Timestamp #227: Night Terrors

Doctor Who: Night Terrors
(1 episode, s06e09, 2011)

Timestamp 227 Night Terrors

The Doctor makes a house call.

It’s nighttime and time for little George to go to bed. Unfortunately, he’s afraid to do so. His mom flips the lights five times to ward off evil and tells the boy to put his fears in his cupboard. He also whispers a plea to the heavens, “Please save me from the monsters,” before he heads to bed. While George’s parents worry that he needs a doctor, the plea reaches the psychic paper and the Doctor sets a course.

The TARDIS materializes on the street below and the Doctor and the Ponds head up to find George’s apartment. As the group splits up, they encounter several interesting characters including the elderly Mrs. Rossiter, landlord Jim Purcell, and a mother and her creepy twin daughters. Every one of them are suspicious and slam the door on their traveling visitors.

George overhears Rory joking about the monsters eating the kid, but the Doctor notices when George peeks through the window. The Doctor sends the Ponds on a wild goose chase while he goes to meet George alone. The Ponds end up in an elevator that plummets to the ground and spirits them away. Similarly, Mrs. Rossiter is taken away as she’s consumed by a garbage pile.

George’s father Alex mistakes the Doctor for a social worker. Alex insists that George is “scared to death of everything” and explains that they established the tradition of putting everything scary into the cupboard. When George startles at the sound of the elevator, he meets the Doctor. The Time Lord takes the opportunity to ask about the monsters.

The Ponds wake up in the dark. Rory thinks that they’re dead (or that they’ve time traveled) but they’re really in a dark and rather peculiar house. They find an electric lantern and a wooden pan designed to look like a copper one. They also find a giant glass eye in a drawer. As things get curiouser and curiouser, they get even more unnerved, especially by the strange giggling.

The Doctor tries to communicate with George, even to the point of opening the cupboard before a knock at the door interrupts them. Landlord Jim and his dog arrive to badger Alex about the money he owes, offering the Doctor the chance to use his sonic screwdriver. This both comforts George and allows the Doctor to scan the cupboard. What the Doctor finds in the scan rattles him. Jim leaves and Alex offers to open the cupboard, but the Doctor tells him to stop. George’s monsters are indeed real.

Alex is furious at the Doctor’s actions, but the Doctor is not swayed.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Rossiter is revealed to be alive in the mysterious house. The Ponds look for a way out but only seem to be getting closer to the eerie giggles. They open a door and find a child-like wooden doll with a large Funko Pop-like head. As they walk away, the doll creaks to life.

The Doctor finally decides to open the cupboard. When he does, he finds a host of items but nothing nefarious. At the same time, Landlord Jim is swallowed by his apartment floor. The Doctor has a bout of inspiration and quizzes Alex about George’s birth, but Alex can’t remember it. In fact, he blurts out that Claire can’t have children.

The answer lies with George.

The cupboard springs to life with bright lights, pulling the Doctor and Alex into the mysterious house. There, the Ponds watch as a creepy doll transforms Landlord Jim into a similar doll. The Doctor recognizes the house as a dollhouse, a psychic repository for all of George’s fears, and starts looking for a way out with Alex in tow. Luckily, Alex finds a pattern in the lights: They cycle on and off in fives.

Amy is captured and transformed by the dolls. The dolls also find the Doctor and Alex, but the sonic screwdriver is useless against wood. As he and Alex run, the Doctor realizes that George is a Tenza, an alien species that are like cuckoo birds. They find foster parents and adapt perfectly into what their parents want as their child, and George instinctively sought out Claire and Alex because they were unable to have kids. When something startled him, he started this subconscious cycle of fear.

The Doctor pleads with George to end the cycle, but he realizes that the fear is based on Alex’s rejection of George. When George calls for help and the dolls swarm him, Alex instinctively springs into action and promises to protect him. This breaks the cycle and releases the captives.

The Ponds arrive in the elevator, Mrs. Rossiter emerges from the trash pile, and Landlord Jim wakes up on the floor with his dog. As Claire arrives home from work, she finds Alex and George laughing and giggling with the Doctor. Claire is amazed at the change, but the Doctor asks her to trust him. The Time Lord reassures Alex that everything will be okay before reuniting with the Ponds and returning to the TARDIS.

As they set a course for their next destination, the time and place of the Doctor’s death appears on the monitors, accompanied by a nursery rhyme:

“Tick, tock, goes the clock, even for the Doctor…”


On the one hand, this was a fun little story with a neat twist. Unfortunately, that twist comes with one of the weakest but most often employed tools in the Steven Moffatt era’s arsenal: The Doctor being the smartest character in the room.

As I’ve said before, the story loses its power and magic when the answers are just handed to the audience, and this is no exception. There were no indications in the narrative that George was the source of the problem aside from the five-light pattern. There was also no introduction of the Tenza or any other “cuckoo bird” analogues, making the revelation about George simply something that the Doctor yanked from thin air (or any applicable orifice). The same can be said about the dollhouse setting.

In fact, I checked. The Tenza have never been mentioned before this story, and they have never been mentioned again to this point. (And, no, the mention of Sherpa Tenzing wasn’t relevant at all.)

It’s not smart storytelling. In fact, it’s lazy, sloppy, and irritating. Part of the fun in any mystery is the ability for the audience to solve it. Without the very basis to reach the revelation, the audience is merely along for the ride.

There were some minor bright spots. As a fan of Poltergeist, I liked the parallel when the Doctor and Alex are sucked into the cupboard. I also liked how George’s message on the psychic paper was so strong that it persisted and both Rory and the Doctor could read it.

I also liked the fanciful listing of the Doctor’s favorite childhood tales: The Emperor Dalek’s New Clothes (a play on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes), The Three Little Sontarans (a play on The Three Little Pigs), and Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday (a play on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the 1970s stageplay Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys to Doomsday, and the 2008 audio adaptation Seven Keys to Doomsday).

Note that The Emperor Dalek’s New Clothes contradicts the claims that the First Doctor didn’t know of the Daleks before The Daleks. Also note Rule #1: The Doctor lies.

But, in the end, these little nuggets of fun can’t override a terribly constructed story. Especially one that insults the audience by pulling the rug out from under them.

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Blood Line

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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.

Debrief: Dragon Con 2021

Debrief: Dragon Con 2021
Atlanta, GA – September 2 through September 6, 2021

Just like that, Dragon Con 2021 is in the books! And, wow, it was a weird year.

