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.

Timestamp #TW34: Dead of Night

Torchwood: Dead of Night
(1 episode, s04e03, 2011)

Timestamp TW34 Dead of Night

The people of Earth have nothing and everything to lose.

Late at night, Brian Friedkin finds that his television is not only turned on, but that it’s also tuned to an Oswald Danes interview. When he switches it off, he is confronted at gunpoint by Rex. The agent is angry that the CIA is poisoned against him. Friedkin explains that his mysterious bosses have been around for decades and communicate on a single phone.

Rex secures the phone and rushes out to a car where Jack is waiting. Esther is on comms and Gwen is standing by with a spike strip to disable police pursuit. The raid is a victory.

Sometime later, Gwen watches a parade of masked people – the Soulless – who believe that the Miracle has robbed people of their souls. Gwen is both shocked and confused. She takes her groceries back to the hideout but laments that all she could find are bags of crisps.

Or chips, as she’s corrected by her new American comrades.

Jack informs Gwen that Rhys and Anwen are in a safe house under Andy Davidson’s protection. Gen worries about emptying Jack’s bank account, but Jack doesn’t think that it’s possible. He’s been gathering interest there for 109 years. Esther and Rex reveal they cannot trace the phone since the signal branches out repeatedly to prevent it.

The American members of this new Torchwood aren’t quite used to how Jack and Gwen operate. Jack decides that they should investigate the morphic fields since he feels a universal consciousness driving the world’s immortality. Esther finds out that Friedkin has blocked off a warehouse in Washington, DC, prompting the team to steal a car. After Gwen’s blunt approach (and Rex’s thievery of their victim’s dry cleaning), they’re on the road to the warehouse.

Gwen concusses the guard. Jack, Rex, and Gwen break in to find shelves upon shelves of non-narcotic painkillers. All of them are from PhiCorp. The warehouse is stuffed to the gills with the pills.

At the emergency panel meetings, the doctors realize that aborted pregnancies and miscarriages are impossible, and some countries are considering contraceptives in water supplies. Vera is also perplexed by the new definition of murder since people can’t die but the motivations to kill still remain. Later on, Jilly Kitzinger convinces Vera to visit PhiCorp.

Jack believes that the team needs to take on PhiCorp, so Rex leverages his CIA contacts for resources and allies. He discovers that his contacts are ready to betray him, so the team is on their own. A frustrated Rex argues that Torchwood is dead and that Jack got his team killed. Rex takes the car and leaves Jack, Gwen, and Esther standing in an alley.

On the way back to the base, Jack finds a bar and leaves the ladies to get a drink. Esther contemplates turning herself in because she’s not cut out for the Torchwood life. Gwen convinces her otherwise and they keep walking. Meanwhile, Jack gets his drink – a bowl on the bar is full of sobriety chips – and a companion for the night with bartender Brad. Of course, since a lifetime of regret just got a lot longer, Jack wants his encounter to have protection.

Vera returns home to find Rex asking her to dress his wound again. He collapses and she tends to him. They end up having sex despite both of them being exhausted. Afterward, they discuss PhiCorp’s connection to the Miracle. Vera explains her regret at letting her mother die a year ago, the tells Rex about Jilly’s offer. Rex asks Vera to spy on PhiCorp, but he botches the request.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Oswald Danes sneaks away from his protective custody to enjoy a slice of pie at a local diner. A couple ambushes him and is sent home by the police, but the officers take the matter into their own hands by beating him before dumping him at his motel. Jilly approaches him one more time, and this time he takes her up on the offer.

Jack calls Gwen and has a long discussion about their relationship and Torchwood. The call is interrupted by Esther, who has established a secure video connection to Rhys and Anwen.

Come the morning, the team gets back together. Vera agrees to be their eyes in PhiCorp, so Gwen introduces Rex to the Eye-5s. She also lies by telling him that the lenses are isomorphic and tuned to her biology. Everyone but Rex knows that she’s fibbing.

When Vera arrives at PhiCorp, she finds an auditorium full of medical professionals. Vera meets Gwen, who proceeds to Jilly’s office while Vera keeps Jilly distracted. Gwen spots Jilly escorting Oswald to a special meeting which piques Jack’s interest. As the main presentation commences, Vera broadcasts it on speakerphone to Torchwood.

The presentation is a video by a United States Senator who is pushing legislation to make all medicines prescription-free. Jilly leaves the auditorium and almost finds Gwen in her office, but Rex is able to pull Jilly away through Vera. Rex and Esther are surprised when the strange red phone rings, but the phone shuts off without a word when Rex answers it.

Rex and Esther pack up the operation as Jack sneaks away to meet Oswald Danes. At gunpoint, he asks Oswald why he met with PhiCorp and if they mentioned the name Jack Harkness. When Oswald would talk about it, Jack switches to his burning question: Why did Oswald lie about feeling forgiven?

Oswald exposes his most repugnant sociopathic self, praising his motivations for killing the young girl because she flaunted her innocence. She bruised so easily that Oswald imagined that he was “painting” her with each strike. He felt ecstasy as her life force drained away.

Jack recorded the entire conversation and threatens to publish it, but Oswald calls in the protection that he arranged from PhiCorp to seize it. Jack knows that Oswald’s life will never reach the high of murdering Susie Cabina, so now the murderer and rapist wants it to end on that high. The hired goons beat Jack and toss him on the street while Oswald attends to his interview.

Oswald endorses PhiCorp. He asks the world to join him as he offers solace in the storm.

Jack can only watch in disgust as Oswald Danes wraps the planet Earth around his finger.


The story continues to develop as the world’s sense of order has dismantled by the chaos of immortality. In a land of such confusion, people seek stability and PhiCorp is offering it in spades. What could make this even worse? Using a complete sociopath with absolutely nothing to lose as the messiah of this movement.

