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Under Torch Wood
A parody for voices
Stob FIRST VOICE No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own;
SECOND VOICE Ahem. Hold on there, Richard. Wrong script.
FIRST VOICE I do beg your pardon. My mistake. I thought you were Jeff Wayne for a moment. May I have a glass of water? Thank you. Here we go.
To begin at the beginning. It is a wet, windy, winsome winter evening over the Cardiff bay development; the headachy halogen and sour sodium lights tickling the glinty, greasy, newly-repointed-and-polished-up-nicely cobblestones and reflected and redoubled in shimmershivering puddles.
It is late; and the many and variously architected towers, domes, angles, spikes, aspects, canopies, canapés and protuberances crouch unadmired in driving drizzle and the garish orange fog of electric allnite-everynite twilight.
Only you can see the mercilessly, migrainishly floodlit Norwegian Church, still cute as a baby mushroom, still astonished and agog, as though it has fallen here out of Disney.
Only you can see the baseball-capped Sennedd building, home of the Welsh Assembly, staring blindly out into the botulism-bobbing bay, dreaming dreams of passing baffling bilingual byelaws with which to befuddle the enemy.
Only you can see these things. Well, only you, half-a-dozen webcams and 318 CCTV security systems.
Come close now. Zoom in, chopper-shot to crane-shot, down over Roald Dahl-As-We-Expected Plass and its mobile phone mast fountain and, deep, deep below, in his secret underground headquarters,
SECOND VOICE Captain Jack,
Hi. I'm Captain Jack Harkness.
SECOND VOICE the insomniac bicon; snug as a hobbit, pretty as a choirboy, immortal as carbon dioxide, wooden as a horse. He is passing the small hours sweeping up pterodactyl droppings,
They get everywhere.
SECOND VOICE and cataloguing his prize collection of alien artefacts,
One off gadget for choosing the quickest queue at Tesco, check. And one off purple wig for a girlie going to the moon, check. And one off bottle of stuff for getting pterodactyl pturds off greatcoats, check.
SECOND VOICE all the while humming the ten tenets of the Torchwood creed under his breath
Separate from the government,
outside the police,
beyond the United Nations,
independent of the judiciary,
not voting in council elections,
distinct from the Brownies,
non-members of the AA,
think iPods are rubbish,
cancelled the milk,
no TV licence.
FIRST VOICE Up above, it is nearly dawn. Through the grille-shuttered windows of the swanky café district you can still see chair-leg-spikey tables and quainty-dainty chalked pavement blackboards, safely stowed for the night
CAFÉ SIGN Llanfairfach giant maggots, fresh in today! Organic? Of course!
FIRST VOICE and down by the waterfront, a swirling squall of pick-n-mixed rain and seawater soaks Police Sergeant Nye Thyme and WPC Efa Ng as they proceed flatfooted along the promenade.
F*ck me, I'm wet through to the b*ll*cks! What was that?
The watershed, you b*tch.
FIRST VOICE and they walk on in silence, Efa thinking about that thing that all policewomen want, but none can have:
WPC NG [longingly]
Uniform trousers that fit my backside.
FIRST VOICE They pass a busybody safety notice,
Do not feed the Cybermats. They are a nuisance and a pest.
Dwi'n ddim yn siarad Cymraeg. Esgusodwch fi.
FIRST VOICE then Efa says,
Sarge, can I ask you a personal question?
No point. I'm about to get my head bitten off in a gratuitously gory CGI scene.
FIRST VOICE and meanwhile, nearby, we find
SECOND VOICE Torchwood agent Gwen Cooper, the viewers' proxy.
FIRST VOICE Plumply pop-eyed, gap-toothed and beyond her fringe, she tiptoes around her flat in the dark, trying not to awaken her boyfriend Barry Backstory, who is dreaming of future episodes where he gets a bigger part.
BARRY BACKSTORY'S DREAM
I'm telling you, Gwen, I have to know who you want: me, or Captain Jack, or several of the others.
GWEN IN BARRY BACKSTORY'S DREAM
Don't make me choose.
FIRST VOICE Non-dream Gwen opens the door of her flat, where she finds
SECOND VOICE Captain Jack,
Hi. I'm Captain Jack Harkness.
SECOND VOICE accompanied by
TORCHWOOD AGENT 1
Toshiko Sato. I'm an all-new kind of female sci-fi character for the twenty-first century. I can give computers insoluble equations in Algol.
TORCHWOOD AGENT 2
Doctor Owen Harper. I'm a weasel-faced would-be rapist and self-described twat. By dint of great effort, I have made myself even less sympathetic and more unlikeable than the other characters.
SECOND VOICE and
TORCHWOOD AGENT 3 [plaintively]
Ianto Jones. I've got a Cyberlady in my wardrobe.
Gwen, you've got to come quickly. It's the Rift.
What is the Rift?
FIRST VOICE The Rift is a kind of hellmouth that is sucking on a transcendental, transdimensional gobstopper. It is a double-egg MacGuffin served with large flies. It is
SECOND VOICE an easy way for lazy writers to generate indulgence-straining plots, without ever troubling to think up anything new, or plausible, or to know or look up any science.
RUSSELL T DAVIES
Horizon doesn't bother. Why should we?
SECOND VOICE Point.
FIRST VOICE Listen. Through the compromised quiet of Cardiff's early, toe-stubbing, lavatory-flushing morning there comes a strange sound. A rhythmical seesawing, like a latchkey scraped along a bass string of a piano, appropriately edited and enhanced. A sound that has challenged and comprehensibly defeated onomatopoeic artists for many a decade.
He's coming. He's coming back through the Rift already. He can't do this to me. They promised me nine more episodes. Quick, everyone, we've got to get back.
FIRST VOICE We've got to get back to the Millennium Centre, where we see the space/time vehicle materialise and park in its usual place, in front of the fountain. Then, just as the Torchwood team come huffing-puffing into the square, the door opens, the occupant steps out
Look out there!
SECOND VOICE and, as Gwen prophesised in Episode 1, he abruptly falls down the Torchwood invisible lift shaft that Captain Jack has carelessly left open,
[Sound of a body hitting the bottom of the hole]
SECOND VOICE although, on the bright side, Torchwood's late scheduling enables him to give full vent to his feelings.
Captain Jack, we've got to help him.
FIRST VOICE But Captain Jack's attention is elsewhere. He is staring at the lettering on the side of the Millennium Centre. Which turns out not to have been a Welsh/English compound of peculiar, pit-pony poetry after all, but actually ordinary phonetic Gallifrean. And since it has long been established
SECOND VOICE initially in the Tom Baker story Masque of Mandragora, but recently reiterated in, for example, The Impossible Planet
FIRST VOICE that the aforementioned time machine automatically translates any language, Captain Jack can now read the intended meaning of the text in plain English. As can you. And you do. And you read