Timestamp #SJA14: Prisoner of the Judoon

Sarah Jane Adventures: Prisoner of the Judoon
(2 episodes, s03e01, 2009)

 

When law and order collides with body snatching.

Sarah Jane Smith provides a brief overview of her past, leading to how her life on Earth is just as exciting as traveling amongst the stars. She travels to Genetec Systems to interview Mr. Yorke about nanoform technology. She probes the threat they might pose if released into the environment and that the return on investment is not likely to appear. She gets tossed out and laughs about it.

When she returns home, the Bannerman Road Gang sees an orbital re-entry overhead and they ask Mr. Smith about it. He’s been tracking it for 45 minutes, which is who long it took to cross the solar system, and reveals that it is a Judoon craft. UNIT has dispatched to the crash site, but they haven’t found the lifepod that was ejected.

Enter Sarah Jane and the gang.

As they get ready to leave, Rani’s mother Gita asks if Sarah Jane can help her network to get her new flower shop moving. They eventually get to the pod crash site and find a Judoon chasing an escaped prisoner. Sarah Jane explains that the Shadow Proclamation barely acknowledges Earth and have authorized the Judoon to execute anyone who stands in the way of justice.

The Judoon is knocked out by his prisoner. The fugitive escapes as Sarah Jane and the teenagers arrive. They help the Judoon, one Captain Tybo, recover and join the investigation to help minimize the damage as he searches for Androvax the Annihilator, a “Destroyer of Worlds”.

Tybo really lacks in the humor department.

After hearing a young girl scream, Sarah Jane and Clyde try to comfort her while asking Luke and Rani to distract the captain. The girl claims that the “monster” took her mother, but Sarah Jane’s scanner betrays the Androvax. Unfortunately, the fugitive steps out of the girl’s body and into Sarah Jane’s before placing Clyde into a trance.

It seems like Clyde is always getting the whammy.

Captain Tybo figures out that Luke and Rani were distracting him, and he smashes their mobile phones to prevent any further “mistakes”. They track down Clyde, revive him with a spray bottle, and discover that Sarah Jane is now a hostage of a Veil lifeform.

Sarah Jane returns to Bannerman Road and surveys the attic before summoning Mr. Smith. Meanwhile, Tybo commandeers a police car with inadvertently humorous effect and pursues the intruder. While Sarah Jane tries to gauge the depths of Mr. Smith’s programming – we’re reminded that he’s a Xylok, the only remnant of his previous alien identity – the Judoon and our heroes enforce local noise ordinances and finally reach the attic.

The possessed Sarah Jane has moved on, setting her sights on Genetec Systems. Unfortunately, Mr. Smith has been set to self destruct. In sixty seconds, Bannerman Road will be nothing more than a crater.

Oh, and Rani’s parents? They’ve been busy using guerilla tactics to promote Bloomin’ Lovely, and they’ve targeted Genetec Systems.

Luke uses logic to disable the self-destruct, reasoning that the detonation would harm the Earth. Mr. Smith directs the team to Genetec System Labs after detailing the Roswell crash of 1947 and a base called Dreamland.

(More on that on this site in a couple of months.)

Androvax plans on using the nanoforms to build a spacecraft to escape Earth. The fugitive doesn’t care what happens after that, so the nanoforms will be unleashed on the planet. As the building enters a security lockdown, Gita and Haresh use the distraction to escape from the guard who detained them.

The Bannerman Road Gang arrives with Tybo, but decide to lock the Judoon in a shielded room to prevent him from harming Sarah Jane (or Rani’s parents) during his hunt for Androvax. Meanwhile, Mr. Yorke ends up getting entranced by the Androvax after he lifts the lockdown.

Oh, and then there’s the Judoon retrieval force that just arrived and transmitted reinforcements to Genetec. That complicates matters.

The team finds Sarah Jane and, in the process of sparring with the Androvax, Luke is captured. Androvax attacks Clyde and Rani with the nanoforms, but they stun the wee beasties with lowered temperatures via convenient fire extinguishers.

Captain Tybo is released by the Judoon reinforcements in a clever subversion of the lawful good personality trope, and it’s almost Clyde and Rani’s undoing when they are threatened with execution for violating several regulations. Luckily, they are fast runners.

Androvax takes Luke to the now-complete spacecraft. Sarah Jane takes advantage of a momentary distraction to fight for control of her body while Clyde and Rani run aboard. Luke steals the power core and bargains for his mother, insisting that he’ll let Androvax leave if Sarah Jane is set free. Androvax agrees, but is captured by the Judoon moments later.

As the nanoforms begin to devour the building, Luke is able to use the spacecraft to send a shutdown command. Rani’s parents are safe and Androvax is in custody. Tybo takes the circumstances into account and commutes the sentence against Rani and Clyde. Instead, they are confined to the planet permanently.

Sarah Jane and the Bannerman Road Gang arrive home as the spacecraft rockets to the stars. Rani’s parents arrive moments later, promising to tell a story that the group will not want to miss.

 

The one thing that I really enjoyed in this story was the humor, particularly with the Judoon acting as an overexaggerated straight man. Which is something considering how much the Judoon really freak me out as villains.

When it comes to any other villain, be it the Daleks or the Cybermen or even (most times) the Master, the evil is obvious. These villains have a plan and it’s a fairly direct path for the forces of good to stop it. The Judoon, on the other hand, are lawful good characters to the extreme, and that’s what makes them dangerous.

Down to basics, the Judoon believe that justice is absolute. There’s good and there’s evil and there are no shades of gray. Anyone who stands in the way of justice – of the perceived good – is the enemy, and thus, disposable.

