Timestamp #TW4: Cyberwoman

Torchwood: Cyberwoman
(1 episode, s01e04, 2006)

 

The fallout of Canary Wharf.

It’s another normal day at Torchwood Three, and that means multi-level basketball with the pterodactyl and drinks after work. Ianto is left behind, and he orders pizza before welcoming Doctor Tanizaki to the Hub. They head down to a holding cell where Ianto reveals his secret: A partially-converted Cyberman – Lisa, his girlfriend from Torchwood One – and a deep desire to save her from her metallic purgatory.

Doctor Tanizaki is a cybernetics expert from Japan, and he is over the moon about the opportunity to work with Cyberman technology. They take Lisa up to the autopsy lab and let her breathe on her own, but the team returns with news of a UFO sighting. Ianto leaves the doctor to take Lisa back to her cell while Ianto prepares for the team’s arrival. Unfortunately, the Cyberman programming takes hold and the good doctor is queued up for conversion. The power drain is noticed by the team – Ianto covers in a less than convincing manner – and the upgrade procedure fails. Ianto finds the mutilated body, but after he leaves to hide the corpse, Lisa begins to drain more power.

The team identifies the UFO as an Arcan leisure crawler, but the power drain redirects them to the holding cell with guns in hand. Owen and Gwen approach the cell while Jack and Tosh discover the video evidence that Ianto tried to delete.  Owen recognizes the Cyberman conversion unit from Torchwood One and alerts Jack. The Cyberman ambushes Owen and attempts to convert Gwen while Jack runs to the rescue. Jack tries to shoot the Cyberman but Ianto stops him. The conversion circuits have been transferred to a secure circuit, so Jack orders Tosh to cut all power to the base, resulting in a lockdown.

The team works their way back to the control hub, finding the Cyberman along the way. Once they get to safety, Jack orders Gwen and Tosh to find a way into the weapons locker while he deals with Ianto. Ianto explains that Jack doesn’t care about his life, and since Torchwood exists to end alien threats, he couldn’t trust Jack not to kill Lisa instead of curing her. Jack retorts that there is no cure and that the Cybermen are not to be taken lightly. Ianto refuses to give up on Lisa and asks to reason with her before Jack attacks again.

The Cyberman arrives in the Hub and Ianto fails to reach the human within. The Cyberman attacks the team and they run to the conference room. Jack orders Tosh to go to reception so they can open the weapons locker while Gwen and Owen look for alternative weapons in the base. The Cyberman confronts Jack, who is deleted twice much to the astonishment of Gwen and Owen, before chasing Tosh. When Tosh escapes, it targets Gwen and Owen, who hide in a morgue locker.

Jack revives and pulls Ianto out of the water. Meanwhile, Owen and Gwen share a quick kiss before her mobile rings and gives them away. Owen stabs the Cyberman with a scalpel – he also shares a few words with Gwen about his feelings for her – but the automaton doesn’t die. Jack douses it in a lure for the pterodactyl, and the dinosaur attacks while the team escapes via the water tower lift. As Tosh catches up with the team, Ianto confronts Jack. The power is restored within moments, but the pizza delivery arrives and the Cyberman feasts on the delivery girl. Ianto tries to stop the team and Jack tries to negotiate with him at gunpoint. He gives Ianto ten minutes to make the situation right before they come in guns blazing.

Ianto finds the delivery girl with a large cut across her forehead. The Cyberman is dead in the holding cell, but Lisa’s brain is in the delivery girl, and that woman tries to appeal to Ianto as she claims to be human once again. Heartbroken, Ianto holds his love one last time before pulling his gun on her. She isn’t human anymore as she offers to upgrade them together. Ianto turns away as the Torchwood team opens fire, ending the Cyberman threat in their house. Ianto mourns over both bodies.

The next day, Ianto returns for work. Jack and Gwen talk about how Ianto couldn’t bear to live without Lisa. Jack evades the question about whether or not he would actually shoot Ianto and whether or not he’s ever loved anyone to that degree. Together, they watch Ianto silently pick up the Hub.

 

As a Cyberman story, this is not a good one. As a character development story, it is fantastic. While the Captain Jack Harkness mystery remains at its status quo, we get an uneasy yet lustful admission from Owen… and Gwen didn’t seem to protest much at all. But most of all, we got to finally see who Ianto Jones is, and it is both tragic and well done. While quietly picking up empty soda cans and discarded pizza boxes, he was frantically trying to save the woman he loved even though it meant bringing an enemy to Torchwood’s gates. Had he been straightforward and placed all of his cards on the table, maybe the team would have been willing to work with him, but he believed that the team was unworthy of his trust. He’s nothing more than Torchwood waitstaff, and this incident told Jack in no uncertain terms that he had more to offer.

