Sunday, January 27, 2008

Torchwood, reaction and things

Well, blimey. It's been a mad few days. Having an episode shown on TV is, in many ways, better than having a movie out. Partly because it already has a built in audience, partly because you know that people will watch it on a certain date and time. When it started at 9pm, I got a weird tingle, and thought "loads and loads and loads of people are sitting watching this *right now* at this very moment, and will be reacting to it at the same time. OMG." Had some friends round to watch, while we all shovelled down booze and crisps. Everyone in the room cheered when my name came up, it was brilliant fun.

I promised not to look at any forums or reviews until the next day, and I kept my word. Reviews are funny, it's difficult not to get worried about them. I knew I'd done a good job, that the story worked and I felt great about it, but suddenly it occurred to me: like any episode of any show, some people would love it, some would hate it. And that's terrifying, because I have no control over it. Once I stop typing and the thing gets made, it has to stand on its own two feet.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Jimbo, you're thinking, will you hold me? Will you do that thing with the loofah and the marmalade? Sure baby, later. But you're also thinking: It's impossible to create something universally loved, absolutely everything has people who despise it, so how can you possibly take it seriously if someone doesn't like your work? Reviews are all a matter of opinion, we're all different, and blah blah blah. The answer is: I'm a fucking writer. Most of us desperately crave love, unconditional love, from *everyone*. Give us a billion good reviews and one slightly sniffy comment, and we'll obsess about the sniffy one for months. We'll have that bastard *memorised*. I can still quote you the bad reviews Severance got, word for word. I can't for the life of me remember a single phrase from a good one.

I don't know how other people deal with it. Some ignore *all* reviews, good or bad. Some only read one type. Thing is, I know there will be bad reviews for everything. Some of my favourite movies and TV shows have got awful reviews. Some of my friends hate things I love, and vice versa. It's all just an opinion. So I have to cling on to that thought. Writing's the only thing I'm good at, and it's impossible not to take it personally when someone slags it off. So I just need to focus on what I did. I worked really hard on it, did my very best, and am incredibly proud of it. And that's all that matters.

But still. It's nice to be liked... So when I finally went online, I was amazed and delighted to see some absolutely lovely reviews. Some people didn't like it, which is fair enough, but most people seem to really enjoy it. I had loads of emails, blog comments and messages about it (all of which I'm slowly replying to, honest, sorry if I haven't got to you yet, or forgotten to reply in the confusion). Thank you all SO much for those, I'm really humbled and grateful for all of them. The blog comments on the previous post in particular are just gobsmackingly brilliant - I am now making filthy, monkey love to all of you in my mind. Any questions asked will be answered soon, in another post.

Last night, I even braved the Outpost Gallifrey forum. Yes, I confess, I went in and lurked and read every single comment, every single post in the Sleeper thread, and several million others in the Torchwood section. Not that it's a scary place, it's just that if they don't like something, they will say so *very* clearly. And I knew that if they hated my ep, I'd know about it pretty fast. Thankfully, they've mostly been really lovely, and squeed their brains out. My ego has been well and truly stroked. And if you're reading this, lovely OG people: you rock. Each and every one of you. Sorry about the baby, but you should have seen the version I had originally - it was *much* worse. I'm a monster...

Looking at various other web reviews, a few of the same questions kept cropping up, so I'll quickly address the ones that I want to clear up: (1) the city co-ordinator would have been rushed to a bunker as soon as the fence was breached at the warhead site (which is why he had to be taken out first) (2) the cells are everywhere, the TW team just discovered the local Cardiff one and prodded it into activating, (3) Ianto was using dark humour in the chair scene to keep reminding/guilt-tripping Jack that this was a really, really bad idea and something they shouldn't be doing, not because he was making fun of the situation, and (4) they couldn't call Jack on the CB because he didn't have one in the car yet, he had to get one.

Watched the pre-watershed version on Thursday, and was pleasantly surprised - it's not that different. Blood trims, two deaths completely erased, and several scenes shortened - but it's still pretty hardcore. And they left in the baby scene, slightly trimmed, but it's still there. I'm impressed.

And the swearword, as you'll probably have spotted, was: fuckflaps. Yes, a TV broadcast first, I believe. I am a trend setter. I set the trends. Others follow.