Since the rest of the universe (dare I say, the multiverse) operates in a spectrum between the light and dark, this absolute lawful good mentality makes the Judoon one of Doctor Who‘s scariest villains for me.

That’s what makes stories with them so good in my estimation.

There’s also a nice subversion of the lawful good when the reinforcements have to rescue Captain Tybo. I laughed out loud at that moment.

Other highlights include the main cast. First, the teenagers really carry this story from bow to stern. Second, evil Sarah Jane is cheeeesy as hell, and that is magnificent. I just hope she had plenty of lozenges because that voice had to hurt after a while.

The one downside I can see going forward is Clyde’s recap. If it’s attached to every episode going forward, it’s going to get tiresome.

 

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

 

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Mad Woman in the Attic

 

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: Torchwood Series Three Summary

Torchwood: Children of Earth (Series Three) Summary

 

Torchwood‘s third series made us consider darkness in acts of salvation. The world is safe once again, but the prices paid were severe.

There’s a certain amount of creepiness in this series of five episodes since the invaders were trying to leverage the world’s most vulnerable population for their own addiction. The rest of the world did everything they could to save them from a fate literally worse than death, but politicians and Jack fell on the side of logic: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Facing and defying the darkness that led to that logic sold the drama.

In true Torchwood tradition, the family is shattered in the end, and the magic is in how the logic is fulfilled in the process. The needs of millions outweighed the needs of Torchwood Three.

Just beautiful.

We’ve been through this twice now, so we’re familiar with the drill: We can’t make a direct comparison between Torchwood and Doctor Who, but we can look at the scores so far to get an idea of how it fits within the Timestamps Project’s scope.

Torchwood Series Three earned a 4.8 average. That places it even with the classic Ninth Season – the third season with the Third Doctor – which is the top-rated season in the history of the Timestamps Project. It’s also, by far, the highest rated series of Torchwood.

 

Day One – 5
Day Two – 5
Day Three – 4
Day Four – 5
Day Five – 5

Torchwood Series One Average Rating: 4.8/5

 

The Timestamps Project is still proceeding in mostly chronological order, so the path forward contains the third series of Sarah Jane Adventures and the remaining David Tennant specials, with a goal of completing both before the end of the year.

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Prisoner of the Judoon

 

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 #TW31: Children of Earth – Day Five

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Five
(1 episode, s03e05, 2009)

 

The world is safe, but is it worth the cost?

Gwen appears on a camcorder recording, asking why the Doctor has not appeared to save the world. Sometimes, she muses, he must be appalled at how humanity deals with crisis. This tape is her record of the world ended.

Prime Minister Green appears on public television to announce his inoculation plan. Rhiannon and Johnny Davies, following Ianto’s warning, open their doors to the local children and keep their own hidden. The Frobishers also take refuge in their own home.

Colonel Oduya of UNIT talks to the 456, asking why they need the children. The 456 reveals that they are used as recreational drugs. Despite being appalled in their part of an intergalactic drug trade, the government still proceeds on course. The public relations campaign is shifted into full gear while Gwen and Jack meet with Frobisher and Spears.

During the discussion, they realize that the tapes are no longer valid leverage. Releasing them will only hasten the collapse. Gwen calls Rhys to let him know that it’s over, also informing him that Ianto has died. Jack asks Frobisher about his family and to let Gwen inform Ianto’s family of his fate. The government agrees, and Jack is placed into custody as Gwen and Rhys are set free. He’s placed in a cell near Lois.

At Agent Johnson’s facility, Alice and Steven are released. Alice is brought up to speed on the situation, and she tells Johnson that she needs Jack Harkness.

Frobisher is called to the Prime Minister’s office and informed that his children will be inoculated publicly in order to sell the ruse to the public. They will also be taken for processing. Frobisher threatens to tell the world about this campaign, but Green is not swayed. Frobisher has been betrayed despite his loyalty, and he asks Bridget Spears to requisition a gun for him.

With one hour before the operation begins, troops are deployed to start gathering the children. Frobisher returns home while Spears pays a visit to Lois Habiba and tells her the story of how she and Frobisher met. While she tells the story, Frobisher gathers his family upstairs, murders them, and then commits suicide.

Spears tells Lois that John Frobisher was a good man. That this wasn’t his fault. That history will not remember him this way.

Gwen and Rhys meet up with PC Andy Davison and travel to the Davies home. Gwen tells them about Ianto and warns that special forces are on their way to take the children. Jack’s request of her to save the kids has just gotten more complicated.

The soldiers start rounding up the children, causing parents to start panicking and revolting. The soldiers also start canvassing the local neighborhoods, so Gwen, Rhiannon, and Rhys start moving the kids to a hiding place. Johnny informs the local parents that the soldiers are there for the children, and a fight erupts on the street. Davidson joins the fight, but the adults are soon pacified. The distraction worked. The kids are safe for now.

But the rest of the country’s children are not. In the abandoned shelter, Gwen makes her video recording and then talks to Rhys about their unborn child. She had considered abortion, unwilling to bring a child into this new world, but changed her mind when she considered how it would affect Rhys. They’re forced to run again as the soldiers discover the hiding spot.

Jack is taken to Johnson’s facility where he’s reunited with his family. He’s taken to a warehouse with Dekker to devise a plan that will use the 456 wavelength that killed Clem to attack the aliens. Meanwhile, at eighty percent completion, Colonel Oduya asks the 456 if that’s enough. The 456 demand the rest.

