Timestamp #229: The God Complex

Doctor Who: The God Complex
(1 episode, s06e11, 2011)

Timestamp 229 The God Complex

The Doctor meets The Shining.

Policewoman Lucy Hayward roams the halls of what appears to be a 1980s vintage hotel. Each room she checks holds a manifestation of a fear, and the visitors must wander the halls until they find their specific room. After that, it becomes clear – “Praise him.” – before the fear kills them.

Our traveling trio arrives at the hotel and sees a series of photos with strange captions (which we know correlates to the killing fear) before meeting Rita (a human nurse), Howie (a human computer geek), and Gibbis (a cowardly, mole-like alien from the planet Tivoli). They have all been taken from their normal lives and deposited in this endlessly shifting maze on the planet Ravenscala.

To make matters worse, the TARDIS has vanished.

The three survivors also tell the Doctor about Joe, a delusional man who is tied up in the ballroom with a host of laughing puppets. Joe has “seen the light” and is willing to accept his fate because only “he” matters. Joe explains that everyone has a specific room and asks to be left behind, but the Doctor puts Joe’s chair on a luggage cart and brings him along.

The team decides to look for a way out, pledging not to leave anyone alone at any time. Howie finds a room full of twenty-something girls who mock his nerdiness and stutter, but is saved by the Doctor and Rory. Amy finds Lucy Hayward’s notes, but can’t show the Doctor before the roaring beast approaches and sends the team scattering.

Rita and Joe enter a room to find Rita’s father scolding her about grades. She begins to “praise him” as Amy, Rory, Howie, Gibbis, and the Doctor enter a room to find a pair of Weeping Angels, but the Doctor quickly ascertains that they are not real. The Doctor peeks through the door’s peephole to see the beast. The beast goes after Joe, whose bindings are loosened telekinetically, and hauls the man away before killing him.

The group returns to the ballroom, presumably the safest place now, and Amy consoles Gibbis. Gibbis notes that if the Weeping Angels were meant for him, then Amy’s room is still out there. Meanwhile, Rita and the Doctor discuss Joe’s death and the situation. She believes that the hotels is Jahannam, the Muslim version of Hell. Amy takes the moment to show Lucy’s notes to the Doctor. When the Doctor mentions the words “praise him”, Howie repeats them and the beast awakens.

Gibbis suggests that the group sacrifices Howie to save everyone, but the Doctor says that all of them are getting out alive. Theorizing that the beast feeds on fear, the Doctor tells the others that they must do whatever they can to fight the fear off in any way they can. Amy wonders about the next move, and the Doctor explains that they’re going to catch the monster.

Using a speaker, the Doctor lures the monster into the hotel spa. Amy, Rory, and Rita block the exits, locking the creature in the spa as the Doctor begins talking with it. The beast is a Minotaur and the hotel is a prison. The Minotaur has lived so long that it has forgotten its own name, but it wants the cycle to stop so it can get some peace.

Unfortunately, Howie (who was being watched by Gibbis) gets free and the Minotaur gives chase. While the team looks for Howie, Amy enters a room and finds her fear. Howie is soon found, dead, and Gibbis begs for forgiveness after losing track of him.

Rory and the Doctor share a moment in front of Howie’s picture. Rory hasn’t found his room yet, and the Doctor interprets that Rory isn’t afraid of anything. Rory replies, “After all the time I spent with you in the TARDIS, what was left to be scared of?” The Doctor is sad that Rory said it in the past tense.

The Doctor talks with Rita, who notes that the Doctor has a God complex. The Doctor watches Amy and realizes that he feels guilty for bringing them to a place with a real danger of killing them. He offers Rita a place on the TARDIS before spotting a security camera and going in search of the security room, missing the fact that Rita has been afflicted by her own fear.

The Doctor finds his own room, Room 11, and faces his fear. The reflection in his eye reveals it as the crack in time, forcing him to smile as the Cloister Bell sounds and remark, “Of course. Who else?” He hangs a Do Not Disturb sign on the door and moves on.

Entering the security room, he watches as Rita navigates the halls. He dials a nearby room and waits for Rita to pick up the phone, discovering that she’s been affected. She wants the Doctor to remember her as she was, and as the Doctor is joined by Amy and Rory, Rita says goodbye and succumbs to the Minotaur.

