Timestamp #TW12: Captain Jack Harkness

Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness
(1 episode, s01e12, 2007)

 

An eye-opening tale of star-crossed lovers.

Jack and Tosh arrive at a derelict dance hall called The Ritz to investigate 1940s music that has been drifting out of the premises at random. Pushing past the Vote Saxon posters, the duo dance in the dust before finding the music. They are transported back in time, presumably thanks to the Cardiff Rift. While Jack is happy to be there, they are trapped in 1941.

Back at the Hub, Owen wakes up to find Ianto monitoring Rift activity. Of course, Ianto can’t reach Tosh, so he calls Gwen. Owen analyzes the data, still maudlin about Diane’s disappearance, and Gwen investigates The Ritz. When Gwen calls for Jack, he can hear her voice but doesn’t get to her in time.

Tosh and Jack find themselves at a party on January 20, 1941, right in the midst of the London Blitz. Trying to blend in, they meet with an American captain who saves Jack and Tosh from a fistfight.

The American is Captain Jack Harkness.

Torchwood Jack is stunned but eventually comes up with an alias: Captain James Harper. He tells Tosh that he took the captain’s name as a disguise when the man died the next day in a training exercise. Torchwood Jack and Tosh start to work on the second half of an equation that will bridge the Rift and send them home. They transfer the equation from Tosh’s dying laptop to paper, but are interrupted by the manager, Bilish Manger. He has a Polaroid camera, which shouldn’t exist yet, and a file labeled Torchwood.

He’s also in the present and admits Gwen into the building to continue her investigation. She checks in with the Hub and learns that Manger exists in both time periods.

Tosh and Torchwood Jack return to the party. Tosh chats up another airman to get the local coordinates while Torchwood Jack gets to know the real Jack. Tosh also encounters a bit of racism – she’s Japanese, and the Japanese are one of the enemies in World War II – but Torchwood Jack is able to cover for her. Tosh sneaks back upstairs and uses the Polaroid to photograph the equation. She’s interrupted by Manger, so she only gets part of what she needs, so she finishes the equation with her own blood and seals it in a can to hide for the future.

Back in the present, Ianto and Owen spar over their lost loves and the equation. Owen is dead set on opening the Rift and bringing Diane back. He tries to use the rift manipulator but finds that a piece is missing. Owen leaves to search Manger’s office for clues as Gwen finds the can. Owen finds the missing piece and returns to the Hub.

Torchwood Jack is falling for Real Jack, only to be interrupted by Real Jack’s girlfriend Nancy. Torchwood Jack urges Real Jack to kiss her goodbye as she leaves the party, but the American captain only finds his situation worse when Nancy professes her love for him. Jack confronts Jack and exchange war stories to make their respective points. As the bombs begin to fall, everyone takes cover.

Real Jack confides in Torchwood Jack that he is scared. They sit down for a private talk as the bombings stop and the partygoers return to their revelry. Real Jack heeds Torchwood Jack’s advice to spend more time with Nancy, to treat that night as if it were his last, but later returns to spend those moments with Torchwood Jack. They hold hands before being interrupted by another couple looking for Lover’s Corner.

Owen continues his work and breaks into Jack’s safe to find the manipulator’s blueprints. Ianto takes the blueprints, but Owen overpowers him. Ianto returns with a gun, eventually shooting Owen in the shoulder to stop him. The bullet is too late. The manipulator activates as Owen slips into unconsciousness.

Torchwood Jack watches the party, telling Tosh about how the real captain will die the next day. He also explains how he was brought back from death and apologizes for dragging her into this. While Torchwood Jack mourns for the pending loss, Tosh looks on as Real Jack makes his decision. Jack takes Jack’s hand, leads him to the dance floor, and they share a dance before the Rift bursts through the door. They share a kiss as the partygoers watch in astonishment, then the wayward members of Torchwood Three return home.

They meet up with Gwen and return to the Hub. Owen performs surgery on himself to remove the bullet as Ianto searches for signs of Manger. Tosh joins Jack in his office and together they raise a glass to the memory of the real Captain Jack Harkness.

 

First things first, if we presume that this story and the Ninth Doctor tale that introduced us to Jack are happening at around the same time, then there are (at least) two versions of that character roaming about in that time.