Jack analyses the wavelength and considers Clem, realizing that Clem was killed because he was a weapon that could be used against the aliens. Jack deduces that they need to use a child as an antenna to transmit the deadly wavelength. Unfortunately, they only have one child at their disposal: Steven.

And the effort will kill the child.

In a heartbreaking moment, Jack decides to use Steven. Alice pleads for Steven to run, but Steven has blind faith in his “uncle”. Jack ignores Steven’s questions and initiates the wave. As Steven beings singing the wavelength, the children of Earth follow suit, and the 456 react violently, smashing into the glass and exploding. The remains are transported away as the 456 retreat.

Jack watches tearfully as Steven dies a terrible death. Alice is a wreck and the room mourns with her, but the children of Earth are safe.

The Cabinet disbands, leaving Prime Minister Brian Green alone with Bridget Spears and Denise Riley. When Green tries to save himself by framing the American general, Bridget responds that she has recorded the proceedings with help from Lois and the Torchwood lenses. Riley takes charge, promising to have Lois released and that Green’s days as PM are over.

With the threat behind them, Jack waits for Alice in an attempt to apologize. She won’t speak with him, so he leaves without a word.

Six months pass. Gwen and Rhys travel to a remote location, heeding a request for a meeting with Jack. He has been traveling the world, trying to absolve his guilt, but it’s not enough. Gwen gives him his vortex manipulator, which she saved from the Hub. Jack uses it to transport himself to a cold fusion freighter in the solar system, trying to run from what he did.

Gwen cries with her husband as they walk away. Torchwood is finished.

 

Jack has a point: Death follows him, both literally and figuratively. He dies and resurrects a lot, but he’s also lost several people who were close to him. Suzie CostelloOwen Harper, Toshiko Sato, Ianto Jones, and now Steven Carter. It’s a lot to handle.

Especially since he made such a horrific (but necessary) choice, one which shattered the families he had left.

This story also brings the reverse of a trope highlighted by Meat, Reset, and Planet of the Ood: This time around, humans are the ones being captured and exploited for resources. It also marks one of the few times when a child is explicitly killed on screen.

The shock and awe are only amplified by the masterful performance by Peter Capaldi. Frobisher makes a hard decision because he doesn’t see another choice, and the sequence is heartbreaking.

All of this, the drama and conflict and emotions that tear all of us apart, make for great television and storytelling.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth (Series Three) Summary

 

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 #TW30: Children of Earth – Day Four

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Four
(1 episode, s03e04, 2009)

 

Torchwood suffers a terrible loss.

Confronted by Clem, Jack recalls his actions in 1965. The 456 offered a cure for a deadly flu pandemic that was about to break out, but they wanted twelve children in exchange with the promise that those children would live forever. Jack was specifically chosen because they needed someone who couldn’t die and didn’t care.

The children were taken to the specific coordinates, during which Clem escaped. His escape went unnoticed because the 456 left before disappeared first. Jack didn’t notice his escape, and it’s uncertain why the 456 didn’t notice either. It’s possible that Clem was on the verge of puberty and was thus undesirable to the aliens.

Clem, haunted by Jack’s face in his nightmares, steals Gwen’s gun and shoots Jack. After Jack resurrects, Gwen talks Clem down. Ianto is upset that Jack never mentioned this before.

Meanwhile, Agent Johnson takes Alice and Steven to her facility. Alice warns Johnson not to anger Jack.

The Torchwood team tunes back into the summit with the 456. While Frobisher questions what will happen to the children they demanded, the aliens state that a “remnant” is watching. Clem assumes that the 456 is speaking of him, while everyone else believes that it is the camera linking the summit to the party in the Prime Minister’s office.

The 456 demand that Frobisher sends a camera into the tank. When he does, a 456 is captured in profile and three heartbeats and distinct forms of life are detected. One of them is a child, one of the chosen from 1965, who has not aged a day since. The child’s eyes widen in shock. Presumably, it has not seen another human in the decades since its abduction.

The cameraman leaves as the 456 spew more green goo and transmit a recording of Frobisher’s voice announcing that this is off the record. The 456 says they do not harm the children, that they feel no pain, but if humanity refuses their demands, the entire species will be destroyed.

The Americans are furious. They demand all the records of the 1965 encounter and threaten Prime Minister Green with United Nations sanctions for withholding the information.

Ianto feels betrayed by Jack’s secrecy about 1965. Jack leaves to call Frobisher. Confirming that the 456 have returned, Jack warns that their return is proof that they cannot be trusted. After the call, Frobisher is summoned to the Prime Minister’s office for an emergency planning meeting. Lois continues to record the proceedings as the PM decides to negotiate with the 456 as they explore options for viable children that no one would miss.

Frobisher returns to the isolation room and offers the 456 one child per million people on the planet, approximately 6,700 in total. The 456 refuse and the children around the world start chanting various numbers, each country with a different value.

The hard line is ten percent of the children of Earth. No negotiation.

Agent Johnson discovers that her unit has been cut off by the government, so she decides to go to London to get more information. As she travels, the assembled officials try to decide how best to select the “units” for delivery and how to sell it to the pubic. The meeting becomes contentious as they bounce from random lottery to alphabetical selection to simply filtering out the “drains on society”.

They finally decide that those who are less likely to contribute to society are the viable targets, including those living on benefits and those destined for prisons, based on school league tables and academic performance.

The proposal is accepted and given to Frobisher for execution.

The Torchwood team decides to use the recording as leverage to blackmail the Cabinet. Jack and Ianto head to Thames House while Gwen secures Lois’s cooperation. As Jack and Ianto hit gridlock in the city, Ianto calls his sister to warn her, fully aware that the line is being traced. He extends the warning to the government officials monitoring the call before telling his family that he loves them. He also calls Gwen, therefore providing Johnson with the location of the new Hub.