3.4 million people watched the episode at 9pm, which is very good indeed. The Appreciation Index (?), or measure of how much people liked it (the BBC implants chips in the brain of every person in the country, to track viewing data), was 85. Apparently that is in the "excellent" category. I'm very happy about that, but don't ask me to explain it, I'm convinced the brain chip thing is true.

The extremely positive Digital Spy review is here

You can watch the show again (and Torchwood Declassified, which features me for about 3 whole seconds, thankfully) until next week, on the Beeb's iPlayer. Click on Wednesday 23rd to see Sleeper, and Thursday 24th to see the Declassified for it.

My Writer's Corner interview is up here on the Torchwood website (sorry, UK only for some reason).

And my video interview is also on the site, here (click on the third pic underneath the main video bit, "Up Close with James Moran"). I'm at an odd angle and my hair looks very weird, but I managed to talk properly so that's okay. There are also segments on some of the special effects, John Barrowman's video diary, and a tour of the studios and the Hub. Again, sorry, it's UK only, for some reason.

And now I'm going back into hiding for a few days, got a pretty full on deadline this week, and I'm behind on something else, so blogging may be even more sporadic. Now the episode has been on, I can answer the questions that have been coming in, so expect posts of that nature soon. And two exciting announcements, but I won't say what they are yet. Ooh! He teases! He excites!


Mistress Torch said...

It was a brilliant episode indeed, one of my favourites of the shows history so far. The baby thing was fine by me, even though i spend a fe minutes with my moth wide open going... "did she just.... did that.... did that happen?" lol must also mention how much me and my bf adored the stabbing of the councl member - we love repeated stabbings on tv for some reason lol. it was brilliantly violent episode, but not enough for it t turn your stomach completely.

OH! and Ianto was brilliant BTW... that little explaination to Owen about what it means when the phones dont work was gold.

cant wait for your DW ep.

soulmining said...

Ahh, so you DID actually kill the baby then? In my mind that was just the sound of a car crashing to avoid the baby carriage rolling into the highstreet... and I thought you were such a nice lad.

Congrats on all the positive reviews!

Mame Dennis said...

I am now making filthy, monkey love to all of you in my mind

I was wondering why I suddenly needed a cigarette.

I really had no problem with the baby death because I think it really drove the point home that Beth was never going to be able to have a normal life like she spoke about.

I'm really looking forward to your DW episode now.

Dan said...

I wouldn't worry too much about BAD or MIXED reviews. Nobody watching expects a work of absolute perfection from a writer, do they? Well, maybe if you're Steven Moffat!

f course, if some criticism is justified or even enlightening for you -- take it onboard. But remember that people are reviewing the EPISODE (not your SCRIPT), so you didn't have ultimate control over the directing/acting, etc.

I thought Sleeper was a solid 3/5 type of show, with interesting allegory in the premise, great acting from Amuka-Bird, a few effective shocks and rushed-but-enjoyable climax. One of the better episodes for TW overall.

If you've yet to be satiated with reviews, mine's here:

Rosby said...

Never got a chance to comment on your previous post, but it was bloody brilliant! Disgusting, cheeky, nail-biting, hilarious brilliance. Fantastic!

(Also, everyone's love for Ianto has quadrupled. His lines were brilliant!)

Give us a billion good reviews and one slightly sniffy comment, and we'll obsess about the sniffy one for months.

This'll sound odd, but it's such a relief to hear that from a professional writer; I fret over criticism a little too much and keep worrying that it'll prevent me from becoming an ace at it, such as yourself. It's great to know that it's a normal trait.

VERY well done, all the praise is completely deserved, and looking forward to Doctor Who!

(P.S. Was Jack growling at Ianto in the script? If so, then THANK YOU; you have pleased a hell of a lot of female observers. Mmm...)

Anonymous said...

I have to admit to being confused by Ianto's behavior in the episode. It just seemed to be really out of left field for some reason. But I have to give you a big thumbs up for an ep in which I did not hate Gwen (trust me, thats a huge accomplishment).

If you feel like reading my amateur review, you can find me here:

Lina said...

Marmalade? ... kay. Lol.

Anyway. Congratulations again! I'd say I'm so proud, but that is a really weird thing for a fan to say. But I'm beaming, I really am. And people loved it. My Torchwood team peoples loved it. You know I loved it. *Waves Ianto banner*

So take a breath, have a drink, and try not to get buried in fanmail and deadlines. <3

Anonymous said...

