Timestamp #TW6: Countrycide

Torchwood: Countrycide
(1 episode, s01e06, 2006)

 

It’s time for the Harvest.

On an overcast night, a woman tries to drive and talk on the phone at the same time. She happens across a body in the road and stops to offer help, armed with a baseball bat just in case. The body is a ruse with a soccer ball for a head, giving someone enough time to slash her tires, steal her keys, and attack her.

Torchwood Three drives to the country to investigate seventeen disappearances in a twenty-mile radius with no distinct connection. It might be the Rift spreading out beyond Cardiff, so that’s where the team starts as they set up camp. After a little friendly banter, Owen reveals his last kiss was with Gwen, and of course the team wants more details. After the discussion turns sour, Owen and Gwen go hunting for firewood, and Gwen chastises him for the revelation. After a brief altercation, they spot two hooded figures in the trees. When they give chase, they find a bloody, skinless corpse.

As the team investigates, someone steals the SUV and destroys the campsite. Ianto tracks the vehicle to a nearby village, which leads Jack and Tosh to believe that they’re being lured into a trap. The team splits up with a warning to be cautious. Tosh and Ianto go for the SUV while Jack, Gwen, and Owen check the nearby pub.

The pub and nearby houses are dark and deserted. The only occupants are two corpses, stripped similar to the first, and a young man named Kieran who shoots Gwen with a shotgun. He believes that “they” had come back for her, but the gunshot was an accident. After Owen tends to Gwen’s wounds, Jack tries to calm Kieran, but the man is hysterical and insists that they barricade the door. Jack decides to regroup at the pub and set a defensive position while they sort out the situation. The lights go out and the team hears movement outside and in the cellar. Kieran is dragged away, and despite Jack’s misgivings, Owen and Gwen pursue while Captain Harkness searches the cellar.

Tosh and Ianto find similar spooky circumstances. They also find themselves captured in quick fashion. They wake up in a cellar, completely disarmed, surrounded by old clothes, shoes, and a refrigerator full of human body parts. Tosh makes the connection that they are on the menu for their captors. The duo are soon joined by a shotgun-wielding woman named Helen, but she’s been sent to collect Tosh and Ianto for the Harvest, an event that happens every ten years. They are taken to the kitchen, which is full of body parts, and their captors reveal themselves. Torchwood is dealing with cannibals.

Jack finds one of their assailants. The hooded man was wounded in the pub fight easily spills the beans about the predicament. Owen and Gwen find a police officer and the village hall. Ianto headbutts the head cannibal, allowing Tosh to escape. The two teams finally converge as the lead cannibal tries to strangle Tosh but is stopped by Owen, Gwen, and their new policeman sidekick. Unfortunately, the police officer is a cannibal, and the team is taken back to the kitchen.

Ianto is first on the chopping block, but before he can be cut and bled out, Jack arrives via tractor through the wall and dispatches the whole lot with bullets to the kneecaps. It seems that the entire village has a tradition of targeting travelers every ten years and butchering them. When Gwen asks why, the lead cannibal makes it simple for her: “’cause it made me happy.”

The police arrive and taken the cannibals into custody. The team returns home and Gwen questions her life choices. She can’t share any of these life-changing events with anyone outside of Torchwood, and she takes solace with Owen because he understands.

 

There are a lot of fascinating elements in this episode. Owen and Gwen pursue a fling – Gwen is cheating on her boyfriend Rhys, with whom she intended to start a family – while threads of Tosh’s unrequited attraction to Owen are started. As far as the franchise goes, this is a story that abandons nearly every part of the Doctor Who universe: No science fiction, no superhuman abilities, no aliens, and no technology except the basics of the year 2006. The last time we saw that kind of story was Black Orchid.

While it wasn’t the first televised Doctor Who universe tale to utter the f-bomb – it was used once in Everything Changes and once in Cyberwoman – it was peppered throughout the slaughterhouse sequence. Given the post-watershed role of Torchwood in this universe, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The atmosphere in this episode is downright creepy, echoing films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (you choose the version), The Hills Have Eyes (again, you choose the version), Friday the 13th (preferably a version with Camp Crystal Lake instead of, say, Manhattan or a space station), and similar movies with omnipresent wraith-like evils.

Overall, I thought it was a wonderful (if not completely disturbing) ride.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts

 

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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