Frobisher outlines his plan to the Cabinet, offering a vaccine against the chanting as a cover story. When the vaccine goes wrong, they can pretend that they didn’t know and that the 456 were behind it all. When Jack is in position, Lois addresses the Cabinet on behalf of Torchwood, informing them of the recording. Jack and Ianto surrender themselves at the entrance of Thames House.

When Johnson arrives at the Torchwood warehouse, Gwen shows her the recording and informs them of the gravity of the situation. Rhys has a copy of the recordings and is ready to send them to the public if anything goes wrong.

Jack and Ianto are taken before the 456. The 456 refuse to yield and Jack declares that they are making it a war. The 456 responds by releasing a virus into the facility, prompting an immediate lockdown. Ianto demands that an anti-virus be deployed or he will destroy the tank. The 456 refuse, and the tank is bulletproof. The 456 starts to shriek, a scream that goes beyond the recording as Clem screams in agony and starts to bleed. The 456 declare that the Remnant will be disconnected and Clement dies in Gwen’s arms.

Jack promises to get Ianto out, but it’s too late. Ianto has already been exposed. Ianto collapses and Jack catches him.

Dekker has donned an environmental suit. Jack is immortal. Everyone else in Thames House dies.

Including Ianto.

Jack says that it’s all his fault, but Ianto says no. Ianto says that he loves Jack and asks him to never forget him. As Ianto slips away, the 456 tells Jack that humanity will deliver the children. Jack succumbs to the virus as he kisses Ianto goodbye.

The Cabinet is left with two choices: Deliver 35 million children or face annihilation. Brian Green chooses to deliver the children.

Gwen arrives some time later in a room filled with body bags. She finds Ianto and Jack, knowing that Jack will come back but Ianto has paid the price for their efforts. As Gwen mourns, she declares that there is nothing they can do.

 

Working with Torchwood is not conducive to a long life. We learned this on Gwen’s first adventure, and it was reinforced with Suzie Costello, Owen Harper, and Toshiko Sato. But this one was a deep cut for Jack, the team, and the fans. Jack lost the man he loved and the team has already seen so much death, but the fans reacted by building a shrine in Cardiff Bay. The memorial was a persistent feature for several years and eventually became a permanent attraction in the area.

This episode and its terrible toll also proved that the 456 were a significant threat. In fact, one to be taken seriously. One that could not be defeated by sheer strength alone. The team was outmatched and outmaneuvered, and they’re left with little hope at the end of the chapter.

That makes this part a very powerful one.

A minor note comes by way of the mention that the 456 are only in the market for pre-pubescent children. That explains why the Bannerman Road Gang does not crossover into this series.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Five

 

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 #TW29: Children of Earth – Day Three

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Three
(1 episode, s03e03, 2009)

 

“We are here.”

Torchwood has gone to ground.

They’re hiding out in an old factory once used by Torchwood One. As the world reels in fear of its own children, Gwen uses her police knowledge to steal laptops, debit cards, and mobile phones while Jack swipes a car. The team secures supplies, including a new set of appropriate clothes for Jack. Ianto makes contact just long enough to tell his family that he’s okay, but Alice is still left wondering about her father.

Torchwood Three’s “Hub 2” is up and running.

The Prime Minister locks the country down to protect the children. Clem McDonald is doing the best he can under the circumstances but ends up in police custody after stealing a woman’s pocketbook. Meanwhile, Alice tries another route to find out about Jack and ends up flagged by the government.

Gwen makes contact with Lois Habiba and asks her to wear a pair of Torchwood contact lenses so they can see what’s going on. Lois is hesitant but Gwen asks her to take the lenses in case she reconsiders. Back at the Hub, Jack and Ianto dig into the kill order while they discuss Jack’s status as a fixed point in time and space. Ianto is shaken by Jack’s immortality but they promise to make the most of what time they have.

When they find out that Clem has been arrested, Ianto sends Gwen to the police station to bail him out. She calls PC Andy Davidson to secure Clem’s release. While Ianto digs into Clem’s history, Jack asks to see the history behind each of the blank page victims. What he finds sends him running.

Agent Johnson’s group makes the connection between Jack and Alice. Frobisher orders Johnson to bring her in while he (and a sneaky Lois) head to Thames House. Johnson’s team storms Alice’s house – the bastards kill the dog! – and pursues her. When they catch up to her, they find young Steven pointing into the distance.

The rest of the world’s children point skyward, tracking a pillar of fire descending into Thames House. The 456 have arrived. They fill the containment chamber as Frobisher meets with Mr. Dekker and makes contact. The aliens instruct the humans to call them 456, and Frobisher extracts a promise that they will not speak of the previous visit to Earth in 1965. The 456 wish to speak with the world but will settle for a diplomatic liaison.

Representatives from UNIT and the United States meet with Prime Minister Green and make their displeasure clear. Green hands control of the 456 situation to Frobisher, a non-elected official with no powers of state, to defuse the tension.

Jack sneaks into the Frobisher home and steals a mobile phone to make contact. Jack asks if the current events are linked to 1965, and Frobisher confirms that the kill order was designed to silence those who remained with knowledge of the event. Jack wants to talk to the 456 but Frobisher counters with the revelation that he has Alice and Steven.

Lois slips the contact lenses in before joining Frobisher and Bridget Spears at the containment chamber. The conference is also being transmitted to Prime Minister Green, UNIT, and the American representatives. In the end, Frobisher demands that the 456 cease using human children to communicate. In exchange, the 456 demand a gift: Ten percent of the children on Earth.

