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Staging Ianto

While timing the characters I noted some interesting things about how Ianto is handled on the stage.  Here's my observations lifted from OG:

Watching these with the sound off, it's hard to miss how often the camera favors Ianto. He may be in the background in most eps, but except for GBG he's usually only a degree or two off from the dead center of the shot. That's a prime location.

In TKKS the camera loves Ianto. Not only is he in his "sweet spot" almost all the time, but the camera follows him up the stairs and into the boardroom. We watch Jack at the first conference over Ianto's shoulder. At the first meeting in Jack's office Ianto is in the center of the "chorus" (cluster of less important actors), while at the second meeting he has left the chorus and stands nearer to Jack while the chorus faces him.

When Owen explains what the glove is doing to Gwen the camera focuses on Ianto's reaction. This is in spite of the fact that Gwen means little to Ianto while Jack adores her. But the camera gives Jack less face-time at that moment than it does Ianto.

The shots of Jack consulting with Ianto and Ianto getting the phone to work have been discussed before. After Ianto gets the phone working Jack is shown talking to Kathy. It's been established and is repeated throughout the scene that Owen and Tosh are standing to one side, just out of the shot, with their arms crossed not doing anything. But Ianto is show standing quietly behind Jack's right shoulder working on something we can't see (probably his trusty PDA.) It looks to me like the camera is saying, "This is Jack's right hand man."

These are some of the reasons why I wonder if people who say they didn't see the stopwatch scene coming were really watching all that closely.

ETA:  I'm lifting this bit up from the comments:

It's the same staging in every episode except for the two that are strong one-character POV stories, GBG and Random Shoes. Even in Small Worlds where he's in disgrace after Lisa, he's still just off center-back right next to Jack in the boardroom scene.

After TKKS the camera begins to swing around to focus on him in the same way that it does the others, which it really wasn't doing before except for Cyberwoman. So it's less apparent that he's back-and-center, but that's usually where he is even then.

Except for three moments in End of Days. When Owen shoots Jack, Ianto leaves the center-back position to kneel by Jack's head while the camera follows him. When the Hub begins to explode, he is the first one to move and begins leading the others to the main door. And when they gather around Jack's body, he deliberately stands as far in the corner as he can. That's the only time in the entire series where you see him deliberately stake out the back corner insead of center-back. He doesn't even do that when he's in disgrace after Lisa.

Of course so many women love Ianto's story. It's a Classic Women's Romance story, i.e. "Does the hero have the sense to prefer the quieter but smarter person to the flashier but less smart person?"  The only thing that's different is that this time the "plain Jane" is a guy.

Whenever I point out that RTD is drawing from literary sources. someone always counters that he's just an overgrown fanboy who knows nothing about Literature. Nonsense. RTD knows the field of love stories as well as a veteran fisherman knows the waters through which he steers his boat.

ETA:  Teaspoon is deleting their essay section in 12 minutes.  Boo!  I'm archiving their reviews here.

eumenidis2007.10.05 - 09:02PM1: Chapter 1Signed
I've read that Ianto was originally intended to be killed off early in the series, but the writers changed their minds; now you've told us why.

RTD only an "overgrown fanboy"? Fanboy, yes, but a literate fanboy, otherwise we'd all have lost interest halfway through "Everything Changes."

Author's Response: I've heard that to, but according to Torchwood novelist Peter Anghelides Ianto's story arc was firmly in place long before the shooting ended. Yeah, I know, but it's amazing the number of people who insist there's no way he's had a literary eduction, he MUST have just learned everything he knows from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. *rolls eyes* Forget "Everything Changes", there's no way he would have held the British public through Queer as Folk if that were the case.

ebonyjet2007.10.05 - 07:09PM1: Chapter 1Signed
I noticed that to. not that i'm complaining I love Ianto with or without Jack. I like that he's there all the time cos I think it was RT's way of saying "this is the guy Jack trusts!" and i think thats way the cam always goes to see Ianto's reaction. but hey eah to his or her own.

