Everything Changes

Posted in Audio by - May 29, 2018
Everything Changes

Aired 22 October 2006

Doctor Who triumphantly returned to television screens in March 2005, spectacularly immersing viewers in the flashy, dramatic, and emotional world of a Time Lord ridden with survivor’s guilt continuing his eternal quest to right wrongs and show others a better way of life. With an instant popularity that would soon surge across British borders and into the world at large, it’s perhaps no surprise that Torchwood, the anagram used to hide the identity of Doctor Who before its official announcement, would soon become the title of a spin-off in its own right, telling the tale of the institute founded by Queen Victoria in ‘Tooth and Claw’ in a modern setting with the charismatic Captain Jack Harkness as its head set to delve into much darker and more adult territory than its parent franchise ever could.

Of course, a science fiction show branching off of Doctor Who finally freed of the family-friendly mantra while tied to Earth is an idea fraught with the potential of treading too overtly into adult territory too frequently and overtly, but the premiere ‘Everything Changes’ manages to strike a good balance between storytelling and mature themes as Eve Myles’s Gwen Cooper suddenly finds herself entering the furtive world of Torchwood after seeing Jack, Ianto, and Suzie brazenly march into a murder scene and revive the deceased victim for a panicked two-minute conversation. This is a wonderfully dark and tense scene with no second chances for this poor man, and Jack asking the hidden but onlooking Gwen who serves as the audience’s surrogate what she thinks proves that this show will be unafraid of presenting difficult and morally tenuous situations that will challenge any preconceived notions about where this franchise may go.

With Jack himself registered as deceased since World War II, Gwen’s own investigations into what and who she saw are less fruitful than usual given her position on the Cardiff police force, but she has little time to ponder this before she comes upon an alien Weevil. Not running or screaming as so many are wont to do when presented with something abnormal on Doctor Who, Gwen tries to rationalise this being within her own frame of reference, assuming that this man before her is suffering from some sort of physical mutation or deformity or else wearing an elaborate disguise or costume. Aliens are simply not something that she accepts as the norm, but the security officer who echoes her line of thought and is promptly murdered and ravaged right before her eyes offers a brilliant scene that perfectly exemplifies the shock value and brutal tone that Torchwood can achieve when firing on all cylinders.

Through a marvellously simple line of questioning, Gwen is able to bring herself before Torchwood’s main players, but she quickly realises that there is no way she’ll be able to leave with her memories in place, if she is able to leave at all. Given retcon that brings about an amnesia relating to recent events, the story of Torchwood and the murderer still out there seems destined to be a part of Gwen’s forgotten past, but visual cues and verbal reminders from those she had talked to previously invariably draw her back to the heart of Cardiff’s greatest secret where she perhaps conveniently but inadvertently helps to uncover the true killer and regain her memories in one of the more shocking developments a pilot episode has ever delivered that is sure to have a lasting impact on the team going forward.

The plot is almost secondary in ‘Everything Changes’ in order to establish the main characters, and in that regard it’s an unqualified success that proves that Torchwood is unafraid of taking narrative risks. Showing the team using alien technology outside of Torchwood and Owen in particular using his for morally dubious gains proves that these protagonists will be anything but typical heroic stereotypes, and John Barrowman’s nuanced performance as Jack ensures that complexity runs to the very top of the organisation while setting the scene wonderfully for what could be to come as this bold vision continues to unfold.

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