The Jack story is quite touching, from Jack finding a moment of love with the man whom he replaced to Tosh getting to know her boss in a fantastic change of pace for the character. I mean, look, Tosh has a role in the plot! Yes! This also is a crazy story in terms of time travel for both Jack and Tosh. Tosh’s actions are quite straightforward, echoing other time travel adventures where the stuck-in-the-past hero has to send a message to his/her support team in the future in order to be rescued. Jack’s temporal threads are a bit more complex: Jack took the Captain Harkness identity as a matter of convenience, then travels back parallel to his own timeline and interacts with the man he replaced. The implications and possibilities could have spun wildly out of control.

There is the question of the dance and the kiss. From what I gather, homosexuality was still illegal in England and Wales until the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed, and that did not apply to the armed forces. In reality, Captain Harkness would have likely been either imprisoned or rebuked for sharing the moment with Jack, and probably wouldn’t have been allowed to fly his mission the next day. Since the Torchwood Jack Harkness still exists, it’s reasonable to assume that either the event was washed away as a mass delusion – two people did disappear in a mysterious burst of light – or it was a moment of poetic license for the sake of drama.

Either way, I consider it a minor quibble. It was a beautiful moment for Jack, even if actor Matt Rippy didn’t seem to be totally into the role.

Owen’s story is one of obsession and subversion of power. He wants nothing more than to get love back in his life, and he’s willing to tear time and space apart to make it happen. Even a gunshot wound to his shoulder won’t slow him down. I’m interested in how it will play out with the season finale next.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: End of Days

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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Timestamp #183: The Runaway Bride

Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2006)

 

It’s the balance between character chemistry and chewed scenery.

Starting with that RTD Earth-zoom shot – you know the one – we meet bride-to-be Donna Noble as she’s walked down the aisle on Christmas Eve. As she approaches her groom, she’s transported away in a cloud of gold energy and appears on the TARDIS right where we left the Tenth Doctor, orbiting a supernova, at the end of Doomsday.

Donna immediately confronts the Doctor, demanding to know where she is. The Doctor is confused since she doesn’t belong on the TARDIS, and Donna thinks it is a practical joke by her friend Nerys. Donna opens the doors in an attempt to flee but stops cold at the sight of outer space beyond the TARDIS’s walls.

Then she finds out that the Doctor is an alien. Mind blown.

The Doctor investigates Donna while she demands to be taken back to the church. She spots one of Rose’s shirts and wants to know how many women the Doctor has abducted, but his attitude shifts to a combination of somber and angry as he replies that he lost her. Back on Earth, the church is in chaos as the Doctor drops Donna near Oxford Street. Donna has her “bigger on the inside moment” while the Doctor tends to the TARDIS, and she sets out on foot. The Doctor pursues, adamant that he’s not a Martian, and the pair have considerable difficulty hailing a taxi.

Especially since neither of them has any money.

Donna uses a sonic-screwdriver hacked pay phone while the Doctor stands in line for the automatic teller machine. He sonics some cash and then notices a trio of sinister Santas, including one that just drove off with Donna. She figures out that the Santas are the bad guys after she is abducted, and the Doctor runs for the TARDIS. He materializes on the roadway, flies alongside the taxi, and rescues Donna while driving the time capsule with a length of twine. The whole sequence is solid edge-of-your-seat action.

The TARDIS touches down on a rooftop and, in a burst of smoke, takes some time to cool down. The Doctor and Donna talk about her wedding and time machines, and the Time Lord gives her a ring that acts as a bio-damper to confuse the Santa-bots. They also talk about the events of last Christmas, during which Donna was hung over so she missed the whole affair. The Doctor muses about Rose for a moment before turning back to the mystery at hand.

Donna works as a secretary at a local security firm where she met Lance, head of Human Relations and her husband-to-be, as he offered her a cup of coffee. They went out for a while before they decided to get married (after Donna pestered him for a really long time). The Doctor takes her to the wedding reception, which Donna is furious about since they’re partying without the bride. Donna’s mother Sylvia counters, prompting a furious storm from the assembled guests, and Donna silences them with a quick cry. The party carries on and the Doctor investigates H.C. Clements.

