Monday, March 31, 2008

What is the measure of Man?

Torchwood is meant to be darker and edgier than the show it spins off of, Doctor Who, and it certainly is that. But it also says things about the human condition that the good Doctor cannot illustrate. One of these is the notion of family, a team. The Doctor might have a Companion or two, but he always knows that he will lose them, either to misadventure or to an excess of adventure that burns them out and makes them long for home. The current Torchwood group, on the other hand, consciously battle incredible odds to stay together, and there have been many circumstances which nearly tore them apart, but in the end, those experiences only draw them closer. This is an idea that recurs again and again in science fiction, the notion that one of the things that makes us human is the impulse, the drive to band together and create teams and communities. We are social creatures, and most of us work better with others around to back us up, to share and expand on our ideas, to be emotional support. The Doctor seems to feel some of this instinct towards group building, but his circumstances are unique, and he often focuses more on that than the people sharing it with him, which can highlight his inhumanity more than any overt action. After all, deciding whether or not to save a thousand humans from Certain Death doesn’t mean as much when you don’t have a grasp on who they would be leaving behind, the bonds that would be broken without those people.

Another poignant aspect of being human is the knowledge of mortality. This was accentuated in the recent Torchwood arc featuring Martha Jones. Owen, the team doctor, is shot, but Torchwood has the Resurrection Glove, which can bring a person back for a minute or two. However, this is the Mark II, and Owen’s resurrection becomes more long-term. It may only be a few weeks or months (or it could be several decades) before it fails again, but in the meantime, he cannot process food or drink, bruises and bone breaks do not mend, and he has no heartbeat. He and Jack have had several mournful conversations about the dichotomy of their situations, one painfully aware that he might fall and die at any moment, the other just as painfully aware that he will never die, no matter what. One missing the food and the love he can no longer fully appreciate, the other missing the spice of subconscious knowledge that all this could be snatched away. They do not come to an conclusions, for what resolution is there for either of them? But they both become just a little more human to us in that moment.

As a minor side note: is Spike a Whovian? We know he likes Monty Python; he makes reference to ‘The Holy Hand-grenade of Antioch’ and ‘that insidious torture device, the comfy chair’, but in As You Were (6.15), he gives himself the code name ‘The Doctor’. Is this a geekly reference?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Buffy Quibble

OK, it's minor, but this one keeps bugging me: At the beginning of Season 1, Buffy was 15 when she started Sophomore year. At the beginning of Season 7, it is implied that Dawn is starting Freshman year, but she is 16. What gives? Sloppy writing? Was she actually taking high school classes before, but in a random building? In fact, for those three years, where were all the teenagers going to school? They could have spent two lines explaining all this, but instead these questions are left to haunt me. *sigh*