It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged-so my skills are a bit rusty…
When interacting with a small child one can be taken back by their view of the world. As adults we often comment on the “innocence” of childhood, at children’s ability to imagine crazy things and their belief that they can literally be anything that they want to be. They have a certain point of view in regards to the world, and as adults we fondly remember our childhood imaginations, our boundless energy, our belief that somehow, everything would work out right. But along the way something changes. The world becomes a less welcoming place, we become aware of things we (hopefully) never knew as children-like the reality of death, abuse, war, murder, violence. For some of us, this awareness comes earlier than others, but at one point there is a recognition that we can no longer go back to the way things were, for good or ill we can only choose how we will move forward. How will react to this new awareness? Will we allow it to consume us and warp us? Or will we allow this awareness to allow us to grow?
While, “everything changes” is the first official episode of Torchwood, in the Doctor Who/Torchwood universe, the organization has existed for centuries. Cooper becomes the audience’s surrogate as we stumble along with her as she discovers more and more about this mysterious torchwood. Those of us who have watched Doctor Who know a bit more information about torchwood than Gwen does, yet much of what they do is still shrouded in mystery.
When Gwen first learns about the existence of Torchwood and she watches them resurrect someone briefly before her eyes-there is no going back for her. She is about to embark on a dangers, scary, yet fascinating adventure. Yet, even in the first episode we catch a glimpse of how damaging said change and awareness can be. Just like a child who learns the hard way that life isn’t always a safe place, Torchwood can provide people with a glimpse of the nasty, shitty side to the alien world and human existence and foster a yearning for something better-for something that can mitigate or even erase the uncomfortable truths that have been learned. For instance, death, is a part of life. Death bursts our illusions of our invulnerability and our strength. Death makes a mockery of our plans and our hopes and it reduces us to nothing more than a memory. What if you discovered something that could eradicate death? Remember when you were a young child and death was just a strange word you couldn’t comprehend? What if you became aware of technology that could reduce death to nothing more than a strange concept that has no concrete basis in reality? What if the price for using it was to comment murder?
When Suzie got a hold of the resurrection glove, she had a choice. She could simply use it on official Torchwood business or she could try and see if she could manipulate it, have a chance at eradicating death. But for her the fact that she knew of the existence of this technology became too much for her. She was consumed by the awareness that resurrection can occur at least temporarily and she was obsessed with the possibility that death could be permanently eradicated. .
SUZIE: You’re the only one who can make the link. Well, the only one in public. Torchwood’s going to find out by morning, but I’ll be gone. I don’t know where. Far away. What am I going to do? I loved this job. I really loved it. And now I’ve got to run. Oh, Christ. How can you do any other job after this one?
GWEN: Please, put down the gun.
SUZIE: Cos it gets inside you. You do this job for long enough, and you end up thinking, how come we get all the Weevils and bollocks and shit? Is that what alien life is? Filth? But maybe there’s better stuff out there, brilliant stuff, beautiful stuff. Just they don’t come here. This planet’s so dirty, that’s all we get. The shit.
GWEN: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
SUZIE: I wish I could forget.
There is no doubt that working at Torchwood changes someone. Just like a death of a loved one touches us in profound ways. We aren’t the same person we once were. Likewise trauma shapes us in varied ways, ways that aren’t always immediately apparent. But the changes that we undergo matter less than how we respond to them. Do we allow said changes to destroy us? To cause a bit of our humanity to die?
Suzie allowed her time at Torchwood and her interaction with the resurrection glove to diminish her humanity and her ability to view the humanity of others.
GWEN: Why did you kill those people?
SUZIE: For the glove. Just stay where you are. I needed the bodies. That’s how it works, violent death. And it was so easy. To bring them back, I’d position myself behind the head, so they’d never see me twice.
GWEN: You killed three people.
SUZIE: It was the only way. The more I use the glove, the more I control it.
The people she killed weren’t people with hopes, dreams, families, but they were just disposable vessels which could help her accomplish her goal. They were collateral damage.
She claims that she is acting an altruistic manner. She states that she needed to kill people-they were simply sacrifices to a greater cause. She became aware of a new world, of new powers and instruments and what did she want to do? She wanted to use this awareness for her own benefit. She claims it is for others, but is she really just justifying the murders of three people to assuage her conscious? She also betrays her friends. Her awareness of the vast universe, consumed her and chipped away at her humanity.
In a similar way, I am reminded of the process of awareness that we all go through as we age. The world begins to lose some of its luster and its magic as we begin to confront a world filled with evil, pain, and suffering. There is no escaping this awareness, but there is a choice in how we react to this awareness. Will we become angry and bitter as we curse the world and it’s meaningless? Will we decide that since life is so short and filled with suffering that we should only be concerned with ourselves as individuals and screw everyone else? Or will we decide to view life as an adventure-a scary, at times painful, adventure but one where we can learn to love others and perhaps helped elevate some of that suffering. Some people try to ignore the reality of the world-but pain and suffering manages to sneak up on everyone. The question is what do we do once we figure out that living consists of joy, but also sorrow? Will we react like Gwen: with trepidation, fear, and yet a sense of excitement or like Suzie? Bitter and angry, and willing to treat the lives of other people as meaningless?