Author's Response: "This is Jack's right hand man." There's also that bit in the Autopsy Bay in Combat where Gwen asks what they're going to do, and everyone, even Jack, looks to Ianto before answering.

jekyll2007.10.05 - 03:38PM1: Chapter 1Signed
Great analysis on a great character. I'll have to really look at some of your points as I rewatch Series 1

Author's Response: Any excuse to rewatch S1 is a good excuse. :)



( 69 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 17th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
All good points.

I think there is a reason for this, though I am speculating. When they first conceived series 1, they had planned to kill Ianto off - probably in "Cyberwoman". (I'm so glad they didn't!) Then they decided - and 'they' probably means Russell T. Davies - to keep him on, and make him Jack's lover. But the scripts were done, the stories set up, they could only increase his role so much without commissioning new scripts - and it was too late for that even if they could afford it.

So: what to do? Make him prominent (and attractive) on camera. Takes small but significant actions from other characters and let him do them. Show him as being closely supportive of Jack in visual implication, not words, or not just words.

I figured we were going to get something between Jack and Ianto from the time of the "looks good in a suit" comment.

Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.
Jul. 17th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC)
I've heard that theory before, even promoted it. But Peter Angehides says that by the time the novelists were brought in Ianto's role wasn't in doubt. And considering that Ianto has played gay characters before, including a gay love interest for RTD before, I think that was the plan all along.
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Jul. 17th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
You get so much love for timing the characters, it certainly makes for an interesting read. Would have commented over at OG but I'm still being a persistant lurker.

I'm glad you've highlighted Ianto's screen presence, it's something I've noticed whilst watching Torchwood, and it's something I love about his character. In fact my eye is drawn to him more often than not when he is in shot.

Some great observations here hun.
Jul. 17th, 2007 08:25 pm (UTC)
It's hard not to watch him, isn't it? And it's not just that he's pretty.
Jul. 17th, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC)
This was lovely to read, I'm glad you picked up on this - because I hadn't!

There's so much RTD bashing at the minute, so this was refreshing! Mem-ed it :)
Jul. 17th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I had picked up on in subliminally, but I hadn't worked it out before.
Jul. 17th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
The moment, that for me, predicted the relationship (or hinted they had one b4 Lisa) was in 'Small Worlds'. At the very beginning when Jack touched Ianto's shoulder and Ianto flinched. It cld be read so many ways and the fangirl that I am thought 'I wonder' and I didn't think it wld be developed to for a long while. But in 'TKKS' he is always there! Then he has the 'naughty torch sequence' anyone seeing that must known what is coming (in more ways than one)!!!
Jul. 17th, 2007 08:33 pm (UTC)
Yes. Ianto is shown subtley working his way through the stages of the grief process between Cyberwoman and TKKS. It really is an amazing job for an actor of his youth. One of these days I must post one of my writings about that here.
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Jul. 17th, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC)
This is interesting -- but to describe Ianto as "quieter but smarter" and "plain Jane" is incredibly simplistic.

I agree wholeheartedly that RTD draws heavily on literary sources, but not Disney versions of fairy tales. If anything, given RTD's heavy reliance on biblical sources in Doctor Who and Torchwood, and particularly on a gnostic interpretation of those sources, Ianto can perhaps be seen as Judas (betraying Christ with a kiss, though it seems likely that the whole team shares this role), a betrayal that allows Jack to fulfill his destiny by battling the big bad beastie. Ianto is also Welsh for John, author of the Book of Revelation, another tie-in to the season's apocalyptic ending.

So, yeah, it's fair to talk about Ianto's centrality in events, but reductive to boil it down to a ship.

Jul. 17th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
This is interesting -- but to describe Ianto as "quieter but smarter" and "plain Jane" is incredibly simplistic.

Yes it is incredibly simplistic, which is why I usually use terms from more sophisticated sources. But sometimes simple works as well.

