Sunday, 1 June 2014

Gadgets & Gizmos Episode 12 & 13 by Mickie 'Toshiko' Newton

Torchwood Gadgets and Gizmos

“Captain Jack Harkness”
“End of Days”
By Mickie Newton


Remember the bumper birthday issue last month? You remember just how much was in it? Yes?!  Well it was because it was so huge that issue 13s Gadgets & Gizmos was left out. I was super busy making pretty covers for all that immense work we had. So, now we have reached the end of season one  with the two end of season stories ‘Captain Jack Harkness’ and  the final earth moving episode ‘End of Days’ and I have written a bumper addition of Gadgets & Gizmos. So what shall we be looking at in Issue 14?

In this issue we shall be once again looking at a gadget in a back-to-front and upside-down kind of way. We will be having a look at the Rift Manipulator. We shall be looking at the ‘out-of-time’ Polaroid camera used by both Bilis Manger and Toshiko, along with its modern counterpart. Ever wondered why the Torchwood computers make such strange sounds with blue wiggly things skittering across the monitors? Read on and find out here.  Things to scan your baby blues and cause untold havoc across Cardiff and the world and blimey! I never thought there’d be a day I’d be researching about the storage of body parts! And all thanks to a Sycorax with a big sword.

So let’s take a small step back in time into the 1940’s and 2007.

The Rift Manipulator

There is very little written about the Rift Manipulator, so the best I can do is give a brief description of what it does and then describe some of the repercussions when things go wrong
Right from the very first episode, sitting at the very heart of the Hub, has been the Rift Manipulator. On observation the main part of the machinery looks not unlike the time-rotator/central column that sits in the centre of the TARDIS console.  And not unlike the TARDIS, the Rift Manipulator, when under full control, the Rift can be manipulated and, though very minor, can achieve time travel. In order to open the Rift and time-travel you must have the correct time co-ordinates, longitude and the equation that allows you to control the Rift Manipulator. It was this very equation that Tosh was working on and, for whatever reason, had only left part of it on her computer back at the Hub in 2007. The rest of the equation needed by Owen and Ianto to open the rift and bring back Jack and Tosh from 1941 Cardiff safely, is on her Laptop, and that is with Tosh in 1941.

When Gwen finds the equation, that Tosh, in 1941, left for them to find, it is discovered that it is still not complete, thanks to Bilis sabotaging it. It is then Owen who finally succeeds in opening the Rift after he finds, in Bilis’ office, the Pendulum Key Disc. An artifact that was missing from the Rift Manipulator that allows it to operate and that had somehow found its way into the Grandfather Clock in Bilis’ Office. How and why this happened is anyone’s guess and is something that is never explained, other than it was all some kind of plan by Bilis.  When Owen, after being shot by Ianto, succeeds in opening the Rift it creates a doorway between 1941 and 2007 and so allowing Jack and Tosh to return.

As you may have gathered by my explanation on how it works, you may have deduced that, due to the lack of equations and therefore proper control, the Rift manipulator has been used incorrectly and so the Rift has been opened in a very uncontrolled manner. And so there will be dire consequences. 

What we see happen in ‘End of Days’ is that splinters/cracks are emanating from the Hub, outwards across the UK and the world, and terrible things are now leaking through from various points in time. As Jack quite rightly says to Owen “The first rule of Torchwood is don’t mess with the Rift” and as we see, it’s very much the rule to stick by.

It is really only by sheer luck that completely opening the Rift actually corrects the damage. But what it does do is make it more volatile in the future.

What Do We Have On Earth?

Well much like the Resurrection Gauntlet, there is no such thing. If you do know of one, do, by all means, email us and I shall amend this gladly :)

Bilis’ ‘out of time’ Polaroid Camera

In the episode ‘Captain Jack Harkness’ we see Bilis use a strange camera. Well strange for 1941. Though maybe not to the untrained eye. The camera he uses is an instant camera, ie. A Polaroid camera which did not exist back in 1941. The Polaroid camera was not introduced for consumers until 1947 and this was the Land Camera Model 95, which we see Bilis use. This camera and all other Land Camera models that followed this one involved a rather complex system for taking good photographs. The photographer would have to manually take out the photographic paper from the camera, peel off the paper after 60 seconds. It took a while to dry after exposure and you’d often find chemicals left on your hands afterwards.

