Timestamp #TW25: Fragments

Torchwood: Fragments
(1 episode, s02e12, 2008)

 

Torchwood Three: This Is Your Life!

The Torchwood Three team is investigating a derelict building. Ianto pages Gwen to join them as soon as possible, then teams with Owen while Jack and Tosh take a different direction. As they explore, they each find an explosive device that ticks to zero.

Snap.

Boom.

Gwen wakes up to Ianto’s message and rushes to the scene while we tuck into a series of flashback stories.

 

Captain Jack Harkness – 1,392 deaths earlier

Jack resurrects with a wine bottle in his gut. It’s 1899, thirty years since he accidentally landed in the era while searching for the Doctor. He finds himself face-to-face with two women in Victorian garb – agents Alice Guppy and Emily Holroyd – who kidnap and interrogate him. They try different methods of killing him, intrigued by his 14 deaths in the last six months, and ask him about the Doctor.

Eventually, they identify themselves as the Torchwood Institute – at this point, they’re still dedicated to fighting the Doctor – and decide to take him on as an agent. His first mission is apprehending a Blowfish, but he’s angry when Torchwood agents kill the alien in cold blood. He also finds out that his employment is mandatory.

When he turns down his next assignment, he encounters a tarot card reader who prophesizes the Doctor’s return in a century. With nothing better to do, he returns to Torchwood and passes the years with his work.

Decades later, on New Year’s Eve 1999, he’s working for Alex Hopkins. Unfortunately, Hopkins is fearful of the new millennium and kills the entire team in the Hub. He leaves Jack the entire operation as he puts a bullet in his brain.

 

In the modern time, Jack wakes up to find Rhys and Gwen standing over him. He directs them to find Tosh, who is trapped under a fallen support beam.

 

Toshiko Sato – 5 years earlier

Tosh, working for the Ministry of Defence, steals information for a vicious gang that is holding her mother for ransom. Using the blueprints, she assembles the sonic modulator device and arrives at the exchange site, but she’s caught during a UNIT raid.

Locked away in a top-secret black site for an undisclosed period of time, she’s eventually visited by Jack. Her mother has been Retconned and taken to safety. Tosh, who successfully built the device from faulty plans, is offered a pardon in exchange for her service to Torchwood.

 

Back in the modern time, Rhys and Gwen attempt to free Tosh, but they’re not able to do so alone. Gwen rushes off as Jack comes across Ianto, who is trapped under a pile of rubble.

 

Ianto Jones – 21 months earlier

Jack is wrestling with a Weevil when Ianto comes to his aid. Ianto is looking for a job after his former workplace, Torchwood One, was destroyed. Ianto’s persistence (and constant praise of Jack’s coat) eventually pay off after he helps capture Myfanwy the pterodactyl. Jack claims that it wasn’t his first experience wrangling dinosaurs since he was present when they perished after an impact from space.

 

In the ruined building, Jack and Gwen pull Ianto free and put his shoulder back in place. Jack takes Ianto to help with Tosh while Gwen looks for Owen.

 

Owen Harper – 4 years earlier

Owen and his fiancée Katie are planning their wedding when she starts having memory problems. They consult with a brain surgeon who suggests early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. When Owen presses the issue, they discover that Katie has a tumor in her brain. In reality, the tumor is an alien and when it is threatened, it releases toxic gas and kills everyone in the operating room.

Jack arrives moments too late and expresses his condolences as he explains the situation to Owen. Owen protests and Jack knocks him out. When Owen wakes up, he discovers a massive cover-up and is given time to sort his affairs.

He meets Jack again at Katie’s grave, and after a fight, Owen agrees to join Torchwood as the team’s medical officer.

 

In the present, Gwen finds Owen precariously perched beneath a guillotine-like window. After a tense moment, Gwen pulls him free.

The team assembles outside to find that the SUV has been taken. They receive a holographic message from Captain John Hart. Hart claims credit for the bombs and reveals that he has taken Jack’s brother Gray hostage.

 

The synopsis may be brief, but there is a lot to unpack in this story as it puts our heroes on a collision course with the finale. Specifically, we get the backstories for most of the Torchwood team. Suzie Costello is the only original member not to be put under the microscope at this point, but we still know quite a bit about her from previous appearances. Being the rogue agent/black sheep of the family, it makes sense that she’s not explored any further.

