Timestamp #TW9: Random Shoes

Torchwood: Random Shoes
(1 episode, s01e09, 2006)

 

Instead of Love & Monsters, we get Love and Ghosts

Eugene Jones, a man who monologues about science, wakes up in the middle of the road. He wanders a few feet to find Torchwood Three investigating his dead body, a victim of an apparent hit-and-run. He apparently knew the team and was interested in their work. His mobile phone rings and the team leaves (with Eugene’s ghost) to tell his mother the bad news.

During the drive, Eugene reminisces about his childhood and how he froze during a math competition. While he was down, his science teacher showed him an eye that fell from the sky. His father left home and Eugene obsessed over the eye, resulting in an interest in UFOlogy and (subsequently) Torchwood Three.

The team notifies Eugene’s family and investigates his belongings. Some of the alien artifacts are fraudulent, but Gwen notes the stand where the eye should be. They leave with a box of things to research and return to the Hub. While the team gets to work, Eugene takes a tour of Torchwood’s headquarters, including a particular focus on a certain severed hand. Gwen begins the autopsy but is interrupted by news of a driver who admitted to the crime. Eugene faints at the autopsy, wakes up later, and goes for a long walk.

Gwen feels that there is something more to the goings-on, but she can’t put her finger on it. She offers to return an overdue DVD to the video store, but when she finds the store is closed, she stops at a local diner and goes through Eugene’s mobile. She finds pictures of random shoes, and after Eugene arrives, she phones someone called Gary on his suggestion. Gary’s call goes to voicemail.

Gwen returns the DVDs and reluctantly pays the £34 in late fees. A discussion with the clerk at the store plants seeds of doubt in Eugene’s head. Gwen’s next stop is Eugene’s former employer, a telemarketing firm, as she tries to match the shoes in the pictures. A pair of Converse All-Stars belong to Gary, who hadn’t seen Eugene on the day he died. She also meets Linda, a friend of Eugene’s, who is broken up by his death. She agrees to meet with Gwen later. Gwen looks over Gary’s desk and finds a flyer similar to one in Eugene’s belongings.

Over lunch, Linda fills in some missing details. A few weeks back, Eugene was depressed. He offered to help Linda move to Australia to start a new life, and tried to fund it by selling the alien eye on eBay. It reached a peak of £15,005.50. The story is interrupted by Eugene’s mother who wants Gwen to come by.

Gwen and Eugene’s mother watch the video of the mathematics competition. Gwen learns of how Eugene received the eye from his former science teacher, and together everyone learns that Eugene’s father is now working in a garage across town instead of living the fantasy life in America. Eugene remembers why he sold the eye: After discovering the lie, he realized that he’d been chasing fantasies his whole life, so he chose to get rid of them.

Gwen decides to go interview Eugene’s father but changes her mind when Eugene pleads with her not to. She returns to the Hub and learns from Jack about the Dogon sixth eye, an item that allows its user to see his past and put it in perspective. She convinces Jack to let her track this down and he gives her the weekend to do so.

Her first stop is the black hole conference at Aberystwyth University. She finds Gary and learns that he had artificially inflated the eBay bids to cheer his friend up. The £15,005.50 bid was real, however, and Gary admits that he met with Eugene before he went to make the exchange. Gary doesn’t know who the shoes belong to, but he is sorry for his part in all of this.

Later that night, Gwen sorts through the belongings back while Eugene muses about his fragmented memories. He also admits to loving Gwen, and although he can minimally affect the environment around him, Gwen goes to bed ignorant of his presence. The next morning, Gwen continues to follow the clues. She ends up at a diner called Happy Cook which sparks another memory in Eugene. His friends were the buyers: The £15,005.50 bid was theirs, but the one before theirs was real. In his frustration, Eugene took photographs of their shoes before a fight ensued. During the scuffle, Eugene swallowed the eye to protect it before they all ran out.

As Gwen interviews the server, Gary and Josh come in and eventually tell Gwen their side of things because Gary misses his friend. Eugene had just kept running, high on the effect of the eye, but didn’t look before crossing a road and getting struck by a car. Gwen finally calls Eugene’s father and tells him the bad news.

Gwen, Gary, and Eugene’s family attend Eugene’s funeral. Eugene’s father makes amends and Eugene sees him as a normal man. He also wishes that he had been able to spend more time with him. After the funeral, Gwen receives a paper bag containing the eye. Back at Eugene’s home, Eugene wonders why he’s still around. The Torchwood SUV pulls up and Gwen passes off the eye before watching Eugene’s family reunited. She’s nearly run down by a speeding car, but Eugene is able to push her out of the way.

He’s fully visible to everyone around for this final moment. He says his farewells and vanishes in a bright ascending light.

 

The most obvious connection here is Love & Monsters. The big difference despite the very deep similarities is that Love & Monsters was a fun romp where this one dragged. On the upside, however, this Gwen-centric episode highlighted her skills in a part police procedural, part ghost story adventure. It also continues to highlight Gwen’s quest for personal connections in a life that demands secrecy, but the pounding of that particular drum is getting tiresome.

This episode is pretty much a Doctor Who story that fell through the cracks and landed in a different series without the TARDIS or the Doctor.

 


Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Out of Time

 

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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