Attendance was reported at 42,000 and you could definitely feel it. Thanks to the pandemic precautions – proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test along with a 100 percent masking requirement – and attendance caps (including limits on daily sales), the crowds were significantly thinner. Let me tell you, though, I could get used to an attendance cap at Dragon Con. Maybe 65,000 to 70,000 in normal times?

Despite the smaller crowds, we did a lot of good work this year for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, raising $120,000 for that charity. That’s $10,000 more than we pulled together in 2019 with just over double the weekend crowd.

It was also a getaway that I really needed. With everything that’s been going on recently, I needed to see the geek family and get my mind orbiting around a lot of fun and creative things. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve missed these people.

It’s important to note that the Marriott and Hyatt were flooded with partiers at night who weren’t wearing face masks. It seemed that, once the sun went down, enforcement went out the window. Since I’m seeing several reports of attendees popping positive for COVID-19, panelists who refused to wear masks on panels, and vendors who went unmasked at their booths, I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone get tested for COVID-19 (both rapid and PCR if you can) and limit the spread as much as possible in the meantime.

There were a lot of naked respiratory orifices at Dragon Con 2021. Far. Too. Many.

Read More »

Dragon Con 2021

Dragon Con 2021
Atlanta, GA – September 2 through September 6, 2021

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Dragon Con!

It’s an annual tradition for me. It’s also a family reunion of sorts as I catch up with dear friends from around the world. This year will be my twelfth time attending (counting last year’s virtual events) and my sixth year as an attending professional.

If you plan to be there, you can find me at various over Labor Day weekend according to the schedule below. This year is a bit lighter than normal due to the continued pandemic – the COVID-19 coronavirus is neither joke nor hoax, and I fully support masking and vaccination until it is eliminated – but I’ll still be around having fun. I won’t be attending any parties or large gatherings, and I will be adhering to Dragon Con policies to combat the pandemic.

The convention app is available now – look for Dragon Con by Core-apps in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store – and will have the schedule of events soon. The list of confirmed guests, performers, artists, and attending professionals is available on the official Dragon Con site.

Dragon Con itself takes place in downtown Atlanta spanning five hotels (Sheraton Atlanta, Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and Westin Peachtree Plaza) and the AmericasMart Atlanta exhibition center. The convention draws approximately 70,000 to 80,000 attendees annually and showcases one of the city’s most popular parades on Saturday morning at 10am. This year, the attendance numbers will be lower due to COVID-19 and the parade is supposed to be closed to the public. It’s gonna be an interesting con in that regard.

Dragon Con prides itself on contributions to charity and the community. You can find more information about those efforts on their webpage. Each year, the convention partners with a local charity organization and this year’s partner is the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta.

If you’re new to the convention, consider stopping by the Dragon Con Newbies group on Facebook. It is run by Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony, and me, and is an in-depth community resource for information about this massive (and sometimes overwhelming) event. Memberships (tickets) for this year’s convention are available, however, due to the pandemic, memberships are limited.

Along with the attendance caps, all attendees are required to wear masks that adhere to CDC guidelines. The other preventative measures taken by the con this year can be found on their website.

If you want a printable copy of my schedule, I have a convenient PDF.

Note: All Dragon Con schedules are tentative until the convention ends on Monday. Even then, things are a bit suspect. As things change before the convention, I’ll update this post.

Revision History:

    • Rev 0 – 20 Aug 2021: Initial post.

The Schedule

I will be around starting Thursday to check in to the hotel, pick up my badge and Hard Rock Dragon Con gear, and get the ball rolling.

12:00p-4:00p: Dragon Con Newbies Walking and Rolling Tours (4 hours)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
Want to get a ‘lay of the land’ and find your way around the hotels? Did you know there’s a food court? Meet others new to Dragon Con and get a tour with some veteran con-goers. Last tours will leave approximately 3:30pm.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

5:30p-6:30p: Dragon Con Newbies Q&A (1 hour)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share tips and tricks.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

10:00a: Dragon Con Newbies 101 (1 hour)
Main Programming
Hyatt, Regency V
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share their tip and tricks for making your experience an awesome one.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

1:00p: Getting Started with Digital Media: The Ups & Downs (1 hour)
Digital Media
Hilton, Galleria 7
Have you always wanted to podcast? A group of experienced podcasters will help with ideas on how to get started & making it past the dreaded pod-burnout. Topics include picking a subject for your show, equipment to record with, how to get an audience, & more. For beginners & vets alike.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, Tyra A. Burton, Matthew Charles Malis

2:30p: Disney Afternoon: Rescue Rangers & More Goofiness! (1 hour)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
A tribute to chipmunks dressed like Magnum PI & Indiana Jones, & other Disney excellence.
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether, Bethany Kesler 

4:00p: Disney Afternoon: All-Duck Edition (1 hour)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We celebrate the afternoon cartoons that solved mysteries & rewrote history.
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether, Bethany Kesler

10:00p: Classic Sci-Fi Charity Lock-In: Howard the Duck (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We lock you in with a crowd of semi-willing participants to celebrate Marvel’s infamous – and very first – theatrical movie. The only way to escape: donate to the Dragon Con charity!
Panelists include: No one else? Don’t make me do this alone!

[It’s worth noting here that there won’t be a parade flood this year. Saturday one-day passes are not being sold and the parade is for badged attendees only.]

11:30a: ESW Presents Doctor Who: The Movie 25th Anniversary!
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
In 1996, Doctor Who returned to our televisions in the classic TV Movie. The Earth Station Who team will delve deep into this unique production & the uphill battle bringing it to life.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Sue Kisenwether

1:00p: Classic Series Doctor Who (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
With the release of the entire classic series on Britbox, there has never been better access to the bulk of Doctor Who history. We will discuss this, the release of The Faceless Ones animation, & the expanding worlds of Classic Who on audio.
Panelists include: Davey Beauchamp, Dr. Scott Viguié, R Alan Siler

5:30p: …And You Will Obey Me: Doctor Who‘s the Master at 50 (Pre-Recorded Virtual Panel)
BritTrack
BritTrack YouTube Channel
Yes, the Doctor’s best enemy, the Master, is turning 50 this year, & we have some big discussions ahead of us. Except, of course, until the Master uses his Tissue Compression Eliminator on them. Say something nice!
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether, Dr. Scott Viguié, Rob Levy

7:00p: Classic Sci-Fi Charity Lockdown: Mac & Me and More (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Will we watch Mac & Me, the movie that plunged off the cliff & into our hearts forever? The only way to escape is by donating to the Dragon Con charity.
Panelists include: JC De La Torre, Rita De La Torre