It turns out that the security firm was owned by Torchwood before the institute was decimated. The Doctor asks the wedding videographer if he caught Donna’s disappearance on tape, and figures out that she was infused with Huon particles. Unfortunately, those particles cannot be shielded by a bio-damper and the Santas are on the march. The building is surrounded, and the Doctor sees that the Santas are using the Christmas trees as weapons. The ornaments explode, providing a diversion as the Santas take aim on the Doctor. The Doctor replies by plugging his sonic screwdriver into the DJ’s mixing board and blowing the robots apart.

The Doctor realizes that the Robot Santas aren’t being controlled by the Sycorax this time. He analyzes one of the robot heads and tracks the controlling signal to a star-shaped spacecraft in orbit. Lance gives Donna and the Doctor to H.C. Clements – Donna missed the Torchwood event as well – and the Doctor tracks the Huon particles to a secret sub-basement. Those particles, which haven’t been seen since the Dark Times, connected Donna to the TARDIS since the time capsule is the only other place where they exist. The trio take Segways to a door marked with the Torchwood logo, and the Doctor ascends to the Thames Flood Barrier. The secret base is underneath the landmark river.

They find a series of water capsules in a lab. Someone has been using the river to create the particles and store them in liquid form. The Doctor explains that the Time Lords stopped using Huon particles because they were deadly, and he promises to help rid Donna of them. They’re interrupted by a legion of robots and a sinister voice belonging to a half-spider half-humanoid being, the Empress of the Racnoss. The Racnoss were supposed to have gone extinct during the Dark Times.

They also find a pit dug all the way to the center of the Earth. Chekhov’s pit, perhaps? Spoiler: Not quite.

Above the pit is a giant web, inside which is the corpse of H.C. Clements. The Doctor and Donna try to distract the Empress as Lance sneaks up with an axe, but Lance’s identity is soon revealed. He made her coffee everyday, spiking it with Huon particles while tolerating her obsession with pop culture. He’s been promised a chance to see the stars, and that was enough to betray Donna. The Empress decides to dispose of the Doctor, but he reverses the particle activity and draws the TARDIS around them so they can escape.

The Doctor sets a course back in time as Donna grieves about Lance’s betrayal. They arrive at the creation of the Earth, making Donna the first human to ever see it. Together, they watch as the Racnoss starship arrives, acting as the nucleus for the planet’s formation. At that moment, the TARDIS rocks and is pulled forward to the present day as the Empress floods Lance’s body with Huon particles. To avoid a direct return to the lab, the Doctor smacks the extrapolator and shifts the TARDIS into an abandoned corridor. Unfortunately, they are both soon trapped by the robots.

The Empress extracts the Huon particles from Donna and Lance, projecting the energy into the pit and awakening the sleeping Racnoss below. She then releases Lance as food for her growing horde as her spaceship descends and attacks the city. The Doctor arrives and saves Donna before offering the Empress one last chance to save her people by surrendering. The Empress, of course, declines, and the Doctor warns her that what follows is her own doing.

The Doctor disables the robots before telling the Empress where he’s from. It turns out that the Time Lords were responsible for the extinction of the Racnoss, so the name Gallifrey sparks fear in the Empress. The Doctor uses the explosive ornaments to breach the Thames walls, flooding the complex while the Last of the Time Lords watches with sinister intent. Donna brings him back to his senses as the Empress transmats back to her ship.

On the roads above, tanks roll in and – under orders from Mr. Saxon, who we saw referenced last in Love & Monsters – destroy the ship. The Doctor and Donna surface to find the threat over and the Thames drained. They take the TARDIS back to a nearby road and the duo say goodbye. The Doctor uses temporal energy to start a Christmas snow before offering Donna a chance to travel with him. She declines, despite the adventure they just shared, but she encourages him to find someone because they can help balance the darkness in him.

The Doctor briefly tells Donna about Rose before taking off for his next adventure.

 

For a fun Christmas tale, this one does the trick. Donna and the Doctor together are amazing, playing off each other in pseudo-confrontational snappy dialogue as they work together to solve the mystery. The source of that threat, on the other hand, was way over the top: The Racnoss Empress chewed the scenery into splinters.