It was utterly brilliant, as I'm sure you've figured by now. On top of that, I think it played well in the way of things beyond your control, which I know can be a teeth-grinder in and of itself. Fantastic work. I'd actually be intrigued to see the pre-watershed version, because I thought that all the death was key. Losing two of them seems... odd. I don't know. I have a thing about trimming down episodes.

I need to know where "fuckflaps" was. Its going to bother me.

Joia said...

My friends and I are ecstatic about the episode!

Your Ianto dialogue was absolutely brilliant, by the way. I'm loving how much you fleshed out his character in this episode. He's obviously not willing to be viewed as just the butler or the team waterboy, and he expresses that sentiment with great wit! The telephone dialogue...the "I know everything" remarks...the goofing in the chair (which was a brilliant bit of dark humor. Kept the scene from feeling too overwhelming, while reminding everyone how serious it was.) was all fantastic.

"They're already here." Oh, what an ominous ending to this story! I'm going to risk sounding about 12-years-old here by saying I'm reminded of the final chapter in "Order of the Phoenix." We know there's a war looming; we don't know when it's going to come, but they'll meet it when it does. And yet, even with that knowledge, you wrote a final scene that ended the show on a positive note, even while keeping us on the edge of our seats. Very, very nicely done!

Peter Pan said...

Dont say sorry about the baby! Sure, the four of us in my living room all kind of sucked air in through our teeth and exchanged nervous glances, but isnt that a good thing? It was a brilliant piece of inspired writing that really put heart into the drama. I punch the air in your honour! If I could be half as talented a writer as you, I woudlnt be writing regional radio ads for a living...
Plus, its only fiction after all ....

Abs0n said...

The episode was absoloutely brilliant! :-) I think that Ianto's dialogue was hilarious! "I know everything" hehehe

The joke about Jack's bedside manner was also really good! Little jokes like that are what make an episode perfect!


PS where was the 'fuckflaps'?!

James Moran said...

Thank you everyone! The cheques are in the post. Although not really, cause I am evil.

Rosby: Nope, that must have been a JB ad-lib, but I thoroughly approve. In the script he is just annoyed/amused, so the growl fits in perfectly.

Dr-is-in: Fair enough - but for me, he was always one for popping up and making with the wisecracks, and now he's in a good mood (insert innuendo here) he's just doing it a bit more, I reckon.

Estelofimladris: The pre-watershed trimmed the wife neck-snap, and removed a soldier-stabbing (although he still gets shot). Shame, I do love a good neck-snap.

For those who asked: Fuckflaps are located just under-- no, wait, that wasn't the question... It's when the oil tanker blocks the road, the car driver gets out and yells "Oi, fuckflaps! Get back in that truck or I'll shove it up your arse!"

Scaryduck said...

Mrs Scaryduck's short review was thus: "Ooh, I like that. And hardly bummy at all."

This is a GOOD review you can quote, in case you're needing one.

Anonymous said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this episode!! I actually missed a lot of the dialogue the first time around because I was too busy laughing at Ianto's antics. I have to say, it did throw me slightly that he was so snarky, but on a rewatch, it felt really IC for him.

Much love to you for your Owen dialogue! Burn is doing an excellent job this year at giving Owen a mellow side while still keeping him as Owen.

And I want to thank you for showing Jack's dark side. Most people expect him to be the wise cracking flirt he was on DW, but this episode showed us a much different side to him. A much more morally grey side and it's fantastic to have the lines blurred for a change. Your episode was one of the first in which I really identified with Gwen and was thankful that she was on the team in order to provide a counterpoint to Jack. It seems to have been the aim for her last season, but was rarely managed. (IMO!)

Melissa said...

Talking about the JB ad-lib made me think about something....

As a writer do you like your actors improvising and adding in little touches or do you like them to stay on the script? Is it ok if little bits and bobs get changed if it fits for the characters?

Speaking of ad-libs one other scene gave me pause...did you write the Gwen/Ianto scene in the morgue to end the way that it did? With the arms entwined like that? If you did--congrats! Ianto and Gwen rarely ever interact with each other one on one (so when they do it's very poignant) and it was fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Sleeper was the first episode in which I felt that the character of Gwen truly lived up to her potential - she was a wonderful likeable character and I really identified with her - you really did write her incredibly well. I thought it was a great episode with a fantastic guest actress. I very much enjoyed all of Gareth's work even if Ianto did come across as a little more light hearted than usual - but every one liner was a classic!