Oswald’s revelations about his despicable acts were chilling. He enjoyed the atrocity. He’s a sick and dangerous man.

There wasn’t much development for Gwen and Jack, but Esther’s decision to dig deep and stay the course after Gwen’s pep-talk was a great bit of growth for the CIA analyst. Despite the lack of character development, the story advancement was superb. I’d expect nothing less from writer Jane Espenson.

I wasn’t quite sure if Jack was being sarcastic about the warehouse being “bigger on the inside”. We’ll have to wait and see if dimensionally transcendental technology is in play.

Finally, there was a lot of sex in this episode. The fascinating angle was how it was treated in various broadcasts. The United States, Canadian, and Australian markets had no problem showing the scenes, but the UK took a different approach by editing Jack’s encounter and completely excising the scenes between Rex and Vera.

It was also the first time in Doctor Who history that a woman’s bare butt was seen on screen. It had to happen on Torchwood, didn’t it?

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Escape to L.A.

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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 #TW33: Rendition

Torchwood: Rendition
(1 episode, s04e02, 2011)

Timestamp TW33 Rendition

Airborne chemistry and conspiracies abound!

The Torchwood team is escorted to Heathrow. Rex takes the vortex manipulator and dismisses Rhys and Anwen before forcefully loading the team on a waiting plane. The CIA is involved as well since both the United States and Britain are asking a lot of questions about the rendition. Rex takes a trip to the lavatory where he considers his near-death experience while swallowing an aspirin.

Gwen and Jack catch up on their lives since the 456 incident. Rex asks Jack about the vortex manipulator while being hostile toward the team. Jack asks about morphic fields, explaining the basics of it to Rex. He also makes fun of Rex by telling him that the vortex manipulator is reporting low sodium levels. Rex calls Dr. Vera Juarez, who verifies the diagnosis, and then snacks on a bag of pretzels.

At the CIA, Esther gets word that Torchwood is being brought to the United States and she asks supervisor Brian Friedkin about working on the case. Esther returns to the floor while Friedkin consults with agent Lyn Peterfield on the plane via text message. Through a mysterious box, he consults someone about the morphic fields. The response: “Remove”.

Oswald Danes prepares himself for a television interview by raiding the craft services table. He muses about his future and how he’s more of a prisoner now that he’s free. During the interview, Danes dodges the interviewer’s questions, but is stunned when confronted by a photograph of his 12-year-old victim. In a sobbing fit, he says that he’s sorry for what he did and apologizes for the person that he is. The production assistant apologizes for her rude behavior as Danes leaves. He also meets Jilly Kitzinger, a supposed talent spotter who congratulates him on his acting performance. She offers her services as a public relations representative. He turns her down when he gets an offer to appear on Oprah.

Peterfield prepares drinks for the prisoners and slips poison into Jack’s cola. When the effects take hold, he rushes to the lavatory and vomits while musing that his immune system is also critically vulnerable. Gwen puts the data points together and prompts Rex to search Lyn. Lyn is quickly apprehended and Jack identifies the poison as arsenic based on a Slovenian boyfriend who took it for skincare. Rex is confused since that was in the 1800s.

Esther happens across strange events at the CIA, including mysterious agents prowling through her account and Rex’s office. She’s also in receipt of an odd sum of money from China, framing her as a double agent. She swipes her co-worker’s badge and makes her escape. Come to find out, the agents are under orders from Friedkin.

Dr. Juarez attends an impromptu medical conference about the Miracle. She learns that people are still aging and can be critically injured, but skin cells will still divide and die like normal. In fact, the Miracle is limited to humans. Microorganisms will become resistant to medicine as they have an eternity to feed on bodies and grow stronger. Vera also learns food and medical supplies will drop rapidly and the ever-growing population could become a big problem.

Rex calls Vera for help with Jack’s condition. The conference attendees guide Gwen and Rex in how to mix an antidote, but Lyn interferes. Gwen dispatches Lyn with a punch to the face and then injects Jack with the antidote. It’s painful, but it does the trick. Rex calls Friedkin and arranges for a security team to meet them upon landing.

Jilly Kitzinger makes the rounds, now trying to woo Vera. Vera figures out that Jilly works for a pharmaceutical company and initially rejects the offer, but changes her mind when Jilly gives her a tip about how to navigate Congress.

The plane lands and everyone is escorted to the terminal. Esther calls Rex to warn him as the security team frees Lyn. Rex has also received a sum of money from China. As Esther races to the airport, Rex bluffs his way through freeing Jack and Gwen. In the ensuing fight, Rex snaps Lyn’s neck, but under the current circumstances, she’s still alive.

Jack gets his vortex manipulator back as Esther and Vera arrive at the airport. Rex gets a bag of painkillers from the doctor and he piles into Esther’s Mini with Gwen and Jack. Their escape is briefly stalled by Lyn who bobbles around before collapsing. Esther drives on, wondering what the hell is happening.

Gwen answers her with a smirk: “Welcome to Torchwood.”


For what is mostly a bottle episode, this one pushes the plot along quite well. Someone wants Torchwood gone for good, presumably to prevent them from stopping the Miracle, and those battle lines are drawn here. The team is certainly not cohesive, but we have a good understanding of who’s who.

We also see a lot of ground covered with respect to the Miracle’s effects on humanity and the planet. The medical industry is panicking as they realize that the rules of the game have substantially shifted. I loved that writer Doris Egan (who also worked on SmallvilleTru Calling, and House, M.D.) worked the Greek myth of Tithonus into the discussion of eternal life without eternal youth. Al bacio!

The frantic quest for an antidote for Jack was very humorous, especially as Gwen got more stressed, and reminded me of the Doctor/Donna blitz in The Unicorn and the Wasp.