Gwen takes Clem to Hub 2 where he meets the team, learns a quick lesson on social acceptance, and has a bite to eat. The team watches the diplomatic conference with the 456, and as Jack returns to the new Hub, Clem says that he can smell the man who previously delivered the children to 456.

Jack is that man. Gwen protests that he is a good man who fights aliens, but Jack reveals that he did what was asked of him.

In 1965, he gave the 456 twelve children. He gave them the “gift.”

 

This episode provides a bridge and a moment to breathe as the team gets its feet back on the ground. Not a moment is wasted, however, as the 456 arrive and the story climaxes with their demand as Jack’s allegiance is brought to question.

In that sense, the team’s grounding is short-lived. They end the episode off balance just like they started, and that keeps the drama moving until next week.

 

 

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

 

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Four

 

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 #TW28: Children of Earth – Day Two

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Two
(1 episode, s03e02, 2009)

 

The band is on the run and the Hub has been destroyed.

All that’s left is a giant crater in Roald Dahl Plass. As Gwen stumbles to her feet, an emergency response team pulls her away from the flames and loads her into an ambulance. This team is not your standard emergency response but rather an assassination squad. Gwen bites and shoots her way free before hijacking the ambulance.

Meanwhile, Ianto pulls himself out of the rubble and runs from a sniper as the police arrive, complete with Andy Davidson and a defense of Gwen’s character. Agent Johnson calls Frobisher and reports that the job is one-third of the way done, then takes Davidson to raid Gwen’s home. Frobisher also receives some information about a mysterious device and the 456.

Gwen stops the ambulance and interrogates one of the surviving assassins, learning that the government as ordered the destruction of Torchwood. Gwen rushes home, wakes up Rhys, and unceremoniously tries to usher him to safety. Ianto makes contact while Rhys gets dressed, and Gwen rushes away, shooting out Johnson’s tires before escaping.

Government forces also storm the Davies household in a search for Ianto, but he’s one the streets elsewhere. Gwen and Rhys end up dumping their car since the license plates are trackable.

As morning dawns, Frobisher tries to patch up relations with his family before heading to work. At Home Office, Lois Habiba does some more digging while Frobisher briefs the Prime Minister about Jack and the 456 device. The 456 have only directly contacted Britain. Lois tries to ask Frobisher if Jack can help, but she’s chided for her efforts.

Jack’s daughter tries contacting him without success. We also discover that Timothy White has survived and is on the run.

At what’s left of the Hub, recovery teams find an arm, a shoulder, and a head. They take to a warehouse in London while Ianto watches from a nearby rooftop. In the warehouse, the remaining pieces of Jack’s body start a gruesome and extreme resurrection sequence. He goes from a skeleton to a blind, screaming burn victim. Johnson reports this to Frobisher as gets ready to check on Mr. Dekker’s progress with the 456 device.

Gwen and Rhys find that their accounts have been frozen, so they take their fight to London by stowing away on a food delivery lorry. During the trip, Gwen finds the right way to tell Rhys about their pregnancy, leading to mixed emotions of joy and anxiety given their current situation.

Meanwhile, Ianto’s family receives a card in their newspaper, which is a covert request for Rhiannon to bring him supplies. Johnny runs a distraction while Rhiannon sneaks away, and when she makes contact, she’s happy to see him but upset about his condition. During this meeting, the children stop again.

In unison: “We are coming tomorrow.”

Timothy White is particularly upset about this revelation.

Ianto takes the laptop and Rhiannon’s car in his pursuit of the ambulance that took Jack. At Home Office, Gwen Cooper tries to make contact with Frobisher but ends up finding an ally in Lois. The women covertly set up a meeting, though Gwen was clearly expecting Frobisher instead of the new hire. Luckily, Lois is a much friendlier face, and she bears news of the kill order. Lois doesn’t like covering up murders.

Jack has finished his resurrection. He demands to see the man in charge but instead meets Agent Johnson before being sealed in concrete while Ianto watches from afar. Meanwhile, Gwen and Rhys use the information provided by Lois to sneak into a secure compound as funeral directors to retrieve Rupesh Patanjali’s body. This takes them into the lion’s den, and Rhys almost blows their cover when their contact, Corporal “Kodak” Camara, flirts with Gwen. Luckily, Camara’s a bit thick. He also hits the deck nicely when Gwen sucker punches him.

Unfortunately, as Gwen disables the cameras, the alarms are sounded and the couple is surrounded by Johnson’s forces just as they discover the concrete cell. They find an escape route when Ianto uses heavy machinery to rip the makeshift sarcophagus from the building. Gwen provides an explosive exit and Johnson reports her failure to Frobisher. The man is not pleased.

Ianto stops the machine at the edge of a large quarry and drops the sarcophagus over the edge. The concrete shatters and frees Jack’s body. He comes back to life once again and is reunited with his Torchwood family.

Frobisher, Spears, and the Prime Minister observe the device’s construction. It ends up being a tank of some sort. Later that night, the tank is flooded with a gas mixture that is poisonous to humans. Bridget wants to investigate the 456, but Frobisher tells her that they don’t have time. The 456 will be arriving tomorrow.

Frobisher and Spears leave as Dekker embraces the tank with an unnatural sense of welcoming anticipation.

 

It’s under extreme pressure where Torchwood works best, and this is no exception. Watching the team play to their strengths without the guidance of Jack Harkness behind them says a lot about how well they have adapted to their roles over the last two years. The endgame, of course, was the rescue of their team’s leader in a tense action sequence that left me cheering multiple times.