1:00p: Rising from the Shark: Re-invent the Team! (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301
It happens for any number of reasons, ratings, licensing, actors, but teams change up. We’ve seen it in on the big screen & small with Arrow, Legends, Flash, The Boys, & many others. We’ll look back at when it works or doesn’t. The lost & found members that we miss, or are thrilled to see.
Panelists include: M. Haynes

2:30p: Collectors Panel: Toys & Merchandising in MSFM (1 hour)
Military Sci-Fi Media
Chastain DE – Westin
MSFM is more than just the moving pictures on your screen. From action figures & collectibles to board games to comics to apparel, come discuss & take a look at all the ways you can bring your fandom directly into your home!
Panelists include: Van Allen Plexico, John Hudgens

4:00p: Black Widow: Shadow of the Red Room (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
Long overdue from COVID & gender politics, Nat Romanoff finally gets to share her story. A spy thriller with considerations of family & identity. There are new heroes & villains, & all the usual MCU Easter eggs. Aren’t pockets great?
Panelists include: None specified at this time

8:30p: When Was Star Trek Ever Subtle? (1 hour)
Trek Track
Hilton Galleria 2-3
Star Trek has always been ripe with political & social commentary, but was it really more subtle during the TOS era? This panel will take a look back at several examples throughout the franchise and then ask: What’s changed, Star Trek or what we expect of it?
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether

Nothing scheduled at this time.

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Timestamp #TW40: The Gathering

Torchwood: The Gathering
(1 episode, s04e09, 2011)

Timestamp TW40 The Gathering

Two months later…

Really? Two months? With a critically wounded Jack, a world full of overflow “death” camps, and a planetary economic crash?

Times are tough enough that Gwen smashes a car into a local pharmacy, sparing enough time for a stranger to steal a couple of boxes of pills. She and Rhys have been using the stolen supplies to help their loved ones and neighbors. After all, her father is bed-ridden and in constant pain. Gwen and Rhys are able to spend the time getting closer again.

In St. Margaret’s Halt, Scotland, Esther has been tending to Jack’s gunshot wound. Esther is worried about evading local skeptics, but Jack is more concerned about Esther stored bags of his blood in the fridge. Either way, Esther has hardened a bit in the meantime.

CIA Headquarters brings us Rex and his team working hard to track down the Three Families under Allen Shapiro’s leadership. Rex finds a tale about a man who could not die, and that tale leads the team to a knife stored in the archives. The hope is that the blood on the blade can lead to family roots. Charlotte Wills, the Three Families mole in the agency, takes the lead and comes up dry, so Rex takes it on himself.

The Three Families invite Jilly Kitzinger, under an alias, to Shanghai on a one-way ticket. She’s being asked to observe the Blessing. Across the pond, the authorities search Gwen’s house on the hunt for her father. Gwen claims that he’s been cremated, and while the police don’t believe her, they don’t find a thing thanks to a hidden room in the basement.

Worse than that, however, is Oswald Danes sneaking into the house under the guise of a delivery man. He’s in search of information about Jack Harkness, but when he picks up Anwen, Gwen takes a saucepan to his face. Rhys steps in as well before Oswald reveals that he knows that Gwen helped hide Jack and Esther. He’s willing to exchange the name of the man who created the Miracle.

Gwen covertly summons Jack and together they Retcon the spy across the street before confronting Oswald. The Torchwood team is reunited. Oswald presents Jilly’s laptop, which he has been using to track her. He knew something was up when she totally disappeared from the grid, but he did keep seeing the name Harry Bosco. Esther tells him that “Harry Bosco” is a process that mistranslated the truth to hide it through simple obfuscation. She calls in Rex in an attempt to decrypt Jilly’s work, which is to write history in the favor of the Families.

With the help of Oswald and Rhys, the team tracks the Blessing to Shanghai and Buenos Aires, the latter of which correlates to the possible location of a man who was in the butcher’s cellar in 1928 when Jack was repeatedly killed. The discussion comes to a screeching halt as the police crash through the door in search of Gwen’s father. They find him using thermal imaging. His abduction adds more fuel to Gwen’s passion to find the Families.

Rex informs Shapiro that he has to go off-book to find the Families himself because he suspects there is a mole in the CIA. Meanwhile, Rhys discovers that Shanghai and Buenos Aires are antipodes, cities on exact opposite sides of the world. They’re also the very inspiration for the PhiCorp logo.

The team splits up: Esther, with her stockpile of Jack’s blood, travels to Buenos Aires and meets up with Rex while Gwen, Jack, and Oswald travel to Shanghai using old Torchwood liaisons. It’s in Shanghai where a new connection is discovered as Jack’s blood draws out of his gunshot wound and into the ground, thereby implying a connection between him and the Blessing.

Meanwhile, Jilly is introduced to the Mother. It’s time for her to meet the Three Families and, deep underground, the Blessing itself.


You know that pithy office saying about the meeting that could have been an email?

That’s this episode. I’ve mentioned before that this entire story could have been compressed by about thirty percent without losing any cohesion or substance. This episode embodies that philosophy with only a few big story movements coming among a lot of filler.

There are positives, such as Oswald finally getting something to do. The emotions invoked were also hard hitting, from Rex and Shapiro’s discussion about shadow dictatorships – literally every conspiracy theorist’s wet dream come true – to the chilling sadness as Gwen’s father (abducted?) by the “just following orders” police inspector.

But that’s just not enough to compensate for an episode makes ten minutes of mileage in a fifty-five minute runtime. Jack’s tired of a mortal life that hurts so much, and I’m tired of writing and pacing that hurts to watch.

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Night Terrors

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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.

Timestamp #226: Let’s Kill Hitler

Doctor Who: Let’s Kill Hitler
(1 episode, s06e08, 2011)

Timestamp 226 Lets Kill Hitler

Hello, sweetie.

Prequel

A phone rings as the TARDIS is in flight. The answering machine picks up and Amy leaves a message.

As the camera pans across the console and the dark control room, Amy asks if the Doctor will fulfill his promise to find Melody Pond. Even though she knows that everything turns out okay, she doesn’t want to miss Melody’s childhood.

The Doctor listens intently, but doesn’t pick up the phone. He’s clearly wracked with regret and sadness.

Let’s Kill Hitler

It was once a nice wheat field. Then the Ponds plowed through it, scrawling the word “Doctor” into the crop. They stop in the middle of the O – a giant crop circle – to find the TARDIS and the Doctor in his new pea green double-breasted coat. The Doctor shows them a newspaper article chronicling the event.