The Polaroid Land Camera was produced between 1947 and 1983 and was named after the inventor, and founder of Polaroid, Edwin Land. The Land part was dropped in 1982 after Edwin Land retired, though they did continue to produce Polaroid cameras after 1983. The Model 95 was the first commercially available model and could produce an image in 1 minute and the first to use instant film and so for the first time the consumer was able to produce instant pictures without the aid of a photographic laboratory.

The Model 95A was a similar camera to the 95, with a few differences. This camera was better known as ‘Speedliner’ and had a 130mm/f8.8 lens which was mated with a rotary shutter. This allowed the user with speeds anywhere from 1/12 to 1/100.

What Do We Have On Earth?

You may be as surprised as I was to discover that the Polaroid camera is still very much around. The last report I found was that Polaroid was set to release a camera called the ‘Socialmatic Camera’. This camera has been in the running since 2012 and it takes both digital images and produces instant prints with the help of a built-in Zero ink printer. It also has built in wi-fi allowing you to upload images instantly to the Social Media. Something that may even impress Bilis Manger me thinks. Abaddon, maybe not. I think he’d just squash it. Or destroy it with his scary shadow.

Organic Computer

An organic and living computer or one that is able to think for itself has been used on numerous occasions throughout the history of science fiction. And so Torchwood is by no means an exception to this.

Although it has never been stated in the series or novels, but referred to on the Torchwood website, the computer system used at Torchwood 3 is in fact, much like the TARDIS, living, ergo Organic. And much like the TARDIS, is alien technology. According to the details on the website, this computer "is as old as Torchwood itself — a piece of organic, living, intuitive technology light years ahead of anything on Earth. It salvaged what it could, and continues at the heart of our work today."  And it seems as if the whole thing sits on the Torchwood server as it is accessibly from any computer, via some kind of password system I would imagine. We have seen it accessed whilst the team have been in the SUV and in the Doctor Who episode “The Sound of Drums” when Jack is showing the Doctor and Martha things linked to Harold Saxon. In the 5 part story ‘Children of Earth’ the team access the Torchwood software even after the Hub has been destroyed.  So rather than saying the computers themselves are organic, I would suggest that’s it’s the software that is the original alien organic from all that time ago and that via this the computers were augmented.

In the past we have seen that the computer was able to access and salvage information after the fall of Torchwood One. It is an incredibly intuitive system that is able to perform individual tracking, detect anything extraterrestrial,  monitor the weather as well as GPS Navigation and it can perform all of these at the same time if needs be. Something a normal computer would find very difficult.

Of course when you see any Torchwood monitor you can see the organic system running behind anything on the screen. It is a blue pulsating mass with long tendrils, with almost a luminance about them, that wave across the screen, networking various pieces of information, with an unexpectedly soft guttural alien sound in the background.

In various episodes over the years we have seen many of this systems capabilities, such as in ‘They keep killing Suzie’ in season one, even though the whole of the Hub is on lock down and there’s no power, the computer is still able to recognise commands. Owen is completely sure, in ‘Captain Jack Harkness’ that the computer is smart enough to not need the full equation from Toshiko and still operate and bring back Jack and Toshiko. And when Gwen, Tosh, Owen and Ianto want to fully open the Rift via the Rift Manipulator in ‘End of Days’ the system requests retina scans before it will proceed.

What Do We Have On Earth?

Organic computing is a form of biologically-inspired computing with organic properties. It has emerged recently as a vision for future information processing systems. Organic Computing is based on the insight that we will soon be surrounded by large collections of autonomous systems, which are equipped with sensors and actuators, aware of their environment, communicate freely, and organise themselves in order to perform the actions and services that seem to be required.


Though nothing like the computer seen in Torchwood, computer scientists have for many years been working on an intelligent organic computer system that can work and function on its own initiative. Perform self examinations and so on. And so making a much more efficient and faster working system. Or that’s the idea. Where the problem can be is controlling such a system. We all remember HAL in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey? When creating such a system protections must be implemented or we could find ourselves being jettisoned from the space craft just because the computer doesn’t like our face. Not good.

It must be safe and we must be able to trust them. Maybe we need to go in the direction of Asimov’s I-Robot with the three laws:

A Robot may not injure a human being or, though inaction, allow a human being to come to harm

A Robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the first law

A Robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law

There was a fourth or zeroth law later added by Asimov which precedes the others. And it says that - law 0 says A Robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Maybe that way we’d be more trusting. But as we well know, laws can be broken and if you have an organic computer that is intelligent and so is able to think for itself it may choose to ignore such laws.