Of course, we don’t need a backstory for Gwen. Everything since the pilot episode has been her story with Torchwood Three.

This marks a couple of firsts for Torchwood: First, the Doctor is explicitly name-checked here instead of just being nodded to. Second, this is the first appearance of UNIT in the series, and they are far more malevolent than we’ve seen them in the past. Jack’s probably right that this is due to the political climate of the era since Tosh’s flashbacks take place circa 2003, right in the fervent upswing of the Global War on Terrorism.

That’s science fiction doing what science fiction does best: Acting as a lens on the human condition.

We also get quite a few brushes with Doctor Who mythology, from Earthshock to the television movie and all of the elements of Torchwood established in the revival era.

A cynic from the Joss Whedon School of Screenwriting might think that all of these revelations mean bad omens for our team. Sadly, they would be right, which we’ll find out next week when the John Hart/Gray arc finds its resolution.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Exit Wounds

 

 

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 #TW24: Adrift

Torchwood: Adrift
(1 episode, s02e11, 2008)

 

The Rift taketh and the Rift giveth away.

A young man is walking home from football practice along the Cardiff Bay Barrage when he vanishes in bright light and a gust of wind. Seven months later, Gwen and PC Andy Davidson are investigating the case. They catch up about the wedding and their relationship, and Davidson tells Gwen that this case is personal for him.

He shows her CCTV footage, hinting at the type of thing that Torchwood pays attention to. Gwen is intrigued when Jack appears on the footage as well. She checks with Tosh, discovers that the Rift was quiet, and gets nothing from Jack about the incident.

Andy is unimpressed with the effort.

Gwen visits Jonah Bevan’s mother who has been scanning crowd videos for her son’s face. Nikki Bevan refuses to give up hope and she asks Gwen to come to her support group meeting. Gwen returns home and apologizes for being late in more ways than one. The next morning, she gets a lead from Tosh about a negative Rift spike during the event, which she normally considers to be aftershocks.

She wonders, though, if the Rift could take material from our world instead of only depositing it.

Gwen and Andy go to Nikki’s support group meeting and are surprised at the number of people who attend. To say that there is a lot is an understatement. Gwen is overwhelmed but inspired by the scope and asks Tosh to help process the dates of disappearance against Rift activity.

Gwen makes considerable progress, correlating walls of missing person posters with Rift spikes. Unfortunately, Jack doesn’t know how to practically stop the disappearances when they cannot predict the Rift spikes. He shuts down her research project, but Gwen isn’t ready to give up.

Unfortunately, it starts to tear at her relationship with Rhys. She returns to the Hub, interrupting an encounter between Jack and Ianto to plead her case. Jack tells her no, but Ianto leaves her a GPS unit on her desk that she takes to Andy. The coordinates lead to a facility on Flat Holm, and Gwen leaves Andy on the pier as she contracts a boat to the island.

The facility houses seventeen victims of the Rift who have been taken and returned, but in the process have been aged and (in some cases) deformed. Gwen finds that Jack knew about all of it. She also finds Jonah, who was trapped on a burning planet for forty relative years. He was rescued and witnessed the burning of a solar system.

Jack tells Gwen that he set up this facility to house the victims and that before he took over Torchwood Three, the victims were locked away in the vaults and neglected. They cannot be fixed, only cared for. Gwen promises to bring Nikki to the facility, an action with which Jack vehemently disagrees. He eventually relents.

In order to reunite Nikki with Jonah, Gwen has to tell her about Torchwood and the Rift. Nikki meets her son and doesn’t recognize him at first, but they soon share memories that only Jonah would know. Nikki calms herself and finally sees beyond the scars to her son, but the reunion is shortlived. Jonah has a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that forces him to scream for twenty hours a day after he looked into a dark star and was driven insane.

The screams are so intense, so primal, that they drive everyone away. Nikki is devastated.

One week later, Nikki makes Gwen promise that she will never do this to anyone else. She says that it would have been better to remember her son as he once was, not as he survives now. Her hope has been extinguished.

Gwen tears down her research as Nikki disposes of her life of sorrowful searching. Gwen returns home and tries to make amends with Rhys, but ends up breaking down in his arms. They mend their bridges by discussing her experience.