It turns out that this was the only way Amy and Rory could figure out to get the Doctor’s attention. He consoles Amy: He will find Melody because River lives. The moment is shattered by police sirens, a speeding red car, and a woman named Mels. The new arrival holds the Doctor at gunpoint and demands to be taken in the TARDIS. It seems that she wants to kill Adolf Hitler.

Flash back to a long time ago in Leadworth as young Amelia, your Rory, and young heretofore-unknown Mels grow up together. Apparently, Mels knows all about Amelia’s “imaginary” friend, the Doctor, and that knowledge gets her in trouble. A lot. Including stealing a bus. She’s also present when Amy finally figures out that Rory loves her.

In the present, Mels, Amy, and Rory take a trip in the TARDIS. Mels actually shoots the TARDIS console while in transit to Nazi Germany. In Berlin, 1938, those same Nazis are being observed by a team with future technology as a machine (posing as a custodian) shapeshifts into a Nazi officer. That team is inside the machine, a highly advanced ship called the Teselecta, which shrinks the Nazi officer and draws him inside. Since the officer is responsible for a series of hate crimes – after all, what Nazi wasn’t? – he is disposed of by a series of “antibodies”.

The Teselecta then goes to Adolf Hitler’s office and activates Justice Mode, but two things interfere in the plan. First, they are too early in Hitler’s time stream. Second, the TARDIS crashes through the wall into the office.

The Doctor evacuates everyone from the TARDIS as it smokes away, then stashes Mels’s handgun in a bowl of fruit. The travelers are beside themselves for actually saving Hitler. The Teselecta tries to attack Hitler again, but he shoots the ship before being stashed in a nearby cupboard by the Doctor and Rory. The Teselecta feigns a fainting spell while the crew analyzes the TARDIS and determines that the most wanted war criminal in history has arrived.

Also, Mels has been shot by Hitler.

Mels, short for Melody, regenerates into a very familiar form. Mission complete. Well… sort of. This new woman has no idea who any of her traveling companions are, she is incredibly self-centered, and has maintained her programming that demands murdering the Doctor. She tries multiple times with every weapon in the room, but the Doctor is several steps ahead of her, but he misses the poison lipstick.

Melody jumps out of window and takes on a squad of Nazis. The soldiers try to shoot her, but she survives due to her regenerative state and uses the discharged energy as a weapon. She picks up their guns and drives away on a motorcycle. Rory and Amy give chase with the sonic screwdriver, followed by the Teselecta disguised as a Nazi soldier.

The Doctor enters the TARDIS and extracts the smoke. He consults with the TARDIS voice interface – the sequence of trying to find a face that doesn’t remind him of his failures is hilarious – and determines that regeneration is impossible due to the poison extracted from the Judas tree. The interface mentions “fish fingers and custard,” inspiring the Doctor to set a course in the TARDIS.

Melody storms a restaurant and demands that the patrons give her their clothes. Outside, the Teselecta takes Amy’s form and miniaturizes Amy and Rory. Just before being killed by the antibodies, the Ponds are given clearance privileges and taken to the control room.

The Teselecta nearly passes judgment on Melody for killing the Doctor, but the Doctor arrives in a tuxedo and top hat. He uses a sonic cane to scan the ship. He also verifies that the Ponds are okay. The Teselecta places Melody in stasis before the crew explains that the mete out justice to war criminals at the ends of their respective timelines. Amy convinces the crew to offer any help they can to the Doctor.

The Silence, a religious cult who believe “silence will fall” when the oldest question in the universe is asked, are behind the plot to kill the Doctor. When the Teselecta crew reveals that they don’t know what the question is, the crew resumes their torture of Melody.

The Doctor asks Amy to save her daughter, so Amy disables the crew’s privileges so that they will all be attacked by the antibodies. The Teselecta releases Melody and the crew is teleported away to a mother ship. As the antibodies descend on Amy and Rory, the Doctor tells Melody to save her parents.

As the Doctor faces his imminent demise, he begs Melody to help him. She talks to the TARDIS and learns to fly the ship, rescuing Amy and Rory before returning everyone to the Doctor’s side. Melody Pond, a child of the TARDIS, wonders who she is. The Doctor asks her to find River Song and pass on a message.

As the Doctor falls unconscious, Melody asks who River Song is. Amy uses the Teselecta to show Melody her own face. Melody decides to pass on her regeneration energy – all her remaining lives – to the Doctor with a kiss, thus becoming River Song.

River wakes up in a hospital with the travelers looking on. The Doctor’s message was that no one could save him, which made her think that she could. This is how she learns Rule #1: The Doctor lies. The travelers leave her with the Sisters of the Infinite Schism to recover, complete with an empty TARDIS-shaped diary. She’ll find her way back to them in time.

As the Doctor ponders the data he downloaded from the Teselecta, River Song enrolls at the Luna University in 5123. Her motivations are simple: She’s looking for a good man.


There are a couple of items working against this fun ride: First, the introduction of the previously unknown Mels. Second, the crux of the assassination of the Doctor relies on him being the smartest man in the room again.

The first can be explained if we’re looking at the events of this season through Amy and Rory’s perspective, therefore seeing a low-impact change in the timeline after Melody’s birth and abduction. The second, while an annoying feature of the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who, adds a lot of humor and hangs a lampshade on the Doctor’s blind spot for River Song. Especially considering the fact that she is the person who kills the Doctor, an act for which she is imprisoned and is now revealed to be a fixed point. The second also hearkens back to the Ninth Doctor in Boom Town, but it worked there because it wasn’t as much of a storytelling crutch for Russell T. Davies.

That humor, coupled with the character development for River and the Doctor, really makes this story work. The origin story for River Song helps tie off her story and could have provided a convenient story terminus if not for the character’s immense popularity.

The humor also worked because it was self-deprecating. The scene with the TARDIS voice interface poked at the ongoing theme with companion departures and shame, invoking Rose, Martha, and Donna in the process. The scene also point us back to a moment of combined shame and innocence by invoking Amelia Pond, whom the Doctor had not yet screwed up but did leave hanging for her childhood years.

