Alternative Reality is a stock science fiction trope where people find themselves inexplicably stuck in a world that looks like theirs but is just different enough to be terrifying. Doctor Who did it way back in the early 1970s with Inferno and the totalitarian alternative Britain apparently led by Enoch Powell. Later, in the revived series there was Turn Left with the planet falling apart without The Doctor and the alternative universe taken over by Cybermen in Age of Steel/Rise of the Cybermen. The Stargate and Star Trek franchises have all done a variation of the theme. Buffy had an alternative Sunnydale where the Vampires were winning. The TV series Sliders was ALL about alternative versions of Earth. And, of course, going right back, there is the ultimate alternative universe as seen in the Christmas Classic, It’s A Wonderful Life.
I did this trope in Cardiff Torchwood with Jack from my version of events, where he is with Garrett, Ianto is with Alun and Owen and Toshiko are alive and well, falling into the world as it was in the TV canon after the end of season two. Discovering that his own brother killed Owen and Toshiko and brought devastation on Cardiff was a shock to the Jack who has had a happier time of it in my own stories.
In Torchwood Glasgow, the worst thing that might happen in an alternative universe is a war with the vampire population. Darius had gone rogue after murdering Toshiko and her daughter. Shona Stewart hates him far more in that world than she ever had in his own. For him it is a nightmare scenario in contrast to the almost perfect undead ‘life’ he has in his own universe.
Tropes like this generally do present worse case scenarios, of course. There are very few were things seem to be better in the alternative versions. Sliders, which had a different universe every week never found one that didn’t have some inherent problem that made getting back to the ‘real’ Earth more palatable. The totalitarian world of Inferno was certainly not a happy place even if it wasn’t doomed. Even in the later Doctor Who alternative universes had huge problems. As flawed as our universe is, people always realise that they’re better off there.
Darius and Dougal certainly had good reason to get back. Dougal knew he had precious little chance of finding Sandy alive in this world and Darius was never going to survive. Getting back was their first priority. But meanwhile, they could have a go at helping this troubled world. Dougal lends a hand at defending the Hub against the half-vampires on the attack, while it is, in the end, Darius who comes up with the solution. Like the Omega Man in the classic film of the 1970s, he is the living – well nearly! – solution to the problem, carrying the cure in his body. Toshiko and Etsuko are saved, and there is hope for mankind, after all.
Yes, ok, another happy ending. I LIKE happy endings. That’s the problem with the last two series’ of Torchwood. Not enough happy endings.