Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts
(1 episode, s01e07, 2006)
Torchwood Three continues to fracture.
In Cardiff 1812, a prostitute named Mary leads a young soldier into the forest, but their lustful encounter turns sour when he gets abusive. Mary runs into the woods and finds a bright, pulsing light. The soldier catches up to the woman and shoots her.
Fast forward to the modern day where Torchwood Three has arrived at a construction site. As they analyze a mysterious skeleton, a woman who looks just like Mary smiles from the sidelines. The team takes the skeleton back to the Hub for further analysis, but some horseplay between Owen and Gwen results in Tosh’s computer losing power during a critical translation program.
Tosh ends up at the local pub where Mary approaches, reveals that she knows everything about Tosh, and offers to buy her a drink. Mary says that she’s a scavenger and collector of alien artifacts, and Tosh seems to bond with the woman. In fact, she seems to find comfort with Mary in nearly the same way that Owen and Gwen do with each other.
Mary offers Tosh a pendant. Overwhelmed, Tosh realizes that it enables her to read minds, but in time she is able to tune the ability. Tosh tries to give it back, but Mary insists that Tosh keep it. Tosh says that she’ll have to report it to her comrades, but Mary bets that she won’t. Tosh reports for work the next day and wears the pendant. She considers showing it to Owen and Gwen, but she discovers that they are sleeping together. She later focuses on Ianto and hears the darkness and despair that is consuming him in the aftermath of Lisa Hallett’s death. She takes the pendant off and heads home, only to find Mary waiting outside.
She confronts Mary over the pendant and its power, and Mary tells her that friendship is complicated. She offers the pendant to Tosh once again, and this time they share thoughts without agenda and resentment, including a proposal for sex. They sleep together, but Tosh regrets it. They eventually discuss how Tosh is attracted to Owen, and how she’s upset about Gwen’s affair with him. Mary offers the pendant as a solution, telling her to wear it in public so she can realize the good potential it bears.
She also calls herself Philoctetes.
Tosh listens to the thoughts on a busy Cardiff street. She finds a man who is planning to murder his ex-wife and son, follows him, and saves their lives. She returns to the Hub to find the team teasing Owen over the skeleton. It turns out that Owen made a few mistakes, including gender and cause of death. While Gwen and Owen continue their back and forth, Tosh asks Jack about Philoctetes. He tells her that the man was a Greek archer who was exiled to Lemnos for ten years.
He also name-drops UNIT. We haven’t seen them since last Christmas.
Later, over coffee, Mary tells Tosh that she should try reading Jack’s mind about the mystery item found with the skeleton. Tosh tries and fails, but Jack notices the effort. He also is very skeptical about Tosh’s rescue of the family from earlier. When Tosh reports back to Mary, she decides to tell her team about the pendant. Mary tries to convince her otherwise by revealing her true form: She is an alien exiled from her homeworld, and revealing herself to Torchwood could mean certain death or incarceration. After all, the human way is invasion, not help.
While Owen follows the clues in the skeleton, Mary asks Tosh to sneak her in and retrieve the device found with it. It is a transporter that can finally send her home. When she arrives, Tosh and Mary find Jack holding the transporter. He noticed Tosh’s distracted state and deliberately withheld the information from her. Jack also deduced Mary’s secret: The transporter is a two-being device, and the alien called Mary killed her guard before possessing Mary’s body. When the soldier tried to shoot her, she removed his heart and fed on it. She’s been feeding in the same way throughout history.
Mary takes Tosh hostage by knifepoint, demanding that Jack return the transporter. Jack negotiates, projecting a plan into Tosh’s mind, and enables the transporter once Mary takes it. He reprogrammed the device and set the coordinates to the center of the sun. The threat is over, and Tosh is understandably angry.
Later, Gwen and Owen confront Tosh over what she heard in their minds, but she says it was none of her business. Owen storms off, but Gwen admits that the affair is wrong. It’s also too attractive to her. She can’t stop.
Tosh later discusses the device with Jack. Jack leaves its fate to her, and Tosh crushes it beneath her boot. She asks why she couldn’t read Jack’s mind, but Jack is elusive. Tosh remarks that it was almost as if he were a dead man, but he comforts her instead of addressing the assertion, wiping away her tears and walking away.
This story ties in well with the Torchwood pilot. Recall that each of the team members were lonely, pursuing interests with alien tech but not with each other or anyone else. By the nature of their work, they can’t talk to anyone else about what they do, which led Gwen to Owen for solace and meaningful companionship. We’ve been building from there with this – apologies to Farscape – Jerry Springer family and their troubled relationships with one another.
Now we’ve seen how their isolation plays with this family, it’s time to see them come together and unite over their common wounds. That may prove difficult with Jack’s hubris, which will likely drive Torchwood Three further apart before they can heal their rifts.
It was nice to have a Tosh-centric episode since most of her time in this series has been spent in a support role. Even though Mary’s deceit was telegraphed – she was such an enabler for Tosh’s uncharacteristic behavior, so she obviously needed something – Tosh’s isolation within the team is highlighted through her use of the pendant.
And it is heartbreaking.
Balancing the basic plot with beautiful character development for Tosh made for an entertaining adventure.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Torchwood: They Keep Killing Suzie
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.