I love looking for literary allusions in DW and TW. Look around my site and you'll find a lot of those essays, including Cyberwoman as Oedipus Rex, DocNine as Oddyseus, and DocTen as an old-style Celtic Fairie.
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Jul. 17th, 2007 07:58 pm (UTC)
You get serious points for the timing and examining the episodes like that. When I get a few minutes to myself I most certainly and going to rewatch the episodes (now with a purpose!) to keep an eye out on things like that too.

I think what I always really liked about the Cyberwoman episode is that its an interesting twist on the Beauty and the Beast tale, the sacrificing all for love in secret and what not. A story that, should the sexes of Ianto and Lisa had been reversed, would have probably played out utterly differently. Ianto seems to have the role of the broken hero, the one who tries his best to do the right thing (see his reasons for siding against Jack in the end, not for Lisa but to save everyone else ) who in most plays does have the center stage positioning.

Lovely entry none the less! Your analysis is always extremely interesting!
Jul. 17th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
Have you read my "Cyberwoman as Oedipus Rex" piece, where I describe it as a twisted fairy tale? Here it is: http://crabby-lioness.livejournal.com/9713.html
Jul. 17th, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC)
Many thanks for doing this and sharing it, it's certainly food for thought. There are many ways to interpret a complex, relationship type action drama, and I certainly didn't think Disney when I read your analysis. I hope RTD isn't channelling the Bible though... I hate that!
Jul. 17th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
I gave my daughters the Color Fairy books as soon as they could read, and I seriously limit their intake of Disney. Around here "The Beauty and the Beast movie" refers to the Jean Cocteau version.
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Jul. 17th, 2007 08:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah if they were really trying to hide him, he would have been flitting around the edge of the stage. But except for GBG he's always back-and-center.

And that staging in the second scene in Jack's office is quite literally straight out of Greek Classical theatre, with two important characters and a "chorus".
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Jul. 17th, 2007 10:52 pm (UTC)
Huh. Cool!

Jul. 18th, 2007 02:31 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Jul. 18th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
It's always pleasant when one's unsupported reactions turn out to have evidence behind them -- I always felt there was too much Gwen given that a) this is supposed to be an ensemble and b)if people are tuning in for any one character, especially at the beginning, it's Jack. We don't need a POV character any more, thanks RTD, and if we did I'm much more likely to identify with Tosh than Gwen myself.

Sometimes I wonder if we read more into the scripts than they've put into them -- the Christian mythology has been underlined so heavily that it makes C.S.Lewis look subtle, true, though I wonder how much of that is RTD and how much is Chris Chibnall. But the Greek/Celtic ideas, while I find your analyses very interesting CL I wonder if some of these myth-structures are so deeply ingrained that they're not even conscious of using them, rather than that they deliberately drew on Odysseus or Oedipus. At any rate, I hope we're done with the Jack=Jesus metaphor which was so belaboured in eps 12 and 13.
Jul. 18th, 2007 02:32 am (UTC)
I prefer his Jack=Teresias myself. It's a better fit.
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Jul. 18th, 2007 08:21 am (UTC)
I read some of this on OG yesterday (Thanks for the Stopwatch stuff BTW!) and I completely agree with what you wrote :)
Jul. 18th, 2007 01:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Jul. 18th, 2007 11:35 am (UTC)
I think you're right
I figured that since Ianto wasn't as central to the action - esp. in the beginning - Cyberwoman notwithstanding - they were being careful about keeping him around and reminding the audience of his existence when he wasn't essential to the plot. Ianto's loyalty to his duties to Jack are so crucial at the end that they needed to be firmly established.

I don't if he "plain Jane" though. I need series 2 for clarification on that point. We still know too little about their relationship.
Jul. 25th, 2007 03:03 pm (UTC)
This was very interesting (here via a link from, I think, the newsletter). I still think we got too little actual information on Ianto but it's intriguing to note how he was more prominent in some ways than it appears.
( 69 comments — Leave a comment )