 

The exploration of the darker side to Torchwood is fascinating, particularly since Jack serves two purposes here: First, he keeps this secret from nearly everyone in his employ, and, second, he takes on the role of the custodian of these lost souls when no one else will. Just when I think I have Jack figured out…

It’s especially heartbreaking given the ignorance of the victims’ families. They think that they want answers about their missing loved ones, but the truth of what the uncontrollable Rift does with them is beyond what they can bear.

The lingering question concerns the staff at the facility. Do they about Torchwood, or are they privy to just enough information to do their jobs?

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Fragments

 

 

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 #TW23: From Out of the Rain

Torchwood: From Out of the Rain
(1 episode, s02e10, 2008)

 

Have you heard the music?

At a local carnival, local residents attend a show, but the whole affair vanishes and leaves a single woman standing in the field alone. Flashing forward to the future, a man who is reviewing vintage film is haunted by the carnival worker on his screen. Meanwhile, Jack is being haunted by a carnival organ in his head.

Gwen, Owen, and Ianto take some time away to visit the Electro, a historic cinema in rainy Cardiff. The man who was reviewing vintage film rushes to the cinema to deliver his hard work. When that film is played, the mysterious man appears and the projector is locked on. Ianto also spots Jack in the footage.

The team leaves the theater just as Jack arrives in the SUV and Tosh experiences a glitch in the Hub computers. Ianto and Jack discuss the events, and Jack laments the death of the traveling show with the advent of the cinema. They interrogate the projectionist and confiscate the film before following a lead from Tosh to investigate a Rift spike.

Outside in the pouring rain, the mysterious showman and his accomplice approach a stranded woman and steal some kind of energy from her. Jack, Owen, Gwen, and Ianto arrive to find the woman partially desiccated and take her to the hospital.

The carnival duo attacks another target at a local diner. The woman is taken to the same hospital. The Torchwood team starts putting pieces together, noting that the bodies are alive but their life forces are taken elsewhere. They return to the Hub and review the film, during which Jack identifies the Night Travellers: A group that only performed at night and appeared by coming out of the rain. Their appearance was linked to strange happenings in the communities that they visited.

Ianto also notes that the mermaid woman (later called Pearl) and a man in a top hat (later called the Ghostmaker) are missing from the film. Playing the film has set them free in the world.

The team investigates multiple stories and superstitions to unravel the mystery. Meanwhile, the Ghostmaker and Pearl continue their attacks, gathering six “last breaths” into a silver flask. The Ghostmaker decides that he needs to release the rest of the troupe from the film.

Torchwood Three responds to the hospital to find the new victims. Jack’s mention of “they came from out of the rain” sparks a memory with the attending nurse of a woman in a nursing home. They visit the woman, Christina, and learn that she was the woman from the opening sequence. Her family was taken by the Night Travellers to be in their eternal audience.

The Ghostmaker and Pearl return to the projectionist’s flat and take his film, but not before the Torchwood team is notified. Jack and Ianto arrive but the carnival duo has already vanished, headed for the Electro. Jack determines that if the duo can be filmed again, they’ll be trapped once more.

The team converges on the Electro and finds the theater owners, the projectionist’s parents, in a frozen stupor. The carnival film begins to play on the screen, releasing the Night Travellers as Owen heads to the projection booth and Jack films their emergence. The Ghostmaker finds Owen to be useless since he is without breath, but that provides just enough distraction for Ianto to steal the flask. A chase ensues, during which Jack exposes the film and eliminates the carnival ghosts. Unfortunately, the Ghostmaker spills the contents of the flask. When all is said and done, only one breath remains.

All the other victims have died.

Jack uses the remaining breath to save the final victim, a little boy, before stowing the flask at the Hub. Ianto destroys the remaining film, but it proves impossible to destroy all of it since the Night Travellers were filmed in so many places over time.

A family buys some old film reels. Once opened, Jack hears the music once again.

The threat still lives on.

 

It’s an intriguing idea given cultural superstitions that film can steal or trap souls and the Ghostmaker sneaking around Cardiff and attacking random people is somewhat unnerving, but the big problem in this story is the lack of real menace. The Ghostmaker and Pearl move through the plot like clockwork only to stalk with gloom around a deserted swimming pool for a large chunk of the episode. The arrival of the remaining Night Travellers happens late in the game, and they are dispatched with ease.