The Doctor is taking some time to mourn for Rose. It seems like just the right amount instead of going to the extreme with a depressed and/or mopey Doctor. He also knows when to set aside his grief to save Donna’s life and stop the Racnoss from destroying the Earth. I also really enjoyed the discussion about the Doctor needing a companion to balance him and rein him, particularly in the post-Time War trauma that the character is experiencing.

Following the episode airdates, we go back to Torchwood at this point and will remain there until the end of the show’s first series.

 

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW11: Combat

Torchwood: Combat
(1 episode, s01e11, 2006)

 

The first rule of Weevil Fight Club…

This adventure starts with Jack pursuing a weevil. It evades him, apparently immune to the weevil spray, and runs past where Gwen and Rhys are having a tense dinner. Rhys has none of it, but Gwen leaves with Jack after he curses at her. The pair track the weevil to a parking deck, but the being is apprehended by masked strangers in a white van.

The next morning, the team analyzes a wave of weevil attacks. There has been a surge of injuries at the local hospital and Tosh can’t track the van from the night before. Meanwhile, Owen is drowning his sorrows over Diane at the bar. He gets in a fight with the bartender’s jealous boyfriend – a man whom he easily bests – in between bouts of ignoring calls from work.

Tosh confides in Gwen about Owen’s relationship with Diane: Tosh is upset and Gwen is oblivious. In the holding cells, Jack and Ianto watch as a weevil howls. They are supposedly somewhat telepathic, and something is inducing psychic pain in this one. Tosh finds the van on CCTV, prompting Jack and Tosh to investigate the docks. They find a male corpse, presumably attacked by a weevil, and a call on his cell to stay out matters that they don’t understand.

Owen finally rolls back in and conducts the autopsy. The victim was attacked by humans before the weevil attack. Ianto also has no luck tracing the victim’s cell records. Gwen and Owen go out to notify the next of kin, and they have a heart-to-heart about their affair that doesn’t end well. Owen walks back to the Hub just in time to receive orders for an undercover assignment. He meets with real estate agent Mark Lynch as a businessman looking for space at the docks. He places a sniffer device on Lynch’s computer so Tosh can download the hard drive. After Owen leaves, Lynch does a web search on Owen and his jellied eel business. He ends up confident that Owen is the real deal.

Jack sends Gwen home to patch things up with Rhys. As soon as she gets there, Rhys heads out with his friends to the bar. Gwen is left home alone.

Jack and Ianto interview a weevil victim at the hospital, but the victim doesn’t want to discuss the matter. He’s afraid that someone will kill him if he talks, so Jack decides to release the captive weevil – he’s nicknamed it Janet – with a tracker to monitor its movements. Janet gets snatched by the white van moments later, and the team finds the tracker on a fence.

Owen and Lynch meet up for drinks. Unfortunately, it’s the same bar with the jealous beau. Fortunately, Lynch helps Owen defeat the thugs. The duo return to Lynch’s place. After the fight, Lynch is aware the Owen isn’t who he claims, but he still confides in Owen that something is coming. Owen later sneaks into a locked room and comes face-to-face with a chained-up weevil. Lynch catches up with Owen, uses the creature as a punching bag, and eventually shows Owen the entire operation.

Rhys returns home and shares a drink with Gwen. Gwen confesses her affair, an act that devastates Rhys but one that he won’t remember since Gwen spiked his drink with Retcon. Gwen begs him for forgiveness, but Rhys slips under the drug’s spell before offering it. She takes pizza to the Hub, but everyone else is out. She’s alone once again, but luckily she’s around as the corpse’s phone rings with a text message: “CF10 6BY.” She quickly figures out that it is a location and passes it on to Jack.

That location? It’s the same place where Lynch and Owen are. It’s a weevil fight club.

The person who stays in the cage with the weevil longest wins and the warm-up is men fighting with each other. The corpse in the Hub refused to leave the cage and ended up mauled to death. Lynch forces Owen into the cage with Janet – let’s be fair, Owen is more than willing to jump in regardless of Lynch’s threats – and Janet recognizes him. Owen tells Janet to attack just Torchwood Three arrives. They tend to Owen’s wounds and disperse the crowd as Lynch locks himself in the cage with Janet. The weevil tears Lynch to shreds.

