy way out and just shoot his boyfriend through the head. He goes to check on the security camera logs, which show Adam beating the shit out of Ianto... and oddly enough not having a blood sample... and his personnel file only being 24 hours old. Jack realizes they have some memory-altering bastard on their hands when suddenly the lights snap on to reveal!

...a bunch of flowers.

Held by Owen, who has turned up for work to put the flowers on Tosh's table and make up for the previous evening. All done in absolute silence as Jack and Ianto, primed for a final showdown with Adam, awkwardly realize it's just a geek in love and not a being of pure evil.


Tosh and Adam arrive, and Owen awkwardly decides to prove his love for that lovely Chinese girl by letting her go - if she's happy with Adam, then that's good enough for him, and he sadly walks off. Ah, self-sacrifice. Not that any of this impresses Tosh, however, whose button is jammed on "condescending" and patronizes Owen until he goes away. Man, if they were going to kill off a regular, it should be Tosh and it should be now. THE BITCH MUST DIE!

When Gwen arrives, Adam declares a group hug and needles Ianto with lines like "I could murder a coffee", which seems to be the straw that breaks the Weevil's back as Jack aims his gun at the guy's head... just like on the cover of Border Princes. Oh well. Adam is lead protesting to the cells and Tosh goes apeshit with a handgun, but luckily, Ianto is also there to go apeshit... and I'll assume that Jack's immortality is forgotten by Tosh thanks to Adam. Cause, you know, she can just shoot Jack easy and he'll come back to life. Or at least wing him. Oh well.

Adam tries to talk his way out of it, but it looks like his spiel ain't working on Jack who is in a mean mood. "Don't kill me! I had to become part of your memories in order to survive, I didn't mean any harm! I changed you for the better - you didn't remember who you were, I helped you! Look at Owen, all his cynacism gone, he's a different man now - selfless, happier! And Toshiko too, she's never been this confident!"

I note he doesn't big up turning Ianto into Jack the Ripper. Smart move.

Leaving Adam to stew in the cells, Jack decides to 'reboot' everyone's memories by using a trippy screensaver to take them all back to before they met. Well, beats swinging a pocket watch in front of them... Gwen remembers Rhys and the fact she doesn't love him... Owen remembers his mother hating him and hurling abuse at him on his tenth birthday before she kicked him out... Tosh remembers being a maths geek with no friends... Ianto remembers Lisa and losing her (surprise, surprise). Seriously, I agree with Adam, they should have let Owen be. They'd get a lot more work done. This little bonding session leaves all four of them suicidally depressed and Jack insists that he's there for them and they're not alone. And then he gives them retcon pills.


OK, CT has points for saying that if they forget the last 48 hours then Adam's interference will be cancelled out and they'll be back to normal. But what's the point of the group hypnosis? WHY?! GAHHH! IT WAS GOING SO WELL! Tosh refuses to give up the memories of the man she loves, but Jack points out that this counts as mind rape and to take a pill to wash all the pain away. That's the moral of this week's episode, kids. Pills are good.

As the others zone out, Adam starts to die, as he is a kind of energy parasite that exists in other's memories. But can show up on video recordings. OK. Adam insists that he escaped the darkness of the void to arrive on Earth to enjoy Jack's unique memories, and can restore Jack's happy childhood thoughts if he is spared. Jack can't resist an opportunity like that, but soon his thoughts of happy Boeshane Baseball are ruined when an ugly kid called Adam shows up and steals the ball...

With his last happy memory of his family up for ransom, it looks like Adam has Jack by the balls - not in a way Jack'd enjoy, either, if your brain can percieve such impossibility - and guess what, the Borg Cube is the key to it all! But Jack's always been difficult and as Adam screams that if he gets wiped so does Jack's idenity ringing in our ears, Jack... takes the pill. Adam goes poof as Jack falls asleep.

Our gang wake up wondering how they forgot the last 48 hours and Owen the cynical sonofabitch as before, effortlessly crushing meek Tosh's delight at getting a basketful of flowers. Owen insists he didn't give Tosh flowers and that she's lying to herself... even though they all have amnesia. Jesus Christ, what an asshole. Meanwhile, Jack puzzles over the Borg Cube marked "Adam's Property" - yet again, not interested in the fact he has no idea what happened for the last two days or who Adam is - and finds the box is full of sand.


The End.

Huh? If the box is open, surely it should return his memories? If the memories died with Adam, why is there sand in there? Surely Rhys will be able to tell them that some bloke called Adam was poncing round the place and his girlfriend nearly killed him? Surely this should have been like Red Dwarf: Thanks for the Memories and started with the gang discovering what really happened over two days? If they DO find out, will Adam return to life? And apart from explaining what Grey referred to, and doing the same plot as Border Princes, what was the point of this episode?

Oh well, while with a retarded wrist-slashing finale of CT's work, this is still several solar systems' higher quality than the last two, and thanks to this ep we can put those eps down to corrupted memories, hence the script editing faults. Which just leaves Owen bitching at Tosh... I dunno, maybe he IS trying to hide his infatuation from the others.


It will be a one off self contained story that contradicts everything around it unintentionally
Half right. It was a one off as one off can be but if there's any God there will be some kind of sequel where they find out the truth.

It will render Border Princes uncanonical
Surprisingly no. But TWICE getting their memories wiped over a new male gang member? Bad move there.

Character development of the regulars will not happen, or at least regress to the way it was in series one
Sadly yes.

It will completely rip off Buffy the Vampire Slayer

It will completely rip off Farscape
All in all no, but the regulars do go crazy and start imagining crap. But not enough for a COMPLETE rip off.

It will not be as entertaining as the show it is clearly ripping off
It managed until the completely pointless and bewildering last scene.

Oh well. At least it's one crap ending scene rather than the entire episode.

Next week - Martha Jones versus Giant Wasps... which is already been shown on digital TV... bastards...

No comments: