The Thing About Today – January 20

January 20, 2020
Day 20 of 366


January 20th is the twentieth day of the year. It is Heroes’ Day in Cape Verde and Martyrs’ Day in Azerbaijan. It is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, which is celebrated on the third Monday in January.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Buttercrunch Day, National Cheese Lover’s Day, and National Disc Jockey Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1649, Charles I of England went on trial for treason and other “high crimes”.
  • In 1841, Hong Kong Island was occupied by the British.
  • In 1887, the United States Senate allowed the Navy to lease Pearl Harbor as a naval base.
  • In 1920, actor DeForest Kelley was born. He was best known as Dr. Leonard McCoy in the Star Trek franchise.
  • In 1923, American country and western singer-songwriter and musician Slim Whitman was born.
  • In 1929, In Old Arizona was released. It was the first full-length talking motion picture filmed outdoors.
  • In 1930, astronaut, pilot, and colonel Buzz Aldrin was born. He was the second human to walk on the surface of the moon.
  • In 1934, actor Tom Baker was born. He portrayed the Fourth Doctor on Doctor Who.
  • In 1936, King George V of the United Kingdom died. His eldest son succeeded to the throne, becoming Edward VIII.
  • In 1958, KUED TV began broadcasting. It is the PBS affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah, found on channel 7, and is the repository of so many hours of my childhood and teenage years.
  • In 1959, author R. A. Salvatore was born.
  • In 1986, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was celebrated as a federal holiday in the United States for the first time.
  • In 2008, Breaking Bad premiered on AMC.


“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
—Article II, Section One, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution.

In the United States, the presidential inauguration takes place on January 20th at noon, Eastern Standard Time. It occurs every four years, in odd-numbered years, immediately following years divisible by four. The exception for the public ceremony is when January 20th falls on a Sunday, forcing the ceremony to occur on the following day. In that case, the official swearing-in occurs in a separate ceremony and the term of office still begins on the 20th.

Inauguration Day is not a federal holiday, but it is recognized as such for government employees working in the Capitol region.

Since 1937, the ceremony has taken place on January 20th at noon Eastern Standard Time. The inauguration of George Washington, the first President of the United States, took place on April 30, 1789. Afterward, every regular inauguration between 1793 and 1933 was held on March 4th to commemorate the day of the year on which the federal government began operations under the Constitution in 1789.

Following the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution in 1933, Inauguration Day was moved to January 20th. Since 1801, the inauguration has typically taken place at the United States Capitol Building.

Of course, there are exceptions with both historical models. March 4th fell on a Sunday in 1821 (James Monroe’s second term), 1849 (Zachary Taylor), 1877 (Rutherford B. Hayes), and 1917 (Woodrow Wilson’s second term), so the public ceremony was held on March 5th. Since moving the event to January, the Sunday exception was used in 1957 (Dwight D. Eisenhower’s second term), 1985 (Ronald Reagan’s second term), and 2013 (Barack Obama’s second term).

In extraordinary circumstances, a special inauguration was held.

  • John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States, was sworn into office on April 6, 1841, following the death of President William Henry Harrison. President Harrison died from pneumonia after only 31 days in office.
  • Millard Fillmore, the thirteenth President, was sworn into office on July 10, 1850, following the death of President Zachary Taylor. President Taylor died from a digestive ailment after serving 16 months in the office.
  • Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth President, was sworn into office on April 15, 1865, following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
  • Chester A. Arthur, the twenty-first President, was sworn into office on September 20, 1881, following the assassination of President James A. Garfield. President Garfield was shot in the back 79 days before his death, but the assassin had implicated Vice President Arthur in the shooting. Garfield remained in a weakened state for the duration, effectively leaving the country without a leader until his death.
  • Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth President, was sworn into office on September 14, 1901, following the assassination of President William McKinley six months into his second term.
  • Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth President, was sworn into office on August 3, 1923, following the death of President Warren G. Harding. President Harding suffered a heart attack while on a western tour in San Francisco.
  • Harry S. Truman, the thirty-third President, was sworn into office on April 12, 1945, following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, the thirty-sixth President, was sworn into office on November 22, 1963, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • Gerald Ford, the thirty-eighth President, was sworn into office on August 9, 1974, following the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Gerald Ford became Vice President after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, appointed under the terms of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. President Ford is the only person (so far) to hold the offices of Vice President and President without being elected to either.