If you can brave another review my ramblings are here:

Very much looking forward to your Who episode now!

wandering_gyrl said...

I have to say this IMHO this was the best TW ep so far. I absolutely loved it! The "shivers down my spine" scene b/w Capt Jack and Ianto was absolutely priceless...those of us on the Torchwood forums at have been speculating about Ianto's new found cheekiness...would it have anything to with the aformentioned date from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?

This was the first episode where Ianto seemed genuienly happy and comfortable in his own skin...THANK YOU for that.

invisible_lift said...

You know, I was really looking forward to yours. Severance came through our local arthouse theatre a while back and it just seemed like a Good Idea to see you penning a TW ep.

Ironically, you didn't answer the one question I had about the ep (well, other than the 'if the phones are out how'd Tosh hack the military' one, so maybe I had two):

What's the deal with that last scene where Ianto's got the CB aerial and Jack turns tail? Was that a script thing, or was that an actors-doing-something-bizarre thing?

I'm so confused.

Also, "fuckflaps" is in my top ten words for 2008 so far. So. Win.

Melissa said...

Not James but when my phone is out, I still have internet service because it's done by my cable modem not the phone company.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification regarding Ianto, since I was one of those to whom his behaviour seemed a bit odd at first viewing...

I still wonder, though, if the message we're supposed to be getting from this episode is that TW's Guantanamo-esque treatment of Beth was somehow acceptable or at least a necessary evil -- or that in the end Beth, willing to sacrifice her life to retain her humanity, to avoid hurting others, was more human than the people who strapped her to a chair and made her scream in pain...

Gizensha said...

...Reading that, I'm quite curious about what you made of my twittering on about primal fears, etc, on OG...

...And if you intend to ever post to OG.

James Moran said...

Scaryduck: That's one for the back of the DVD, I reckon.

Melissa: I love it when they put their touches and spins on things, because it's always cool stuff that would never occur to me, not coming at it from an acting point of view. And you can never predict how a scene will feel once they're on set and saying the lines, so it's great when they bring it to life. The arm-taking wasn't me either, I did specify that it was Gwen and Ianto together though, so one of them must have come up with it - and it's lovely, really reinforces the hint from earlier where they're joking about Jack's bed manners. If I'd thought of it, I'd totally have put it in...

Invisible_lift: Jack crudely duct-taped the CB aerial to the SUV mirror (editing trims meant it wasn't shown, but implied), and when Ianto went out to check on the SUV, he was horrified to discover the mess. So Jack was in for a right old telling off.

Solitary_summer: None of the former, bit of the latter - Beth volunteered, said she'd do anything to prove she was human, and the mind probe just digs information out without her needing to do anything, so it was the fastest way to prove it or disprove it. Yes, it really hurts, and the team weren't really happy about it, but I would never have had them force it on her.

Gizensha: Remind me which one it was, or chuck us a link - I read through *so* many pages of posts, my mind has failed me. Don't know if I'll post on there, still a bit scared, I'll wait and see how it goes...

Anonymous said...

Ok been lurking awhile
Just ducked out from behind the keyboard to say brilliant episode - um brilliant episode

Congrats (don't wanna go on too much might get use to delurking and then what would happen - cats and dogs living together....)

Anyway that's enough suck up from me - don't need your head exploding.

Now my computer's shouting at me to type in the alien word below this box - I knew there was a reason I was a lurker!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to reply -- I promise I'll shut up after this, and in any case, feel free to ignore/delete/tell me I'm taking things much too seriously. :)

It's not just the mindprobe; for me the ethically very grey territory starts way before that. Abducting someone with no proof for her guilt and only on very sketchy evidence, threatening her husband, threatening to keep her imprisoned indefinitely, denying her the lawyer she should have had if she'd really killed in self-defence, performing (or at least planning to perform) medical tests on her with or without her consent...

And how much choice had Beth left when she was terrified and desperate enough to offer to do anything to prove her innocence/humanity? (And by the by, what happened to 'innocent until proven guilty'?) The best option she faces is a cell next to the weevils for an indefinite length of time. Not to mention that she could have had absolutely no idea what she let herself in for, and that no one had bothered to even tell her that it'd hurt (never mind how much) before she asked, at which point she was already strapped to the chair and the machine was seconds away from being switched on. And to claim that it was safe was hardly the full truth either.