Overall, a good continuation of the plot with substantial world building.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Dead of Night

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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 #TW32: The New World

Torchwood: The New World
(1 episode, s04e01, 2011)

Timestamp TW32 The New World

Who are they? Torchwood.

Early in the morning, absolutely despicable child rapist/killer Oswald Danes is scheduled for execution by lethal injection. He refuses to make a final statement and the injections begin. Danes convulses violently.

At the CIA, Esther Drummond is seeing several references to Torchwood as she talks with Rex Matheson on the phone. The institute’s name has been sent all over the UK, but as Drummond starts digging into it the entire system crashes. On the other end of the line, Matheson gets into a car accident and ends up taking a piece of rebar to the chest. He is taken to the emergency room.

Meanwhile, Gwen Cooper wakes up from a nightmare about Torchwood. Gwen, Rhys, and their daughter Anwen are living in middle-of-nowhere Wales. Gwen tells Anwen a story about aliens while feeding her. Helicopters have been flying overhead so tensions are high. There’s also a knock at the door – Gwen and Rhys pull out an arsenal of weapons just in case – but it’s just two lost hikers.

Or at least they seem to be until the hikers exchange knowing glances as they leave.

Matheson survives his surgery in a modern-day miracle. Turns out that no one has died in the hospital over the last twenty-four hours, and it’s not limited to this location. It’s worldwide. It also means that Oswald Danes survived, and he’s gearing up for a Fifth and Eighth Amendment defense so he can be set free. Matheson has a hard time wrapping his head around this Miracle Day.

Gwen and Rhys are busy painting the walls when a mobile phone rings. Andy Davidson bears the bad news that Gwen’s father is in the hospital. Gwen apologizes to Rhys because this means that they have to go back.

Further investigation into Torchwood reveals that every reference has been scrubbed under the 456 Regulations. Drummond crawls through the archives to find any physical reference to Torchwood. She finds the 456 files and photos of the Torchwood Three team, and then she meets Captain Jack Harkness. Jack asks her to accompany him but Drummond runs. She finds that the man in charge of the archives has been murdered and Jack saves her from being shot as well. To avoid being killed by suicide vest, Jack and Esther take a dive through a window into a fountain in the courtyard.

Jack tells her about the history of the Torchwood Institute while he mulls over the fact that he was injured. His intent is to keep Torchwood buried to maintain Gwen’s safety. He wiped the traces of Torchwood using malware. He secretly gives Esther a dose of Retcon and then poses as FBI agent “Owen Harper” to witness the suicide bomber’s autopsy.

Rex is able to watch the proceedings through the hospital’s security cameras. The bomber is an exploded mass of burned tissue and bone, but he’s still conscious and alive. Jack suggests severing the head to put the man out of his misery, but that doesn’t work.

Gwen and Rhys return to Cardiff with Anwen and meet up with Andy. Gwen is perplexed by the mass of people paying honor to the Miracle. They go inside and reunite with Gwen’s father despite her mother’s protests. Gwen later gets a briefing on the Miracle Day from Andy – Jack simultaneously hunkers down in an abandoned building and reads while he eats – and they discover that the human race has four months to live if no one else dies. Rhys is understandably angry about Gwen getting involved and she relents.

Esther wakes up in her apartment. The only evidence of the previous night’s adventure is a large bruise, but she doesn’t remember a thing. Jack has a bruise as well, so his healing factor has apparently stalled. When Esther goes to work, she finds the last remaining physical Torchwood file but she dismisses it due to the Retcon. Rex calls her and they discuss Torchwood and the Miracle, discovering that Torchwood resurfacing coordinates with the last time that a human died on Earth. Rex checks himself out of the hospital and takes a taxi to the airport. He’s headed to the United Kingdom despite the severe amount of pain that he’s in.

When Rex arrives, he gets a handgun from UK officials and drives to Wales while Esther gathers intel about Gwen. He eventually arrives at Gwen’s doorstep and collapses at gunpoint. When he wakes up, he’s tied to a radiator as Gwen and Rhys try to escape. Rex escapes easily, but the group of them are interrupted by a rocket that passes through the entire house and explodes in the hillside behind.

Gwen kills the shooter with a pistol – Anwen, babe in arms, smiles as her mother goes to work – and Jack arrives in a Land Rover to take everyone down the beach at high speed. Gwen finds a rocket launcher in the backseat and destroys the helicopter. When Rex asks who Gwen and Jack are, she defiantly replies, “Torchwood.”

The team regroups in Cardiff at Roald Dahl Plass. Gwen instructs Rhys to take Anwen to Gwen’s mother’s house. Gwen still has the Eye-5 lenses, but the rest of Torchwood’s technology was lost in the Hub’s destruction. Jack reveals that he can no longer heal himself and is a mortal man. Rex greets an arriving cavalcade of police cars with open eyes.

Rex has ordered a rendition. Torchwood is being handed over to the United States.


Torchwood covers new ground with this series. This was the first episode of Torchwood to be principally filmed in the United States (and the third episode of the Doctor Who universe after The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon) and the first episode in the larger franchise to film in California. It was also broadcast in the United States (and Canada and Australia) before the UK, which was another first.

The big narrative ground that Torchwood ventures into is swapping roles for Jack and the rest of the world. By removing his powers of resurrection and giving them to everyone else, Jack is placed in a position of extreme vulnerability and weakness. It’s a great starting point for the heroes as they set out to figure out what’s going on.

I appreciate how this episode also explored concepts like the force majeure (unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract, such as an “Act of God”), the Fifth Amendment (no “person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”), and the Eighth Amendment (“cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted”).

I love how downright creepy and despicable Bill Pullman is as Oswald Danes. I mean, come on, this is the magnetic lead from Independence Day and Spaceballs, and here we find him just oozing with malice and soullessness.

