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.