Ianto Jones

The name of a major character in the British science fiction tv series Torchwood, interesting here because of his name; his Welshness, reflected in his name; the particular brand of sexuality he exhibited in his passionate relationship with the lead character in the show, Captain Jack Harkness; and the port city of Cardiff, the capital of Wales and the background for all this.

Photo gallery first: Ianto Jones on the job for the Torchwood Institute:

(#1)

Then Ianto (left)and Jack (right) locked in their first kiss:

(#2)

And Gareth David-Lloyd, the actor who played Ianto, looking cute:

(#3)

(John Barrowman, who played Jack Harkness, goes happily shirtless all the time, and has been featured in that state on this blog, but Gareth David-Lloyd seems to have scrupulously kept his shirt on in front of cameras.)

Background on the series. From Wikipedia:

Torchwood is a British science fiction television programme created by Russell T Davies. A spin-off from the 2005 revival of long-running science fiction programme Doctor Who, Torchwood aired four series between 2006 and 2011… In contrast to Doctor Who, whose target audience includes both adults and children, Torchwood is aimed at an older audience. Over its run, the show explored a number of themes; prominent among these were existentialism, homosexual and bisexual relationships, and explorations of human corruptibility.

Torchwood follows the exploits of a small team of alien hunters, who make up the Cardiff-based, fictional Torchwood Institute, which deals mainly with incidents involving extraterrestrials. Its central character is Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), an immortal former con-man from the distant future; Jack originally appeared in the 2005 series of Doctor Who.

And the character Ianto Jones:

Ianto Jones is a fictional character in the BBC television series Torchwood, played by Welsh actor Gareth David-Lloyd. A series regular, Ianto appears in every episode of the programme’s first three seasons, as well as two crossover episodes of Torchwood‘s parent show, Doctor Who. Additionally, Ianto appears in Expanded Universe material such as the Torchwood novels and audiobooks, comic books and radio plays. Within the narrative of the series, Ianto begins as general support officer for Torchwood Three, a team of alien hunters stationed in Cardiff, and develops into an active field agent. Initially the regular character with the least screen time, Ianto’s role expanded in response to growing cult appeal.

Reserved and efficient, Ianto was often used by writers to add humorous asides to the episodes’ scripts. The character becomes the main romantic interest of Captain Jack Harkness  (Wikipedia link)

Ianto died, tragically but (given the premises of the plot) inevitably, at the end of series 3, to the immense consternation of his league of fans.

Very briefly on Gareth David-Lloyd:

Gareth David Lloyd (born 28 March 1981), known professionally as Gareth David-Lloyd, is a Welsh actor best known for his role as Ianto Jones in the British science fiction series Torchwood.

[David-Lloyd has appeared in a number of science fiction and mystery productions.]

… David-Lloyd also fronts the progressive metal band Blue Gillespie (previously known as A Breath of Blue Fire). (Wikipedia link)

(Most of the characters on the show are presented as being Welsh; many of the actors, like David-Lloyd, are actually Welsh, but in any case everybody is expected to produce a credible Welsh (indeed, southern Welsh) accent in English. But not John Barrowman, a Scottish-American actor (brought to the U.S. as a boy), whose Torchwood character is American.)

Ianto’s name and WelshnessIanto Jones is pretty much John all over. Ianto (also spelled Yanto) is a pet form of the Welsh name Ifan (Ivan in English spelling) – that is, John.

As for Jones, it’s an English and Welsh patronymic, from Jon / John (so equivalent to Johnson), especially. common in Wales and south central England; it’s the stereotypical Welsh family name. (At one point the University College of North Wales — now the University of Wales, Bangor — had a small linguistics program, including three members all named Robert Jones.)

(You’re probably wondering about the stereotypical Welsh personal name. That would be David, Dafydd in Welsh, Englished as the mocking name Taffy: “Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief”.)

So Ianto is Welsh by name and Welsh by nature, as is Gareth David-Lloyd (whose name could only be more Welsh if it had Dafydd instead of David).

Forms of man-man love. The actor John Barrowman is openly, celebratorily gay; see my discussion in a 7/6/11 posting (with shirtless photos). His character Jack Harkness is a bit more complex: solidly gay (he refers frequently to his old boyfriends, often entertainingly, and flirts flat out when he gets a signal from another man), but with a capacity for loving relationships with women. The actor Gareth David-Lloyd appears to be solidly straight, and his character Ianto Jones was drawn only to women all of his life — until he fell wildly, inexplicably, publicly, in love with Jack, and only Jack. Trying to explain this astonishing development to a friend, he says, with some amazement, “It’s not men, it’s just him”.

You will recognize this contrast in ways of loving from Brokeback Mountain, in the contrast between Jack Twist, for whom it is men (though he’s not averse to women), and Ennis Del Mar, who loves Jack intensely, painfully, but of love for men, only for Jack. Having no vocabulary for his kind of love, he accepts the label bisexual and is willing to call himself a fairy jokingly.

The city of Cardiff. Although the greater portion of the scenes in Torchwood were shot on set, the show does take advantage of its setting in Cardiff; as with most of the tv shows I’ve been watching recently, there’s a certain gorgeous travelogue aspect to Torchwood.

As it happens, I spent a week in Cardiff back in 1972, doing research at the Welsh Folk Museum (as it was then), an absolutely astounding place. From Wikipedia:

St Fagans National History Museum (Welsh: Sain Ffagan: Amgueddfa Werin Cymru), commonly referred to as St Fagans after the village where it is located, is an open-air museum in Cardiff chronicling the historical lifestyle, culture, and architecture of the Welsh people. The museum is part of the wider network of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

It consists of more than forty re-erected buildings from various locations in Wales, and is set in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, an Elizabethan manor house. In 2011 Which? magazine named the museum the United Kingdom’s favourite visitor attraction.

The museum was started in 1946 following the donation of the castle and lands by the Earl of Plymouth. It opened its doors to the public in 1948, under the name of the Welsh Folk Museum. The museum’s name in Welsh ([Amgueddfa Werin Cymru] also meaning “Welsh Folk Museum”) has remained unchanged since that date, whereas the English title was modified once to Museum of Welsh Life, and again to its current nomenclature.

I had the use of an office, which was packed floor to ceiling with drawers of drawings of minute architectural details, all painstakingly researched and labeled. The buildings are all functioning  replicas of originals from specific places and times, they’re historically accurate to a fault, and they’re lots of fun. (The Wikipedia article has a fairly detailed list.)

One Response to “Ianto Jones”

  1. [BLOG] Some Monday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky celebrates (1, 2) British actor Ianto […]

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