I do feel bad for Jack’s daughter, Alice, who is left wondering throughout the entire episode.

This episode brings some further Torchwood mythology to bear, including snippets of how Queen Victoria created other institutions (of which the current government is unaware) and the official stance that Torchwood Two has been disbanded (but that the current government is unsure).

Finally, we get another tease of Gwen Cooper’s linage with the funeral director sequence. Gwyneth, her ancestor from The Unquiet Dead, was the servant to an undertaker.

The team dynamic and resourcefulness make this an amazing chase episode as the mysterious threat bears down on the planet Earth. They arrive next week.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Three

 

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 #TW27: Children of Earth – Day One

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day One
(1 episode, s03e01, 2009)

 

The Home Office gets explosive results.

Scotland, 1965: A bus full of children stops at an undisclosed location. When they stop, the children disembark and are walked toward a bright light. All of them but one walk into the light. The lone child flees as the light flares.

Cardiff, 2009: Gwen is withdrawing money from an ATM when she notices that the children around her have frozen in place, totally catatonic. The same is happening all around the area. As suddenly as it began, the phenomenon ends and the children start moving again as if nothing happened.

Gwen heads to Torchwood and begins to investigate the oddity. We’re reminded that Jack, Ianto, and Gwen are all that remains of Torchwood Three.

In a nearby hospital, a patient dies on the table. The doctor, Rupesh Patanjali, informs Ianto and Jack, believing that they are the patient’s neighbors. Jack and Ianto ask for a moment with the body, which they then open with a laser saw and withdraw an alien organ. They’re discovered by the doctor and leave with the organ, but before they leave Patanjali informs them of several more missing bodies. Jack and Ianto refuse to help due to all of the red tape involved in the investigation.

We are next introduced to a new set of players. Lois Habiba is starting a job working for Bridget Spears, who is the assistant to the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, John Frobisher. Secretary Frobisher (who looks very familiar) is visited by UNIT Colonel Oduya who informs him that the phenomenon with the children happened all around the world.

Torchwood discovers this at the same time. They’re naturally concerned, and so is UNIT, the latter going to yellow alert while they investigate if the incident was extraterrestrial or not. Obviously, everyone wants to keep it quiet.

Jack is perturbed that Martha Jones chose now to go on her honeymoon – to whom, we do not yet know – but luckily Dr. Patanjali arrives at Roald Dahl Plass just as Torchwood needs a doctor. Jack and Ianto lured him in just like they did with Gwen. Naturally, Gwen goes above to serve as a recruitment officer and review the files that Patanjali brought. While they talk, the children all stop again.

But this time, they scream. Then they chant, in unison, “We are coming.”

It happened worldwide. It also happened with one adult, Timothy White, a patient in a mental institution in East Grinstead.

Patanjali is paged back to the hospital as the Home Office is flooded with calls. Frobisher gets a visit from Mr. Dekker, the head of MI5’s technology division and alien monitoring, who tells him that “the 456” have re-established contact for the first time since 1965. At the same time, Lois takes a call from Torchwood, which the system flags as classified. Using her supervisor’s credentials, she learns more than she bargained for.

Frobisher meets with Prime Minister Brian Green, a man who is a bit overwhelmed with the various alien threats looming over them. Frobisher suggests keeping certain historical events off the record, and Green wants to keep his name out of it. Frobisher gets the privilege of a “blank page”.

Gwen discovers that every child worldwide was speaking English, and Jack and Ianto agree that they need to interview one of them. Gwen drives to meet Timothy while Jack visits his daughter, Alice Carter, and her son Steven, his grandson.

Wait… what?

They catch up for a few minutes and muse about Jack’s immortality, but in the end, Alice refuses to let Jack use Steven for Torchwood experimentation. So, Jack turns to Patanjali instead.

Ianto visits his sister, Rhiannon Davies, but she also refuses to let him take one of the kids out. She’s also nervous about Ianto’s relationship with Jack. Her husband Johnny is quite a bit more homophobic about it. Ianto is humiliated but tries to save face. The moment is interrupted by someone stealing the Torchwood SUV. Ianto is exasperated.

Gwen’s interview with Timothy reveals that he was the child who ran away in 1965. His real name is Clement McDonald, and he’s developed an unusually heightened sense of smell. He’s been smelling the aliens coming back for months, and he also can tell that Gwen is three weeks pregnant.

Surprise! Although, it works out well with Rhys shopping for a house.

Gwen calls Ianto, who has made it back to the Hub, and asks him to search for information about MacDonald, missing children, and Scotland. Unbeknownst to him, Ianto triggers an alarm at an unidentified military monitoring station.

At Home Office, Frobisher orders the blank page, which is code for a kill order. There are four targets on the list: Captain Jack Harkness, retired Colonel Michael Sanders, Ellen Hunt, and Captain Andrew Staines. Lois sees Bridget is distressed, and when she looks at Bridget’s e-mail, she recognizes Jack’s name from the earlier call.

Jack arrives at the hospital and receives word that another man has died. When Jack examines the body, Patanjali shoots him. As Jack dies, a military force arrives as a woman named Johnson waits until Jack revives. Johnson also discovers the link between Clement and Timothy. She sends officers to retrieve him, so he runs.

Patanjali reveals that he was a spy for this group, attempting to infiltrate Torchwood. Jack revives and Johnson kills him again, issuing orders for her men to implant a bomb in his body. Johnson covers her operation by killing Patanjali, stopping him from revealing the truth to Jack.

Jack, meanwhile, revives after the soldiers depart. He returns to the Hub.