More than that, I enjoy how this episode placed our team in the post-Torchwood world and forced them back together in rather explosive circumstances. As much as they don’t want to get the team back together, they absolutely have to in order to save the world from certain destruction.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Rendition

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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 #225: A Good Man Goes to War

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War
(1 episode, s06e07, 2011)

Timestamp 225 A Good Man Goes to War

Demons run when a good man goes to war.

Prequel: Brain Trafficking

Dorium Maldovar meets with three cloaked figures. He tells them that his agents have procured the exact security software they have requested, extracted from memory – the literal brain – of a Judoon trooper. He exchanges it for a bag of sentient money.

Dorium doesn’t understand why they are doing all this to imprison one child, and he’s astonished at the child’s identity and relationship to the Doctor. He warns them: “God help us if you’ve made him angry”.

A Good Man Goes to Wars

On the Demons Run base, Amy consoles her new daughter, Melody Pond. She promises that help is on the way and is distraught that she has been unable to care for Melody since she was born.

Elsewhere in the cosmos, Rory and the Doctor have been hunting for Amy. They lay waste to an entire Cyberman fleet, news of which reaches the troops on Demons Run. Soldiers “The Fat One” and “The Thin One” – together, the Thin-Fat Gay-Married Anglican Marines – converse briefly with Cleric Lorna Bucket, a woman who has once met the Doctor in the Gamma Forests. Lorna sews to pass the time and was the only Cleric to show empathy for Amy’s plight. While The Thin One and Lorna discuss the Doctor, The Fat One is led away by the Headless Monks, the cloaked figures who met with Maldovar, and asked to make a donation into an appropriately head-sized box.

In London, circa 1888 AD, a Silurian named Vastra returns home after dispatching Jack the Ripper by her blade. Her maid Jenny informs her that the TARDIS has appeared in the drawing room, and Vastra knows that it is time to repay an old debt.

At the Battle of Zaruthstra in 4037 AD, Command Harcourt and Madame President Eleanor are ready to leave an infirm child as they retreat, but the child is saved by an unlikely nurse. A Sontaran named Strax tends to the child, then leaves as the TARDIS arrives.

At Stormcage, as River is breaking back into her cell, she meets Rory in his Centurion garb. She’s just returned from a birthday celebration with the Doctor in 1814 and Rory is summoning her to Demons Run. River explains that the Battle of Demons Run is when the Doctor will finally know who she is and that she cannot be there until the very end. During this event, the Doctor will rise higher than ever before, but will fall so much further.

At the Maldovarium, the Eyepatch Lady confronts Maldovar. She is known as Madame Kovarian, and Maldovar explains that the Doctor is raising an army. He also explains the origin of her base’s name: “Demons run when a good man goes to war.” When Kovarian leaves, the TARDIS arrives for Maldovar.

Back on Demons Run, while Colonel Manton rallies his troops, Lorna tries to present Amy with a prayer leaf. It’s a fabric token embroidered with Melody’s name in Lorna’s native language. They discuss the Doctor’s status as a legend and how each of them met the Time Lord. Amy accepts the gift and the apology.

Lorna returns to the colonel’s rally just in time for Manton to reveal the true face of the Headless Monks. Of course, the Doctor is masquerading as one of the monks, and as everyone in the crowd draws arms against him, the lights go out and the Doctor vanishes. The Clerics and the monks start shooting each other until Manton reestablishes control over the assembly by having all of the Clerics disarm themselves. Meanwhile, Vastra and Jenny have taken the control room in order to monitor the situation.

The assembled troops are suddenly surrounded as an army of Silurians and Judoon materialize. Commander Strax holds Manton at gunpoint. Manton claims that his fleet will come to help if Demons Run falls, but the Doctor counters: The fleet won’t know to come if Demons Run can’t call for help. The Doctor uses the Dalek-upgraded Spitfires, courtesy of Winston Churchill, to disable the communications tower.

Madame Kovarian readies her ship with young Melody in tow, but she’s thwarted by Rory with help from Henry and Toby Avery. Kovarian and Manton are brought before a barely restrained Doctor. He wants Manton to order his troops to “run away” so that he’ll be remembered by it for all time. Kovarian eventually yields and orders Manton to give the word.

Rory, with help from a sonic screwdriver, frees Amy from her cell. They both weep over their baby and the reunion. The Doctor soon joins them and their reunion is complete with a bout of humor. The Doctor speaks baby after all, and Melody has a lot to say.

Madame Vastra reports that the Clerics are leaving without any bloodshed. When she gloats that the Doctor has never risen higher, Rory remembers River’s warning.

The group gathers in the hangar. The Doctor doesn’t want to leave until he figures out why the base was used in the first place. The Doctor also produces his baby cot so Melody can settle down for a nap. Vastra calls the Doctor away, but before he goes he explains how Amy was split between the Ganger avatar and Demons Run. As the Doctor leaves, Strax brings in Lorna as a prisoner.

In the control room, the Doctor finds out that Melody has a mixture of human and Time Lord DNA. Presumably, it happened as a result of conception while exposed to the Untempered Schism, just like how the Time Lords began. Vastra is concerned that their victory was too easy.

In the hangar, Lorna claims that she’s a friend who only wanted to meet the Doctor. She also claims that he’s a great warrior, hence his name. Unfortunately, they soon fall under siege from the Headless Monks. While Vastra and Maldovar return to the hangar, Kovarian contacts the Doctor as he thinks back to the child in the astronaut suit from 1969. Kovarian explains that the child represents hope in their endless, bitter war against the Doctor.

A force field snaps into existence around the TARDIS and the hangar is sealed. The Headless Monks advance with their attack prayer and Amy retreats to safety while everyone else prepares for battle. Maldovar tries to reason with the monks, but he is cut down.