It just doesn’t fit with the general tension and darkness of Torchwood.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Adrift

 

 

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 #TW22: Something Borrowed

Torchwood: Something Borrowed
(1 episode, s02e09, 2008)

 

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something… goo?

Gwen is running late for her bachelorette (hen) party. She was in pursuit of a carnivorous shape-shifter when she was bitten on the arm. Jack shot the creature and Owen tended to her wounds before she went to celebrate.

When she wakes up the next morning, she’s suddenly pregnant. Almost full-term.

Surprise!

Jack and Owen assume that the shape-shifter passed its eggs along in the bite. They have a solution but it requires her to be down for several days. Unfortunately, today is her wedding day. She calls Rhys and tries to explain, putting Rhys into a tailspin.

As Rhys and Gwen try to come to a compromise, the team scrambles to keep the wedding on track while Owen performs a shape-shifter autopsy. Gwen tells Rhys that the wedding is all that matters today, but the question remains as to what to tell the families. They play like it was a planned surprise, but Gwen knows that, with their parents now planning for a grandchild, the news that she lost the child would be devastating.

Tosh arrives with Gwen’s new dress and gets hit on by the best man, but she handles herself like a pro. The women briefly discuss Tosh and Owen’s relationship before Tosh heads back downstairs. Meanwhile, Owen discovers a small problem: The shape-shifter is a Nostrovite, a species that mates for life and hunts in pairs. After fertilization, the female passes the eggs to the male for safekeeping and eventual impregnation. The dead alien’s mate is now hunting Gwen and is working her way through the wedding party.

The Nostrovite has also captured Tosh and best man “Banana Boat” in a black web. The rest of Torchwood Three dispatch to the wedding to tackle the problem.

Gwen continues to get ready for the wedding. To explain the pregnancy, she tells her father about Torchwood, but he doesn’t believe her. Gwen and Rhys get to the altar but Jack bursts in to stop the ceremony.

Owen and Ianto free Tosh and Banana, as well as finding the corpse the Nostrovite mangled earlier. One of the bridesmaids enters the room and, at the site of the corpse, runs away screaming. The bridesmaid tells everyone about the corpse so Jack orders Ianto to jam all of the phone lines.

Jack tells the assembled guests that he’s from Torchwood, surprising Gwen’s father and spooking the alien. Jack and Tosh give chase but lose her. The alien assumes Rhys’s mother’s form and takes Gwen’s mother hostage. Gwen distracts the alien long enough to ambush her, and after the Nostrovite flees, Gwen is rushed back to her room.

Owen, handicapped by his injured hand, briefs Rhys on how to use the singularity scalpel. Meanwhile, Gwen is ambushed by the Nostrovite in Jack’s form. Owen and Gwen empty their magazines into the creature, but it is seemingly unstoppable. Gwen and Rhys run for the stables while Owen faces the shape-shifter. He’s not very palatable in his undead state.

Rhys uses the singularity scalpel to extract the alien fetus. The Nostrovite bursts in and Rhys has a heroic moment, but he falls short as his chainsaw runs out of fuel. After a not-so-subtle curse word, Rhys gets covered in goo as Jack uses a BFG to end the threat.

Gwen and Rhys finally get married, alien goo and all. Owen and Tosh share the dance that she wanted as Jack wishes Gwen all the best on her honeymoon. As the guests fall asleep around them thanks to the wedding gift of Retcon, Jack offers the same to the newlyweds. Gwen states that there will be no secrets in their marriage.

The happy couple departs as Torchwood Three begins to clean up the mess. Later on, Jack returns to the Hub alone with a handful of confetti. He opens a box of photographs and reminisces over one in particular.

Jack was married once. The photo is from his wedding.

 

An enjoyable romp from start to finish, it only gets better by playing on character elements that have been building over this season, from Owen and Tosh’s relationship to Rhys and his distrust of Jack. Jack’s maudlin moment as he reflects on his interminable life is the icing on this (wedding) cake.

I also really love how Gwen acknowledges how the lies and omissions hurt her relationships, from the news of the spontaneous pregnancy to how she and Rhys plan to approach the next chapter in their lives together.