At the Hub, Gwen verifies Clement’s claim with a scanner. Jack congratulates her and inadvertently uses the scanner, thus discovering the bomb. He orders Gwen and Ianto to evacuate. He kisses Ianto, watches him rise on the elevator, and promises that he’ll come back. He always does.

The bomb has a blast radius of one mile. The Hub is completely destroyed in a massive explosion that knocks Gwen to the ground.

Meanwhile, the children chant: “We are coming, we are coming, we are coming… back.”

 

Day One is tense and engaging, leading us into the first season-long arc in the Doctor Who universe since The Trial of a Time Lord. The show picks up the pieces left behind from the previous season and lays down several threads to pursue in the process. We meet Jack’s family and Ianto’s family – two families that we had not previously met – and learn that Gwen and Rhys are expecting a baby.

Torchwood has apparently lost its secrecy, including the general location of Torchwood Three’s headquarters. It’s no wonder since the world has been time and again been exposed to aliens, but perhaps the destruction of the Hub will reset that norm. At this point, half the world knows of or believes in alien life, and the other half is in denial.

Unfortunately, this brings into question the fate of the various beings and relics housed in the Hub, including the Weevils, Gray, and Myfanwy.

We get a nod to Martha Jones, which is a bit meta since she was expected to appear in this set of stories until Law & Order: UK picked up Freema Agyeman. We also meet the fourth Prime Minister in the revival era – Brian Green picks up where Harold Saxon, Harriet Jones, and the unknown politician in Aliens of London left off – which is something that the classic era didn’t play with much.

Finally, after reading Children of Time from kOZMIC Press, I can’t help but think of a penguin when I hear the name Frobisher.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Two

 

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 #206: Planet of the Dead

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead
(Easter Special, 2009)

 

When stingrays attack!

At the International Gallery, a group of armed guards is hard at work protecting a golden goblet. They fire up a fancy security system as they lock up for the night, but the lasers around the perimeter don’t account for an assault from above. A masked figure Mission: Impossibles her way down, exchanges the artifact for a waving Maneki Neko, and runs out. Her accomplice is captured, so she boards a double-decker bus and bribes the driver to help her get away. The Doctor boards right after, sits beside her, and wishes her a happy Easter.

The Doctor muses about various Easters throughout time, including the original event, before a device that detects rhondium particles chirps in his pocket. As the bus traverses a tunnel and a passenger hears screaming voices, the bus leaves Earth and arrives in a vast desert.

The driver declares the bus immobile. True enough, because it’s a wreck. The thief, Christina de Souza, gets to know the Doctor as he analyzes the sand and doesn’t like what he tastes. The passengers blame him for their predicament, but he shows them the wormhole that they passed through. Unfortunately, the wormhole doesn’t allow them to pass through without the bus surrounding them. The driver tries to rush through, but he’s immediately reduced to a skeleton on the other side. The police on Earth immediately call for UNIT to assist.

Christina takes charge of the situation and facilitates introductions all around – Nathan, a young adult with slicked up hair; Barclay, about the same age and the one who confronted the Doctor about their situation; Angela Whittaker, an older blond woman; Louis, who goes by the nickname “Lou”; and his wife, Carmen – before handing the science bits to the Doctor. Carmen has low-level psychic abilities and can hear voices all around them. She also feels death coming.

The Doctor calms the passengers in order to focus them on surviving. He promises to get them all home. They set to work on preparing the bus, including the tools in Christina’s amazing backpack. She’s prepared for everything. While the passengers work on the bus, the Doctor and Christina scout the area. They verbally spar and spot a storm on the horizon. The Doctor borrows a mobile and rigs it to contact UNIT.

UNIT arrives and officer-in-charge Captain Erisa Magambo takes command of the tunnel. She takes the call from the Doctor and makes contact with UNIT’s scientific advisor, one Malcolm Taylor, who completely fanboys out before setting to analyzing the disturbance. The Doctor sends a picture of the storm back to Earth, which Christina says contains sparkling like metal. She also spots an insectile creature that takes them to its crashed ship by gunpoint.

The beings onboard identify themselves as the Tritovores and blame them for crashing their ship. When the Doctor explains that they’re in the same predicament, the Tritovores decide to trust him. In return, the Doctor restores their shipboard power and launches a probe. The sand planet is San Helios, located in the Scorpion Nebula, and the aliens had been on their way to trade with the inhabitants. Unfortunately, the city has been destroyed. All of it, including the 100 billion inhabitants, have been reduced to sand, and Carmen keeps hearing them die over and again.

Malcolm Taylor calls again with news that the wormhole is expanding. The Doctor also gets bad news from Nathan: The bus is out of fuel. Capping the unfortunate circumstances, the probe relays images of the storm. It is full of stingray-like creatures that stripped San Helios and have set their appetites on Earth.

The Doctor deduces that the stingrays, which are made of metal, travel fast enough to rip open the wormhole and travel from place to place. Christina, who is enamored by the Doctor and his alien nature, points the Time Lord to the Tritovores and their ship. The Doctor develops a plan to use the ship to move the bus. While the Doctor tries patching wires throughout the ship, Christina uses her rogue’s rig to dive into the shaft after a much-needed crystal.

While Christina retrieves the crystal, the Doctor muses about her nature (and similarities to Donna Noble) and the stolen goblet (the Cup of Athelstan) in her pack. The Doctor doesn’t approve of her thievery at first but admits that he stole his ship, the TARDIS, to begin his travels. As Christina retrieves the crystal, she awakens a stingray living in the ship’s ventilation system. She successfully evades it, but the rest start tearing apart the ship.

