(1 episode, s02e02, 2008)
What is humanity?
Beth and Mike, a happily married couple, are fast asleep when an intruder startles them awake. Mike faces the danger with a cricket bat while Beth calls the police. Two burglars enter the room, knock Mike out, and assault Beth. The criminals scream as the lights grow brighter.
Torchwood Three is called to the scene. One of the burglars is dead but the other is severely injured. Tosh and Jack investigate the bedroom while Gwen and Owen follow the ambulance to the hospital to interview the survivors. Both Jack and Owen suspect Beth in the incident, but Beth remembers nothing. The surviving criminal eventually succumbs to his injuries, but before he dies, he tells Gwen that “the woman” did it.
Beth is taken to the Hub for interrogation. Beth still can’t remember anything, even in the face of crime scene photographs. A power surge occurs, just like one at the hospital, and Gwen takes a more gentle approach. Tosh tries a body scan, but nothing is out of the ordinary. Things get weird when Owen tries to draw blood and two needles break against her flesh. Owen tries a scalpel with the same result. Beth also tells him that she’s never been sick.
Jack immediately believes that she’s an alien.
When Beth says that there’s no such thing, he shows her the captive Weevil, and it cowers before her. Beth, scared out of her mind, begs for a way to prove herself to him, so Jack brings the mind probe out of storage. Ianto objects since the last subject to be probed ended up exploded, but Jack assures him that it won’t happen again. Tosh commences the probe, lights flicker, and Beth passes out before sitting upright and displaying a lighted ridge-like formation on her arm. Beth repeats a series of words in an alien language, and Jack is satisfied when he recognizes them as name, rank, and serial number.
Jack tells the team about this species. It isn’t much since they don’t tend to leave survivors. Cell 114 infiltrate planets by disguising themselves as local inhabitants and relay the information home, leaving their sleeper agents completely unaware and cloaked in false identities. The implant in Beth’s arm is protected by a force field.
Jack shares the results with Beth, leaving her distraught. Gwen assures her that humanity doesn’t just lie in the body but in the mind as well. Jack rebuts, telling Beth that she will transform on invasion day and the Cell 114 inside her will take over.
Beth is in the middle of an identity crisis.
The team debates over what to do with her. Tosh suggests cryogenic storage with an electromagnetic pulse to disable the transmitter. Before she’s sedated, Beth asks for euthanasia if they can’t keep her humanity intact. Unbeknownst to the team, a secondary transmitter activates, waking sleeper agents nearby who kill loved ones and abandon tasks in progress.
The Cell within Beth awakens and breaks out of the vault. She escapes through the tunnels, and the team assumes that she showed them exactly what they wanted to see. Meanwhile, Beth takes advantage of her status off the alien network to visit Mike and say goodbye. The farewells become too much and Beth accidentally impales Mike with an alien blade. Jack and Gwen arrive and drag her away.
Across town, one of the sleeper agents kills Patrick Grainger, a local council leader. Another sleeper agent uses a fuel tanker to destroy a highway and underground fuel pipeline. More and more sleepers are scrambled to seed chaos and prepare the planet for invasion. The demand information from Beth and urge her to connect to the network. She reveals that there is only one agent left.
While the team panics about loss communications, Jack rigs a CB radio to reach them. They track the sleeper to an abandoned farm which was a front for a coalmine housing ten nuclear warheads. The soldiers guarding the arsenal are unable to stop him. When Jack and Gwen arrive, they ram him with the SUV.
The sleeper runs Jack through with the arm-sword while Gwen disables the transmitter. The sleeper tells Jack that they’re too late before committing suicide by bomb: The invasion is already underway.
Beth returns to the Hub for cryogenic freezing. She feels guilty for what she has done, but fears becoming an uncaring murderer. She thanks Gwen for her compassion, asking her to remember who Beth was before holding Gwen hostage with the arm-blade. Gwen begs the team not to kill Beth, realizing that Beth wants to them to kill her while she’s still human. She succeeds by threatening Gwen, falling dead as the team opens fire.
Gwen and Jack talk later, discussing the upcoming wedding and the invasion. Gwen believes that even if they haven’t stopped it, they know enough now to fight when the day comes.
This was a pretty straightforward story that outlined a hidden threat in society. The drama surrounding Beth’s humanity and identity crisis was riveting and engaging, and it kept the episode from becoming another monster-of-the-week bonanza.
The one link back to the continuing Doctor Who mythology was the mind probe, an element mentioned before in Frontier in Space and The Five Doctors. Other than that, this is all-new territory with an all-new threat.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Torchwood: To the Last Man
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.