The oath of office is typically taken by raising of the right hand and placing fo the left hand on a Bible or other book. In 1789, George Washington took the oath of office with an altar Bible borrowed from the St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons lodge in New York. He kissed the Bible afterward, establishing a tradition that lasted through Harry Truman’s inauguration. Dwight Eisenhower broke that tradition in 1953 when he said a prayer instead of kissing the Bible.

Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when taking the oath in 1901. John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce both used a book of law, symbolizing swearing their oaths on Constitution. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on a Roman Catholic missal on Air Force One while Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump each swore the oath on two Bibles.

The inauguration includes plenty of pomp and circumstance outside of the required oath of office, including speeches, songs, poems, parades, and more. As a national ceremony, it also serves as a milestone for advances in communication, with improvements to mass media technologies allowing for greater and greater access. Andrew Jackson spoke to approximately 10,000 people at his 1829 inauguration while Barack Obama’s 2009 ceremony reached nearly two million live attendees and tens of millions via television and internet streaming.

  • 1801 (Thomas Jefferson): The first newspaper extra of an inaugural address, printed by the National Intelligencer
  • 1845 (James K. Polk): The first inauguration to be covered by telegraph, and first known newspaper illustration of a presidential inauguration (via The Illustrated London News)
  • 1857 (James Buchanan): The first inauguration known to have been photographed
  • 1897 (William McKinley): The first inauguration to be recorded on film
  • 1905 (Theodore Roosevelt): The first time that telephones were installed on the Capitol Grounds for an inauguration
  • 1925 (Calvin Coolidge): The first inauguration to be broadcast nationally by radio
  • 1929 (Herbert Hoover): The first inauguration to be recorded by a talking newsreel
  • 1949 (Harry S. Truman): The first inauguration to be televised
  • 1961 (John F. Kennedy): The first inauguration to be televised in color
  • 1981 (Ronald Reagan): The first closed-captioning of television broadcast for the hearing impaired
  • 1997 (Bill Clinton): The first time that the ceremony was broadcast live on the Internet

The next regular presidential inauguration is scheduled for Wednesday, January 20, 2021, following the November 2020 general elections.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – January 19

January 19, 2020
Day 19 of 366


January 19th is the nineteenth day of the year. It is Husband’s Day in Iceland.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as World Quark Day and National Popcorn Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1607, San Agustin Church in Manila was officially completed. It is the oldest church still standing in the Philippines.
  • In 1829, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy received its premiere performance.
  • In 1839, French painter Paul Cézanne was born.
  • In 1853, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore received its premiere performance in Rome.
  • In 1883, the first electric lighting system employing overhead wires began service at Roselle, New Jersey. It was built by Thomas Edison.
  • In 1915, the neon discharge tube was patented for use in advertising by Georges Claude.
  • In 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was formed.
  • In 1930, Nathalie Kay “Tippi” Hedren was born. She was an American actress and animal rights activist.
  • In 1937, Howard Hughes set a new air record by flying from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds.
  • In 1946, singer, songwriter, and actress Dolly Parton was born.
  • In 1953, nearly 72% of televisions in the United States were tuned to I Love Lucy. The episode was “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” and was remarkable for the main character giving birth.
  • Coincidentally, Desi Arnaz, Jr. was born on the same day. He is the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the stars of I Love Lucy.
  • In 1954, actress and singer Katey Sagal was born.
  • In 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned Iva Toguri D’Aquino, better known as “Tokyo Rose”.
  • In 1982, actress Jodie Sweetin was born.


