This is an old theme. The original story of people swapping bodies is called Vice “Versa: A Lesson to Fathers” and is a novel by F. Anstey, first published in 1882, when science fiction was a very new form of fiction. In that, a father and son are switched. There have been a whole lot of adaptations of it on Film and TV, and also the American film Freaky Friday (both versions) which takes the idea of a mother and daughter swapping places for a day. There are also a few comic versions of it happening, particularly in the Scooby Do movie, in which all the characters get switched temporarily with amusing results, including the phrase ‘I can look at myself naked’ when one of the men gets a girl’s body. There are probably others, but these are the main examples that came to mind when I thought of doing a Torchwood story on the theme.
I was quite young when I first saw the original 1976 version of Freaky Friday, with Jodie Foster in the daughter role. Later, when I had learnt the facts of life I did wonder what would have happened if the situation had gone on longer and the husband wanted his wife to come to bed with him. Obviously a Disney film was never going to go there. And rightly so. But the same problem presented itself for Jack and Gwen as time started to run out and it became obvious that Jack was going to have to go to the romantic birthday dinner with Rhys. Since the story went online I’ve had a few emails from people who thought Jack should have gone through with it. But for one thing, I’m not writing slash fiction and for another, I don’t actually think Jack would. He cares about Gwen, and, for that matter, Rhys, too much to betray either of them in that way.
Of course, retconning Rhys was the obvious solution, but not a very satisfactory one for Gwen, who really did want her romantic evening.
The toilet scene seems to have gone down as it was intended, as amusing, but a bit tragic, too. I decided to focus on Jack – in Gwen’s body – coming to terms with getting the tights off to go to the toilet rather than Gwen in Jack’s body trying to unfasten trouser zips because I did feel, instinctively, that the sound effects of that operation would be better than the actuality. A reference to getting stuck in the zip compounds the problems. But meanwhile, Jack splitting the tights and feeling vulnerable and lost in Gwen’s body gave it the right level of pathos, I think.
Meanwhile, where is the freaky mirror? My original idea was to have it out at sea and Ianto and Alun chasing after it in a helicopter. I just wanted, at some point, to have a helicopter involved in a story. But I really want Jack piloting it, in any case, and that doesn’t fit here. Besides, a freighter wouldn’t have got so far out to see in the time frame to allow enough tension to build up. Freighters can go pretty fast, but they have to get out of the Bristol channel and then down through the Irish Sea first.
I then thought of them being on trailers being driven to locations around Cardiff. That allowed for the possibility of them chasing the wrong lorry at first, which does allow for some tension to be raised.
Initially, they were just going to use Ianto’s Volvo for the chase. But then the character of ‘Gentle Giant’ popped into my head, and the vision of Ianto and Alun sitting together on the passenger seat of a lorry was rather endearing. The two of them in their neat suits are just everything opposite to the world of freight lorry driving. And on the off-chance of the driver being gay, they would be extremely fanciable.
I am not even going to speculate on just how many lorry drivers in Britain might be gay. The law of averages suggests some of them must be. How many would dare be open about it is another matter. Driving is considered something of a macho kind of job. But anyway, lets assume in Little Britain style Ianto flags down the only gay lorry driver in Wales.
It’s quite noticeable that I talked about the driver using CB language but I don’t include any of it in the dialogue. I was just old enough to get in to see an A-rated film when ‘Convoy’ was new, and I remember that country song ‘Teddy Bear’ that hit the charts in 1981 for a while. And, obviously, I’ve seen all the Smokey and the Bandit films. But that is the limit of my understanding of CB language. So anyone who does understand it, just fill in all the ‘10/4 good buddy’ stuff for yourself. Gentle Giant, Road Dog and Cat’s Eye are good enough CB handles, anyway. And ‘The Pretty Boys’ more or less sums up Ianto and Alun.
Miles Nash, the unpleasant rich man who had bought the mirror and had it shipped to Wales was slightly an afterthought. I realised the darn thing had to be going somewhere. The fact that it is called the Bloemfontein Mirror is slightly glossed over. I possibly could have said more about it. But on the other hand it didn’t need it. What it did need was the lorry driving to the hotel to meet Gwen and Jack and put things right.
Rhys, of course, was never meant to know what had happened. In my initial story idea, Garrett wouldn’t, either. But then I realised he would make a perfect ally for Gwen. He knows even more about surveillance than the Torchwood people do. How to get him into the plot was simple. Gwen saying ‘I love you’ on the telephone when they never did that outside of bed, was perfect. Garrett becomes the concerned lover who takes the news of what has happened calmly, unlike Rhys, who would certainly hit the roof. It serves as a reminder that Garrett, despite a complicated working life of his own, has accepted a whole collection of extra problems when he began a relationship with Jack. But so far, bless him, he’s taking it in his stride.