I’m very eager to see how Ianto evolves over the rest of the season.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Small Worlds

 

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 #TW3: Ghost Machine

Torchwood: Ghost Machine
(1 episode, s01e03, 2006)

 

Visions and vengeance while the show treads water.

Gwen and Owen are running down the street in pursuit of an alien signal that Tosh is tracking, with Jack approaching via the roadways in the SUV. Tosh determines that their suspect is a man in a hoodie and Gwen is able to get close enough to snag the garment before the man escapes. Luckily, the device is in the pocket.

When she investigates it, the device causes the world around her to disappear. In a dream-like state, she sees a young boy carrying his possessions and wearing a tag stating that he is Tom Erasmus Flanagan. The boy says that he’s lost before the image fades, and Gwen tells her comrades that she’s just seen a ghost.

Back in the Hub, Tosh reviews the footage but sees no evidence of Gwen ever leaving the area. Jack orders a battery of database searches for Flanagan, but Owen is one step ahead with a phone book. Gwen and Owen visit the address and meet Eleri and her father. They have an alibi for the previous night, and while Gwen talks to Tom, Owen joins Eleri in the kitchen. Tom was evacuated from the East End in 1941 – he was eight years old – and sent to Cardiff. He was eventually taken in by a nice couple and never returned home.

As they leave the Flanagan home, Rhys calls Gwen and asks if she’ll be home tonight. Gwen is unsure and Rhys is upset. They return to the Hub and continue the investigation, determining (first) that the device is complicated nanotechnology and (second) that the thief is Sean “Bernie” Harris, a petty thief. They track him to Splott and find that Bernie has alienated everyone in the area. Jack tosses the device to Owen and taunts the team into working harder. As the team walks away, Owen is swept into another vision where he watches a woman named Lizzie Lewis in the 1960s. She’s assaulted by a boy named Eddie Morgan, dragged to the wall, raped, and murdered as Owen returns from the vision. He is shaken to his core.

The team returns to the Hub and digs into Lizzie’s history. Jack identifies the device as a quantum transducer, something that converts emotional energy into ghost-like visions similar to déjà vu. Owen wants to pursue Lizzie’s murder (which was never solved) but Jack tasks the team with tracking down Bernie instead. He sends Owen home to recover and takes Gwen to the shooting range.

After some practice with various arms and a somewhat rocky start, Gwen doesn’t do too badly. She checks her watch and decides to go home, wondering where Jack sleeps. He replies that he doesn’t. He also avoids the question of his loneliness. Gwen’s house is empty since Rhys has gone to a friend’s house to play poker, so she experiments with the ghost machine and some happy memories. Rhys comes home and the couple mends their bridges.

Meanwhile, Owen is stewing at home with the case files on Lizzie’s murder and a bottle of liquor. The next morning, he tracks Eddie to his current home on Prysse Avenue, uses a false identity as a gas company employee, and confronts Eddie about the murder. The old man angrily chases him out, and moments later Owen spots Bernie. After a humorous chase through the neighborhood – no one likes Bernie, so they point his pursuer in the right direction – Owen corners Bernie and takes him to a pub where Jack and Gwen catch up later.

Bernie stole the device from a storage unit and saw a vision of his own. His ghosts showed him a woman dumping a dead baby in the water, and he realized that he recognized the woman, but she gave him money to leave her alone. The team starts to leave before Bernie offers them the other half of the device, which Tosh assembles without much effort. They also take the money and the strange rocks that accompanied the device in the storage unit, but Gwen stops when Bernie tells her that the device showed him his death.

Gwen catches up with the team, eager to share the new revelation, but activates the device and sees a vision of the future: She’s holding a knife and covered in blood, Owen is dead, and she couldn’t stop it. Jack consoles her later in the Hub by telling her that it’s only a possible future.

Later that night, Tosh and Owen share a drink later and discuss Eddie Morgan. Eddie hasn’t left his house for years due to severe agoraphobia, and the team realizes that Bernie must have tried to blackmail Eddie. Meanwhile, Eddie calls Bernie, Gwen visits Bernie to console him about the vision of his death, and Owen reveals his earlier visit to Eddie’s house. The team converges on Bernie’s home.