Stories that try to extract humor from unplanned pregnancies can often go wrong. This one struck me as well-crafted and engaging.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: From Out of the Rain

 

 

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 #TW21: A Day in the Death

Torchwood: A Day in the Death
(1 episode, s02e08, 2008)

 

“If there is even a tiny glimmer of light, then don’t you think that’s worth taking a chance?”

Owen Harper, still a walking dead man, meets a woman on the edge of a building. Maggie Hopley wants to jump to her death, and Owen relates the story of the last three days to her. He tells her about being dead.

Following the events of Reset and Dead Man Walking, Jack relieves Owen of his duties and places him in the care of Martha Jones for study. Owen is reluctant, but he eventually relents despite the frustration under the surface. A quick pep talk from Ianto buoys him up enough to start the medical exams.

The team meets about a man named Henry Parker who hasn’t left his home since the 1980s. While the team deploys with their assignments, Owen is left without a task. As Martha continues her examination, Owen inadvertently cuts his hand open with a scalpel. Martha sews it closed, but since it can’t heal on its own, it will have to be restitched every week. Owen is upset about the fragility of his immortality.

Without a substantial job to do, Owen heads home. Television doesn’t hold his interest, so he dials up some music on his iPod and removes everything from his house that he no longer needs. After that, boredom sets in. At some point, Tosh makes a house call and tries to tell him about her day, but Owen tunes her out.

Owen asks why she bothered coming around. She wants to help him, and she reminds him that she loves him. Owen angrily replies that he’s broken, breaking his own finger as evidence. He storms out and runs to the Cardiff canal where he jumps into the water and sinks to the bottom.

He spends thirty-six minutes underwater. He doesn’t drown despite his best efforts. He emerges to find Jack watching him.

The Torchwood team wants to retrieve the alien device that Henry Parker has, but they can’t go in with all of the sensors on Parker’s property. Owen volunteers since he is able to defeat them. The team helps Owen sneak into the house by diverting guards while he disables the site’s electrical generator. He gets past the internal security guard and locates Henry Parker, a bedridden man who has suffered three heart attacks and relies on the object to keep him alive. Owen tells him that the device doesn’t have any life-sustaining properties. Instead, it’s building up energy like a bomb.

The men have a discussion on the nature of life and death. Owen, still a medical doctor, tends to Parker as he convinces the dying man to surrender the device. After giving the object away, Parker goes into cardiac arrest and dies. Owen tries CPR, but since he has no breath, the effort is wasted.

The device’s energy output skyrockets. Owen says his farewells as he offers to absorb the object’s energy.

Owen returns to headquarters and bids farewell to Martha Jones – “Thank you for everything.” – as she returns to her job at UNIT. She makes the rounds, giving Jack a kiss as he offers her a job when she’s done with UNIT, before walking into the darkness.

Later, Owen and Tosh share a moment: Owen is scared of the darkness that is death, and Tosh offers to stand by his side. As he walks home, he comes back to the framing story.

Maggie wants to jump because her husband died on their wedding day. Today is the anniversary of their wedding and she believed that it would all get better. It never did. Owen’s story captures her attention, especially when he pulls the device out of a bag. He explains that it is a reply from alien life to mankind’s broadcasts into the deep dark of space.

It is proof of life among the stars. It is hope.

 

There is a good character story here, particularly with the typically self-centered Owen breaking out of his element to save a single person. I’d like to believe that he takes time out for Maggie because either he’s truly good at heart or he’s trying to make up for losing Henry Parker.

Perhaps both.

We have to overlook the narrative shortcuts here about the talking dead. The act of speaking requires airflow over vibrating vocal folds in the larynx, so Owen would be able to perform rescue breaths without issue. It’s the same talking dead narrative shortcut that applied in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel when discussing talking vampires, so it’s easy to hand-wave away.

We get some touches from the past in this episode. First, flashes of Owen’s life come strictly from our time with him, specifically Everything Changes, Ghost Machine, Out of Time, Meat, and Reset. Second, Henry Parker was played by Richard Beiers, who we last saw as the Chief Caretaker in Paradise Towers.