In 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was born. An American writer, editor, and literary critic, Poe was best known for his poetry and short stories rooted in mystery and the macabre. In general, he’s considered as the inventor of the detective fiction genre and as a contributor to the emergence of the science fiction genre. He’s also the first well-known American writer to earn a living through writing alone.

Shortly after his birth in Boston, Massachusetts, his father abandoned the family and his mother died. He was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia and stayed with them into young adulthood even though he was never formally adopted. He often clashed with John Allan over finances, especially gambling and education debts. He joined the Army under an assumed name but failed out of West Point and parted ways with John.

Shifting over to his blossoming writing career, Poe moved between multiple cities before marrying his 13-year old cousin, Virginia Clemm, in 1836. He published “The Raven” in 1845 to instant success. Virginia Clemm died two years later from tuberculosis, an event that influenced much of his later work.

Some of his more famous tales include “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, and “The Tell-Tale Heart”.

Poe’s legacy and influence are undeniable in world literature, as well as specialized fields such as cosmology and cryptography. His life and work continue to influence popular culture in literature, music, films, and television to this day, and the Mystery Writers of America celebrate his legacy with the annual Edgar Award for distinguished work in the mystery genre.

Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore, Maryland on October 7, 1849. He was 40 years old, and the cause of death was unknown, though it is often attributed to alcohol, cholera, drug abuse, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and several other causes.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – January 18

January 18, 2020
Day 18 of 366


January 18th is the eighteenth day of the year. It is Royal Thai Armed Forces Day in Thailand.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Michigan Day, National Peking Duck Day, National Thesaurus Day, and National Use Your Gift Card Day. The last one is typically observed on the third Saturday in January.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1788, the first elements of the First Fleet arrive in Botany Bay. They carried 736 convicts from Great Britain to Australia.
  • In 1886, modern field hockey was born with the formation of The Hockey Association in England.
  • In 1911, Eugene B. Ely became the first pilot to land on a ship when he set down on the USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4/CA-4) in San Francisco Bay.
  • In 1904, actor Cary Grant was born.
  • In 1915, Japan issued the “Twenty-One Demands” to the Republic of China.
  • In 1933, engineer and businessman Ray Dolby was born. He would establish Dolby Laboratories, a groundbreaking audio company.
  • In 1943, the first uprising of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto occurred.
  • In 1958, Willie O’Ree, the first Black Canadian National Hockey League player, makes his debut with the Boston Bruins.
  • In 1969, actor and singer Jesse L. Martin was born.
  • In 1973, the final episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus premiered on BBC.
  • In 1974, The Six Million Dollar Man premiered on ABC.
  • In 1976, the Karantina Massacre occurred in Beiruit during the Lebanese Civil War. Approximately 1,500 people, mostly Muslims, were murdered by Lebanese Christian militias.
  • In 1977, scientists identified a previously unknown bacterium as the cause of Legionnaires’ disease.
  • In 1993, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed for the first time in all fifty U.S. states.


In 1882, A. A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, was born. He served in both World Wars, specifically in the British Army for World War I and as a captain in the British Home Guard during World War II. He was a noted writer and playwright before creating the classic children’s icon, but Winnie the Pooh overshadowed all of his previous work.

Pooh Bear was inspired by a black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) who lived at the London Zoo during World War I. Milne’s son Christopher Robin Milne would often visit the bear and grew enamored by it. Milne wrote Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926 with illustrations by E. H. Shepard, followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928.

A. A. Milne experienced a stroke and brain surgery in 1952 which left him as an invalid. He retired to his farm in East Sussex and died in 1956 at the age of 74.

The Walt Disney Company licensed certain rights for the property in the 1960s, finally buying all of the rights from The Royal Literary Fund in 2001 for $350 million. They have control until the copyright expires in 2026. Two other official books were written with backing from the Milne estate: Return to the Hundred Acre Wood and The Best Bear in All the World.

