Field Assignments is a compendium story with the Torchwood team split up on separate missions outside the Hub. It is a formula that works now and again, but not to be done too often.

The first story is Jack’s, and is told in retrospect first on an empty space on the old docklands that was ready for building and then over coffee at Café Mania on Mermaid Quay. I like to use real locations in Cardiff, hence Café Mania, the primary school Grey went to around the corner Adelaide Street, Jack’s house opposite Roath Park etc. The area now known as Porth Teigr is, of course, the BBC Roath Lock studios. Adjacent to them is the huge Doctor Who Experience building, but we’ll pretend that ISN’T there. I set part of the story there because I really wanted to mention that this regenerated and gentrified area is what remains of Tiger Bay, the miles of docklands and working class terraces and tenements that used to symbolise Cardiff. There is a very old, black and white and literally dark film called Tiger Bay that is all about the post-war poverty, overcrowding, crime and social deprivation of the area.

I had almost forgotten about that Cardiff in the bright new version we have now until I saw a Shirley Bassey concert on TV one night. Shirley sang a song written by two other working class Cardiff musicians, James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers. “The Girl From Tiger Bay” immediately reminded me of the film of the same name and it occurred to me that I could locate Roath Dock, Cathays Park, Splott, Bute Park and all just about any part of Cardiff in a few seconds looking at a map, but I had never come across Tiger Bay. I Googled it, of course, and found out that it was right where I had been setting my stories all along. That whole Cardiff Bay area, with Roald Dahl Plas as the crowning glory, Mermaid Quay, the Norwegian Church, all the way around to the luxury St David’s Hotel and Spa, and back again to Porth Teigr Way was ALL of what used to be Tiger Bay. It had been wiped away, the poverty and over-crowding along with what I am sure was a vibrant community.

Jack’s little speech about it all is a very poor attempt to commemorate Tiger Bay before another generation or two forget it ever existed.

The other part of his story relates to a random comment made in the series one episode, Combat. Jack tells Toshiko that the old, abandoned warehouses on the old docklands were used to store the bodies on GI’s during the war. This gruesome tale of the bodies standing up from their coffins matches that up with the gauntlet that restores life as seen in the opening episode of Torchwood, "Everything Changes", and the later episode, “They Keep Killing Suzie”. The other gauntlet, seen in Series Two, was, of course, found somewhere else. Whether there ARE only two of them is another matter.

Alun and Ianto’s trip to Swansea University, and then to Parc le Breos, was directly inspired by a BBC documentary about the reconstruction of the faces of Mary Rose sailors by the technology department with their 3-D printer. In fact, Swansea only do the 3-D copy of the skulls. The reconstruction is done in Sweden, but I changed that detail a little to allow them to remake the heads of the aliens found at the dig.

Parc Le Breos is a fascinating place. I fully intend to use it again some time. The long barrow and ossuary cave have to have another story in them. If I get a chance I’d rather like to visit them for real.

The explanation of who the aliens were is a bit abrupt, which is one of the problems with a compendium story. It doesn’t quite give enough time to explore a storyline fully. Possibly the Secundas Rax gang might turn up in modern day Cardiff some time.

Meanwhile I will DEFINITELY use the Swansea University people again.

Gwen and Andy’s adventure was actually thought up literally on the spot – the spot where I sit and write in my local park when the weather is good enough. It is winter no and the trees are bare, but in mid-summer they were thick with leaves and looking up from my work I could see a branch behind the trees that with a little imagination did look like the head of a dinosaur. I tried taking a picture with my camera phone but the flat image didn’t show it up, and the next day I couldn’t see the same optical illusion. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was there.

Switch it to Leckwith Woods, the remnant of old forest between the bypass of the same name and the industrial estate, and make it a hoax from an alien with a really good camouflage programme but no sense of history and there is a little light relief from the other two stories.

All in all, I was quite pleased with this compendium, and there are some follow up ideas to be gained from it. Look forward to them in 2014.


http://www.swansea.ac.uk/media-centre/news-archive/2012/21stcenturytechnologyshedslightonmedievaltreasure.php

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-22907996

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_Bay
http://www.porthteigr.com/en/news-events/bbc-roath-lock-studios-opened-at-porth-teigr

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_Bay_%28film%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Bassey
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parc_le_Breos
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parc_Cwm_long_cairn