The story is touching, but it moves a bit too quickly to maintain the narrative punch needed to sell Owen’s predicament. It feels rushed and less cohesive than the rest of this trilogy of episodes. Still fun, but not as good as it should have been.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Something Borrowed

 

 

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 #TW20: Dead Man Walking

Torchwood: Dead Man Walking
(1 episode, s02e07, 2008)

 

It’s a dead man’s party.

Picking up immediately after Owen died on the asphalt, Martha Jones prepares to conduct his autopsy as the team observes. Jack bursts in and puts a stop to the procedure until he gets back from seeing a young tarot card reader. Her ominous prophecy leads Jack to the abandoned St. Mary’s Church, home to a clan of Weevils. He navigates the creatures and locates a safebox. When he returns to the Hub, he opens the box to reveal a resurrection gauntlet. A different one than they used before.

Jack plans to bring Owen back.

Gwen warns him away from the plan, but Jack will have none of it. He dons the gauntlet and pulls Owen back from the clutches of death. Jack makes the rounds, asking the team to say farewell. When his two minutes are up, Owen slips away again, presumably for the last time.

And then he wakes up again.

As they tend to Owen, the team fails to notice the gauntlet twitching on the floor. Owen has no vital signs except for brain activity. Jack quarantines Owen until the team can analyze the gauntlet and figure out what’s going on. While they work, Gwen calls Rhys to talk about her really hard day.

Owen starts to have visions of whispers in the absolute darkness of the Void. Whatever it was, Owen says it was waiting for him. Martha determines that his body is changing into something but the team can’t determine what it means. Later on, he has another vision, during which his eyes turn black and he speaks in tongues. Despite the quarantine, he decides to leave the Hub and go to the local bar.

Which is a fruitless exercise since his bodily functions are shut down. He has no need to eat or drink, and since his blood isn’t pumping, he can’t have sex either. Jack finds him, leading to a confrontation on the dance floor. The pair get arrested and tossed in jail as two Weevils look on. Amusingly, they bond over Owen’s post-mortem bodily functions and their shared experiences with death. Jack says that he brought Owen back because he wanted a miracle.

Jack uses his Torchwood authorization to free them from jail. Once outside, they are pursued by a pack of Weevils, but once the humans are cornered they find a surprise: The Weevils bow down to them. Owen, eyes black, replies in a strange language.

Tosh and the team review the CCTV footage of Owen’s episode, correlating it with another incident during the time of the Black Death. A little girl died and the town priest resurrected her with the gauntlet. Death itself came back in her place, seeking to take thirteen souls and walk the Earth permanently. Death was stopped, apparently by faith, at twelve deaths.

Owen’s words translate to “I shall walk the Earth and my hunger will know no bounds.” He fears that he will become Death, so he asks to be embalmed and frozen to stop his neurological functions. Before Martha can start the procedure, the gauntlet twitches and attacks her. In the scramble, Martha’s life force is drained, transforming her into an elderly woman. Owen destroys the glove and then transforms, pouring black smoke from his face until everything goes dark.

When Jack awakens, the team has taken Martha and Owen to the hospital. Owen feels better, no longer possessed by the entity, and the team starts looking for Death there when they spot Weevils swarming outside. Sure enough, Death makes the rounds and takes twelve souls. Torchwood evacuates the hospital, but they miss a young leukemia patient named Jamie.

Death notices the straggler.

Owen saves Jamie from Death, but they get stopped by the locked outer doors. Tosh tries to pick the lock while Ianto reviews the historical records. Owen figures out that “faith” was the girl, Faith, who was already dead. Tosh breaks the lock, but once she and Jamie are outside, Owen locks himself inside and confronts the dark beast.

The altercation is violent, but as the team watches in protest, Owen pulls the life force out of the entity and sends it back to the darkness. The day is saved, and Martha is fully restored.

Back in the Hub, Martha reveals that the energy the Owen absorbed is bleeding away, but they don’t know how long it will take. Owen asks Jack if he can go back to work as a doctor to make restitution for the twelve lives that were lost.

Jack looks unsure as he muses that Death can never truly be beaten.

 

There is a delicate balance in this episode between the character drama and the humor that lightens the mood. Bodily gags, such as passing gas and vomiting, are usually cheap and easy. Here, they work because of the immense weight of the conflict with Death and our team.

The gauntlet is a great misdirection since previous attempts only granted the recently deceased a matter of minutes to pass a few nuggets of information. The rapid aging of Martha to place another of our heroes in mortal danger was also a great piece of drama.