A live-action film was released in 2018 named Christopher Robin that focused on the imaginative boy from the books after he grows to adulthood. A British biographical drama about Milne’s life, Goodbye Christopher Robin, was released in 2017.

National Winnie the Pooh Day unofficially commemorates A. A. Milne’s birthday every year in celebration of the iconic character and stories he created.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



Culture on My Mind – My Two Cents

Culture on My Mind
January 17, 2020


This week, the thing that I can’t let go of is a little lesson from RetroBlasting’s recent donation drive to combat the Australian wildfires. The RetroBlasting community did a good thing here. Michael mentioned that, while their effort is literally pennies in comparison to celebrity donations – Chris Hemsworth donated $1 million, Kylie Minogue donated $500k, and several others are chipping in – he referenced the lesson of the Widow’s Offering.

We have an idiom here in the United States: “My two cents.” Derived from the English version, it boils down to the speaker offering a personal opinion. The aim is to depreciate the opinion – it’s only worth two pennies, after all – in order to display politeness and humility while lessening any impacts.

In this day and age, there is often no politeness or humility involved. It’s on the same playing field as “southern hospitality.”

What I didn’t know if how this idiom had evolved from the writings of the Bible, specifically from the Synoptic Gospels.

The tellings from both Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4 are similar: In 20-30 AD, around the time that Jesus was teaching in Judea, the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation was the lepton, worth about six minutes of an average daily wage. Crowds were donating money to the offering box, and while the rich were doling out large sums of cash, a poor widow walked up and donated two lepta. The observation was that the poor widow put in more than all of the other contributors since she donated her entire livelihood rather than remaining comfortable in her charity.

In the era of the King James translation, a small coin was called a mite, thus leading to the colloquial update to the “Lesson of the Widow’s Mite.”

Historically, the temple that was the setting of this parable was destroyed in 70 AD. This has led to the cynical view that the gift was for nothing, but I believe that charity is the most important part. Donations of time and money – whether they be a single meal, a pouch for a displaced joey, or a grand million-dollar statement – all make an impact on those who receive them. Donations that come from the figurative widows, such as those from RetroBlasting’s community or the recent #TeamTrees campaign, mean a lot because of the sacrifice involved.

Never underestimate the power of grassroots organizing. Never underestimate your impact on the world. Even two pence means something to someone.


If you want to help Australia in this time of need, there are several ways to do so. PBS NewsHour has a list of places to start, and a Google search revealed several other links. There’s also the Rescue Craft Co on Facebook which has been making soft goods for displaced wildlife, although monetary donations are probably more versatile.

As always, be cautious and do your research when sending money to unknown entities.

My gratitude goes out to Michael French and the RetroBlasting community, not only for their contribution to our friends down under, but also for inadvertently teaching me something new in the process.


Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – January 17

January 17, 2020
Day 17 of 366


January 17th is the seventeenth day of the year. It is National Day on the Spanish island of Menorca.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Bootlegger’s Day and National Hot Buttered Rum Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1706, American publisher, inventor, and politician Benjamin Franklin was born.
  • In 1773, Captain James Cook commanded the first expedition to sail south of the Antarctic Circle.
  • In 1860, Douglas Hyde was born. An Irish academic and politician, he was the first President of Ireland.
  • In 1899, famous mob boss Al Capone was born.
  • In 1912, British polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole. This happened one month after Roald Amundsen did the same.
  • In 1922, actress and personality Betty White was born.
  • In 1927, actress, singer, and activist Eartha Kitt was born.
  • In 1929, Popeye the Sailor Man first appeared in the Thimble Theater comic strip. The character was created by E. C. Segar.
  • In 1931, actor James Earl Jones was born. To say that his voice became iconic is an understatement.
  • In 1933, actress and puppeteer/ventriloquist Shari Lewis was born.
  • In 1942, boxer and activist Muhammad Ali was born.
  • In 1964, Michelle Obama was born.
  • In 1970, Russian-American animator, director, and producer Genndy Tartakovsky was born.
  • In 1977, capital punishment resumed in the United States after a ten-year hiatus. Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in Utah.
  • In 1989, Trần Loan, better known as actress Kelly Marie Tran, was born.
  • In 1991, Operation Desert Storm began. It marked the first major combat sortie for the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.