As the battle is met, the Doctor connects the dots. Kovarian has replaced Melody with a Ganger. The child is still lost. The Doctor arrives moments too late. The monks have been defeated, but Lorna and Strax have paid the price. The Doctor and Jenny try to comfort Amy. He also speaks briefly with Lorna before she dies, promising that he remembers her just like he remembers everyone he meets.

The Doctor is ready to give up on his quest against the Silence, but channels his anger toward the newly-arrived River Song. He wants to know where she was, but River says that she could not have turned the tide of the battle. She warns him that his name, which means healer across the universe, could become just like the people of the Gamma Forests know him: Mighty Warrior.

Demons run when a good man goes to war
Night will fall and drown the sun
When a good man goes to war

Friendship dies and true love lies
Night will fall and the dark will rise
When a good man goes to war

Demons run, but count the cost
The battle’s won, but the child is lost

The Doctor demands to know who she is and she leads him to the baby cot. The answer is inscribed on the cot in Gallifreyan and the Doctor’s mood shifts dramatically. He rushes to the TARDIS, asking River to get everyone home safely, before flying away to find Melody.

Amy demands to know where he’s gone and who she is. River shows her the prayer leaf and explains that Melody Pond in the language of the Gamma Forests translates to River Song. “The only water in the forest is the river.”

River Song is Amy and Rory’s daughter.

The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later

Strax awakens two days after the Battle of Demons Run, having been healed by alien technology. Vastra and Jenny tell him that they are the last to leave and invite him to join them in London. After all, Jenny has been ostracized from her family for her sexual orientation, Vastra is presumably the last of her kind, and Strax is all alone. There could be a future for them all together.

Strax refuses at first, but once he learns that London will involve crime-solving and plenty of adventure, he agrees to accompany them.


This story serves multiple purposes and it serves them well. Primarily, it ties off the thread of Amy’s abduction and opens the story of a war against the Doctor with Melody at its core. Second, it presents a cliffhanger to close out the first half of the season and tease the direction of the second half. Third, it offers a springboard for the team of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax.

That team is an intriguing combination of a Silurian, a human servant, and the unlikely Sontaran nurse. All three are outcasts of some sort, and that characteristic provides the glue to bind them. Strax provides a wonderful parallel to Rory through their mutual professions and Vastra offers a connection to the Doctor, the man who saved her at some point in his on-again-off-again guardianship of her species.

We get a beautiful inadvertent tie back to The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang with the Cybermen. In that Timestamp, I mused about the status of the Cybus and Mondasian Cybermen at this point in the franchise. The Cybermen in that story were Cybus models, survivors of the Battle of Canary Wharf, and had either built or assimilated into a fleet. The Mondasian Cybermen, last seen in Silver Nemesis, still had to exist but I had wondered if the two could co-exist.

Obviously, they can to some degree, as the Cybermen seen in this story were obviously Mondasian – they didn’t have the Cybus C on their chests – but have evolved (or assimilated into) the more bulky Cybus body time. I’m excited to see their return.

The other blink-and-you’ll-miss-it note surrounds River Song. On the surface, it seems like the River that Rory visits in Stormcage is the same River that arrives after the Battle of Demons Run, but the context clues point in a different direction. River at Stormcage had to consult her diary, which means that Demons Run has already happened for her. The River at Stormcage was from a later point in her timeline and she knows what happens to the Doctor. A minor addition is a reminder that River once remarked how the Doctor could make whole armies turn and run.

In a smaller callback, we see the Church again, previously met in The Time of Angels.

All told, this was a great story, a wonderful springboard, and a terrific cliffhanger.

Since the Timestamps Project is proceeding (for the most part) in airdate order, the next stop on this journey is a return to Torchwood. At some point, the streams will cross for a brief period as Doctor Who continues Series Six.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The New World

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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 #224: The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People

Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh
Doctor Who: The Almost People
(2 episodes, s06e05-06, 2011)

Timestamp 224 The Rebel Flesh The Almost People

Send in the clones.

The Rebel Flesh

In a dark and creepy island fortress, workers Jennifer, Buzzer, and Jimmy enter a room with a large vat. While wearing protective suits, they analyze the acid within. Buzzer teases Jennifer who knocks him into the vat. They seem nonplussed as Buzzer melts away, but moments later they encounter him in the corridor.

Buzzer claims that he could file for worker’s compensation for the accident. After all, these bodies cost money.

On the TARDIS, Amy and Rory play darts while the Doctor obsesses over Amy’s ambiguous scan. The Doctor offers to drop the duo for fish and chips, but they refuse to go without him. The TARDIS takes a hit from a solar tsunami, and while they think they’re about to crash, the time capsule lands with a soft thud. They’ve arrived at the mysterious island, which turns out to be a 13th-century monastery. However, it’s in a more modern era since the tones of Dusty Springfield are echoing through the complex.

They spot some mysterious piping and some old acid on the handrails. The Doctor sets off an intruder alarm and the trio runs into a chamber where they meet the security team. Duplicates of the same team are resting in harnesses on the wall. The Doctor convinces the foreman, Miranda Cleaves, that he’s a meteorological supervisor and requests to see their most critical system.

Enter the Flesh. It’s a fully programmable matter that can replicate any living organism. The workers’ duplicates are called Gangers, and they are controlled by the minds in the harnesses. The Doctor analyzes the vat of Flesh, noting that it’s scanning him. Meanwhile, Miranda orders Jennifer into the empty harness as a new Ganger is to be made of her. Within moments, a fully functioning clone is made. All the while, another powerful solar storm is bearing down on the island.

Since the facility runs on solar power, the storm will potentially overload and destroy the island. The Doctor attempts to protect everyone but is knocked unconscious along with everyone on the island. The TARDIS is trapped in the wash from a broken acid pipe and sinks into the ground.