Going back to Rule #1, we find out in this story that temporal grace – the state in which the TARDIS interior exists – houses a “clever lie”. The Fourth Doctor claimed that weapons could not be used inside the TARDIS in order to stop Eldrad in The Hand of Fear. Of course, we already knew that it wasn’t absolute from Arc of Infinity – “Nobody’s perfect,” claimed the Fifth Doctor when challenged by Nyssa about a Cyberman shooting in the console room – as well as The Invasion of Time, Earthshock, Attack of the Cybermen, The Visitation, and The Parting of the Ways.

With all of the discussions about Doctor Who canon/continuity in fandom, it’s a good reminder that Doctor Who canon/continuity has never been consistent.

This story also presents a fascinating parallel to The Caves of Androzani, during which the Doctor was poisoned by could survive by regenerating. The Doctor had several lives to spare at that point, but this encounter comes at the supposed end of the Doctor’s regeneration cycle due to the events of Journey’s End and The Night of the Doctor.

There are also several other franchise callbacks: We’ve seen “justice machines” in the past, though they were in the form of the Megara; We’ve previously seen the TARDIS materialize in a micro environment, courtesy of Carnival of Monsters, and materialize in a micro state, courtesy of Planet of Giants; We’ve seen the TARDIS materialize around people and objects before in Logopolis, Time-Flight, The Parting of the Ways, and The Waters of Mars; We’ve also heard about transferring regeneration energy in previous adventures like Mawdryn Undead, the TV movie, and The Ultimate Foe.

I’m also a sucker for the “Doctor who?” title drop gag, which has been around since the beginning. It makes me snicker every time.

All told, I really enjoy the action, the spirit, and the heart of this story. It takes a tired time-travel trope (“Let’s kill Hitler!”) and turns it on its ear to both develop characters and move a story along. Well done.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Gathering

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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.

Timestamp #TW39: End of the Road

Torchwood: End of the Road
(1 episode, s04e08, 2011)

Timestamp TW39 End of the Road

We finally start unraveling the twisted web.

After the showdown, Olivia takes the Torchwood team to Nevada. Esther remains outside while Jack, Gwen, and Rex are taken to meet Angelo Colasanto, Olivia’s grandfather. Angelo has devoted his entire life in pursuit of immortality but is now aged, infirm, bed-ridden, and connected to an array of life support machines.

The three men who met Jack when he was being butchered in New York represented three different families who are in some way responsible for Miracle Day: Frines, Costerdane, and Ablemarch. They swore to purchase the power of resurrection and collected Jack’s blood from the butcher, and they know of the Blessing. They also are completely off the grid.

Outside of the Colasanto estate, the stock markets are in free-fall, driving world players into bankruptcy. Brian Friedkin arrives and storms the residence with a CIA team to arrest the Torchwood team. Friedkin takes Rex to the other room and threatens his life, but he’s stopped by Rex when the Eye-5s transmit Friedkin’s confession that he is employed by the Three Families. CIA superior Allen Shapiro arrives and arrests Friedkin before getting the story from Rex.

Shapiro antagonizes the team, but Jack finally sways him by allying Torchwood with the CIA. Meanwhile, Friedkin and Olivia are loaded into an SUV to be taken to a safehouse, but the trip is cut short when Friedkin detonates a bomb he was wearing and kills everyone in the vehicle.

Jack takes a personal moment to say a few tender words to Angelo. At the end, he removes Angelo’s oxygen mask and kisses him, but the act kills Angelo. Literally kills him. Upon closer examination, the team discovers a null field generator under Angelo’s bed. The device cancels the morphic fields that caused the Miracle, and since it can disguise weapons of mass destruction, Shapiro tasks Jack with disabling it. It seems that Jack’s hunch about morphic fields was a good instinct.

Since the Torchwood files suggest that Jack operates best when his team is in duress, Shapiro motivates him by deporting Gwen. Meanwhile, Esther calls her sister (who is in psychiatric examination) and finds out that she is volunteering for Category One as a way out of the world.

Oswald Danes has sold out Cowboys Stadium for one of his hellfire-and-brimstone events. His antics are wearing thin with Jilly Kitzinger, especially when he demands that she bring him a prostitute. Jilly is approached by Shawnie Yamaguchi, an intern who is eager to become her assistant. What Jilly doesn’t know is that Shawnie is a CIA operative. Oswald’s prostitute arrives, but she’s frustrated because he wants to treat her like a date instead of a sex worker. When she storms out, she tells Oswald that he’s been classified as Category Zero.

Oswald takes his frustration to Jilly. Category Zero consists of those who violated morality and have thus earned a trip to the ovens. Oswald strikes Jilly and she fights back, forcing him to run with her laptop. Jilly encounters the mysterious PhiCorp man from a previous event. He warns her that she’s being watched, then kills Shawnie. In the end, Jilly is brought under family protection courtesy of a mole in the CIA. That mole is Charlotte Wills.

In the Colasanto estate, Jack manipulates the null field generator to cancel sound. He confers with Esther and Rex, telling them that the technology cannot be allowed to propagate. He needs to leave the manor with the device. Rex and Esther help Jack escape, but Jack is shot in the process. Esther drives the critically wounded Jack away while Rex runs interference.


The Miracle Day story swings back into action as the pieces start to fall into place. We’re driving a little closer to the masterminds behind the crisis and we get a bit more extraterrestrial influence as we see how the Three Families have been pulling the levers all along, but the episode still suffers from pacing issues with a good chunk of padding. As with most of Miracle Day, this episode could have been better told in about 75% of the time.

We did get some good callbacks to the core of Torchwood, from memories of Ianto to the destruction (and subsequent looting) of the Hub, but we can also see the large narrative issue with the Oswald Danes storyline. The story arc started with him as a major genesis event, but his part in all of this has been nothing more than a side story. I don’t like Oswald Danes on principle, but I certainly think he should be more of player in events.

Small perk: We have two Star Trek alumni (Nana Visitor and John de Lancie) in this episode. Sadly, one of those talented actors is wasted in this story.

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


As the Timestamps Project proceeds chronologically through 2011, we start to ping-pong a bit between Torchwood and Doctor Who. When Miracle Day (including the Web of Lies addendum) concludes, the project will pick up the final series of The Sarah Jane Adventures. To start the whole process, the next adventure will return us to Series 6 of Doctor Who with Let’s Kill Hitler.


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Let’s Kill Hitler

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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.

Timestamp #TW38: Immortal Sins

Torchwood: Immortal Sins
(1 episode, s04e07, 2011)

Timestamp TW38 Immortal Sins

It’s time for a history lesson.

