Opinion no image

Published on June 28th, 2006 | by Christian Cawley

Burning Bridges

It’s a word, it’s a TV show, it’s an organisation, it’s a nice house in Scotland. Doctor Who has been invaded by “Torchwood” – another show, another meme. But what is its true relevance to Doctor Who 2006?

We know that it was first mentioned on-screen in Bad Wolf during “The Weakest Link”, as the answer to a question. Since then, however it has taken on a life of its own and has become more prominent than Bad Wolf. There is less of an air of mystery about “Torchwood”, as we know – thanks to Queen Victoria’s “Dr. Evil” rant to camera that she will be creating the Torchwood Institute.

We already knew about Torchwood in The Christmas Invasion, and suspected some sort of agency with connections to alien activity. Since Tooth and Claw, we’ve learned that the organisation is well-known in certain circles. The rich, successful guests of Pete and Jackie Tyler’s party knew of Torchwood in Rise of the Cybermen, as did the 1950s police officers in The Idiot’s Lantern. In School Reunion, Mickey’s access to government files is restricted, heralded by the “TORCHWOOD ACCESS DENIED” screen. And again, Torchwood’s undercover nature is underlined in Love & Monsters as Victor Kennedy has files on the Doctor taken from the organisation.

Finally, we’re back in the future, where Zack declares that he represents “The Torchwood Archive” in The Satan Pit. That’s eight blatant references. But references to what – an organisation, another TV show? With Bad Wolf we didn’t know what was going on, there were no suggestions offered. But with Torchwood, it’s so in your face, prominent and still carries an air of mystery… surely it’s more than a “I’ve just seen the Doctor” call sign?

We know – via the papers – that Captain Jack will be working for Torchwood, and perhaps in his show there will be mentions of the Doctor, or of UNIT. On that score we will have to wait and see – but what of UNIT? The presence of Torchwood raises several issues. If they are concerned with the unusual, alien or paranormal, then what exactly did they spend their time doing between 1969 and 1976, when the Doctor was stranded on Earth working with UNIT? Wallpapering the castle? Did the Brigadier have to fend off demands from this cloak and dagger government department for access to the Doctor, its apparent sword enemy?

And what of Aliens of London? The Acting Prime Minister summons UNIT to kill them all – why not Torchwood? Where was Torchwood during Remembrance of the Daleks?

Retro-revisionism is one thing, but when the very body that Torchwood seems to be the antithesis of – UNIT – is mentioned in within a year of Torchwood, this is an interesting aspect to the Torchwood mystery.

Of course, all Torchwood might be is a low-profile body established to protect mankind from the alien or paranormal. It might not have any wish to harm the Doctor, or even know that much about him. Torchwood might be unaware that the Doctor is the same man who helped UNIT in the 1970s. Or it might all be an elaborate trap to eradicate the Doctor who a) possibly allowed Queen Victoria to get bitten by the werewolf in Tooth and Claw and so have a reason to have his experience with the alien and unusual under lock and key, and b) allowed his flighty young companion to be quite cheeky to the Empress of India.

And what of Rose? How does she fit into the Torchwood situation? Is she bait? Is she perhaps a target? While the word has been uttered or seen in conjunction with the Doctor, it could just as easily apply to the Bad Wolf…

And when we thought we had heard the end of Bad Wolf, it pops up again in this series – references of course in Tooth and Claw as well as mention of a “Bad Wolf Virus” in Love & Monsters. Back in Series 1 Gwyneth saw into Rose’s future in The Unquiet Dead – could “the big bad wolf” not have been Rose, or the Daleks, but the werewolf itself or even Satan?

Or Torchwood?

We know that Torchwood and Rose are at some level inextricably linked. Her departure from the TARDIS comes as a consequence of hers and the Doctors contact with the agency in the next episode. I dare say we’ll see that Torchwood isn’t as clever as it likes to think

addendum: Like last year’s “Bad Wolf” article, I could not have written this without the help of many blogs, rec.arts.drwho on Usenet, and the forums here on Kasterborous. If you’ve seen any theory above that you recognise as your own, thank you for inspiring me to write this – let’s hope the payoff is a good one!

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About the Author

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




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