In 1961, three days before leaving office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his televised farewell address to the nation. Issued three days before leaving office, this is the speech in which he warned against the accumulation of power by the “military-industrial complex.” He also emphasized the dangers of massive spending and deficit spending, touched on the prospect of the domination of science through Federal funding and, conversely, the domination of science-based public policy by what he called a “scientific-technological elite.”

Eisenhower served as the 34th President of the United States for two full terms from January 1953 through January 1961. He was the first U.S. president to be term-limited from seeking re-election, a rule put in place after the 1951 ratification of the Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution. His tenure saw a period of considerable economic expansion, even in the face of the deepening Cold War. He oversaw three balanced national budgets, but spending pressures continued to build in a country that faced exchanging the oldest American president in a century with the youngest elected to date in John F. Kennedy.

The concept of the military-industrial complex has been the most recognized and discussed portion of his speech, which was particularly relevant given Eisenhower’s decorated service in World War II.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

The phrase gained acceptance in the Vietnam conflict (1955-1975) and has seen significant focus in the 21st century with respect to the Global War on Terrorism and ensuing operations.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – January 16

January 16, 2020
Day 16 of 366


January 16th is the sixteenth day of the year. It is Teachers’ Day in Myanmar and Thailand.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Fig Newton Day, National Nothing Day, National Without a Scalpel Day, and Get to Know Your Customers Day. That last one is typically celebrated on the third Thursday of each quarter.


Historical items of note:

  • In 27 BCE, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus was granted the title Augustus by the Roman Senate. This marked the beginning of the Roman Empire which would last in different forms until 1453 AD.
  • In 1707, the Scottish Parliament ratified the Act of Union. This set the way for the creation of the United Kingdom.
  • In 1920, the League of Nations held its first council meeting in Paris, France.
  • In 1948, director, producer, screenwriter, and composer John Carpenter was born. If you’re not familiar with his catalog of work, go check it out.
  • In 1964, Hello, Dolly! opened on Broadway. This began a run of 2,844 performances.
  • In 1969, Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 performed several historical firsts: The first-ever docking of manned spacecraft in orbit; the first-ever transfer of crew from one space vehicle to another; and the only time such a transfer was accomplished with a spacewalk.
  • In 1973, the 440th and final episode of Bonanza first aired.
  • In 1980, actor, playwright, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda was born.
  • In 1995, Star Trek: Voyager premiered on the United Paramount Network (UPN).
  • In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off for STS-107, the final mission for the spacecraft. It would disintegrate on re-entry sixteen days later.


January 16th is recognized as National Religious Freedom Day in the United States. In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the Statute for Religious Freedom. The statute became the basis for the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in the United States Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Establishment Clause is a limitation upon the United States Congress that prevents the government from promoting theocracy or favoring one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from preventing the free exercise of religion. Court rulings have determined that non-religion, such as atheism and secular practices, are also protected.

The government is still allowed to enter the religious domain to make accommodations for religious observances and practices in order to maintain free exercise. It is also allowed to place religious symbols on government premises.

All of it stems back to the author of the original statute: Thomas Jefferson.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



Timestamp #TW20: Dead Man Walking

Torchwood: Dead Man Walking
(1 episode, s02e07, 2008)


It’s a dead man’s party.

Picking up immediately after Owen died on the asphalt, Martha Jones prepares to conduct his autopsy as the team observes. Jack bursts in and puts a stop to the procedure until he gets back from seeing a young tarot card reader. Her ominous prophecy leads Jack to the abandoned St. Mary’s Church, home to a clan of Weevils. He navigates the creatures and locates a safebox. When he returns to the Hub, he opens the box to reveal a resurrection gauntlet. A different one than they used before.