As everyone recovers, Rory finds Jennifer in a state of shock and comforts her. Miranda claims that the Gangers should have disincorporated when the power went out, but the group soon discovers that the storm has given them independence and self-sustaining power. The team is shocked, but the Doctor suggests that they’ve given birth to a new form of life.

During the discussion, Jennifer falls ill and rushes to the restroom. Rory joins her, but they both soon discover that Jennifer is a Ganger. The Doctor also discovers that Miranda is a Ganger when she handles a hot bowl but isn’t burned. These Gangers are in flux, not quite Flesh and not quite formed.

As Miranda runs from the room, the Doctor, Amy, and Dicken run out to find Rory. The Doctor looks at Amy before insisting that the Gangers aren’t violent, but rather scared and angry, and he needs to talk to them. Many of the paths through the monastery are blocked by leaking acid puddles. The Doctor goes to retrieve the TARDIS, Amy goes off alone to find Rory, and Jimmy returns to the dining hall before sending Buzzer and Dicken off to retrieve the acid suits. Unfortunately, the Gangers have gotten to them first.

Rory and Jennifer share a moment as she claims to be just as real as the human who created her, phasing into human form as she emphatically states it. Rory comforts her and gains her trust.

The Doctor finds the TARDIS mostly submerged in the acid-soaked ground, losing his boots in the process. He also scans the vat of Flesh, and when he leaves a mouth forms that says, “Trust me…”

Amy finds herself in a dead-end corridor filled with gas. She sees the Eye-Patch Lady again, then runs into Rory and Jennifer. Rory declares that no one will touch Jennifer. Elsewhere, the Doctor finds the Gangers and the acid suits, and he tries to convince them that they should work with the humans. The discussion is watched from afar by the real Miranda.

Everyone comes together in an attempt to heal the rift, but Miranda has other plans. She crashes the discussion and the Buzzer Ganger ends up dead. The Gangers return to the acid room and both sides declare war. The Doctor suggests that the humans take refuge in the chapel with the Flesh vat since it is highly defensible. Meanwhile, the real Jennifer is trying to find everyone but is attacked. Rory follows her screams as the chapel is sealed.

As the Gangers advance on the chapel, Amy and the Doctor meets someone they did not expect: The Doctor’s Ganger.

The Almost People

The Doctor’s Ganger starts trying to adapt to the Time Lord’s previous regenerations. It shifts through various voices of previous incarnations before settling down as the humans try to barricade the door against the Gangers. The twin Doctors spring into action as Amy notes that the real Doctor has replacement boots from the human workers. The Doctors remind Amy (once again) to breathe before finding an escape route just as the Gangers melt the door.

The Doctors’ team moves through the tunnels but are soon assaulted by a “chokey gas” produced by the interaction of the acid and the monastery’s stone construction. Miranda leads everyone to an evacuation tunnel to escape the gas, eventually reaching the top of the evac tower.

The Gangers muse about their existence and revolution while the Ganger Miranda nurses a growing headache. Reluctantly, Ganger Miranda signs on to Ganger Jennifer’s idea that will finish off the humans.

In the evac tower, Amy questions which Doctor is real, but they both claim to be. Amy definitely sides with the non-Ganger Doctor and the Ganger Doctor wonders if he should be called “John Smith” instead. The Doctors restore power to the evac transmitter and Miranda tries to make contact with the mainland. The Gangers overhear the message, including the request that the Gangers are destroyed when the rescue craft arrive. The Doctors are not pleased by this request.

The Doctor books a phone call for the morning but doesn’t explain why. Meanwhile, Amy spots the Eyepatch Lady again but doesn’t understand why. She finally tells the Doctor about her visions, but the Doctor dismisses it. The Ganger Doctor leaves the room and Amy follows with an apology for questioning his existence. She admits to seeing the Doctor’s death, and the Ganger Doctor snaps, assaulting Amy in the process, because he can hear the single question that Gangers ask when they die: “Why?”

The now-calmed Ganger tries to apologize to Amy but she wants no part of it. The Ganger Doctor explains that the Flesh is growing and wants revenge for all the Gangers that have been decommissioned. The Doctor also heard this, but less faintly than his doppelgänger. Miranda asks the Ganger Doctor to sit down away from Amy.

Rory encounters two Jennifers and tries to distinguish between them. The two women fight and one falls into acid, melting away. Rory presumes that the human Jennifer won the battle because she’s limping and has an acid burn. The pair are spotted on the security cameras and the Doctor sends the Ganger Doctor (with Buzzer) to retrieve them, asking Amy to trust them. Meanwhile, Jennifer uses Rory to turn off the acid cooling systems – something she couldn’t do because it wouldn’t recognize her as human – which will destroy the tower when the acid erupts.

As Jennifer shows Rory a pile of discarded, melted, but still living Gangers, the Ganger Doctor is ambushed by his escort when they find Jennifer’s corpse. Buzzer then finds the Jennifer who was accompanying Rory, herself a Ganger who kills Buzzer.

The human Miranda suffers the same headache as her Ganger, which is likely a blood clot that will slowly kill her. As the humans try to find a way out, the Gangers intercept a message from the rescue team and redirect them, correctly guessing the code word. The humans find Rory and follow him to what he believes is an evacuation route. When Jennifer traps the humans in the acid vat room, the Gangers (including the Ganger Doctor) take a furious Rory away with them.

And then the phone rings.

The Doctor has booked a holo-call with Jimmy’s son. It’s the boy’s birthday, and the Doctor wants Jimmy to experience humanity. When Jimmy runs from the room, overwhelmed by emotion, the other Gangers begin to have a change of heart as well. Jimmy races to save the humans, but he’s too late to save the real Jimmy from being killed by the acid. As Jimmy dies, he asks his Ganger to become him and go home.