Overall, it was a great story to play with the idea of teammates in peril and the complexities of death in the Doctor Who universe.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: A Day in the Death

 

 

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 #TW19: Reset

Torchwood: Reset
(1 episode, s02e06, 2008)

 

Side effects may include indigestion, paralyzation, needles to the eye, and death: Ask your doctor if the mayfly is right for you.

In the darkness of night, a hunched Weevil scurries into a warehouse followed by the agents of Torchwood Three. The Weevil ditches the team near a corpse which they take back to the Hub. Jack is stumped, so he invites Martha Jones to join them on the case.

Jack makes introductions, revealing that Martha is working for UNIT. Together they discover that the victim’s records have been wiped from the networks. While Tosh digs for info, Jack and Martha catch up on happenings after leaving the Doctor. It turns out that she was hired at UNIT based on a recommendation from the Doctor. Martha and Gwen also hit things off pretty well, and Owen is… well… Owen.

The team responds to another attack, but this time the victim, Marie Thomas, is still alive. Owen and Martha set to work in the lab and discover that the modus operandi is to destroy evidence in the bloodstream by injecting compounds into the eyeball. Further analysis of Marie’s blood finds a foreign body in her system, and after she has a seizure and insects fly out of her mouth when she flatlines.

Marie was cured of HIV and another victim’s diabetes through something called the Reset from the Pharm. The insects are alien larvae and the Reset drug restores the human body back to “factory settings” with the parasite in tow. Effectively, it’s a Trojan horse malware masquerading as an anti-virus program.

The team finds the Pharm and interviews Professor Aaron Copley, the director of the highly-guarded facility. They fail to gain any access to the facility when Jack refuses to listen to Whitehall after his last encounter with a politician. When Tosh discovers that the Pharm is looking for volunteers for trials, Martha offers to go undercover with her medical expertise.

Ianto gives her a briefing and cover story, Tosh gives her contact lens cameras, and she goes to the Pharm as Samantha Jones, a hepatitis sufferer. The team watches through Martha’s eyes as she works her way into the program. As night settles in, Owen and Tosh discuss Martha and their own relationship. Tosh comes clean about her feelings and Owen agrees to go on a date with her.

Martha sneaks down to the Administration office. Tosh hacks the numerical lock and takes remote control of the computer, but Martha is captured on her way out as a large mayfly creature escapes. The team discovers that the Pharm has its own squad of hitmen and all communication is lost.

The team locates a Pharm client who is scheduled for execution and they capture the assassin. The hitman talks freely with a little help from a Weevil, but he dies soon after thanks to a mayfly in his stomach. Meanwhile, Martha is strapped to a table and confronted with her Torchwood allegiance. Copley is fascinated by the traces of temporal radiation in Martha’s cells and wants to experiment with her immune system.

Tosh concocts a method to animate the assassin’s corpse and get them into the Pharm. Ianto, Tosh, and Gwen go to the research labs while Owen and Jack rescue Martha. In the research labs, the team discovers that the Pharm is experimenting with multiple alien creatures to further medical technology. In the medical lab, Martha is dying from mayfly larvae in her stomach.

After two earlier failures, Owen finally calibrates the singularity scalpel and cuts the larva out of Martha while Copley runs. The Torchwood team shuts down the facility, but as they’re about to leave, Copley confronts the team. Owen takes a bullet meant for Martha before Jack kills Copley.

Owen dies on the ground as the team watches helplessly.

 

The story is a straightfoward monster adventure combined with a little creepy body invasion. It also follows a theme of humans using alien creatures for their own benefit, one of which we’ve already seen this season. The beautiful part about this one is bringing in some outside help to solve the case, particularly with the return of Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones. The references to The Year That Never Was were great, especially when you consider that (of the assembled team) only Martha and Jack remember the events.

Given that the episode was so straightforward, the surprise death at the end hits hard. Not counting Jack, Owen is the second member of the team to die on the show, and it really comes out of nowhere. It smacked of the Joss Whedon approach (ref: Serenity) with a slight bit of the sci-fi “don’t get too attached” trope given how Owen had finally opened up to Tosh.

 

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Dead Man Walking

 

 

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.