Jack plans to bring Owen back.

Gwen warns him away from the plan, but Jack will have none of it. He dons the gauntlet and pulls Owen back from the clutches of death. Jack makes the rounds, asking the team to say farewell. When his two minutes are up, Owen slips away again, presumably for the last time.

And then he wakes up again.

As they tend to Owen, the team fails to notice the gauntlet twitching on the floor. Owen has no vital signs except for brain activity. Jack quarantines Owen until the team can analyze the gauntlet and figure out what’s going on. While they work, Gwen calls Rhys to talk about her really hard day.

Owen starts to have visions of whispers in the absolute darkness of the Void. Whatever it was, Owen says it was waiting for him. Martha determines that his body is changing into something but the team can’t determine what it means. Later on, he has another vision, during which his eyes turn black and he speaks in tongues. Despite the quarantine, he decides to leave the Hub and go to the local bar.

Which is a fruitless exercise since his bodily functions are shut down. He has no need to eat or drink, and since his blood isn’t pumping, he can’t have sex either. Jack finds him, leading to a confrontation on the dance floor. The pair get arrested and tossed in jail as two Weevils look on. Amusingly, they bond over Owen’s post-mortem bodily functions and their shared experiences with death. Jack says that he brought Owen back because he wanted a miracle.

Jack uses his Torchwood authorization to free them from jail. Once outside, they are pursued by a pack of Weevils, but once the humans are cornered they find a surprise: The Weevils bow down to them. Owen, eyes black, replies in a strange language.

Tosh and the team review the CCTV footage of Owen’s episode, correlating it with another incident during the time of the Black Death. A little girl died and the town priest resurrected her with the gauntlet. Death itself came back in her place, seeking to take thirteen souls and walk the Earth permanently. Death was stopped, apparently by faith, at twelve deaths.

Owen’s words translate to “I shall walk the Earth and my hunger will know no bounds.” He fears that he will become Death, so he asks to be embalmed and frozen to stop his neurological functions. Before Martha can start the procedure, the gauntlet twitches and attacks her. In the scramble, Martha’s life force is drained, transforming her into an elderly woman. Owen destroys the glove and then transforms, pouring black smoke from his face until everything goes dark.

When Jack awakens, the team has taken Martha and Owen to the hospital. Owen feels better, no longer possessed by the entity, and the team starts looking for Death there when they spot Weevils swarming outside. Sure enough, Death makes the rounds and takes twelve souls. Torchwood evacuates the hospital, but they miss a young leukemia patient named Jamie.

Death notices the straggler.

Owen saves Jamie from Death, but they get stopped by the locked outer doors. Tosh tries to pick the lock while Ianto reviews the historical records. Owen figures out that “faith” was the girl, Faith, who was already dead. Tosh breaks the lock, but once she and Jamie are outside, Owen locks himself inside and confronts the dark beast.

The altercation is violent, but as the team watches in protest, Owen pulls the life force out of the entity and sends it back to the darkness. The day is saved, and Martha is fully restored.

Back in the Hub, Martha reveals that the energy the Owen absorbed is bleeding away, but they don’t know how long it will take. Owen asks Jack if he can go back to work as a doctor to make restitution for the twelve lives that were lost.

Jack looks unsure as he muses that Death can never truly be beaten.


There is a delicate balance in this episode between the character drama and the humor that lightens the mood. Bodily gags, such as passing gas and vomiting, are usually cheap and easy. Here, they work because of the immense weight of the conflict with Death and our team.

The gauntlet is a great misdirection since previous attempts only granted the recently deceased a matter of minutes to pass a few nuggets of information. The rapid aging of Martha to place another of our heroes in mortal danger was also a great piece of drama.

Overall, it was a great story to play with the idea of teammates in peril and the complexities of death in the Doctor Who universe.



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



UP NEXT – Torchwood: A Day in the Death



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.