Everyone returns to the dining hall where Ganger Jimmy talks to his new son. The Doctor promises that Jimmy is coming home today, then puts a plan in motion to get everyone out. They are pursued by the Ganger Jennifer as she takes a monstrous form, and Dicken sacrifices himself to lock the Ganger out.

The Doctor accurately guessed where the TARDIS will fall through the soil. The survivors pile into the ship, and the Doctor reveals that he and his Ganger swapped shoes to prove that the two were not so different. Amy is shocked and ashamed, and she tells the Doctor that she didn’t think he could be twice the man she thought he was. He replies with a whispered message to Amy, telling her to push, but “only when she tells you to”.

The Doctor gives his Ganger the sonic screwdriver, a device that will destabilize the Flesh. The Gangers Miranda and Doctor open the door and defeat Jennifer at the cost of their own lives.

The survivors board the TARDIS. Exposure to the engines stabilizes the remaining Gangers so they’ll remain true human beings. The Doctor also gives Miranda a cure for her blood clot. Jimmy returns home to his son, and the other survivors are taken to the company’s headquarters to lobby for rights for the Flesh.

The Doctor tells Amy to breathe.

Amy goes into labor. Rory is obviously confused since Amy’s not pregnant.

Back inside the TARDIS, the Doctor orders Rory to stand away from Amy. He does so, and the Doctor explains that the trip to the monastery was not unintentional. He needed to see how the Flesh worked so he could stop the signal…

…to Amy.

He promises her that they will find her. Then he uses the sonic screwdriver to disincorporate her. Amy was Flesh all along.

The real Amy wakes up in a medical capsule, obviously pregnant and dressed in a white hospital gown. A panel slides away above her to reveal the Eyepatch Lady, who tells her to push. Amy screams as her contractions begin.


The return to the creature feature style of Doctor Who is welcome, particularly when it takes on elements of The Thing. I mean, how do you fight a bad guy when the bad guy can look like any of the good guys? More importantly, what distinguishes the bad guys from the good guys when they’re fighting what is essentially a war over race? I absolutely love the allegories, some of which are painfully relevant today, especially when Amy is set back on her heels for problematic viewpoints by the Doctor’s trickery. It’s also important to note the details: Someone you care about can have problematic views, and it is a conscious decision to help them overcome them and forgive them for not seeing the bigger picture beyond their privileges.

The key here is that they have to want to change. The humans wanted to grow and evolve when confronted with their wrongheadedness.

The whole thing is both subtle and beautiful.

The other beautifully played element here is how the Doctor orchestrated the entire trip. He offers to leave the companions behind, gently lands the TARDIS during a brutal storm, analyzes the Flesh as the Gangers are conceived, and repeatedly tells Amy to breathe. Amy’s status as a Ganger was a surprise, but everything leading up to that revelation was telegraphed in minute details. In contrast to other stories where the Doctor has the solution but the story has offered none of it to the viewer, this is a well-crafted tale that provides threads and weaves them along the way without pointing at them with a giant neon sign.

The Doctor has displayed an uncanny knowledge of when his companions aren’t quite right in the past, particularly Rose in New Earth and Martha in The Poison Sky.

The callbacks to franchise mythology were nice touches, from the use of John Smith and a discussion on Cybermats to the Ganger Doctor channeling previous regenerations to stabilize himself. We got bits from An Unearthly ChildThe Sea DevilsThe Robots of Death, and The Girl in the Fireplace before the Ganger short-circuited a bit and spat out “Reverse the jelly baby of the neutron flow” and “Would you like a Doctor?”.

All told, this was a wonderful monster/base defense story with some notable twists. It was also a lot of fun.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War

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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 #223: The Doctor’s Wife

Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Wife
(1 episode, s06e04, 2011)

Timestamp 223 The Doctors Wife

“Where’s my thief!?”

A woman named Idris is led to a platform by “Auntie”, “Uncle”, and “Nephew”, the last of which is an Ood who drains her mind in preparation for a Time Lord’s arrival.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are surprised by a knock on the door. Even though they are in deep space, the shave-and-a-haircut routine reveals an emergency hypercube message for the Doctor, presumably sent by another Time Lord named the Corsair. They follow the signal contained within, dumping excess TARDIS rooms for fuel, and break through to another universe.

Almost immediately, the TARDIS goes dark. The matrix – the heart and soul of the TARDIS – has vanished. While the Doctor puzzles over where it would go, Idris awakens with an exhale of golden regeneration energy.

The travelers exit the TARDIS into a junkyard. Luckily, there’s plenty of rift energy so refueling should be easy. On the other hand, the Doctor is accosted by Idris, who presents as an insane woman calling the Time Lord her “thief”. After taking care of Idris, the Doctor turns his attention to the green-eyed Ood. After fixing the Ood’s sphere, it broadcasts a series of interwoven distress messages from various Time Lords. As Auntie and Uncle take Idris back to the House, the Doctor expresses his intrigue at the possible presence of his own people.

In the House, the asteroid is revealed to be sentient. The asteroid tells the Doctor that many TARDISes and Time Lords have come and gone, but there are no others now. The travelers explore a bit. Amy points out that the Doctor is seeking forgiveness from his people. The Doctor sends the companions back to the TARDIS in search of his sonic screwdriver. Once they arrive, the doors lock as a green mist swirls about the phone box. Meanwhile, the Doctor had his sonic the entire time. Cheeky devil.

The Doctor discovers a collection of Time Lord distress signal cubes. He realizes that Auntie and Uncle have been mended over time by the asteroid with parts of the various Time Lords, including the ouroboros-tattooed arm of the Corsair.

Knowing that Idris foretold the Doctor’s discovery, he confronts her. There he finds out that she holds the matrix. She is the personification of the TARDIS. The Doctor releases her and together they determine that House feeds on TARDISes, which it can only do if it removes the matrices first. The Doctor tries to retrieve Amy and Rory from the TARDIS, but the phone box dematerializes with the chiming of the Cloister Bell and heads back to N-Space. Unfortunately for the companions, the House has hijacked the TARDIS.

