Weird Shit Day, is slightly censored on the discussion forum as Weird Day because I am not sure we can have a swear word in a title of a story posted on a forum rated general. Swear words in context within the stories seem to be all right, and on the actual website there should be no problem. The Torchwood section is clearly marked as having adult themes.
Weird Shit is the general term I have used on many occasions for events that come under the Torchwood remit. It is a phrase I have put into Owen’s mouth more than once. And it served as a useful umbrella title for three short stories welded together into one day of Torchwood life.
The first story, involving the prehistoric shark, is another fruit of my fondness for that terrible B-movie, Shark Attack Three that spectacularly failed to kick start John Barrowman’s film career a few years before Doctor Who launched him into the spotlight. I have already done a couple of stories that touch on the same themes, but I just HAD to have a shark in the Bristol Channel at some point in homage to that film.
I decided against Megalodon, the giant shark from the said film and cast about for other prehistoric sharks. Sharks are, interestingly, something of the dinosaurs of the sea. The cartilaginous species go back much further than the boned fish. And millions of years ago there were some amazing specimens. Stethacanthus with the ironing board head was so fantastically distinctive it got chosen to be the guest monster for this story.
On researching the subject of sharks around the British isles I was surprised to find out that there IS a small shark fishing sports industry around the Bristol Channel. The Blue and Porbeagle sharks are hunted by men with harpoons who rent out boats for the day. This, to me, is a very unpleasant definition of sport and I think something should be done about it, but it did, meantime, give a motive for somebody to be breeding Stethacanthus – to make the shark fishing more interesting. For the reasons that Ianto and Alun indicated – the effect on ecology of a new species in the waters – it couldn’t be allowed, of course.
Steep Holm island, incidentally, doesn’t have a fish farm on it. It would never be permitted in a nature reserve. But ever since Flat Holm island appeared in the Torchwood episode ‘Adrift’ I really wanted to feature the English ‘twin’ island. I might well include it in a more detailed story another time.
Somebody possibly should have got eaten by the Stethacanthus. I do wonder if that part was a little bit lame. Certainly it wouldn’t have been Alun. Too many people like him. Bumping off the man with the mad ideas about shark fishing would have been ok, but why bother? This way the Steth is the ultimate victim, not the humans.
The boat called Selachi, was there simply because I came across the word while looking up the orders and suborders of sharks and I recalled that there was a character in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, Lord Selachi, who was president of the Guild of Assassins. I didn’t know until this bit of research that Selachi meant anything at all, so my estimation of Pratchett, who I regard as the master of fantasy and science fiction generally and one of the sharpest observers of life, the universe and everything since Douglas Adams, went up an extra notch for that joke which must have been lost on most people. The boat is a little homage to Pratchett.
Meanwhile to the other stories within the Weird Shit Day. The train full of soldiers is actually an adaptation of a Sarah Jane Adventures story which involved a train full of evacuees who had ended up in Cardiff in the present day. For the grown up version they became soldiers heading to the war. I have to admit I’ve only seen Cardiff Central station briefly when getting on and off trains. My impression was that it is very similar to Preston Station, which I do know very well. They were built around the same time in the same era of Victorian railway development. I don’t know if Cardiff does have any hidden platforms left over from old times. Preston station DOES have something remarkably like platform 9 ¾ tucked away in the bit passengers don’t see, but train spotters and people with cameras who like photographing old architecture would. I think it’s entirely possible Cardiff would have something like it down the far end where the modern facilities stop. And if it doesn’t, just pretend it does. The fact that it was originally built for the Great Western Railway is patently obvious, of course. It’s right across the original front entrance to the station.
The twist in it all, of course, is Jack’s involvement, and that leads to the other part of the Weird Shit Day. The black widow in the cells is actually not that important. She’s just there to give a plausible reason for Jack to be having a cup of tea with Sergeant Andy in the police station café. Jack’s feelings about sending those soldiers to their death echo something of the emotions he had when he was transported back to 1941 in the episode Captain Jack Harkness. His knowledge of events and the fact that he can’t die while others can causes him a great deal of grief. The fact that he unloads his feelings to Andy could be the stuff of slash fiction. I’ve seen some odd ideas on the internet. But why not? As Andy points out, he’s a copper and the one thing coppers do is listen to people.
Jack's detour to the Welsh National War Memorial in Cathays Park just rounds of that section. I half have in mind something a bit more detailed for around Remembrance Sunday that might bring Jack back to that place. But that’s not an idea that has fully taken shape yet.
The little lost alien that Beth looks after is really just a bit of icing on the cake to round up everyone’s Weird Shit Day, of course. This would never have made a whole story on its own. Neither would the other stories. Putting them together as a compilation piece allows all of the characters a bit of action while exploring some different themes.