Eddie overcomes his phobia and visits Bernie’s home, knife in hand. Gwen tries to calm Eddie down, but the man only spins up faster and blames women for making him turn bad. Jack and Owen wrestle Eddie down, and Owen threatens Eddie with the knife. Gwen talks him down and Owen hands her the knife, but Eddie rushes her and impales himself on the blade, committing suicide and fulfilling Gwen’s vision.

The team debriefs the situation at the Hub: Owen is glad that he didn’t kill Eddie. Gwen is shocked and feels guilty, and Jack gives Ianto the device for storage in the secure lockers. Jack takes Gwen topside to watch the sunrise as he helps her deal with her grief.

 

It was a pretty lackluster story with a paint-by-numbers pseudo-supernatural twist. Owen got some character development as a (sort of) white knight who tries to make people think that he doesn’t care, and Gwen continues to evolve in her new role as rookie, but not much else happens here. Any forward momentum they had after the last two episodes has pretty much stalled out with this tale.

 

 

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Cyberwoman

 

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 #TW2: Day One

Torchwood: Day One
(1 episode, s01e02, 2006)

 

The birds, the bees, and the glowing purple cloud of post-watershed fun.

Gwen and Rhys have a night out with dinner, bowling, and a movie. Her first day at Torchwood is the next day, and she covers with a lie that she’s going to be working on keeping files straight. Their night out is interrupted by a meteor that blazes overhead and crashes nearby. Just like that, Gwen’s on duty.

Torchwood Three dispatches in a teched-out SUV, but they’re not fast enough to beat the police and military. After a brief conflict with the local authorities, Gwen and the team gain access to the meteor and start taking readings and samples. While sparring with Owen about the size of his chisel, she inadvertently breaks the meteor’s shell and releases a gas that flows through the air and inhabits a woman named Carys in the alley behind a dance club. She enters the club, finds a target, and takes him to the ladies room where they have sex. At the moment of orgasm, the man vaporizes and is absorbed, leaving only a pile of dust behind.

The Torchwood team returns to the Hub, and Gwen profusely apologizes. Jack and Tosh are fine with it since everyone makes mistakes, but Owen is Owen about it. Ianto brings news of the death at the club and the team rushes to investigate. They find the pile of dust, and thanks to a lecherous bouncer, video of the event.

Video? In the restroom? This is a super shady place.

Jack arranges for a body to be taken out of storage to stage Dusty’s death as a suicide. He also traces the energy signatures and finds footage of the cloud taking over Carys. While the team sort through the data over sunrise, Carys dozes through a lecture from her father over breakfast. Unfortunately for her, she remembers what happened the night before. In the Hub, Gwen’s having problems parsing the fact that Torchwood has access to information about everyone in the UK, a violation of privacy and social protections. She’s also still bristling at Owen being Owen.

Meanwhile, Carys tries to feed again, this time on a postal worker. Torchwood breaks in just in time and eventually captures her with the help of a portable prison that shouldn’t have left headquarters. Back at the Hub, Gwen interrogates Carys. The cloud inside recognizes Gwen and rejects the notion that it is here to invade. It just wants to feed on orgasmic energy, and Earth apparently has some of the best in the universe. Carys tricks Gwen into opening the cell and seduces her but, in the end, rejects Gwen because her target has to be a man.

Is this a preference thing for the alien being? I mean, all things considered, orgasms are a fairly universal occurrence.

Gwen leaves the cell with a promise to help Carys, takes a call from Rhys and vaguely deflects, and then returns to the Hub. Oh, and confronts Owen for being a lecherous git. Good for her.

Over a dinner of Chinese takeout, the team discusses Jack in his absence. Owen thinks he’s gay, Tosh can’t find any information in the databases, and Ianto thinks he’s CIA. They’re interrupted by Carys as she weeps over the monitor, and while Gwen confronts them about their humanity, Jack reveals that the computers are running a battery of tests. Jack challenges Gwen to show him what humanity means in the twenty-first century.

She does by developing a complete investigative profile of Carys’s life and showing Jack the woman behind the purple cloud. Jack is impressed, and Tosh reveals that Carys is producing a cloud of pheromones, which makes her a walking aphrodisiac. They realize that no man should go near her, realize that Owen is missing, and find him naked in an otherwise empty cell. Carys stole his swipe card and clothes before making a break for it.