In the junkyard, Uncle and Auntie collapse as they lose their source of life. Idris herself only has a short time to live but encourages the Doctor to explore the TARDIS junkyard for a way home. When the Doctor asks what he should call her, Idris tells him (much to his chagrin) that he named her “Sexy”.

House asks why he shouldn’t just kill the humans. Rory stalls for time by suggesting that they could provide entertainment. House agrees, prompting them to run for their lives through the corridors in a series of nightmare scenarios.

As the Doctor assembles a TARDIS from spare parts, he and Idris argue. The discussion ranges from how police box doors open outward (“Pull to Open”, which actually refers to the phone compartment), how the TARDIS always takes the Doctor where he needs to go, the Time Lord’s fascination with “strays”, and how the TARDIS wanted to travel so she stole the Doctor to take her on an adventure.

With a kiss to the time rotor, the patchwork TARDIS console room dematerializes and gives chase. Idris sends “the pretty one” a set of telepathic directions to one of her old console rooms. Rory leads Amy to the archived desktop of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s console room. There they lower the TARDIS’s shields but are pursued by Nephew. Just in time, the patchwork console materializes in the archived console room and vaporizes the Ood, marking another one that the Doctor failed to save.

After introductions are made, Idris collapses and House muses about ways to kill the Doctor and his companions. The Doctor gives House instructions on how to get the TARDIS back to N-Space, but when House starts deleting rooms for the journey, it inadvertently invokes a failsafe that protects living things from being deleted with the rooms. As the travelers materialize in the real console room, House suggests that they should fear him since he’s killed Time Lords before and won’t hesitate to do it again.

The Doctor replies that House should fear him. He’s killed all of them.

The Doctor stalls for time as he points out the concept of trapping the matrix in a human body. The goal was to get the matrix as far as possible from the console room, but House has brought the matrix home. With her last breath, Idris releases the matrix. It swirls about and reintegrates with the TARDIS, overriding and consuming House.

As a last gift, the TARDIS speaks through Idris. She remembers the word that she’s been searching for – “alive” – and tells him the one thing she’s never been able to say: “Hello, Doctor. It’s so very very nice to meet you.” In a bright flash of light, Idris disappears, offering her final words of “I love you” to her companion.

Some time later, the Doctor installs a firewall around the matrix. Rory tells him that Idris’s final words to him were, “The only water in the forest is the river,” which she believed that they needed to know for the future. Amy and Rory ask for a new bedroom – preferably one with a double bed instead of bunk beds – since theirs was deleted. He tells them how to get there, then spends some time with the TARDIS console. He asks the ship where she wants to go, even if it’s the Eye of Orion for a little rest and relaxation.

The levers flip on their own accord. The TARDIS sets a course. Adventure awaits.


What a beautiful ride.

When I first saw this episode back in 2011, I was confused by it. The fast pace coupled with rapid-fire references lost me. This time around, however, I relished the experience. The story is well-written and plays off of each of the main characters so nicely, from the Doctor’s desire to be forgiven for his actions in the Last Great Time War to Amy and Rory’s love. The latter of which was actually sold quite well here despite my skepticism of it last season.

The core of this story is the Doctor’s relationship to the TARDIS, which is played beautifully by giving a voice to a consciousness that exists simultaneously across all time and space. The relationship is pretty much that of a married couple, and the TARDIS’s finally expressed love for her companion is one born of their mutual adventures. I love that the TARDIS has archived past console rooms – which presumably means that a blank room is simply formatted with the “desktop” file from previous iterations – and that the TARDIS already knows what rooms are coming up next.

Amusingly, Neil Gaiman has requested that the archive scene feature a classic-era console room, but the budget wasn’t available for that. So, the production team left the coral console room standing for this story. This episode was supposed to air during Series Five but was pushed to this point in time so there was quite a long production lead for it.

The Doctor’s TARDIS also is pretty explicit about the nature of other time capsules. The Time Lords have previously treated them as nothing more than machines or vehicles, but Idris refers to her dead siblings as sisters. That matches well with nautical traditions of referring to all ships as female, but also gives us insight into the culture of the TARDISes overall.

This story featured the Doctor piloting a TARDIS other than his own for the first time on screen – at this point in time, Shada had not yet been completed – and that patchwork ship was the creation of 12-year-old Susannah Leah for a Blue Peter contest, complete with safety straps on the console (hello, Timelash!). The Doctor previously traveled with only the TARDIS console in Inferno. This story was also the first one since Horror of Fang Rock to kill every character except the Doctor and the companions.

Neil Gaiman reached way back for some of the elements here. We first (and last) saw the hypercube in The War Games, last saw the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits used to mess with the companions in The Edge of Destruction, and found the Doctor rebuilding the TARDIS in both The Claws of Axos and The Horns of Nimon. Lest we forget the concept of jettisoning rooms on the TARDIS, which we’ve seen on at least three occasions (Logopolis, Castrovalva, and Paradise Towers), or the idea of tricking the villain into fixing the TARDIS (ala Frontios).

It’s obvious that he’s a fan of the show and has done his homework.

He also deliberately provided the first confirmation in the franchise mythology that Time Lords can change gender during regeneration. I covered many of the reasons why this was a brilliant and easily defensible concept when Jodie Whittaker was announced as the Thirteenth Doctor, and I still stand by it. Gaiman’s choice of the ouroboros – the snake eating its own tail, a symbol for eternity – for the Corsair’s personal emblem was a great representation of both Time Lord culture and the nature of Doctor Who.

This story is just amazing as a franchise game-changer and ode to the show’s history. To call it fantastic is an understatement, but it’s the highest choice I have.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh and Doctor Who: The Almost People

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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.