Ellis Island, New York, in the 1920s: A man posing as Jack Harkness attempts to scam his way through immigration. He’s stopped by the real deal, but Jack visits him in jail anyways. The thief’s name is Angelo Colasanto and he knows that Jack’s visa was forged. Jack tells Angelo that he is a government agent of sorts. After a chat, Jack forges a visa for Angelo and secures the man’s freedom.

In the modern day, Gwen receives her orders to bring Jack to the antagonists. She is told to keep the lenses in because they are watching. At the makeshift Hub, Esther and Rex talk about Vera’s life. Gwen comes in, calls for Jack, and tasers him at the car before hitting the road.

In 1927, Jack and Angelo find a room for rent. Since it’s just the two of them, Angelo tells the landlord that he’ll sleep on the floor. Once alone, Jack mentions the coming troubles – the Great Depression and World War I – in passing before starting into a relationship. They seem happy together even if Angelo doesn’t understand Jack’s futuristic references.

Modern day: Jack wakes up in the back seat of Gwen’s car. She tells him about her situation but refuses to set him free. Jack asks Gwen to look in the mirror so he can address the antagonists. When he’s finished, Gwen demands to know who Jack has angered this time. She also refuses to yield to his negotiations. The figure behind the contacts agrees: “He always lies.”

In 1927, Jack and Angelo sit in a church and watch a wedding. When a pastor walks by, Jack joins him in the confessional. The pastor is their contact and the men are running liquor during the American Prohibition. They are taken before a crime boss and agree to help him in exchange for their lives. Jack and Angelo are to deliver a box from one warehouse to another, but they are not to look at the contents. Jack tries to drive Angelo away in order to save him, but Angelo wants none of it. Jack is inspired by Angelo’s bravery, comparing it to the relationship between the Doctor and his companions.

During the mission, Jack discovers that the cargo is a parasitic alien. The plan is an attempt by the Trickster’s Brigade to destroy the future. Jack destroys the creature, but is shot dead as they attempt to escape. Angelo is arrested and taken away before Jack resurrects in the alley.

In the present, Gwen muses about her life with Torchwood and how much she loved it. She blames it for landing her in this predicament and warns Jack that she will follow through with the plan if it means getting her daughter back. Jack replies that he will fight until his last breath to keep his newfound mortality. Right at the end, Gwen understands Jack more than she ever has before.

In 1928, Angelo is released from Sing Sing Prison and is startled to find Jack waiting for him. Angelo is terrified at Jack’s immortality, killing Jack and taking him before a butcher. Time and time again, Jack is killed and resurrected by a vicious and fearful mob. At one point, Jack awakens before three men who enter a partnership over this novelty.

Gwen and Jack watch as a car approaches near Mesa, California in the hours before sunrise. They share a few words about the fear of death.

In 1928, Angelo apologizes to Jack as he frees the immortal man. Angelo has no idea who the three men were. He and Jack run from the butcher, climbing to the top of a building so Jack can retrieve his trademark gear. Jack explains his immortality to Angelo, revealing that they cannot be together anymore. Angelo protests so Jack jumps off the roof to his apparent death. When Angelo reaches street level, Jack has vanished.

The sun rises over Mesa and the car arrives. A woman emerges with an armed entourage, but they are interrupted by sniper fire. Rex and Esther found out about the Eye-5 hack and came to the rescue, allowing Jack and Gwen to take up arms and turn the tables. Rex and Esther send a signal to Andy Davidson in Wales, prompting a strike team to free Gwen’s family.

Regardless, Jack is convinced to join the mysterious woman. She can take Jack to the one man with the answers.

Angelo is still alive.


First and foremost, this episode was an infodump. The vast majority of the story was a flashback to introduce a previously unknown character. Unfortunately, the present-day narrative suffered and was only advanced by small steps. The story presented here could have been spread across the previous six episodes, relieving some of the slow and meandering spots and streamlining the overall plot.

That’s the inherent downside to the Timestamps Project approach. The story was touching and the interpersonal relationships were warm, which is exactly what I would expect from a talent like Jane Espenson. It was beautiful to see and would be fantastic as a standalone. But it is presented here as part of the overall Miracle Day narrative and takes its place among other expository episodes.

Aside from the Jack-Angelo relationship, there were some really great elements to keep this episode buoyed up. I loved the brutality of a frightened mob trying to excise the demons in Jack by killing him over and over again. The sniper scene was a great way to include Rex and Esther in a story where they did not prominently feature, and it helped to reinforce their working relationship and skills. I also loved the inclusion of an alien and the broader Doctor Who mythos, which (sadly) were firsts for this block of episodes.

The appearance of Nana Visitor, whom I loved in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was a pleasant surprise. I look forward to seeing more of her in the remaining episodes.

All things considered, a beautiful story balances the unfortunate placement in the overall narrative, bringing this to an average episode overall.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: End of the Road

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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.

Timestamp #TW37: The Middle Men

Torchwood: The Middle Men
(1 episode, s04e06, 2011)

Timestamp TW37 The Middle Men

One truth is out, but more mysteries remain.

At PhiCorp Los Angeles, Stuart Owens and his secretary Janet are working late. On the television, the news is talking about the “45 Club,” a group of people who believe that jumping from greater than 45 stories is enough to permanently lose consciousness. Owens calls Zheng Yibao in Shanghai to discuss a large land purchase.

Yibao investigates the facility, then calls Owens back to report that there is nothing of interest at the facility. After that, he takes a swan dive from a tall building for reasons unknown.

In San Pedro, Rex is still upset about what he has discovered. He believes that the powers that be will simply burn anyone they don’t like. In the admin area, Esther tries to call Vera without success. She then turns her attention to Colin Maloney and Ralph Coltrane after watching them fighting. Colin plans to drop Vera’s car at the local mall. He also tells Esther that Vera completed her inspection and left. Finally, he places the camp on lockdown to keep everyone at the facility.

In Cowbridge, Gwen confronts Dr. Alicia Patel about her father’s classification. Patel tries to tell Gwen about the fine line between categories, but Gwen chastises her for running a concentration camp as a medical professional. She then makes plans with Rhys to break her father out.

In Los Angeles, Jack works his magic on Janet in a bar. He reveals (via Torchwood hacking) that Stuart intends to send Janet away against her wishes. He also knows that she is having an affair with her boss. With Janet’s help, Jack tracks Stuart to a local restaurant where he is having dinner with his wife Elizabeth. After revealing the affair to Elizabeth, Jack settles in for a one-on-one discussion with Stuart.

