Here's how I got sucked in. This all happened in 2010. Stage One: Vague Curiosity
A few years ago, I saw a few episodes of the New Dr. Who. I didn't dislike it, but it didn't grab me either. I guessed I'd have to watch a lot of episodes to really know what was going on, and I didn't have the time to invest. I was already following Battlestar Galactica.
Every now and then, I'd hear about a Dr. Who spin-off called Torchwood. Little snippets of mainstream critical reviews floated into my consciousness. Cheesy. Too much sex. Doesn't make sense. None of that sparked my interest.
I was casting around for a new sci-fi show to watch. The "V" reboot was really fucking boring. So was "Sanctuary" and "Warehouse 13". "Fringe" took itself so seriously that it was almost funny, except that it was also really fucking boring. I never got past two episodes of anything I tried.
Torchwood was on Netflix's Watch Instantly list. Maybe it was time to give it a try. At least I'd never heard it was boring.Stage Two: Growing Interest
I watched the first episode. Set in Wales? That's interesting. The main female character isn't a skinny blonde. Wow, that's really
interesting. Hmm, the Torchwood leader guy sure has a nice coat. Strange accent though, is this one of those British shows featuring a painfully bad American accent, like "Jekyll"? Nevermind, the accent is growing on me. I kind of like it. There's an Asian woman on the team - awesome! She's a computer expert - fuck! Oh well, I can't have everything.
Telling someone all about your secret base before wiping their memory seems kind of stupid, but I'll suspend my judgment until I find out more about the characters. Ooh, didn't see the trick ending coming! Cool theme music. Definitely not boring at all!Stage Three: OH SNAP
These episodes have their high and low points. Even the ones that don't make sense are still fun, though. I'm really enjoying finding out more about Jack Harkness. What an interesting character.
I start looking up facts about the show online. Afterelton.com has a lot of commentary. Torchwood is more innovative than I realized. It has a lot of online fans. I wish I could talk about Torchwood with other people, but nobody I know is watching it. I look up episode guides and facts on tardis.wikia.com and Wikipedia. I see the episode "Captain Jack Harkness" was nominated for a Hugo award; I'm looking forward to watching it.
HOLY FUCK THIS EPISODE IS SO FUCKING GOOD! IT'S MAKING ME CRY LIKE A BITCH! IT SHOULD WIN EVERY AWARD EVER INVENTED EVEN THOUGH THE TIME TRAVEL DOESN'T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE! I FUCKING LOVE THIS SHOW!
That was sort of the tipping point. I took a detour after Season One, did some research, then watched all the Season 1 and 3 Doctor Who episodes that had Captain Jack Harkness in them. I had a new appreciation for Doctor Who now. Captain Jack riding on top of a bomb! Captain Jack groping a robot, and then literally pulling a gun out of his ass! WHAT A GUY!Stage Four: Marital Discord
I guess it's time for the "brutally honest" part of my account. Up until this point, my husband had occasionally been watching episodes with me. He said he liked these Doctor Who episodes, but he started pouting after we watched them. He began to make snide comments about my newfound love for Captain Jack.
I put my foot down. "You're jealous of a fictional character played by a gay actor. That's fucking ridiculous. Get over it." This is new to me, but I refuse to be ashamed about it, or treat it differently than any other interest or hobby. I'm a straight woman with a major crush on a fictional character played by a (very hot) gay actor. What's wrong with that? If you were only allowed to have crushes on people who, logistically speaking, could have real-life sexual contact with you, the world would be an incredibly depressing place. The idea of 51st century sexual morality began to look a lot more appealing.
Eventually we resolved this issue, because my husband is, at heart, a good man. He was just temporarily very confused.Stage Five: Children of Earth
I finished Season Two of Torchwood. I paused at this point, almost unwilling to start the next, because when I finished it, there wouldn't be any more to watch. It was impossible not to be aware that Children of Earth had caused a huge crisis in Torchwood's online fanbase. It was also impossible to avoid spoilers. I read several pro and con essays concerning Ianto's death and internalized homophobia. I decided to approach Children of Earth with as few pre-judgments as possible. I loved the Jack/Ianto relationship, but I wasn't going to carry a flag for it.
I thought Children of Earth was awesome. It was very different from the first two seasons, and I missed the humor and I missed the character development, but in its place there was a special level of heart-breaking intensity. There was something real at stake. No resets, no going back.
At certain moments of Day Four and Day Five, I felt like I was getting punched in the ovaries. DAMN THAT HURTS! At the end, I felt drained, victimized, depressed but oddly accomplished, as if I'd just gone through the emotional equivalent of a workout session that was way above my level.Stage Six: Spending Way Too Much Money
Up to this point, I'd watched all of Torchwood on Netflix. I needed more. I downloaded the radio plays and put them on my iPod to listen to in the car on my way to work. I bought all the DVDs for the special features. I bought some Torchwood guides, and then I started buying the Torchwood books.
These books were disappointing. When it comes to reading literature, I have high standards. I don't care what the genre is -- pulp or high literature -- as long as it's written with some amount of care and love, and the books just seemed like they were hacked together. I'm thinking about writing another post explaining exactly why they're so fucking awful. I've read about ten of them so far and the only one I can say I liked was Trace Memory
. Aside from the fact that one of its villains was lifted straight from Rocky and Bullwinkle
, it's pretty decent. The writing wasn't atrocious, the characterization was consistent and it had a nice mix of action and doomed romance.
I'm eventually going to buy and read every single one of those books, even if it kills me. I can't help it. I'm a Jack fiend!
But the books got me thinking about how much money I was spending. Every book cost at least $8 for at most a couple hours of highly dubious entertainment value. I became aware that there was a vast amount of fanfiction on the internet... and it didn't cost any money at all.Stage Seven: Whoo hoo! Free porn!
I knew in very general terms about fanfiction and slash. I thought its existence was interesting, but I didn't have any desire to read it, and I didn't have a high opinion of it. As far as I knew, it was all straight women writing highly unrealistic and unappealing sex scenes where Captain Kirk impregnates Harry Potter or something.
But in the interests of cost containment, I started reading fanfiction. I stumbled across rm
's I Had No Idea I Had Been Traveling
. Whoah! Some parts of it kind of freaked me out, but it was incredible. I readneifile7
's Landfall series
. I realized there was a lot of stuff out there that combined awesome writing, intelligent ideas and smoking hot porn.
I started learning the lingo and codewords. PWP? Oh yeah. Schmoop, curtains-fic, Gwen-bashing... ugh. I'm especially fond of Jack backstories, which I'll read even if they don't have porn (aeshna_uk
's And Seven for a Secret
was a really fun read).
I've developed a huge respect for the fanfiction community. I abandoned my old stereotypes. I realized there was a lot of fascinating internal dialogue and self-critique going on, and more diversity (not everyone was straight and not everyone was a woman).
Of course, I ran into a lot of stereotypically awful fanfiction, but I've mostly figured out how to avoid it. What really irritates me is when I start reading a long series and realize part of the way in that Jack is being tortured for no good reason at all, to a degree so hyperbolic it passes all the way through angst and into unintentional comedy and then beyond that into an indescribable dimension of awfulness. Mostly, though, my experiences reading fanfiction have been great.Stage Eight: ??
I don't know where I'm going from here. I wrote down my late-blooming account because I thought it might be of some interest, or perhaps amusement, to people who've been following Torchwood from the very beginning. Let me know if you have any questions.