Devastated, the Doctor hangs up the phone and turns off the camera. In a fit of rage, he later realizes that his theory was wrong. Rita was not afraid of her death, so the fear couldn’t be the driver. Instead, it was faith.

Howie believed in conspiracies, Rita was a devout Muslim, Joe was a gambler who believed in luck, and Gibbis believes in the continued presence of invaders who will tell him what to do. The Doctor laments that his has inadvertently helped the Minotaur by insisting that everyone reject their fear and fall back on their faith.

He tells a confused Rory that the TARDIS was pulled to the hotel – which is, in fact, an alien prison – because of Amy’s faith in the Doctor. Rory has no faith to consume.

Since Amy has seen her fear, she suddenly begins the mantra: “Praise him.”

The team then flee through the hotel as the Minotaur pursues them. They end up in the room with Amy’s fear: Her seven-year-old self waiting for the Doctor. The Time Lord laments stealing her childhood, revealing that he took Amy in the TARDIS because he was vain and wanted to be adored. He tells her to let go of her faith in him, calling her Amy Williams, and suggests that she allow herself to stop waiting for her Doctor. He is, after all, just a madman in a box.

The Minotaur collapses in the hallway and the illusion dissolves, revealing an alien prison is revealed. The automated system kidnaps people with belief systems and feeds the creature. The dying Minotaur passes a message to the Doctor, expressing his pity for “an ancient creature drenched in the blood of the innocent”, because “for such a creature, death would be a gift.” The Minotaur tells the Doctor that he wasn’t speaking of himself, but rather the Time Lord who saved him.

Refusing to tell Amy what he saw in his own room, the Doctor returns Amy and Rory to Earth. He presents them with their own home and Rory’s favorite car, and Amy knows that he is leaving them behind. She asks why and he responds that it’s because they’re still breathing. He doesn’t want to wait to say goodbye until he’s standing over their graves.

After a tearful farewell, the Doctor leaves. Rory watches the TARDIS dematerialize and wonders where he’s gone, but Amy simply says that he is saving them.

Later that night, Amy watches the sky from her bedroom window. The Doctor looks around the empty console room as he prepares to travel alone.


This was quite the ride that brought us full circle from The Vampires of Venice. Recall that, on his first journey in the TARDIS, Rory believed that the Doctor’s companions placed themselves in danger to impress the Time Lord. This adventure confirmed that first impression, and finally brought the Eleventh Doctor’s fears in that regard to a head.

It’s a common thread with writer Toby Whithouse, whose pen graced this story, Vampires, and School Reunion, all of which played with this concept.

The story here, which we first think is an obsession with facing fears, but actually is an obsession with faith, was fun to explore. It was also thought-provoking to find that there was nothing evil behind the scenes. There’s a lot to digest with an automatic system that has a mission to maintain those under its charge, even to the point of killing innocent people, and that its been doing this for such a very long time.

This story had a few franchise ties, including one that linked Amy to Ace with the Doctor saving a companion’s life by forcing her to lose faith in him. The Seventh Doctor tore Ace apart emotionally in The Curse of Fenric, opening the door for a victory. Another was exploring the Doctor’s fears, which we saw in The Mind of Evil and Inferno, and the Doctor seemed unmoved by the revelation of what he feared most at this particular point. Strangely, it didn’t seem to be his own death at Lake Silencio, which has been taking up a lot of his bandwidth since The Impossible Astronaut.

We have seen minotaurs before (The Mind Robber and The Time Monster) and we’ve seen the “distant cousin” in The Horns of Nimon, a story that I called “downright painful”.

From this point forward, we get to find the answer to the question that sprung from The Girl Who Waited: Amy loved being Amy Pond in the TARDIS with Rory Williams, but what happens when they stop traveling with the Doctor?

Obviously, Amy misses it already.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Closing Time

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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 #228: The Girl Who Waited

Doctor Who: The Girl Who Waited
(1 episode, s06e10, 2011)

Timestamp 228 The Girl Who Waited

A moral choice reveals the core of Amy and Rory’s relationship.

The Doctor takes Rory and Amy to Apalapucia, a resort planet voted the number two place to visit for an intergalactic traveler. They are there because everyone goes to the number one place, the Planet of the Coffee Shops.

When the team exits the TARDIS, they are presented with a set of doors. Amy returns to the TARDIS for her mobile phone while Rory and the Doctor examine the doors. Presented with two choices — Green Anchor or Red Waterfall — Rory chooses the green one to reveal a stark room with a magnifying glass in the middle. Amy, on the other hand, chooses the red button and ends up in a separate but equally decorated room.