Jack visits Owen in the hospital with a bag of grapes. Owen tells Jack that he didn’t want to be saved. Jack tells him to be back at work the next day. When he reports in, Owen has a moment alone with Janet and the other weevil. They hiss and growl, but Owen musters a sinister snarl that sends the weevils cowering into the corner.

Owen leaves with a satisfied smirk.

 

There is a lot to unpack here. I mean, okay, sure… they did Fight Club with weevils. But going deeper, there’s so much more with our main characters here. Owen and Gwen are two sides of the same coin, explaining why they ended up having an affair together, and they’re both torn apart by their respective loneliness. Owen takes it to one extreme by attempting suicide by weevil, and Gwen takes it to another extreme by drugging her boyfriend in a twisted attempt at forgiveness.

And this is the point where I lost a ton of respect for Gwen. Sure, she’s in a tight place with no good solution, but her move here was pure selfishness and vanity. Instead of coming clean and healing the rift in her relationship with him, Gwen continues to what’s best for her instead of what’s best for them.

I don’t know that she deserves forgiveness at this point. As an outside watcher, I’m having trouble seeing how to forgive the character myself.

The other big character moment here is how Jack handles each subordinate’s crisis. In Owen’s case, Jack effectively tells him to “man up” and get back to work. In Gwen’s case, he gives her time off and forces her to pursue reconciliation. It’s inconsistent in approach but says a lot about how Jack sees each of his employees.

Speaking of, Tosh and Ianto are (once again!) lost in the wake of the drama. That’s unfortunate.

 

Since this era of Doctor Who is rife with spinoffs, the Timestamps Project is proceeding in airdate order (for the most part). As such, we’re headed back to the Tenth Doctor for a Christmas Special before coming back to close out Torchwood‘s first series.

 

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Operation Neptune: Normandy at Seventy-Five

 

Operation Neptune: Normandy at Seventy-Five

Titled “Into the Jaws of Death”, this photograph was taken at Omaha Beach by Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent

 

It was the largest seaborne invasion in history and a decisive Allied victory against Nazi Germany.

On June 6, 1944, approximately 156,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. They were preceded by extensive aerial, naval, and airborne assaults, and this effort started the push of Nazi Germany out of France. It built the foundations of victory on the Western Front in World War II. The landings commenced at 6:30am local time across a 50-mile stretch of French coastline divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. The weather was bad but the fighting was worse, from heavy fire from elevated gun emplacements to anti-personnel measures like wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire that slowed the Allied advance.

The operation was a masterstroke in planning, including a large deception codenamed Operation Bodyguard that mislead the Germans. The landings were delayed a full day due to bad weather, and if the landings had not occurred on that Tuesday morning, they would have had to wait an additional two weeks for the right tides and conditions. The Allies even failed to achieve their goals on the first day, and fighting continued for days afterward. The five beaches were not connected until six days after the initial assault.

German casualties were estimated as high as 9,000 soldiers. Allied casualties numbered more than 10,000, with nearly 4,500 confirmed dead.

I want to visit Normandy someday to pay my respects and learn more about this turning point in history.

You can learn more about the depth and complexity of this operation from the multiple books and films available. Take some time today to remember these heroes and their historic sacrifices in the face of fascism.

Timestamp #TW10: Out of Time

Torchwood: Out of Time
(1 episode, s01e10, 2006)

 

Lessons learned from the most unexpected people.

The team patiently awaits a plane called the Sky Gypsy at a local airport. The twist on this arrival is that it hails from 1953, and the passengers – pilot Diane Holmes, Emma-Louise Cowell, and John Ellis – are surprised that they have flown through the Cardiff Rift. The accidental time travelers are taken to the Hub and debriefed, but the news is hard to take. So is the revelation that they can never return home.

The newcomers learn about how their families fared, and they’re fascinated and appalled by modern items such as automatic doors, televisions, DVDs, lads’ mags, and tea bags. Torchwood Three takes on the task of caring for the travelers until they can adapt to the 21st century. Jack befriends John, Gwen looks after Emma, and Owen tends to Diane.