If you want to learn some more about this massive subject, take a look at these few links below:

Retinal Scanner

In ‘End of Days’ the team, with the exception of Jack who is completely against it, decide to completely open the Rift via the Rift Manipulator. Jack confronts them and for this Owen shoots Jack dead...again! When Gwen puts in the password ‘Rhea Silver’ to activate Emergency Protocol One to open the rift the organic system requests the retinal scans of all active Torchwood agents. To do this Gwen used a hand-held retinal scanner on each of the team, thus being able to scan Jack’s retina also. Once the organic computer had all the retinal scans it opened the Rift fully, setting everything back again but also it set Abaddon free from beneath the Rift under Cardiff.

This is the only time we see this used in all four seasons.

What Do We Have On Earth?

For some time now the military have been using such hand-held scanners to scan the iris’ of Iraqi people to keep track of them as most have no form of identification. A company called AOptix have created another, more sophisticated system that not only scans the iris, but can also scan fingerprints, has built in facial recognition software, plus the iris scanner.

Another company in New York created a much smaller, looks a little like the Torchwood Retinal Scanner, and is said to be the first and only iris scanner created for consumers. The actual device is the size of a business card and fits into the USB port. Once the software is installed you can decide which of your applications you wish to Eyelock, then all you need to do is scan the iris using the wand like scanning device. The iris scan is then logged into any password protected area on your computer. So this means you don’t need to remember any passwords, just simply scan your iris and you will log into where you wish to go. Much like the Torchwood system.

The Transparent Case for Severed Hand 

Throughout the first season of Torchwood, sat on a table with a couple of similar containers, sits a canister that contains the severed hand of the Doctor. This hand was cut off when the Doctor fought a Sycorax leader in the 10th Doctors first story “The Christmas Invasion”.

Jack later found the hand somewhere in London and took it back to Cardiff where he placed it in a special storage case. This canister is transparent and is filled with a special preservative liquid. We also must assume that this canister is no ordinary canister and like much of the equipment in Torchwood has been augmented in some way with alien technology. It must be noted that it has blue lighting and bubbles ever so slightly. So maybe this is some kind of life support system maybe. Especially as this isn’t the only thing contained in one of these canisters. There is also the alien artefact the Head of Vexor Eleven, so admired by Eugene in ‘Random Shoes’, though he wasn’t quite so sure what the hand was.

Jack keeps the hand as a kind of warning system to let him know when the Doctor’s around. At the end of the season one episode ‘End of Days’ we see the hand glow and the liquid starts to bubble frantically. At which point Jack grabs the canister and leaves the Hub. When we next see him he’s running across the Roald Dahl Plass where the TARDIS is parked in front of the water tower in the Doctor Who episode ‘Utopia’ the first part of a three part story. The hand is later stolen by the Master, along with the TARDIS later on in the episode.
 What Do We Have On Earth?

Today body parts, when stored, are kept in cold storage. There are many rules and regulations with regards to how human tissue is stored such as how it is stored, how long for, how it is used, permissions that must be obtained and so forth. The following is a few extracts from a document anyone can read on the internet. The funniest thing about this is that this particular document is from the University of Cardiff!



Temperature Controlled Storage – Any storage facility designed to maintain a fixed temperature for the purposes of storage (usually -80°C, -20°C or +4°C).

5.2       Methods of Storage

Tissue should be stored in line with current good practice on: security of storage areas and containers [ie rooms and buildings, freezers, fridges and other storage containers]; traceability, including information about risk.

Records should detail the location of the materials; health and safety, including appropriate containment levels for the storage, transportation and handling of materials that may pose a risk to others.

Cleaning and maintenance of storage is also included in this category.

You can read more from the following link. Be aware that this link is to a document that will ask to be downloaded. It’s the only way to read it.

Coming up in issue 15...

As we have now reached the end of season one and Jack has now run off with “the right Doctor”, we shall be taking a ’Doctor Who Side-Step’ and be following Jack, along with the Doctor and Martha in all three episodes in Issues 15, 16 and 17 of Project: Torchwood!

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




Torchwood: The Encyclopedia by Gary Russell

The Torchwood Archives by Warren Martyn (aka Gary Russell)


Torchwood Items: Wikipedia

Torchwood Three

TARDIS Data Core

Doctor Who Items

Other Sites Used

Bilis’ Polaroid Camera

To read more about Bilis’ camera the Model 95 visit here

To read more about the Model 95A visit the link below.

Socialmatic Camera

Organic Computer Article


Asimov Slasims

Organic Computers in the real world -

Retinal Hand Held Scanner



The Transparent Case for Severed Hand Article

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