The two rooms are connected by the magnifying glasses. The Doctor and Rory are visited by a Handbot while the Doctor realizes that time is being disrupted. In fact, the two rooms are running at different speeds, and Amy’s in running faster.

The Handbot analyzes Rory. Rory exits the room and tries to enter the Red Waterfall room, but Amy is not there. When he returns, the Handbot informs them that Apalapucia is under quarantine and this space is a “kindness facility” for victims of Chen-7, a one-day plague that affects beings with two hearts. This includes the native Apalapucians and, of course, Time Lords. It’s a one-day plague because victims die within one day of exposure.

The magnifying glass syncs the two time streams, allowing loved ones to watch the victims grow old in a single day rather than sitting by a deathbed. The Doctor removes the magnifying glass and uses it to lock on to Amy, but this also sounds an alarm in the facility. He tells Amy to go through the facility beyond, and while she’s immune to the plague, any intervention by the Handbots may kill her. The Doctor then gives Rory a set of glasses that act as a camera and uses the TARDIS to try breaking through to Amy’s temporal location.

Amy checks in to the Two Streams center and meets the Interface, her guide through within the facility. After reviewing the entertainment options at her disposal, she meets a Handbot that tries to rid her of the unauthorized bacteria in her body by injecting her with medicine. She refuses, then dodges the syringe projectiles before running from the squad of Handbots. She finally hides in a cage which blocks the Handbot sensors.

The TARDIS lands in the Red Waterfall area and Rory ventures out to find Amy. Meanwhile, Amy finds the entertainment hub and chooses the garden simulation, a perfect replica of the Shill Governor’s mansion on Shallana. She finds out that she was hiding in a vent for the temporal engines. When ambushed by two Handbots, she sets out to find the engines and leaves the Doctor a note.

Rory and the Doctor figure out that room houses thousands of overlapping time streams. As Rory marvels, he is surprised by a sword-wielding Amy. Sadly, she’s aged considerably, revealing that the Doctor landed 36 years too far forward in her time stream. In that time, she’s been dodging and defeating Handbots while she’s been waiting. She also built her own “sonic probe” from scratch.

She also hates the Doctor for abandoning her.

She leads Rory to her hiding place, complete with a literally-disarmed Handbot that she’s named “Rory”. She waits for the right time, then takes Rory to the garden. Via speakerphone, the Doctor figures out where the temporal engine’s regulator is located while Amy and Rory get reacquainted over a laugh. The Doctor tells her that there’s still time to fix everything.

Rory wanders off and encounters a Handbot, but Amy saves him before Rory can be inoculated. When the Doctor offers to rescue Amy, she refuses and returns to the engineering section. She doesn’t want to die by ceasing to exist. She offers to come in past-Amy’s place, but Rory and the Doctor refuse.

Frustrated, Rory says that he no longer wants to travel with the Doctor. When he throws the glasses, the Doctor detects past-Amy, and Rory uses that to allow future-Amy and past-Amy to talk through the magnifying glass.

As the the Amys talk, future-Amy remembers the real reason she was never rescued. It wasn’t because Rory and the Doctor left her behind, but because her future self refused to help them when it mattered. They discuss Rory and their mutual love of him, realizing that Amy needs to be saved for him. Future-Amy agrees to help her past self, but only if she gets to travel in the TARDIS alongside herself.

The reunion between Amy and Rory is touching.

The Doctor admits that the TARDIS could possibly sustain the paradox of the two Amys. To make this possible, the Amys need to share a thought so powerful that it can rip through time. While Rory makes the appropriate mechanical changes, the Amys think about their first kiss with Rory while they were dancing the Macarena. The gamble works and the new trio is formed, but the TARDIS doesn’t like the paradox at all and the link via the glasses is severed.

The trio battle a legion of Handbots before taking the long way around to the TARDIS. Unfortunately, past-Amy is stunned by one of the Handbots, forcing Rory to carry her while future-Amy covers them. Once past-Amy and Rory enter the TARDIS, the Doctor seals the door behind them to prevent future-Amy from entering.

The Doctor reveals that he lied. The paradox cannot be sustained, and Rory must choose which Amy to save. Rory is devastated, but future-Amy tells him through the door that, if he loves her, he shouldn’t let her in. Seeing Rory carry the younger Amy to the TARDIS made her realize just how much he truly loves her. She loved being Amy Pond in the TARDIS with Rory Williams.