Jack corners Carys and they battle with a table of weapons. Carys takes the mysterious hand hostage and escapes, but Jack follows via a secondary exit. Jack tells Ianto to let Carys go, and she distracts Jack by breaking the jar before running. Tosh and Gwen are unable to find her, and Gwen berates Jack for caring more about a severed hand than Carys.

If Gwen only knew to whom that hand belonged.

A now-clothed Owen demonstrates his findings: The gas will literally make its host explode – Rat Jam! – if it stays too long in one body. The team brainstorms, Owen says that he’d shag Gwen if he were infected, and Tosh gets an idea. Meanwhile, Carys walks to her ex-boyfriend’s apartment and dusts him. They follow her to her workplace, a fertility clinic that is brimming with orgasmic energy thanks to sperm donors. As Carys makes her way through the clientele, Torchwood arrives and finds her too weak to fight the alien any longer. Jack donates part of his life-force to bolster Carys’s defenses, and Gwen offers her body as a new vessel for the alien cloud.

When the cloud leaves Carys, Jack deploys the same alien containment device that Owen used to trap Carys earlier. While inside, the creature dies and leaves a pile of dust. Gwen kisses Jack, thanking him for saving her life and leaving Jack to pause and consider things.

Gwen and Jack take Carys home to her father. As they clean up the remaining pieces in the Hub, Jack warns Gwen to not let the job consume her. Gwen challenges Jack to come clean, but Jack says that the answers won’t make her feel any better. Gwen goes home to be normal, has dinner with Rhys, and goes to bed.

 

Torchwood certainly made the most out of their post-watershed status with this story, and it showed that they were willing to experiment with more mature speculative fiction. They also get to break some of the more conservative norms of the Doctor Who universe, particularly in frank discussions about sex. Jack’s omnisexuality is a big part of that, and I’m glad that the show was allowed to explore these characters.

The character development is a big plus in this second episode. When a product makes me actively despise a character – I’m looking at you, Owen – I know that it’s doing a great job building three-dimensional characters.

Overall, this episode had a well-built story with good human interactions. I really enjoyed it.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Ghost Machine

 

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 #TW1: Everything Changes

Torchwood: Everything Changes
(1 episode, s01e01, 2006)

 

Evolving from Excalibur, a science-fiction crime drama idea from Russell T. Davies, Torchwood was developed as a post-watershed (mature/adult audience) companion to Doctor Who. It was the first spin-off for the franchise since K9 and Company twenty-five years earlier.

The series (and this story) begins with murder. PC Gwen Cooper and her fellow officers are investigating the crime scene, but are quickly escorted away as Torchwood arrives. Led by Captain Jack Harkness, the team of Doctor Owen Harper, Suzie Costello, and Doctor Toshiko Sato get to work. Gwen, meanwhile, moves to higher ground in a parking garage to get a better view.

We’ve seen two of these characters before: Captain Jack last appeared in The Parting of the Ways, and Tosh chased a modified pig-alien around a morgue with the Ninth Doctor in Aliens of London.

Jack waxes about contraceptives in the rain as Suzie puts a metal gauntlet on her hand and examines the corpse. The gauntlet shocks the corpse back to life for two minutes, during which time the team interrogates the dead man for clues. The victim didn’t see who stabbed him, and Jack’s questions about death also prove fruitless. The team is frustrated and Gwen is startled when Jack asks her for advice. Gwen responds by running away.

Gwen arrives home later and joins her boyfriend, Rhys Williams, in front of a television drama as they catch up on the day. They go to bed, but Gwen spends the night sleepless. The next day, she asks Yvonne to look up Jack Harkness before taking coffee to the detectives investigating the murder. She and her partner respond to a bar brawl and suffers a blow to the head. At the hospital, she notes a familiar figure in a blue coat racing up the stairs and gives chase, but she stops at the top floor because it is sealed in plastic. She asks a porter about the seal, but he’s no help, so she breaks it and investigates.

She finds what she assumes to be a man wearing a mask – a standard Doctor Who alien, yeah? – and asks about the man in the coat. The porter returns to update Gwen and is soon eaten by the creature. The Torchwood team springs into action as Jack escorts Gwen from the room. When Gwen goes back outside, the Torchwood team drives away so she gives chase in her patrol car.

Her partner is left behind at the hospital.