The Doctor and Christina run back to the bus with the storm in pursuit. When they get back, the Doctor orders everybody back to their seats as he discards the crystal and attaches the clamps surrounding it to the bus. He calls Malcolm, requesting a means to close the wormhole, but is stymied by the interface of the bus and crystal systems. They use the goblet, worth 18 million pounds, to bridge the technology. Destructively, to Christina’s chagrin.

On Earth, Captain Magambo orders Malcolm to close the wormhole to save Earth. In the desert, the Doctor gets the bus airborne with the anti-gravity clamps and rockets away from the stingrays. The bus returns home followed by three of the stingrays. Magambo orders her troops to open fire as Malcolm (with the Dcotor’s help) closes the portal.

The UNIT troops and their explosive solutions make short work of the three stingrays. Meanwhile, the Doctor sets the bus down at the tunnel’s exit and gets a kiss from Christina for his efforts. Malcolm meets the Doctor and fanboys all over the place while Christina is taken away. The Doctor recommends Nathan and Barclay for UNIT service and Magambo shows his the TARDIS, retrieved from the gardens at Buckingham Palace.

Christina asks the Doctor if she can travel with him, but he rejects her. She has to face the consequences of her actions and he’s not ready to lose another companion. Never again, in fact. While Christina is taken away, Carmen leaves him with some parting words: His song is ending, it is returning through the dark, and he will knock four times.

Carmen takes her leave and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to free Christina. While she runs for the bus and flies away, the Doctor departs in the TARDIS.

 

This tale does wonders for the Doctor’s character development while providing an entertaining and riveting story. The revelation that he stole the TARDIS appears in the revival era for the first time – it had been previously mentioned in The War GamesFrontier in Space, and Logopolis – and does him well on the road to accepting Lady Christina. Of course, he still isn’t over Donna’s tragic departure, so there’s no way that she’s joining him on the TARDIS. Just like Mr. Copper in Voyage of the Damned, the Doctor rejected her.

Christina is a character that I wouldn’t mind returning to the show, particularly given her chemistry with the Doctor. A criminal and a member of the British aristocracy, she would be a fun addition to the show.

The revival era continues linking back to its heritage, this time with the K1 Robot, Quatermass, and UNIT’s general lack of luck with bullets against aliens.

This episode was a major milestone in the franchise, marking not only the 200th storyline but the first to be filmed for high definition. It was also the first to film in a Middle Eastern country.

Finally, the path is laid at the Doctor’s feet for his own demise. The end is coming.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

Keeping in mind that the Timestamps Project is following the franchise chronologically at this point…

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day One

 

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: Sarah Jane Adventures Series Two Summary

Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Two Summary

 

Another solid run for the Bannerman Road Gang.

The series had its ups and downs, though. We met Rani, a new member of the family, after an emotional send-off for Maria. I was very pleased that Maria wasn’t killed off – it is a children’s show, after all – and that she got to return as a meaningful guest for a couple of adventures.

The negative was how repetitive the first four stories of the series were. All of them focused on mind control as a plot point, and it dragged down the performance of Secrets of the Stars and The Mark of the Berserker.

The series did spring back with the magnificent The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith and the loose-end tying Enemy of the Bane. I really liked the character development for Sarah Jane Smith, the fresh take on the predestination paradox, and the clean slate leading into the next series of this show.

Series Two comes in at an average of 4.1. That’s lower than the first series, and in comparison to Doctor Who, that’s on par with classic seasons Five and Eighteen and Series Two in the revival era, just inside the top ten. It still beats both the first and second series of Torchwood.

 

The Last Sontaran – 4
The Day of the Clown – 5
Secrets of the Stars – 3
The Mark of the Berserker – 4
The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith – 5
Enemy of the Bane – 4
From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love – 4

Sarah Jane Adventures Series Two Average Rating: 4.1/5

 

Since we’re still proceeding in airdate order through the material from 2009, the Timestamps Project lands next on Planet of the Dead before diving into Torchwood: Children of Earth. After that, we’ll swing back to the third series of Sarah Jane and the end of the Tennant era to wrap up the calendar year.

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead

 

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 #SJA13: From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love

Sarah Jane Adventures: From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love
(Comic Relief Special, 2009)

 

K9 looks adorable in a red nose.

This short story for Comic Relief’s annual fundraiser marks the first time that a Doctor Who spinoff has been featured for the charity event, and it’s also the first one to be considered part of the mainstream televised continuity.

It focuses on Sarah, Luke, Rani, and Clyde as they run a routine check on Mr. Smith. As they’re wrapping things up, an unknown force locks onto the attic. A man in a bowler materializes, declaring himself Ambassador Rahnius – Rahni, for short – of the Galactic Alliance.

In gratitude of their stellar efforts, he gives them each a set of sparkly red deeley boppers. (As an aside, I learned what those novelty headbands were actually called by watching this short story.) The visitor sits down to tell them a story, but he ends giving himself away with gas problems corresponding to a Slitheen. Our favorite robotic pooch K9 arrives and tries to stop the threat, but the Rahnius immobilizes the good boy before revealing himself and his mission: He’s there to steal Mr. Smith to corner the galactic financial markets.

He activates the deeley boppers, which are gadgets that prevent the humans from running, but Luke and Sarah Jane use the sonic lipstick to reverse the effect. Pinned in place, the Slitheen makes a ready target for Mr. Smith to teleport away.

With the threat ended, Sarah Jane declares this the bizarre five minutes of her life.

K9 agrees, red nose on his face and all.

So do I. There’s not much more to say about this fun little jaunt.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Two Summary

 

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.