Diane wants to keep flying – aviation is in her blood – but her license expired long ago. Between her independence and desire for chivalry, she and Owen strike up a relationship. And by relationship, I mean Owen is typical Owen and Gwen has been replaced in the casual sex department. Their relationship builds, but Owen and love are no replacement for the open sky. She leaves him a note and heads for the airport. After a goodbye kiss, Diane takes to the sky once again in the Sky Gypsy, firm in her belief that the Rift will take her home. Owen softly cries as she disappears into the clouds.

Emma’s parents have died during her journey, and after getting a cheerful start with a couple of roommates (and a small altercation with an overprotective John), Gwen takes her home. Emma sleeps on the couch, gets an eyeful of Rhys, and poses as Gwen’s cousin from out of town. The trio goes out to a nightclub, but Emma gets some mixed signals about how relationships work in the modern era. Emma later gets a job at a shop in London, and although Gwen wants her to stay in Cardiff, she changes her mind when Rhys discovers that Emma and Gwen are not related. Emma moves on to London, but the damage is done between Gwen and Rhys.

John was a traveling salesman who wants to reconnect with his family. Specifically, he wants to find his son, Alan, his only surviving relative. Sadly, he is devastated to find his son suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and barely able to make connections to his own past. Jack feels for him since there is no enemy to fight and no clear way to solve the problem. John is watching the end of his family line rushing right toward him. John steals Ianto’s keys and drives to his former home. John sees no other way out besides suicide, and even Jack can’t talk him out of it. Together, they sit in an enclosed garage with the idling car and John dies from carbon monoxide poisoning. Jack is shaken because John was a kindred spirit, a fellow man out of time, and now the captain is alone once more.

Miles apart, all three of our heroes reminisce over the last week and how their lives have been changed.

 

For the three travelers, the adaptation to modern life over one week is both adorable and tragic. The wonder of the new world in their eyes is fun to watch, but it’s also overwhelming. The way that it affects Jack, Gwen, and Owen is wonderful and adds just a bit more dimension to their characters. Jack Harkness’s story in this episode was particularly touching.

The parallels to Countrycide are evident: Sure, there are no backwoods cannibals here – in fact, there is no enemy at all in this story – but the drama that doesn’t rely on Doctor Who tropes is exceptional. The science fiction is limited to time travel that we don’t see in action, and the superhuman abilities are limited to Jack’s passive ability to withstand carbon monoxide poisoning. We also see Owen and Gwen’s affair, which started in Countrycide, starting to fall apart here.

We also continue the Torchwood tradition of post-watershed f-bombs. Hey, it’s another Countrycide parallel!

On the downside, Tosh and Ianto were minimally used in this episode. That’s the second story in a row, and a trend that I hope gets reversed.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Combat

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW9: Random Shoes

Torchwood: Random Shoes
(1 episode, s01e09, 2006)

 

Instead of Love & Monsters, we get Love and Ghosts

Eugene Jones, a man who monologues about science, wakes up in the middle of the road. He wanders a few feet to find Torchwood Three investigating his dead body, a victim of an apparent hit-and-run. He apparently knew the team and was interested in their work. His mobile phone rings and the team leaves (with Eugene’s ghost) to tell his mother the bad news.

During the drive, Eugene reminisces about his childhood and how he froze during a math competition. While he was down, his science teacher showed him an eye that fell from the sky. His father left home and Eugene obsessed over the eye, resulting in an interest in UFOlogy and (subsequently) Torchwood Three.

The team notifies Eugene’s family and investigates his belongings. Some of the alien artifacts are fraudulent, but Gwen notes the stand where the eye should be. They leave with a box of things to research and return to the Hub. While the team gets to work, Eugene takes a tour of Torchwood’s headquarters, including a particular focus on a certain severed hand. Gwen begins the autopsy but is interrupted by news of a driver who admitted to the crime. Eugene faints at the autopsy, wakes up later, and goes for a long walk.

Gwen feels that there is something more to the goings-on, but she can’t put her finger on it. She offers to return an overdue DVD to the video store, but when she finds the store is closed, she stops at a local diner and goes through Eugene’s mobile. She finds pictures of random shoes, and after Eugene arrives, she phones someone called Gary on his suggestion. Gary’s call goes to voicemail.

