Sunday, 27 April 2014

Gadgets & Gizmos Combat by Mickie Newton

Torchwood Gadgets and Gizmos
By Mickie Newton


Well we have reached issue 12 and the world of fight club, sorry I mean “Combat” and we’re not allowed to talk about it. Nobody talks about “Combat” or is that Fight Club? Anywhoo, in this issue we will be looking at the Hacking Device, Jacks Vortex Manipulator/Wrist-strap and also Anti-weevil Spray.

I have used the term ‘Hacking Device’ simply because there is no information anywhere about this. Not in Gary Russell’s encyclopedia or the wiki site that looks at the various things found in Torchwood. So this part is completely through observation and personal knowledge gained over more years than I care to mention, hence the ‘Tosh’ nickname at Project: Torchwood.

Oh and remember, we don’t talk about Fight Club!

Hacking Device

Jack needed to find out what  Lynch Frost Cardiff Estate Agents were all about and their connection to the Weevil kidnappings and the death of a man called Dan Hodges. In order to do this Jack sends Owen undercover, claiming to be a business man who sells Jellied Eels (yummy, my mouth is watering as I speak.....not!).

One of the ways to find out as much as they can is to hack into Mark Lynch’s office computer. And how do they do this? They use a device, that looks a little like a mini version of the Lockbreaker/Reader (could they be from the same alien planet?). Owen applies this to the rear of the monitor (sounds familiar?) and Tosh is then able to access his computer by establishing a routing protocol.

Routing protocols are used to establish how the routers communicate with each other, distributes the information that enables them to select the routes between two nodes on a computer. (if you wish to learn more about Routing Protocols and Nodes etc, just google it and you will find yourself inundated with a tsunami of information.) SO basically using routing protocols allowed the Hub computer to communicate with Mark Lynch’s computer. Tosh was able to access his drive and see what was there, files, address books and so forth.

What Do We Have On Earth?

Well what we have is much like what I mentioned above, only there’s no little gizmo to attach to monitors. Hacking peoples computers really is a big fat no no, but is something that is done every second of the day, hence the precaution of such things as fire-walls and anti-virus software. People hack computers for various reasons. Some are simply malicious, but most are purely to gain money or information that can be sold.

Where Torchwood uses a gizmo, hackers on our world use various means to get into computer systems like back doors (which are created when a programme is written). Or specially written viruses/mal-ware that once activated will ‘create’ that back door and allow the hack in and so allowing them to gain the information they seek. Some viruses/mal-ware once activated do all the hackers work for them by sending everything they seek, such as address books.

But there are also legal programs that allow the user to remotely access another computer from a distance. Both parties must have the same software and agree on a password that allows both computers to connect. So if ‘A’ wishes to connect to ‘Bs’ computer, then ‘B’ needs to pass a specially set up password to ‘A’ who then uses that to access, via the software, to ‘Bs’ computer. Once there ‘A’ can see everything on ‘Bs’ computer and thus allowing ‘A’ to see any problems with regards to the operation of ‘Bs’ computer. Many computer companies, such as Curry’s, use such a system so they can remotely repair a customers computer, as long as it’s a software based problem that is.

Anti Weevil Spray

We first saw this spray used in the episode “Everything Changes”. This spray causes short term pain to the Weevil which subdues them when used, along with Anti-Weevil Handclamps (I shall be looking at these in a future issue) and allows the Torchwood operative to capture them.

By the time we get to “Combat” the Weevils have started to develope an immunity to the spray, though it seems that has been known for a while or at least, this has happened before, as noted by  A.Hopwood (I assume a past team leader). This was discovered in a document by Warren Martyn (see “The Torchwood Archives). It was reported that a Dr Lawson was working on a new version of this spray. What is unclear is if the spray the present team is using is the new spray version and the Weevils have once again started to become immune to it.

What Do We Have On Earth?

The closest we have to this would be pepper spray, which is also known as OC Spray, OC Gas and Capsicum Spray.  This spray irritates the eyes causing tears, is also painful and will cause temporary blindness and so, much like Ant-Weevil Spray will subdue those that it is used on. It has been used by the police and armies in riot control, capturing criminals and crowd control. Can also be used for personal defence against attackers, dogs and in the USA, bears.

It causes the eyes to close and so taking away the vision. This allows officers to restrain criminals more easily, and  for those who use it in self-defence, it gives them a chance to escape.

Though it has been deemed a safer way of stopping people/animals, there have been some concerns that it may have been a contributor in a number of deaths and so in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, it’s use has been banned. In the USA it depends on the State you are in on whether or not it is used or how it is used.

The Vortex Manipulator/Wrist-Strap (VM)

The Vortex Manipulator or VM, is a time traveling device (though it was damaged when he left the Game Station in the Doctor Who episode “Parting of Ways” and arrived in Cardiff in 1869) with numerous extra’s and was issued to Time Agents in the 51st century. Between Torchwood and Doctor Who we have seen three such devices. The one owned by Captain Jack Harkness of course, Jack’s former Time agency partner, Captain John Hart and one obtained by the Doctor’s wife, Melody Pond aka River Song. Most recently we saw Jack’s VM in the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who story, “The Day of the Doctor” used by Clara Oswald to locate the two, no three Doctors.

So what is a VM? With the exception of being able to use it for time travel (when it works), it is not unlike the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver.

It can be used to Teleport in time and space (Though it broke in 1869 after Jack arrived in Cardiff) The Sonic Screwdriver doesn’t do that. In the Doctor Who episode, “Utopia” the Doctor fixed the VM and so allowing himself, Jack and Martha to Time Travel from the year 200,100 on the planet Malcassairo to 21st century London and in  “The Sound of Drums” it was used to teleport the Doctor, Jack and Martha onto the Valliant craft that was 700 miles away in the sky. Before Jack left the Doctor and Martha, the Doctor undid the repair work, once again stopping Jack from travelling in time and space.

He can also use to communicate via the coms and also send and receive holographic messages. He can access computers and override electrical locks (does it do wood?). It can track objects be they living or inanimate, such as cars and as we saw in the Doctor Who episode “The Empty Child” it can perform medical diagnostics. Jack can also use it as a remote control device, such as operating the Invisible Lift.

And much like it’s owner, it cannot be destroyed as we discovered in the Torchwood 5 part serial “The Children of Earth”, as it survived the explosion of the Torchwood three base.

What Do We Have On Earth?

Sadly there is no one single device that does all these wonderful things. There is also no device that allows us to travel in time, at THIS moment in time. But if you break its individual functions down, there are numerous objects on this earth that can do what the VM does.

Travelling in space - well we have cars, buses, planes, trains, boats, roller skates, space rockets...need I say more
Communication - Walkie talkies. Blue-tooth coms, mobile/cell phones
Medical Diagnostics - Doctors, medical equipment such as MRI scanners
Remote Control - TV Remotes, DVD Remotes, PVR Remotes, Hi-fi Stereo Remotes, radio remotes for model cars etc
Tracking Device - Sat Nav, Satellites, remote tracking devices attached to objects such as peoples and cars

There’s probably a lot more than what I have listed, but ‘we’d be here until the sun explodes’ (Day One) if I typed them all up.

Jikai made, sayōnara (Japanese for “Until next time, goodbye”)




Torchwood: The Encyclopedia by Gary Russell

The Torchwood Archives by Warren Martyn aka Gary Russell


Routing Protocols

Pepper Spray

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