Rory secures the door and apologizes. The choice tears him apart.

Future-Amy turns around to find herself surrounded by Handbots. She asks the Interface to show her a hologram of Earth. She remembers Rory as she is stunned and injected. The sound of the TARDIS engines comforts her as she disappears from existence.

Rory asks the Doctor if he always knew that the paradox wouldn’t work. The Doctor only replies that he promised to save her, which he did. When Amy wakes up, she asks about her future self. The Doctor leaves the Ponds to talk.


Here we have a mix of several different tropes from this era: Amy experiences versions of herself from different times (The Hungry EarthCold BloodThe Big Bang); is separated from Rory for what should be an unnaturally long period of time (The Big BangThe Doctor’s Wife); and (flipping the script from Amy’s Choice) is the target of a life/death choice between two versions.

We also see an element of the classic era here, namely The Massacre. Steven Taylor had an attachment to Anne Chaplet, a woman who was going to die unavoidably but whom he desperately wished to save. The First Doctor could not alter history, but lied to Steven to make them think it was possible. Steven was eventually finally forced to abandon Anne to her fate and was angry with the Doctor.

Finally, the scene between Rory and future-Amy through the TARDIS door reminded me of the tear-jerking farewell between the Tenth Doctor and Rose in Doomsday. I have no doubt that the parallel was intentional.

This kind of mind-bending temporal story is like catnip to me, and it was especially engaging because the Amys were able to reconcile their differences and fight together for survival. The question of how this became a real event if future-Amy never existed, however, is an exercise best left to the wibbly-wobbly nature of Doctor Who continuity: It just works.

A different question is raised here, which may be something to consider in the future: Amy claims to love Rory because of how much he loves her. She also says that she loved being Amy Pond in the TARDIS with Rory Williams.

So what happens to them if they stop traveling with the Doctor?

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The God Complex

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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: Torchwood Series Four Summary

Torchwood: Miracle Day (Series Four) Summary

Timestamp Torchwood Miracle Day Logo

Torchwood‘s fourth series was a train wreck.

The concept was pretty interesting – a supernatural event that eliminates death, driven by shadow elements and political conspiracies, and an exploration of how it affects the world – but the execution cut the concept’s hamstrings.

One thread that ran throughout the discussions of these episodes was padding (or bloating). The series lacks a sense of forward motion, even in moments of action, which is something that the BBC knew how to do while balancing the drama that we’re used to in this property. Torchwood can be slow, but even those slow moments in previous series kept the audience ready for more. Miracle Day felt like it was chained to the deck.

Another thread that wove throughout the series centered on disturbing tropes. The first episode contains the Black Dude Dies First trope – which also extends in poorly-written media to pretty much any minority because of outdated assumptions that audiences wanted/needed white straight male protagonists to win the day – and only subverts it because of the Miracle. Then Rex experiences another terrible trope twice as the series progresses: Stuffed into the Fridge.

I pointed this out in The Blood Line, but it bears some further exploration in a series-wide analysis. Two major character deaths served to motivate Rex in the ten-episode arc. First was Vera Juarez in The Categories of Life, and while her death wasn’t motivated in universe as a strike against Rex – she was murdered by the manager of a death camp to keep things quiet – it did serve narratively as a motivator because Rex was present and filming as she was burned alive.

The second was far more obvious. Esther’s death in The Blood Line was purely intended to drive Rex’s actions, and it transformed her from a character that was timid and unsure at the start of the series to a bold woman who saved Jack’s magic blood and told Rex that she was (in no uncertain terms) accompanying him to the Blessing.

In The Blood Line‘s analysis, I stated that the wrong agent had died and suggested that Esther should have lived while Rex died. I said that with full understanding of the Black Dude Dies First trope, and my thought process regarding it is pretty clear: Miracle Day tried that trope and subverted it, and then the writers spent nine more episodes building Esther while keeping Rex exactly where he was at the start. I didn’t want Rex to die because he’s a minority, but rather because he wasn’t developed in the course of the story. If he had grown, that analysis would be different, but the writers chose to transform Esther into an object after investing so heavily into her as a character. They undid all of that good will with a single narrative choice.

And in a series of episodes like this, the writers and producers needed to preserve as much good will as possible.