It's not that I dislike the episode, it had a lot of strong moments; what I kind of miss is a clearer acknowledgment of the moral ambiguities.

Gizensha said...

Mainly stuff along the lines of:

"I think I know why I loved it. It took the primal fear of losing control and hurting someone you care about, notched it up to 12, combined it with the related primal fear of losing yourself set at normal, and combined with the general fun, dark, sexy, adult comic book (Well, at least as adult as JTHM, anyway) tone of Torchwood and a Terminator homage."

But I made similar comments in several places.

(And no, I have no idea why I always seem to get somewhat curious about writers' reactions to my reactions to their works either...)

Anonymous said...

You're the man resposible for the Brilliancy that was the latest episode?

I think I love you.

No seriously, I've spent the last several days telling my roommmate in exhausting detail about nearly every aspect of Sleeper. Then I read your blog entry to her. Once we were able to stop cracking up, we decreed that you're absolutely brilliant.

Words cannot describe my amazement at your writing, Ianto was...idescribably stellar. The phone bit, the dark humor, the End of the world bit, the "dashing" line, manners in bed...Wow.

I do have a question though-- Where was Ianto going with the manners in bed bit before Jack cut him off? Hearsay, observation, a crack at Jack's expense? Was there an actual anecdote that would have come up if he hadn't seen silenced?
Do tell-- It's been on my mind ever since seeing the episode.

P.S.-- I agree with Invisible_Lift-- "Fuckflaps" one of the top words of the New Year, and a lovely addition to the more colorful side of my vocabulary. :)

The things you did

Dim said...

Did I offend you? Was it because I mentioned "Carry on X-files"? Or was it my dumb laptop not leaving the comment in the first place? I loved the episode, a real breath of fresh air compared to the rest of them.

catelfemma said...

As someone who thought the baby thing perfectly fitted the tone of the episode, I'm not entirely sure if I want to ask this, but what did you have originally? And thanks for a great episode!

Anonymous said...

Me again... Just curious after watching the most recent episode. What kind of direction were you given beforehand when crafting the Jack/Ianto and Jack/Gwen interactions? Are you told beforehand what particular point they should be at in each respective relationship? I guess I'm wondering if there is an overall arc for the two relationships that each episode is building towards.

James Moran said...

Solitary: Not at all, I'm glad the ep promotes debate! But yes, sometimes TW go too far. They did have evidence that something other-worldly was afoot, albeit circumstantial - Jack instinctively knew that there was more going on than meets the eye, given all the info at hand, and was proved right. Should they be allowed to just abduct people and lock them up, do what they want? No way. But sometimes they have to do things they're not comfortable with. No, they shouldn't have done it - luckily, this time, it helped prevent a massive loss of life. But like Jack says, when you fear for your life, you'd be surprised what you can do - and for my money, this is the first time he has ever been utterly terrified of the threat, because he knows what they're capable of. It's a horrible situation, and I honestly don't know what I'd do in their shoes, even though I'm against what they actually did.

Gizensha: That's pretty much where I'm at, one of my greatest fears is losing my mind, even more than death, and the very thought of it just chills me. I like to write down my fears, and take them as far as possible, because it makes for good drama. And it usually means I get to throw in explosions and banter.

Daughterofelros: Oh, there was an anecdote. And I reckon Jack knew *exactly* which one it was, too, which is why he was so quick to stop him...

Dim: Don't remember it, but that wouldn't have offended me. We're all chums here.

Catelfemma: Let's just say that in the original version, it was absolutely clear that the baby died... The scene went on a bit longer, but there was a worry that it might send it into Monty Python territory. Sometimes I keep stabbing a joke long after it's dead, it's a very bad habit. I might say exactly what it was at some point, just wondering if it will get me arrested or not.

Marvola: My ep was always going to be in the first few, so I knew it would be after everything had settled down (after Jack's return), but before any major arc-y things kicked off (any that affect mine, anyway). So they pretty much gave me a free hand, occasionally guiding me when things needed mentioning - the way Tosh and Owen now behave with each other, things like that. I think I was lucky enough to more or less get the J/I and J/G right, if I'd been out of line with the arcs, they'd have steered me right.