Gwen returns the DVDs and reluctantly pays the £34 in late fees. A discussion with the clerk at the store plants seeds of doubt in Eugene’s head. Gwen’s next stop is Eugene’s former employer, a telemarketing firm, as she tries to match the shoes in the pictures. A pair of Converse All-Stars belong to Gary, who hadn’t seen Eugene on the day he died. She also meets Linda, a friend of Eugene’s, who is broken up by his death. She agrees to meet with Gwen later. Gwen looks over Gary’s desk and finds a flyer similar to one in Eugene’s belongings.

Over lunch, Linda fills in some missing details. A few weeks back, Eugene was depressed. He offered to help Linda move to Australia to start a new life, and tried to fund it by selling the alien eye on eBay. It reached a peak of £15,005.50. The story is interrupted by Eugene’s mother who wants Gwen to come by.

Gwen and Eugene’s mother watch the video of the mathematics competition. Gwen learns of how Eugene received the eye from his former science teacher, and together everyone learns that Eugene’s father is now working in a garage across town instead of living the fantasy life in America. Eugene remembers why he sold the eye: After discovering the lie, he realized that he’d been chasing fantasies his whole life, so he chose to get rid of them.

Gwen decides to go interview Eugene’s father but changes her mind when Eugene pleads with her not to. She returns to the Hub and learns from Jack about the Dogon sixth eye, an item that allows its user to see his past and put it in perspective. She convinces Jack to let her track this down and he gives her the weekend to do so.

Her first stop is the black hole conference at Aberystwyth University. She finds Gary and learns that he had artificially inflated the eBay bids to cheer his friend up. The £15,005.50 bid was real, however, and Gary admits that he met with Eugene before he went to make the exchange. Gary doesn’t know who the shoes belong to, but he is sorry for his part in all of this.

Later that night, Gwen sorts through the belongings back while Eugene muses about his fragmented memories. He also admits to loving Gwen, and although he can minimally affect the environment around him, Gwen goes to bed ignorant of his presence. The next morning, Gwen continues to follow the clues. She ends up at a diner called Happy Cook which sparks another memory in Eugene. His friends were the buyers: The £15,005.50 bid was theirs, but the one before theirs was real. In his frustration, Eugene took photographs of their shoes before a fight ensued. During the scuffle, Eugene swallowed the eye to protect it before they all ran out.

As Gwen interviews the server, Gary and Josh come in and eventually tell Gwen their side of things because Gary misses his friend. Eugene had just kept running, high on the effect of the eye, but didn’t look before crossing a road and getting struck by a car. Gwen finally calls Eugene’s father and tells him the bad news.

Gwen, Gary, and Eugene’s family attend Eugene’s funeral. Eugene’s father makes amends and Eugene sees him as a normal man. He also wishes that he had been able to spend more time with him. After the funeral, Gwen receives a paper bag containing the eye. Back at Eugene’s home, Eugene wonders why he’s still around. The Torchwood SUV pulls up and Gwen passes off the eye before watching Eugene’s family reunited. She’s nearly run down by a speeding car, but Eugene is able to push her out of the way.

He’s fully visible to everyone around for this final moment. He says his farewells and vanishes in a bright ascending light.

 

The most obvious connection here is Love & Monsters. The big difference despite the very deep similarities is that Love & Monsters was a fun romp where this one dragged. On the upside, however, this Gwen-centric episode highlighted her skills in a part police procedural, part ghost story adventure. It also continues to highlight Gwen’s quest for personal connections in a life that demands secrecy, but the pounding of that particular drum is getting tiresome.

This episode is pretty much a Doctor Who story that fell through the cracks and landed in a different series without the TARDIS or the Doctor.

 


Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Out of Time

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW8: They Keep Killing Suzie

Torchwood: They Keep Killing Suzie
(1 episode, s01e08, 2006)

 

Suzie Costello: Master of Long-Range Planning.

Torchwood Three arrives on the scene of a grisly murder and meets Detective Kathy Swanson. The double homicide is framed by one word on the wall, written in blood: TORCHWOOD. Jack is immediately intrigued, and although there appears to be no link between the killer and the victims, the killer has Compound B67 in his blood.

What is that, you say?