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

Torchwood Series Four earned a 3.1 average. That’s way down in last place among Torchwood, and is equivalent to the classic Third, Nineteenth, and Twenty-First seasons. Out of thirty-three seasons of Doctor Who so far in the Timestamps Project, that’s a three-way tie for 28th place.

The New World – 5
Rendition – 4
Dead of Night – 4
Escape to L.A. – 2
The Categories of Life – 4
The Middle Men – 3
Immortal Sins – 3
End of the Road – 3
The Gathering – 2
The Blood Line – 2
Web of Lies – 2

Torchwood Series Four Average Rating: 3.1/5


Thus ends Torchwood. It’s the first of the spinoff series to end, so it’s the first opportunity to provide a whole series rating. Keep in mind that if Torchwood should return to screens, then this will change.

Series 1 – 3.8
Series 2 – 4.0
Children of Earth – 4.8
Miracle Day – 3.1

Torchwood Weighted Average Rating: 3.79/4.00

Would I recommend Torchwood as something to watch in the Doctor Who mythos? Absolutely, but the obvious caveat is that Miracle Day does not hold up to the series. As we’ve seen, it’s also darker, gritter, and far more adult than anything else in the overall franchise, so if the light and hopeful of the main series is more your style, this might be best avoided.


The Timestamps Project is proceeding in mostly chronological order. As such, the next block of episodes will cover what remains of Doctor Who‘s sixth series. After that, the final series of The Sarah Jane Adventures is on the docket before a straight shot through the seventh, eighth, and ninth series of Doctor Who takes us well into next year.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Girl Who Waited
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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 #TW42: Web of Lies

Torchwood: Web of Lies
(Motion Comic Special, 2011)

Timestamp TW42 Web of Lies

Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

Missing Day – 2007: The setting is Cardiff as Jack and Gwen chase a shadowy figure across the rooftops of the city. Gwen loses site of Jack for a moment, after which all that remains is a green gas. Jack is missing.

Miracle Day – 2011: In Los Angeles, Miles Mokri breaks a promise to his sister Holly that they’d celebrate her cancer remission. As Holly goes to a club without him, Miles is nearly abducted. He escapes, but ends up getting shot. When Holly leaves the club, she finds his abandoned cell phone and the paramedics. Luckily for the Mokris, the Miracle has begun. No one dies.

Miles had started to write about a conspiracy surrounding Miracle Day. Oddly, he started it one week ago.

Missing Day – 2007: Gwen storms into a nearby convenience store and plugs her computer into the power outlet. She starts tracking Jack and notes that he is moving incredibly fast around the world.

Miracle Day – 2011: The hospital is chaos. They need more room for all of the non-dying people, so Miles is sent home. Holly starts looking into the footage on her brother’s phone and discovers that there were three gunshots but only two wounds. She figures out that Miles knew his shooter, finds a mysterious phone number hidden in a sudoku puzzle, and makes arrangements to meet the shooter at the Ambassador Hotel High School.

Surrounded by the Soulless, Holly and Nick (Miles’s best friend) discuss how death is not the worst part of dying. Rather, that the pain and suffering before it far outweighs it. They are met at gunpoint my the mysterious shooter and taken to a nearby van. It turns out that the man is Joe Bradley, an FBI agent who was working with Miles after he presented evidence that the Miracle was being planned.

Agent Bradley didn’t shoot Miles, but instead caught him when he fell.

Missing Day – 2007: Gwen tracks Jack’s flight over Russia. As she pursues him, Jack wakes up to the muzzle of a gun. Jack quips about whether the gunman is trying to either intimidate or seduce him. The gunman takes aim, casting aside concerns that the bullets would puncture the hull because he’s working with practice range rounds. They won’t leave Jack’s body after he’s shot.

Miracle Day – 2011: Holly, Joe, and Nick are chased down by the men who tried to abduct Miles. During the ensuing car chase, Holly hacks Miles’s laptop and discovers information implicating Phi-Corp in the Miracle.

Missing Day – 2007: The kidnapper witnesses Jack’s resurrection in amazement, then decides to see just how much punishment Jack can take. He pushes Jack out of the plane, watching him fall 30,000 feet the the ground in Chernobyl. After recovering what parts of Jack’s body could be found, the kidnapper is impressed that Jack can survive pretty much anything.

