Torchwood Gadgets and Gizmos
By Mickie Newton
In issue 3 we continue to look at the various gadgets and gizmos from the individual episodes of Torchwood, be they alien or otherwise. And to be as in-depth as possible and continue to find gadgets that we may use in everyday life, outside of science fiction, that are similar.
In the last issue we had three obvious gadgets, if the resurrection glove can be deemed as a gadget; alien artefact maybe a closer definition.
In ‘Day One’ we have fewer that stand out, one to be exact; which is the ‘inflatable cell.’ So in this edition we shall look at a couple of other items that appear in the episode, along with the cell.
The Capsule Cell
The Capsule Cell or inflatable cell, so named by Dr Owen Harper, is a small pebble like alien gadget that, on impact with the ground, puts up a force field around the “prisoner” creating a temporary prison cell. Although it’s an incredibly useful gadget, its battery-life is very short, lasting approximately one hour. And after reading about 'Day One' in the book 'The Torchwood Archives it seems the team have no clue how to re-charge it.
‘Day One’ is the only episode this gadget is seen in and was initially used by Owen to stop Carys Fletcher (whose body had been inhabited by an alien, in the form of a gas) from leaving her home. Jack then uses it again later to trap the gas life form, once it had left Carys’ body, at the Conway fertility Clinic, after which it soon dies.
It's a shame that nobody wrote it into a later episode that Toshiko had worked out a way to recharge the portable cell as it proved to be a very useful piece of technology.
What Do We Have On Earth?
If you’re looking for anything vaguely close to what we see in Torchwood, then you would be out of luck. Though that is not to say portable cells don’t exist, they do. But it depends on what your definition of portable is.
If you see it as something you could maybe put in the boot of your car, then you are out of luck. But if you are thinking closer to something you’d put in the back of a truck, then you’d be hitting it bang on the nail. It must be said, if you threw one of these portable cells at Carys Fletcher, then the Gas Alien would be the least of her problems - but it would sort the immediate problem of said Gas Alien.
The smallest of these so called portable cells I have found are about the size of a Portaloo, though some can be twice the size of that. So they’re not THAT portable.
Element/Air Hand Scanner
This yellow scanner is small and fits comfortably in the hand and its function is never made completely clear. Is it multi-functional, like so many other scanners we see in the Whoniverse, or is it purely to scan the air. So much of this part of the article is guess work from observing the episode on how it has been used by the team.
So going by what I observed in the episode it is used on a number of occasions; at the crash site, nightclub and alleyway by Jack and at Carys’ home by Toshiko.
When Jack was scanning in the Alley he mentioned that it was showing the same ‘elements’ as at the crash site and club, only more concentrated and so he was able to isolate where the incident with Carys had taken place. And finally at Carys’ home Tosh scanned and then informed the team the air quality was good. This says to me that that is its primary function to scan the air and inform its user what elements, etc are present, as well as how breathable the surrounding air might be.
Like the Capsule Cell, this gadget is only seen in the ‘Day One’ episode and not again. I do wonder why haven’t we seen it since? Surely there could be numerous occasions when the air/airborne elements need to be tested or monitored.
Normally speaking the only mobile hand scanner (which we will look at in a future issue) we see is a much larger one used, mostly, by Toshiko, and that also resembles one seen used, in Doctor Who in some episodes, by River Song.
So is this alien tech? The one thing we do know is that Tosh very often would take alien tech parts and cobble them into something else or upgrade already existing earth technology, such as weapons and computers. So it’s very possible, given its very ‘EARTHLY’ look and feel, that Tosh upgraded the tech of some scanners.
What I also find strange about this tech is its colour and distinct lack of Torchwood livery. The tech used by the Torchwood team tends to be either black or dark steel grey. It’s also, more often than not, blazoned either with the Torchwood honeycombed symbol or the words ‘TORCHWOOD’ itself. This has neither and is bright yellow!! Stolen Earth Tech?
What Do We Have On Earth?
We have ‘sniffer’ dogs that are used for tracking or searching for people and objects, such as guns and bombs. We also have dogs used for sniffing out drugs.
But we also now have teamed technical equipment to do similar things as our piece of Torchwood tech, though somewhat larger in size.
These are known as ‘Puffer Machines’ and are used much in the same way as the sniffer dogs at airports etc. This device looks for trace elements in the air to seek out drugs and bombs.
For more information take a look at the Wikipedia entry below:
Tracking Scanner/Map Plotter
In this episode we see Jack use a device that doesn’t look dissimilar to the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver, although it is not. I have read the odd thing stating that it is just that. But there are two things against that conclusion. The Doctor left Jack on the Game Station/Satellite 5. Once Jack had gone to fight the Daleks he didn’t see the Doctor again until the episode ‘Utopia.’ So at what point would he have got the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver? And WHY would the Doctor give it to Jack? If he had, we’d have seen it. And it would have been to use for repairing or opening something. Not to keep and we never saw any such thing. It also, on closer inspection, looks nothing like it. Its only resemblance is the fact it’s pen-like and has a pretty light at the front that is green, not blue!
So let’s get back to the scanner. For the third time in this article we have a gadget that is only seen the once and only briefly. And again no real explanation as to what this gadget is and so we have to draw our own conclusions when watching the scene.
In the scene we see Jack, standing in front of the round window that is covered in some kind of map, though it’s not an earth map. We have to assume that this map is possibly of the universe. When Gwen asks what he is doing he says he is using the satellite tracking data to determine the inward trajectory of the meteorite though there is no explanation as to how it is actually done.
So we have to look at things as logically as we can and try and draw our own conclusions as to how it works.
• One possible way is it reads the data and transfers it to one of the computers or PDAs, where Jack can look over it later.
• Maybe it transfers the information straight to a printer where it plots and prints out the trajectory directly to paper.
• It may have some kind of read-out screen Jack can read once he’s done the tracking? Though, going by the only screen grab I managed to get, I would say not. It would have to be a very small screen as the ‘pen scanner’ is maybe only a fraction wider than the aforementioned Sonic Screwdriver.
• Maybe Jack has a chip in his brain and all information from the pen is uploaded directly to that? Ok I confess to going somewhat off the beaten track there. But it’s as good a conclusion as anything else. And who knows, maybe he does have a chip in his head. Let’s face it, we know so little about him, anything is possible.
Of course it may even be something Jack grabbed before leaving the Games Station. We have no clue as to what happened after the TARDIS took off and when Jack left the station. Did he linger a few days and grab bits and bobs before leaving himself? Or did he just go?
I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack had actually cobbled this together himself, much like Tosh does with present equipment. I have always suspected that Jack knows more about Alien technology than he often lets on and that it’s out of respect for Toshiko and knowing how much she thrives on such things that he leaves it all to her. We only need to remember what Jack was like during his time with the Doctor and just how much he knew. But I am now going off at a tangent.
What Do We Have On Earth?
If you are hoping I am about to tell you all about a fabulous pen like laser that plots the trajectory of incoming meteorites, you’d be out of luck....again!! Earth technology hasn’t got as far as that yet.
What we do have is trajectory analysis and optimization software that does a similar thing and often uses 3D computer simulations to show the trajectory of spacecraft, planes, meteors etc. This kind of software is also used when designing spacecrafts and planes.
Torchwood: The Encyclopedia by Gary Russell
The Torchwood Archives by Warren Martyn