Sunday, 12 July 2009

Ianto is dead. Deal with it!

Torchwood - Radio TimesImage by jem via Flickr

Last week's Torchwood miniseries 'Children of Earth' had the nation gripped, pulling in over 6m viewers every night, a level of popularity which no-one could've guessed possible for Doctor Who's clunky (and sometimes a bit shit) cousin, and deservedly so: the series has been an absolute triumph. I have never been a fan of Torchwood's Doctor-Who-with-sexy-bits styling of the past, but this was adult drama in the truest sense of the word: masterfully paced, beautifully written and spectacularly polished in its presentation, with some of the best (and most chilling) dramatic moments I have seen on TV in some time.

The climax of the series was epic and challenging and certainly took it's toll on the Torchwood team. You can't help but feel that certain doors have been intentionally closed to give the series some closure should the move to BBC One prove unsuccessful and kill the series off; the team has been left in tatters with Ianto dead, Gwen pregnant and Jack off on some intergalactic redemption mission. Thankfully, the series' success should have secured the show a future, though whether in its original format or this new one remains to be seen, though I hope for the latter: serial drama seems to be a better fit for the series.

The series contained many tough scenes: the politicians calmly discussing which children to send to satisfy the 456's druggy demands, John Frobisher preparing to kill himself and his family to save them from such a fate, and Jack having to make the horrifying decision to sacrifice his own grandson to save millions of other children. But what seems to have touched the biggest nerve with the fans is the death of Ianto Jones. Five minutes after the episode ended, the Wikipedia synopsis of the episode actually read as follows:

"Ianto dies! And so does Clem! i am actually crying cos ianto is dead me too it is so sad"

This has, in turn, led to a series of petitions on the internet to save him with vitriolic and outraged headings:

We, as fans, are outraged and devastated by [the death of Ianto], and we are planning to show it!

We believe we CAN bring him back!

I do believe in Ianto. I do. I do. ;)

Join our Campaign ... The left hand menu will show you all the ways you can help!

Proclaims the header of

Yesterday they killed off Ianto Jones, who for many was the only reason to watch Torchwood. They showed that they don't care what the fans want. By killing Ianto, they killed Torchwood, and we should kill their ratings. We should show them the power of an angry fan.

Says another petition entitled Boycott Torchwood for Ianto.

This post-Twitter era we now inhabit has clearly changed the world for the better, it could be argued that it has even made the world a little more democratic, especially after the role social networking has played in the Iranian election saga. This is a good thing. But the one area where we really don't need more democracy, is storytelling. How does the old saying go? Too many cooks and you end up with Pirates of the Caribbean 3, that is to say, a giant hulking turd.

This isn't Strictly Come Dancing, people! Ianto was a well-loved character, yes. This should have increased the emotional impact of his death, not led to a campaign to reverse the decision. How anybody could call themselves a fan of the show, then demand that the writers ultimately cheapen it by a) removing any sense of gravity in Ianto's and any future or former character deaths (of which there have been many) in the series, and b) use an inevitably contrived narrative conceit to revive someone who has been shown as a corpse onscreen, is utterly beyond me.

Attempting to pander to what the fans supposedly want has destroyed shows such as Heroes, a prime example of what happens when a show is written by a large team of writers. If these fans start demanding and threatening the writers of the shows they supposedly support, creativity doesn't stand a chance. So I applaud the Torchwood writing team for taking a tough and controversial decision: rest in peace, Ianto Jones, rest in peace.

UPDATE: Stephen Moran, one of the writers of the show responds to criticisms.

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