Stuart suggests that he is merely a middle man. He also states that Phicorp is just a pawn. The pattern started around five years ago based on “Market Share Projections”. Stuart found an Italian document which said, “They have found the Blessing,” but he doesn’t know what it means. Since Jack had staged Janet’s abduction, Elizabeth called the police. When they arrive, Jack quickly vanishes.

In San Pedro, Rex tries to sneak his video evidence out of the camp. Unfortunately, he is caught and taken to Colin by request. Rex tells Colin of his intention to go public and expose the camp. Colin watches the video and has a break down, then decides to silence Rex. He slowly pushes his ballpoint pen into Rex’s heart through his open wound. Rex screams but points out that he cannot die, which overwhelms Colin. Once Rex determines that Colin killed Vera, Colin cries as he shoves the pen back into Rex again. Rex faints from the pain.

Esther finds the generator room where the interrogation is taking place. Colin drops the pen and confronts Esther. Esther tries to bluff him by saying that Dr. Juarez is on the phone for him, but he attacks her instead. Esther holds her own for the majority of the altercation, and she eventually chokes him to death. She rushes to help Rex, but she needs to get the keys from Colin’s pocket. The Miracle resurrects Colin. He tries to choke Esther but he’s stopped by Ralph who fires two bullets into Colin’s side.

In Cowbridge, Rhys steals a truck and meets Gwen. As they get her father moved, Gwen hears that sick people are arriving in Wales by boat. Once Gwen’s father is loaded up, Rhys rams the gate to escape the facility. Gwen uses the Eye-5s to contact Jack in California.

Gwen steals some explosives and sets the camp ablaze with a message that makes Jack laugh triumphantly.

“This is the truth for the whole world to see, we let our governments build concentration camps. They built ovens for people in our names. Now I don’t care if the whole of society bends over and takes this like a dog. I’m saying no.”

In San Pedro, Rex comforts Esther. The mission was a success but they’ve paid a heavy price. Rex tells her that the fight is not over, then starts the car and drives them away. When they meet up with Jack in Venice Beach, they find out that the White House stands by the camps as a state of emergency in time of famine or pestilence. Jack says that they need to look at the bigger picture.

Gwen arrives in Los Angeles and is immediately paged to the courtesy phones. She receives a message: “Lenses.” When she puts in the Eye-5s, she learns that the forces behind all of this have taken her mother, husband, and child.

In exchange, they want Jack Harkness.


The overall plot has entered another housekeeping phase with this episode. The overall goal was pretty simple: Get the news of the camps into the public. Even though that revelation is deflected by officials, the world now knows. More importantly, this team has finally adapted the name of Torchwood.

Of course, that cohesive attitude is about to take a hit since Gwen’s family is in jeopardy.

It was a decent enough episode, but despite the explosions and fights, it didn’t do much to move the ball forward.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Immortal Sins

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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.

Timestamp #TW36: The Categories of Life

Torchwood: The Categories of Life
(1 episode, s04e05, 2011)

Timestamp TW36 The Categories of Life

Miracles breed atrocities.

In Washington, D.C., Vera Juarez is told that the medical panels have ended. A report has been submitted to Congress and the new categories of life have been enacted. People in Categories 1 and 2 are sent to the new overflow camps. Vera is upset about these three categories and the government’s control, so she calls Rex and declares that she is part of his investigation efforts.

Gwen returns to the United Kingdom under the alias of Yvonne Pallister. She reunites with her family and finds her mother tracking her father’s whereabouts. He’s located at the Cowbridge Camp in an abandoned army barracks, and Gwen travels with Rhys and Andy Davidson to the site. The area is flooded with people demanding the release of their loved ones. Gwen is directed to the admin building where she gets roadblocked by military officer in charge. The site is under lockdown while all of the occupants are sorted into categories. Gwen storms out, intent on breaking her father out that night.

Back in Venice Beach, Esther confides her feelings of inadequacy to Jack. Their discussion is interrupted by a text from Rex summoning them back. They meet Vera and get her settled. Soon after, the team converges in the makeshift “hub” to review their data. Jack officially welcomes Vera to Torchwood and then introduces the categories.

Category 1 consists of people who should have died before the Miracle. Category 3 is all of the perfectly healthy people. Category 2 the wide swath of people in the middle. The world governments now have the ability to determine who is alive or “dead”, and PhiCorp is behind it. Esther reveals her research into the PhiCorp camps and the possibility that PhiCorp is doing something horrific to the Category 1s.

Gwen goes undercover at Cowbridge as a nurse. Vera and Esther join the staff at San Pedro and Rex volunteers to be taken away as a patient. The “fragile mortal man” Jack is left behind, so he decides to attend the Oswald Danes rally in Los Angeles.

At the San Pedro camp, Rex is designated as Category 2. Vera and Esther settle into their undercover positions, including a hefty dose of overt sexism from camp supervisor Colin Maloney. As Vera begins her inspection, Esther reclassifies Rex as Category 1 and smuggles a camera to him. Rex is moved to the appropriate module where he discovers it to be a dark and cold space with patients stacked on metal racks. He finds some clothes and leaves the module.

Vera breaks away from the normal tour route to find a building full of patients without insurance. They are living in filth and squalor, and one of the patients has been wrongly categorized. Vera threatens to prosecute Maloney. He retaliates by stealing his military escort’s sidearm and shooting Vera twice. The two men take Vera to a Category 1 module and leave her barely conscious on the floor.

At the Cowbridge camp, Rhys and Gwen begin their quest to find Gwen’s father. Gwen finds her father and tries to extract him, but he collapses just before reaching the truck. When Gwen calls for help, her father ends up being reclassified as Category 1 because he fell unconscious.

At the Miracle Rally, Jack lures Oswald away. When Oswald can’t find Jack, he returns to the staging area before the rally begins. Jilly meets a mysterious stranger who tells her that she’s doing well and getting noticed by important people. Jack eventually confronts Oswald, tempting him to become the hero of the story instead of a PhiCorp mascot. Jack presents Oswald with a new speech that will expose the truth. In exchange, Jack offers Oswald an end to the Miracle and a pathway to death.

Oswald takes the stage and follows his heart instead of the scripts. He declares that those who have survived the Miracle are the first angels on Earth. His revelation, an endorsement of PhiCorp, is greeted by an arena of cheering fans.

Rex notes that the Category 1 area is only three small modules, and therefore is unable to house all of the appropriate patients. While Rex watches, Vera wakes up and Maloney starts a process that seals the building. Each module is a crematorium. Rex watches as Vera is burned alive, reduced to ashes.