Compound B67 is retcon, the amnesia pill that Torchwood uses to clear memories. The killer is one of the people that had their minds wiped. While the team investigates, Gwen recommends using the resurrection gauntlet to interrogate the victims. After all, if Torchwood caused the deaths, they should clean up the mess.

The first victim, Alex Arwyn, wastes his time screaming for his mother. The second victim, Mark Brisco, tells them that the killer – a man named Max – belonged to the Pilgrim organization. Mark also identifies a woman who was close to Max. Her name was Suzie Costello.

Yeah. That Suzie Costello.

Tosh researches Pilgrim, a religious support and debate group run by Sarah Brisco, and all of the victims so far are linked as members. The team digs into Suzie’s belongings – Torchwood retains possession after a team member dies – and finds evidence linking her to Pilgrim. They then use the gauntlet to resurrect her. Gwen has trouble bringing her back because she lacks empathy for the woman who tried to kill her. They deduce that she’s too far gone, but Owen suggests the Life Knife, a blade made of the same material as the gauntlet. Jack plunges it into Suzie’s chest and the woman bursts back into the world of the living.

Suzie’s shock prevents her from giving any information, but by some strange events, she’s still alive beyond the normal time limit for the gauntlet. In fact, she remains alive for more than three months. When the team tries to interrogate her about Max, she’s less than cooperative. She eventually reveals that she gradually overdosed Max, giving him one pill a week for two years while talking to him about Torchwood.

There’s that common theme of this season again.

Jack refuses to let Suzie see her family again. Resigned to her fate, she identifies a survivor: Lucy McKenzie. The team tracks Lucy to the Wolf Bar while Suzie watches from Tosh’s station in the Hub. The team misidentifies a man as Max, but the real killer shows himself and ends up on the business end of Jack’s stun gun. Max is confined in the Torchwood cells, but he only responds to the name of the organization. Quite violently, in fact, but for only ten seconds at a time.

Meanwhile, Gwen discovers that Suzie’s father has cancer. Gwen blames Jack for letting Suzie use the gauntlet, a device that could have reversed her father’s condition. Jack refutes her, and the argument is interrupted by Owen with news that Suzie is draining Gwen’s lifeforce. While the team learns this and Jack resolves to kill Suzie, Gwen springs Suzie for a little road trip. When they attempt to pursue, the base goes into lockdown.

Gwen takes Suzie to Greenleaves Hospital, during which time they discuss Jack’s immortality. Meanwhile, the team links the lockdown to Max, who is currently reciting Emily Dickinson’s The Chariot. The poem is an implanted Trojan horse, set up long ago by Suzie to force Torchwood to resurrect her. Ianto connects his mobile phone to the Roald Dahl Plass water tower and Jack calls Detective Swanson for help. He asks her to read a book of poetry by Dickinson. When the poetry fails, Tosh suggests using the ISBN instead, and that is the magic key. The base restarts and the team mobilizes.

As Gwen and Suzie arrive at the hospital, Gwen collapses as she slowly develops a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her head. Suzie kills her father and then takes Gwen to Hedley Point, intent on escaping via ferry. Jack and Owen catch up in the Torchwood SUV and Jack shoots Suzie, but Suzie won’t die. Jack empties his gun into Suzie to no avail, then realizes that the gauntlet is the link. He orders Tosh and Ianto to destroy it, but before they do Suzie reveals that there is something in the darkness beyond death. It is moving and it is coming for him.

The gauntlet is destroyed, Suzie finally dies, and Gwen lunges back into life.

Back at the Hub, Jack and Ianto put Suzie back into cold storage. They flirt back and forth before locking Suzie away, but Ianto reminds Jack that gloves often come in pairs.

 

The themes keep running through this season. Suzie has the same desire to connect with someone about Torchwood, but the twist is that she’s also a bit of a sociopath. This addition seems like an unnecessary one, but it also closes the loop surrounding Suzie’s mysterious actions in the pilot episode. She also sheds a bit more light on Jack’s history and his ruthlessness when it comes to his employees.

Finally, it paves the way forward toward a “Big Bad” for the season. Something’s coming from the realm of death, and Jack’s inability to die seems to be tied to it.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Random Shoes

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.