(1 episode, s02e06, 2008)
Side effects may include indigestion, paralyzation, needles to the eye, and death: Ask your doctor if the mayfly is right for you.
In the darkness of night, a hunched Weevil scurries into a warehouse followed by the agents of Torchwood Three. The Weevil ditches the team near a corpse which they take back to the Hub. Jack is stumped, so he invites Martha Jones to join them on the case.
Jack makes introductions, revealing that Martha is working for UNIT. Together they discover that the victim’s records have been wiped from the networks. While Tosh digs for info, Jack and Martha catch up on happenings after leaving the Doctor. It turns out that she was hired at UNIT based on a recommendation from the Doctor. Martha and Gwen also hit things off pretty well, and Owen is… well… Owen.
The team responds to another attack, but this time the victim, Marie Thomas, is still alive. Owen and Martha set to work in the lab and discover that the modus operandi is to destroy evidence in the bloodstream by injecting compounds into the eyeball. Further analysis of Marie’s blood finds a foreign body in her system, and after she has a seizure and insects fly out of her mouth when she flatlines.
Marie was cured of HIV and another victim’s diabetes through something called the Reset from the Pharm. The insects are alien larvae and the Reset drug restores the human body back to “factory settings” with the parasite in tow. Effectively, it’s a Trojan horse malware masquerading as an anti-virus program.
The team finds the Pharm and interviews Professor Aaron Copley, the director of the highly-guarded facility. They fail to gain any access to the facility when Jack refuses to listen to Whitehall after his last encounter with a politician. When Tosh discovers that the Pharm is looking for volunteers for trials, Martha offers to go undercover with her medical expertise.
Ianto gives her a briefing and cover story, Tosh gives her contact lens cameras, and she goes to the Pharm as Samantha Jones, a hepatitis sufferer. The team watches through Martha’s eyes as she works her way into the program. As night settles in, Owen and Tosh discuss Martha and their own relationship. Tosh comes clean about her feelings and Owen agrees to go on a date with her.
Martha sneaks down to the Administration office. Tosh hacks the numerical lock and takes remote control of the computer, but Martha is captured on her way out as a large mayfly creature escapes. The team discovers that the Pharm has its own squad of hitmen and all communication is lost.
The team locates a Pharm client who is scheduled for execution and they capture the assassin. The hitman talks freely with a little help from a Weevil, but he dies soon after thanks to a mayfly in his stomach. Meanwhile, Martha is strapped to a table and confronted with her Torchwood allegiance. Copley is fascinated by the traces of temporal radiation in Martha’s cells and wants to experiment with her immune system.
Tosh concocts a method to animate the assassin’s corpse and get them into the Pharm. Ianto, Tosh, and Gwen go to the research labs while Owen and Jack rescue Martha. In the research labs, the team discovers that the Pharm is experimenting with multiple alien creatures to further medical technology. In the medical lab, Martha is dying from mayfly larvae in her stomach.
After two earlier failures, Owen finally calibrates the singularity scalpel and cuts the larva out of Martha while Copley runs. The Torchwood team shuts down the facility, but as they’re about to leave, Copley confronts the team. Owen takes a bullet meant for Martha before Jack kills Copley.
Owen dies on the ground as the team watches helplessly.
The story is a straightfoward monster adventure combined with a little creepy body invasion. It also follows a theme of humans using alien creatures for their own benefit, one of which we’ve already seen this season. The beautiful part about this one is bringing in some outside help to solve the case, particularly with the return of Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones. The references to The Year That Never Was were great, especially when you consider that (of the assembled team) only Martha and Jack remember the events.
Given that the episode was so straightforward, the surprise death at the end hits hard. Not counting Jack, Owen is the second member of the team to die on the show, and it really comes out of nowhere. It smacked of the Joss Whedon approach (ref: Serenity) with a slight bit of the sci-fi “don’t get too attached” trope given how Owen had finally opened up to Tosh.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Torchwood: Dead Man Walking
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