Rhys and Gwen make a similar discovery in Wales. Gwen can only look on in horror.


In a brutal upswing from the previous episode, this entry was tense and thrilling. It leveraged each character’s strengths and circumstances to drive further into the heart of the plot. It also uncovered barbaric horrors and was unflinching in its portrayal.

It was disturbing but engaging.

What is particularly interesting is the apparent recycling of circumstances from the previous season. Vera’s fate parallels that of Owen Harper, another medical professional. Both were locked into a state between life and death, though Owen was undead while Vera was undying. Both were suffering from gunshot wounds and both were disintegrated while trying to save innocent people. Both of them also had love interests — Rex and Tosh — each with mortal chest wounds who witnessed their deaths through the lens of electronic devices.

The major differences were that Rex survived the encounter and Tosh wasn’t physically present at Owen’s death.

This recycling aside, which I found to be more fascinating than distracting, this hour of television was good.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Middle Men

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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.

Timestamp #TW35: Escape to L.A.

Torchwood: Escape to L.A.
(1 episode, s04e04, 2011)

Timestamp TW35 Escape to LA

Assassins and espionage try to cover for a lack of story.

Despite Gwen’s warnings, Esther decides to visit her sister Sarah. The house is boarded up and the door is guarded by a series of locks, but Sarah is at home. Sarah warns Esther that people are looking for her, warning her away from major metropolitan areas like Boston and New York City. Sarah rejects Esther’s comfort and concern about Sarah’s children. Esther promises to return as soon as she can.

When Esther returns to her car, she calls Child Protective Services to help the kids. Esther leaves, unaware of the car following her on orders from their mysterious antagonists.

The Torchwood team travels to Los Angeles, California. Jack gazes upon the Pacific Ocean, musing that he hasn’t seen it for about seventy years. They’re looking for PhiCorp, and despite Gwen’s desire to stay on the sand in the sun, Jack decides to look for a temporary headquarters elsewhere.

Rex finds a flyer for Dead is Dead and calls Vera. The campaign is being spearheaded by Ellis Hartley Monroe on the premise that those who should have died are to be treated as if they are dead, merely waiting for their “pause” in mortality to end. In contrast, Doctor Juarez and the medical panel are looking at an abandoned hospital as an overflow for ICU patients.

Jack secures a hideout and Gwen phones Rhys to check in while Rex wonders if Jack’s goal is to turn everyone he meets gay. Jack quips that it is the plan. The team starts to settle in, tracing the threads on Oswald, Jilly, and PhiCorp.

Elsewhere, Jilly and Oswald continue their public relations campaign. Oswald is enjoying the perks of fancy hotels, but while she remains professional, Jilly can’t stand Oswald’s history. She also brings news that Oswald’s appearance that day has been cancelled in lieu of Ellis Hartley Monroe. Oswald is in danger of being kicked to the curb and into the hands of the waiting mob.

Rex decides to find his father, who is now a thief stealing PhiCorp drugs. The reunion is testy, but in the end Rex ends up with another box of pills.

Later, Esther briefs the team on PhiCorp’s secure server and her plan to exchange it for an empty duplicate. Access is restricted to the biometrics of Nicholas Frumkin. To secure his biodata, Jack and Gwen go undercover Mission: Impossible-style as an annoying American couple.

The new hospital under Vera Juarez’s management is failing miserably. There are no protocols, no electricity, and people just being deposited without permission. Regardless, Monroe stages a Dead is Dead rally outside, which is where Oswald was going to hold a public event. Oswald decides to enter the hospital, drawing media attention as he boldly states that he’s not scared of the people inside. He reinvents himself as the spokesman and advocate — perhaps, even a messiah — for them. Monroe departs in anger, being poisoned on the way by the antagonists.

One of those agents, posing as Torchwood, ambushes Frumkin in a parking garage. The agent secures the biometrics by force, including mutilating him for his eye scan and handprint. Frumkin lives through the torture courtesy of the Miracle.

Gwen goes undercover as Yvonne Pallister, International Sales Representative at PhiCorp. She’s backed up by Esther, posing as Lorraine in Human Resources, and Jack as a delivery worker. The team stages a fire to evacuate the building and uses the biometrics to enter the server room.

As the operation kicks off, Esther discovers that Sarah has been detained for psychological evaluation and her kids are in the system. Rex realizes that someone may have follower Esther during her ill-advised trip and berates her while she works. While Esther balances Rex and Gwen, Gwen is attacked by the bad agent. Jack tries to assist but is knocked out as well. Rex rushes to the rescue, having to climb the stairs all the way with his chest wound, while the assassin monologues to Jack.

The assassin says that the reason Jack is mortal is because of something that happened many years ago. Apparently, Jack caused all this, and the moment has come as they have found “specific geography”. Just as he is about to reveal his employers, Rex comes in guns-a-blazing. The assassin collapses against the wall as Rex demands thanks for saving their lives.

Monroe awakens inside a car that is in a compactor. The poison should have killed her but she was saved by the Miracle. The triangle pattern appears on the car’s screen and a voice apologizes for what is about to happen. They liked her style and acknowledge that they could have been friends, but her methods were exposing their plan. As the voice promises that the “families” will rise, the car is compacted. Monroe’s shattered remains still live in the metal prison.

Back at their base, the Torchwood team discovers the plans for the overflow camps. Unfortunately, Rhys has already schedule Gwen’s father for one of the camps. Rhys is too late to stop the transfer.

Gwen’s father now belongs to PhiCorp.


Torchwood stumbled here with a mediocre story with quite a bit of padding. Getting the team to Los Angeles to pursue PhiCorp was good, as was the spy story to access and swap out the secure server. Adding the assassin to the plot was a great foil and served well to push the antagonists into the spotlight alongside the Oswald Danes story.

It was good to see that Jilly has some semblance of a soul, merely tolerating Oswald to serve her employers. It was also good to see the concentration camp narrative threads continued, as well as seeing Oswald chasing the spotlight to remain relevant.

The points where the story lost pacing were with the family tangents for Esther and Rex. The Esther tangent was tolerable, even though it could have been easily skipped over in exchange for a shorter way for the assassin to track the team, but the Rex tangent was pointless. The parallel between Gwen’s and Esther’s phone usage was important to note, but I think it would have been more powerful if the phone was how Esther was traced instead of by burning precious minutes talking through a barricaded door.

It feels like a lot of missed opportunities were swaddled in unnecessary drama, and the pacing established in the first three episodes was sacrificed in the process.

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Categories of Life

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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.