Miracle Day – 2011: Holly finds out that Miles’s computer has an anti-hacking feature that allows access for only 15 seconds at a time. After three attempts, the hard drive will self-destruct. She finds information on Phi-Corp, documents about a flight form the United States to Kiev, an “Iron Wheel”, and satellite photos and plans for medical overflow camps and industrial ovens.

She also finds four photographs with coded letters for each person: S is Jack, complete with the word Torchwood on his photo; R is a red haired woman; Z is Jack’s kidnapper; and M is an executive in a suit. Another coded message from reveals that “Only S can die” and that the secret to the Miracle can be found on Coney Island.

On the way to Coney Island, Holly realizes that the third “gunshot” might have been a flash from a speed camera. Checking the footage, Holly finds that Nick himself fired the shots from a moving car.

Missing Day – 2007: At Chernobyl, Jack’s kidnapper has been taking X-ray images with an old MRI machine. He sees that Jack retains the shrapnel from each death but doesn’t suffer any pain from the remnants.

Miracle Day – 2011: The team arrives at Coney Island. After restoring power to the park, Holly reveals to Joe that she knows that Nick is the real shooter. Nick reveals that he has backup and Joe’s sidearm.

Missing Day – 2007: Gwen tracks Jack to Chernobyl but the kidnapper gets the upper hand with the MRI magnets and disarms Gwen. Jack reaches for an abandoned scalpel to free himself.

Miracle Day – 2011: Nick reveals that Miles had the key to the Miracle and Nick shot him so that Holly would solve the case. Nick also tells her that the Miracle has cured cancer, but stopping it might kill her. An automatic message from Miles to Holly reveals that the Miracle “begun under Vatican control.” She solves the clue about the “iron wheel” and leads everyone to the nearby Ferris wheel. As they ride it, Holly realizes that the map points to a specific location in the amusement park. She eventually escapes and follows the clues to a giant vat of blood. Nick catches up to her and explains that the blood belongs to an immortal man, one that is the only mortal being in the era of the Miracle.

Missing Day – 2007: Gwen is thrown into a van filled with packs of Jack’s blood. The kidnapper returns to stop Jack from reaching the scalpel, but Jack turns the tables by reaching the MRI switch. The magnet tears all of the shrapnel from Jack’s body and fires them through the kidnapper, killing the man.

Miracle Day – 2011: Holly decodes Miles’s “Vatican” clue, finding a gun under the vat. Holly shoots the bad guys, then reveals that Miles couldn’t make the choice to destroy the key or not. He left a laptop computer linked to the vat’s destruct mechanism, and Holly makes a tough choice. Even though it may kill Miles and her cancer may return, she needs to destroy the blood. Nick tries to stop her, but she shoots him one more time and he dies in the explosion.

Missing Day – 2007: Gwen frees Jack, but as she does, the mysterious green gas returns. Jack says that they must try and remember what happened here, but Gwen says whatever happens they’ll deal with it together. As they finally succumb to the gas, three men arrive to take them and the blood in the truck away. Back on the rooftop in Cardiff, Jack states that he feels like they’ve forgotten something very important. In a voice-over, Gwen reveals that they never did remember what happened on that “Missing Day”.

Miracle Day – 2011: In the aftermath of the Miracle’s end, Holly pours a glass of wine for Miles. Holly says that as the Miracle gave him time to heal, she felt like it was about time. As they banter back and forth, a pack of blood can be spotted at the back of the fridge. Could it belong to Jack?


We find out some interesting bits here, including that the Three Families had access to Retcon in 2007 (correlating to the time between Series One and Series Two). This series also suggests that other people may have been able to piece together the plan, but only when they brought it public did the Three Families move to silence them.

Other than that, this was an average side story with little to no consequence for Torchwood or Miracle Day overall. The only big thing would be that pack of Jack’s blood, and depending on Holly’s skills, that would last either 42 days or up to ten years if properly treated and frozen.

Regardless, it was good to see (or rather, hear) Eliza Dushku again. I’ve been a fan since her BuI’d like to see her in Doctor Who at some point.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Miracle Day (Series Four) Summary

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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 #TW41: The Blood Line

Torchwood: The Blood Line
(1 episode, s04e10, 2011)

Timestamp TW41 The Blood Line

Everything changes… back.

Gwen stares out the window and relates a story about the day that her father was accused of thievery. Young Gwen offered to help pay back the money, but her dad taught her a lesson about impressions and honesty. He couldn’t stand being known as a dishonest man when he wasn’t. Gwen saw him as the nicest man in the world.

