Day One

Posted in Audio by - June 01, 2018
Day One

Aired 22 October 2006

Following an exciting premiere that unashamedly introduced Gwen Cooper to the moral greyness of Cardiff’s Torchwood Three and its operatives in a world secretly filled with alien beings and technology, ‘Day One’ by Chris Chibnall follows Gwen on her first mission while becoming the first episode in the expanded Doctor Who universe to explicitly centre around sex.

Notably, Gwen suggests to Rhys that her new job will primarily consist of filing, but the appearance of a meteorite crashing on the outskirts of town calls her into action much more quickly than she might have anticipated. Torchwood quickly asserts its positional might over the army at the crash site while making use of the many surveillance and communications networks at its fingertips. A joke gone wrong releases a purple gas, however, and the distraught Carys Fletcher who has just been stood up becomes the unwitting victim of the hypersexualized will contained within, turning men into piles of dust at the moment of climax as the need for more sex and the resulting orgasmic energy continues to grow.

The role of a young woman desperate to fulfill an insatiable lust driven by an unknown alien entity would be a difficult one to convincingly play for anyone, but Sarah Lloyd Gregory strangely plays Carys as surprisingly emotionless following her abduction. There’s no hint of the glee and relief the alien being must experience, but neither is there the torment of a person forced to act against her will, and the result is a strange emotional disconnect that becomes somewhat off-putting. Chibnall does try to create sympathy for the character with her initial rejection and by including her father in the story while Gwen tries to put the focus on the humanity of this victim, but Carys still never really manages to come to life as a real person at any point during the story.

As odd but fascinating as the idea of a nymphomaniac gas might be, it’s the jarring tones of the scenes of ‘Day One’ that mark one of its more overt shortcomings, and the plot definitely sacrifices logic at some points to progress its narrative in the nighttime setting. The episode does try to do some interesting things with its characters, and having Gwen act as the public and moral face of the organisation is certainly an intriguing notion even as she proves herself to be less than morally forthright in regards to her own commitment to Rhys, but overall the Torchwood team is still too unlikable to fully gain the audience’s sentiment and support. The team abruptly stopping to eat Chinese food while smugly boasting about the scans going on in the background is completely disrupting to the plot and does little to offer insight into the leads, and Owen happily trying to record Gwen getting personal with Carys and telling the others to watch the entertainment pretty much encapsulates everything that needs to be fixed in order to present this team as a believable force for good no matter how dark or bizarre the situation.

‘Day One’ doesn’t necessarily set out to be a heavy-hitting drama or character piece as it heads to its fairly successful and emotional resolution, but the tone, direction, and execution of the story as a whole are too uneven and misguided to allow the glimmers of interesting concepts from ever attaining anything near their full potential. With Jack still a complete mystery even to those who have served under him longest and the rest of the team members filled with apathy except when the plot necessitates action, this is a definite step back from the quality of ‘Everything Changes’ and proves that there is still much work to do for Torchwood to find its footing and balance while also incorporating the team in full instead of just Jack and Gwen with occasional ill-timed moments of moral depravity from Owen and cameos from both Toshiko and Ianto.

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