Mountain Torchwood

Mountain Torchwood Shrub in a Garden


Secrets of Torchwood Two is a story with a lot of obvious origins, and some blatant homages. Every Doctor Who fan, and Torchwood fans do tend to be Doctor Who fans, too, will surely recognise that the loopy McLeish brothers were loosely based on Harrison Chase the man millionaire from the Fourth Doctor episode, Seeds of Doom, in which Chase turned one of his employers into a Krinoid – a giant walking plant – using alien seeds to infect him. Chase also had a giant mulcher that he tried to dump The Doctor in. The part of this story in which Owen fights one of the brothers with the blades spinning perilously close is totally homaged (ripped off) from that story.

Of course, people turning into plants has been done many times. In Doctor Who it was done again in the Sixth Doctor stories, Mark of the Rani, with mines that instantly converted humans into trees and Terror of the Vervoids which had a woman being slowly transformed into a Human hating Vervoid.

Another slightly off the wall inspiration was an episode of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected that I remember seeing a very long time ago, early 1980s, in fact. I had to look up the title using some creative Google searches and, but I remember distinctly this story concerning a man who invented a machine that allowed him to hear plants scream when they are pruned. Now, the review in IMDB actually called this a dull episode. Perhaps it was. But I only saw it once and that idea of plants having a voice stayed in my mind all these years, so if it was dull, it was also memorable, and it served as an example of how loopy the McLeish brothers could be.

A last film reference is, strangely enough, Notting Hill. Remember the strange girl that Hugh Grant’s character tried to date who claimed to be a ‘fruitarian’ and only ate fruit or vegetables that had fallen from the tree. I took that idea as a further proof of how mad the McLeish brothers are.

Mountain Torchwood

Mountain Torchwood Flowers

McLeish, of course, is the name of the original owner of Torchwood House, featured in the Doctor Who episode, Tooth and Claw, which was the origin of the modern Torchwood Institute. I never bothered to explain that, but let’s assume that they are in some way descended from Robert McLeish.

Torchwood Two, of course, was mentioned only once in the two series of Torchwood on TV. Captain Jack explains to Gwen that Torchwood One was Canary Wharf, destroyed in the battle with the Daleks and Cybermen. Torchwood Two was a strange man in Glasgow. Torchwood Three, Cardiff, and Torchwood Four had vanished, but they would find it one day. The Torchwood Four story still needs to be told, and I am quite tempted. But I thought I would do Torchwood Two, first.

The Torchwood plant was what first gave me the idea of setting the story in a florist or plant nursery of some kind. From very early on when I started writing these stories I wanted to feature them somehow. But the Torchwood plant is actually a very dull, uninteresting plant except in one respect. It is very dry and burns easily, giving off a pleasant smell. It is used in making incense sticks. Frankincense, in the biblical story is a plant related to the Torchwood plant! But the fact that it burns was important. It was the key to the final resolution of the story.

Sea Torchwood

Sea Torchwood Flowers

The poor converted Torchwood One employee who manages to ask Owen to ‘End this’ is another homage. This time to Terry Pratchett. In his discworld story, Witches Abroad, there is a scene with the “big bad wolf” who has been turned from an ordinary wolf into a semi-sentient creature with a penchant for eating grannies and then wearing her clothes. It was an emotionally tortured creature that was neither one thing nor the other, and therefore willingly put its head on the block for the woodsman’s axe. I wanted a similar sense of peace with the final sacrifice when the sentient plant set itself alight and then turned on its fellow victims.

Sea Torchwood

Sea Torchwood Fruits

So ends Torchwood Two. I think I am right that the fire would burn out once there was no combustible material and no oxygen, although I do understand the concept of a “backdraft”. A few years ago we had a kitchen fire that looked like it had died out until the firemen opened the door and stood well back. But there must be a limit to how long a fire can smoulder without oxygen.
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