Disassembled has a very peculiar origin, an image stuck in my mind from seeing a very brief extract of a late night horror film that I very definitely have no desire to see again. I was sure it was one of the Hellraiser series of films, but I couldn't find any reference to the scene until I discovered that there was a straight to video forth Hellraiser which had the scene I remembered. What possessed any TV channel to show such a b-rated film, I cannot imahine. But in the scene I found so impossible to forget, two young men are captured by the demonic Pinhead and their bodies melded into one monstrous creation that is a composite of both of them. It is a gruesome idea and was quite enough to make me stop watching the film. I really don’t know why I can still remember it at least a decade after seeing that piece only briefly, but using the idea in this story put it to rest in a way.
Two other film references helped fill in the details of the disaster area. The Philadelphia Experiment from 1984 showed the results of a mis-aligned time travel attempt that left men’s limbs melded into the steel deck of a warship. This is what happened to Professor Bronwen Yorath, who lost an arm and a leg in the transmat disaster.
A transporter gone wrong turned a body inside out in the 1980 Star Trek Movie – the first of the series. We didn’t actually see much. They left it mostly to the imagination, but the book of the film described it in rather gruesome detail. The spoof film, Galaxy Quest, which poked fun at the sci fi genre in general and Star Trek in particular, also turned an alien inside out before it exploded messily. Something between the two was what I had happening to Doctor Ioan Lloyd-Maddock, who obviously didn’t survive the accident. I’m not quite sure how long a body that was turned inside out, organs spilling, arteries severed, would feel pain, but it was nearly over by the time Martha reached the scene in my story.
Doing cruel and unusual things to the bad guys is one thing, but why would I do something so terrible to Ianto and Alun, two sweet, lovely men who we all adore? It is a peculiar thing but we do seem to give our fictional characters such a lot of anguish. Jack goes through hell on a regular basis, even though we all love him. There’s a psychology thesis somewhere in the way people enjoy seeing and reading about beloved fictional characters suffering like this.
Jack suffers in this story, too, of course. What happens to him is something I have kicked around in my head ever since his major regeneration in Children of Earth, when I started to wonder what would happen if there were two significant portions of him that started to regenerate separately.
Aside from the pain of replacing fifty percent of his body, the idea of two Jacks coming back to life, from the two halves of him, one left in the warehouse and one transported to the middle of nowhere, is a humorous idea. Putting the two versions of him together should have been a comedy moment that would have contrasted hugely with the tragedy of Ianto and Alun’s situation.
But, although it might have made for a better story balancing those extremes, I steered away from it. Jack in these stories has moved on from the cavalier character of the TV series – the pre-Children of Earth series, anyway. For him, this situation is a tragic one. Both halves of him have the same memories and personality. They are both in love with Garrett, both wanting the normal family life that Jack now enjoys. The idea of sharing Garrett isn’t funny to them.
Clearly they have to get back to normal, which means the two Jacks are going to be the first guinea pigs after they reconfigure the transmat to put everything right. Well, of course they are.
Naturally, they get everyone back to normal. Jack becomes one man again, Alun and Ianto become two. Professor Yorath then kills herself, possibly out of remorse, grief at losing her fiancée the other mad professor, or possibly out of fear of the dark future outlined by Jack when he was interrogating her. That puts her out of the picture and destroys the transmat at the same time. No chance of it causing any future problems.
To answer a couple of reader questions – Ion and Gamma energy are real, of course. Narth energy was made up. NARTH is an American organisation dedicated to ‘curing’ homosexuality through therapy, despite the overwhelming evidence that homosexuality is neither a disease nor a mental condition and therefore cannot be cured any more than blue eyed or red hair can be cured. Naming something nasty and irrational in the world of physics after such an organisation seemed about right.
“Cnych” and “Ffwrch” ARE, I am reliably informed, Welsh words for ‘fuck’. Whether they are regional variations or one is a more modern version, I don’t know.
“Mewn dau gachiad” literally means ‘in two shits’, a rude way of saying, ‘as soon as possible’. Apparently there are people who believe that Welsh is a pure language that doesn’t have any crudities within it. They’re kidding themselves.