She runs the license plates as Yvonne gives her an update on Jack Harkness and his history. The chase ends at Wales Millennium Center, but Gwen loses the team when she looks away. Control has no record of the license plate, and Gwen and her partner – he walked all the way there – can find no evidence of where the team went. Also, there are no missing porters at the hospital. Dismayed, Gwen goes home where she lies to Rhys and continues her investigation of the Millennium Center.

She follows a hunch and visits Jubilee Pizza where she learns that they frequently deliver to Torchwood. She orders a pizza and hand delivers it to the address on file. Ianto Jones points her down a secret passage and Gwen arrives at the Hub in Torchwood Three, home to the Cardiff team. She spots a water feature in the center of the room, a severed hand bubbling away in a container, and the team who are all apparently ignoring her as a joke.

They tell her that they have been watching her stalking them for the last three hours. They also explain how they erased the evidence of the porter’s murder. As a pterodactyl squawks overhead, Jack offers to show her the murderer. It’s the creature from the hospital, commonly referred to as a Weevil by the team, which is part of a group living in the sewers.

Returning to the Hub, Jack makes introductions to the team despite Gwen’s protestations that Torchwood is classified. Jack hands out job assignments before escorting Gwen out via the scenic route. They rise up on a platform into Millennium Center, shrouded in a perception filter. Jack presumes that it’s because “there was once a dimensionally transcendental chameleon circuit placed right on this spot, which welded its perception properties to a spatial-temporal rift” – we call it Boom Town – but otherwise it’s just cool. They head to a local bar where Jack challenges Gwen’s lack of belief with the undeniable evidence of the Christmas Invasion and the Battle of Canary Wharf. After a little back and forth, including Jack’s revelation that Torchwood scavenges alien technology to prepare for a future invasion, Jack dissuades Gwen of the idea that Torchwood is trying to solve the stabbing murders. They’re just trying to figure out the gauntlet, and the more violent the murder, the better for the device.

Jack gives her a little trivia: Torchwood One was Canary Wharf in London, Torchwood Two is in Glasgow, Torchwood Three is this team in Cardiff, and Torchwood Four has vanished. Jack also reveals that he drugged Gwen’s drink in order to erase her memory and maintain the team’s secrecy. She races home to jot down as much information as possible before she collapses. Ianto hacks into her computer and erases the file.

Oh, and the idea that all that alien technology is supposed to stay in the base? Tosh, Owen, and Susie have all ignored that mandate. Tosh scans a copy of A Tale of Two Cities with one touch and uploads it to her computer. Owen tries to pick up a girl (and ends up in a threesome) with an alien pheromone spray. Suzie uses the gauntlet to resurrect a dead fly.

Owen’s a bit of a git, honestly.

Rhys wakes Gwen the next morning with coffee and a kiss, concerned that she was drinking after a head wound. Later at work, Yvonne reminds her about Captain Jack Harkness. Gwen goes up to the detective offices and spots the mock-up of the murder weapon, an image that haunts her all day as images of her lost trip to the Hub flit through her subconscious. In her home office, she spots a brochure for Millennium Center with a note scrawled on it: “Remember”.

Gwen returns to Millennium Center and finds Suzie, who produces the murder weapon with the hope of breaking Gwen’s amnesia. Suzie pulls a gun, remarks that only Gwen can make the link, and reveals that although she loves her job it is driving her mad. She killed three people in order to get practice with the gauntlet. During her confession, Jack comes up the lift, presumably hidden by the perception filter. Suzie can see through it and shoot Jack in the head before turning the gun on Gwen, but Jack rises up behind her to stop the threat.

Suzie decides her own fate by committing suicide.

Gwen remembers, Ianto puts the gauntlet in storage, the rest of the team surrenders their illicit tech, Suzie goes into the Torchwood morgue, and Jack is immortal. Jack was made immortal by Bad Wolf, and he’s in search of the right kind of Doctor to help explain it. He asks Gwen to keep it quiet before asking her to join Torchwood.

She accepts as the pterodactyl flies overhead.

 

As pilots go, this was a great one. It’s dark and moody, establishing the direction and atmosphere for the series to come. We get to catch up with Captain Jack again, though the mystery of where and when he’s been since he encountered Bad Wolf is still a mystery. I also enjoy how we are in Gwen’s shoes for this story, uncovering the mystery as she does.

Since this is a spin-off and not primarily set in the Doctor’s timeline, there will not be a regeneration handicap. Not that it needs one at any rate.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Day One

 

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.