Thursday, November 30, 2017

Torchwood: A Study In Fandom


Yes, my last Torchwood post was a little bit snarky, but I've calmed my rabid inner fangirl and given some thought to the unique entity that is Torchwood.
Contrary to my usual habits in TV series consumption, I didn't wallow in Tumblr gifs and youtube fanmade videos and then move on to get addicted to a new series. Oh, don't get me wrong. I totally went down a dark fangirl hole of janto gifs and fanvids that hurt me in the feels, but the moving on part failed to happen.
You see, Torchwood might not be on our TV screens anymore, but it's still rolling along strongly in the form of original cast audio drama produced by Big Finish audio productions. They made a really great mini series that fell between the end of season two and Children of Earth/season 3 called Outbreak, and also season 5 that follows on from Miracle Day called Aliens Among Us. But probably the thing that I've been enjoying the most is the fact they've been able to duck and weave back into the timeline of the show and slot in new "episodes" that feature Owen, Tosh and of course Ianto.
One in particular, titled Broken, runs alongside several episodes in the middle of season one, and deals with Ianto's personal fallout after the death of his girlfriend Lisa, while also filling in the gaps about how and when Jack and Ianto's relationship started, which was never explained in the actual TV series.
The Torchwood fandom is still alive, maybe not as strong as it once was when it was on TV, but new audiences are discovering the TV series all the time thanks to Netflix (among other things), creating new fans as the old ones slip away. It very much seems to be a shifting sands of fandoms that I've never seen with anything else. And a lot of these new fans seem happy enough to embrace the alternate media in which this series had continued to exist. Unfortunately, as the years go by, the fandom is shrinking little by little, and these days things like online petitions or sending packets of coffee beans to the BBC (in honour of Ianto being the coffeeboy) don't do anything to sway anyone.
Even with the considerable influence of John Barrowman wanting to get Torchwood back on TV, the chances of that happening seem minuscule at best.
But in all the fandom to-and-fro, the one thing that keeps coming up again and again, is the death of Ianto Jones. As new fans are come along, it creates a whole new group of people outraged over the character's death. This is fascinating to me from several different perspectives.
Look, I will never agree that killing off Ianto was the right move to make, just as I believe that the Torchwood writers and show runners will ever believe they made a mistake. Or, on the small chance they did decide it was a mistake, they'd never admit to it, anyway.
I think the fan backlash is exactly what tells the writers they did the right thing. The fact is that Jack and Ianto's relationship became that much more polarizing because of Ianto's untimely and sudden death. The tragedy of it makes the fans more invested, the wasted potential frustrates and upsets them, so in many ways, killing of Ianto worked fantastically for the series. Unfortunately, for the continuation of the series, not so much. There was a huge Ianto-sized hole in Miracle Day, and while some of the behind-the-scenes stuff I've seen and read about Torchwood, the creators/writers talk about Gwen being the heart and soul of the show (and in some ways was true) I think they completely missed the fact that Ianto was just as much this, if not more so. He was the warmth and comfort of the show, and without him, things just seemed kind of hollow.
With Torchwood continuing on through audio dramas, there's always going to be the possibility in the fandom's mind that characters can be brought back. In fact, for the next instalment of Aliens Among Us, the gossip on the internet is that Yvonne Hartman, who ran Torchwood One in London and was killed during the battle of Canary Warf, would be coming back. Of course, the fans will be all ready to jump on the "bring Ianto Jones back next!" bandwagon, but I think it would be a safe bet to say Ianto is the single character they will never, ever bring back, no matter what. Don't get me wrong. I'm right there with the bring-Ianto-back brigade, but there are any number of reasons I can see why the creators/writers wouldn't do it.
I've seen a few ideas floating around the internet about how Ianto could be saved or brought back. Probably my two favorite are one; having the 13th Doctor save or revive him somehow. Or two, after the BBC audio drama House of the Dead, (spoilers! Just skip ahead if you haven't got to this audio drama yet and don't want to know what happens) there were fan theories floating around that Ianto had actually been fully resurrected and wasn't just a ghost.
When he stayed behind to close the rift, he got sucked into it and is now trapped between worlds, or possibly got flung out again in a different time. There's even been some theories that this could make Ianto immortal like Jack from absorbing rift energy.
If they were going to bring Ianto back, I actually quite like this option, because I think it would give his character an extra dimension that would be amazing. He would still need to be the same Ianto, but his characters always did have those tiny hints of darkness, so you could only imagine that if Ianto did get spat out of the rift in a different time and was somewhat, if not completely immortal like Jack, he might have spent years or decades trying to get back, so his character could be a little edgier, a little darker. Plus imagine all the backstory of where he'd been and what he'd been doing for all that time that the writers could play with.
However, as wonderful as all that probably sounds to the hardcore #janto fans, if on the tiny, tiny chance Ianto did get brought back, I doubt the writers/creators would ever make him immortal, and it comes back to why they killed Ianto in the first place. Jack's immortality is meant to be a curse, and the writers have already stated that killing Ianto was meant to demonstrate this in a way nothing else ever had. To bring Ianto back would lessen the impact of this. To make Ianto immortal so he and Jack can be together forever? Yeah, not going to happen, because immortality no longer seems like such a curse. And I suppose that is where fanfiction will always fill the gaps. Go onto Ao3 and you can probably find any number of CoE fixit scenarios, or fictions where Ianto becomes immortal like Jack. But in the cannon of the the series still being overseen by Richard T Davies and being produced by Big Finish, sadly I feel Ianto Jones will stay dead and buried for good.

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