Monday, August 03, 2009

Time Keeps Slipping

Just warning you – don’t expect anything profound, deep, or spiritual. So if you’re looking for that, move along. I’m not up to it.

Instead I’m going to write about sex.

Not really. I just couldn’t resist saying that.

But it might crop up later, if you stick around.

The thing is, I have finished season 1 of Torchwood. Give me a sec - don’t stop reading now. You don’t have to be a Torchwood fan. You just have to be willing to let me rattle on for a while. It’s very edifying, and good for my soul. My brain is humming and sparking like it used to do in my college class on postmodern literature, thinking on themes and subtext. In other words, I’m itching to take something from pop culture and give it the sheen of respectability, thus justifying my absurd infatuation with my shiny new TV show.

Dear Husband is not particularly enamored of Torchwood. He has started calling it "Torturewood." He thinks it’s a bit silly and cheesy. From what I can tell, the British have an affection for spectacularly cheesy special effects. I’m willing to go with that. Dear Husband probably would, too, if more people were naked and there was more sex. I can’t really argue against the value of more naked people, particularly a naked John Barrowman, and who's going to balk at more sex? If you are, then you might as well close this right now and go read something serious.

But let it be said that my liking for this series has nothing whatsoever to do with Captain Jack’s unholy good looks or even that adorable gap between Gwen’s two front teeth that I can’t help staring at. But I digress.

I admit season 1 was a bit uneven, and I think we do CGI much better than the Brits. Also, I think they must shoot on videotape, because their shows look more like our soap operas than our TV shows. Some people prefer videotape, but I think our TV shows look more polished and cinematic and those qualities definitely works better for paranormal subject matter, in my opinion. Oh but who cares. So what if a man with a ridiculously fake fish head is driving a car around Cardiff? Everyone seems to be having a jolly good time even if they don’t remove their clothes often enough.

So far I thought the strongest shows involved time travel. It’s hard not to feel for the displaced and confused, such as the characters who flew in from the 1950s and got stuck in the 21st century, where they have to cope with the loss of their families and with the culture shock of their new era. One man, after finding his son in a nursing home and suffering from dementia, gives up. How would you feel if the only part of your child’s life you got to see was the bitter end? He can’t find a way to adapt, and Jack, after an attempt to keep him from suicide, finally sits with him as he dies. I was about ready to weep, except that Jack looks tasty and noble when he’s helping people die.

But even better was the episode in which Captain Jack Harkness (with his colleague Tosh) slips through a time rift into WWII Cardiff and meets the real Captain Jack Harkness, whose identity Jack had assumed.

This episode is just beautiful. For one thing, they got all the period details perfect. The music, the costumes, the set – they’re gorgeous. And the 1940s segments have this delightful warm glow to them.

Jack knows the Captain will die the next day in the line of duty. There’s nothing Jack can do about that, and the more he learns about the Captain, who is an honorable, kind, and courageous leader - and remarkably handsome to boot - the more that hurts. There’s quite a lot going on in this episode. When Tosh asks him how he came to take the Captain’s name, Jack refers to himself as a conman. He won’t say what his actual name is, and he has to make up a fake one on the spot. The Captain is the sort of heroic leader Jack would like to be but isn’t quite. Jack’s life is hidden, a mystery, and now we find that even his name is a lie. He can be loyal, kind and brave but also ruthless and sometimes cruel, willing to kill without hesitation or, it seems, guilt. The episode moves between the 1940s and modern day Cardiff where the rest of the Torchwood team are searching through the now derelict dancehall. Events and time overlap. We see the hall full of happy soldiers and their girls, and then the hall as an abandoned and empty wreck, a reminder of mortality and the cruelty of time.

Now for the sex part. I WAS getting to that. Well, it's not exactly about sex, but if you've got this far you might as well continue.

This episode is known for the kiss between Jack and the Captain, which I have to say was beautifully done and possibly one of the sweetest screen kisses I have ever seen.

(Dear Husband, on the other hand, choked out an irritated “OH GOD” before looking unhappily into the distance. Is this still the typical straight guy reaction? Do straight women get all weird when women kiss? I certainly don’t. Then again I can hit most of the notes on the Kinsey scale so what do I know? Women still seem less squirmy though. Nothing seems to freak out straight men more than male gay intimacy, and then they feel they need to go do something manly, like dismantle a car.)

The final scenes in the dance hall are achingly sad, full of yearning and loss. I was delighted that the Captain asked Jack to dance. So what if no one in their right mind would have done that in a crowded 1940s dance hall full of soldiers? - it serves very well as a symbol of emotional courage and honesty. It costs Jack nothing to love whomever he wishes, but for the Captain, the cost would be very high indeed. He chooses to be honest, while Jack is veiled in layers of deceit. The Captain has broken through Jack’s carefully constructed persona. Jack cares that this man, whose name he took without much thought, will die. When they embrace the dance music fades and is replaced by a more haunting theme. This isn’t simply attraction, or rather the attraction isn’t merely sexual, but a recognition of the other’s truest self and an attempt to hold to that in the face of inevitable loss. I think that final kiss transcended any sort of hip nod to gayness, or the sad knowledge of impending death, and became something transformative or maybe restorative.

I mean, besides being totally hot.

The clip from the BBC is excellent but includes a portion of the scene prior to the one at the dance hall. The dance hall scene starts around 1:04:


  1. Substitute Firefly for Torchwood.

    Replace the Jack-on-Jack kiss with the quasi-intimate scene between Inira and a female client.

    Substitute my wife's reaction for your husband's.

  2. Irritable: LOL! I remember that scene, only my response was more like Yowza! So perhaps I am thoroughly deviant. Firefly was an awesome series.

  3. Well there is some general nakedness going on in the Capt. Jack's bodical region of 'Children of Earth'. I think it was even listed in the Credits, "Just for Bad Alice' but I might be wrong on that.

  4. Grish: Well hallelujah! Here's hoping my DVR didn't screw up the recordings, which it has been doing to everything else.

  5. I couldn't have said it better myself Alice - Captain Jack, phwoar, now you've got me all hot and bothered again.

    RE: straight men finding other things to do. Yes BUT! Have you ever noticed how many seem to take a very keen interest if it's two women sharing a kiss - I wonder why?

  6. Petty: And I just saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where his old boyfriend shows up. my my.

    Yes, men don't seem to be at all threatened by two women kissing. Perhaps it taps into some archetype of having a harem.