Today is the day that she kills him.

The two Torchwood teams prepare for the coming confrontation. Rex and Esther contact Director Shapiro for CIA assistance while keeping Jack, Gwen, and Oswald’s presence in Shanghai a secret. Unfortunately, that includes Charlotte, the mole in the agency. Meanwhile, The Mother plans to bomb the sites of The Blessing to keep it safe.

In Shanghai, Gwen locates the site but retreats to contact Jack when she gets whammied by the emotions surrounding it. Before they rendezvous with Gwen, Jack and Oswald have a heart-to-heart. Gwen takes a moment to call Rhys, who is working with Andy Davidson to gain access to the Cowbridge Overflow Camp so he can say a proper goodbye to Gwen’s father.

Across the planet, the CIA coordinates with the Argentinian army. Captain Federico Santos arrives with a detachment of soldiers, but a Three Families agent inside the detachment bombs the truck. The soldiers are all Category 1, the supply of Jack’s blood is destroyed, and Rex and Esther are presumed dead. Director Shapiro demands that they find the CIA mole immediately. Charlotte sets a bomb and leaves just as the trace is completed. The bomb makes everyone in the command center Category 1.

The two teams infiltrate their respective sites. Oswald objects to leaving a trail of Category 1 bodies and Gwen gets notification that Rhys has arrived at her father’s side. He only has ten minutes before the Category 1s are taken to the ovens. As Rhys comforts Gwen’s father, Andy comforts an unknown 15-year-old girl.

Jack, Gwen, and Oswald descend to the Blessing and are met by Jilly, The Mother, and three armed guards. Unfortunately for them, Jack has rigged Oswald with a suicide vest. Unfortunately for Torchwood, Rex and Esther have been captured and are being held at gunpoint by the Three Families. The standoff is stalemated when Jack presents his blood to the Blessing. He warns The Mother to be very, very careful with him.

Oswald, exposed to his very soul before the Blessing, almost loses himself in the reflection of his sin. Jack brings him back before he and Gwen muse about the origins of the Blessing. Jack muses about the Doctor, Silurians, the Racnoss, and huon energy before admitting that he has no idea where it came from. It projects a morphic field in symbiosis with the human race, but the Families fed Jack’s blood to the anomaly. The Blessing transformed the blood’s pattern into a gift for all humankind and the Families took advantage of the worldwide disruption in a form of eugenics.

In order to secure the plan, the Families drew Jack out of hiding and attempted to kill him. Jack threatens to bleed into it and reset the planet’s mortality, but the Families remind him that it has to be introduced from both sides simultaneously. As the standoff intensifies, Rex reveals that Esther transfused Jack’s blood into him. The destroyed blood was a ruse.

To stop the salvation of the world, the Families mortally wound Esther. As Rex descends into sorrow, Gwen talks him back off the ledge. Together, Rex and Jack drain themselves into the Blessing.

Death returns to the world in a single breath as every Category 1 says goodbye.

Both ends of the Blessing begin to tear themselves apart. Jack returns to life as his immortality is restored while Oswald and Rex eliminate the Families representatives and Gwen knocks Jilly out. Rex and Esther, both on the edge of death, are retrieved by Captain Santos. Jilly disappears into the explosion at Shanghai.

Several months later, Jilly is found by her contact in the Families and offered a place to restart her life in charge of Plan B. Elsewhere, the Torchwood team joins Charlotte and Rex at Esther’s funeral. Charlotte offers her condolences to Rex before leaving. Rex gets an update about the trace program that Shapiro was running and finds out that Charlotte was the mole. She shoots Rex and is gunned down by the other agents in attendance. Rex is declared dead.

And then comes back to life. His wounds, including the Miracle Day wound, all heal. He is now immortal.

Everyone is surprised, but none more so than Rex.


The production team killed the wrong person.

No, seriously. In terms of character growth over the ten episodes of Miracle Day, Esther moved leaps and bounds over Rex. By killing her off, they not only wasted that character development, they also committed the narrative sin of fridging her in order to motivate Rex.

That trope originates from the comics, specifically Green Lantern. In that story, the villain Major Force left the corpse of then-Green Lantern Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, literally stuffed into a refrigerator. The idea is to spur the hero into action by brutalizing someone that they care about. It was later named and shamed by comic book writer Gail Simone.

In this case, Esther was fridged in order to motivate Rex. It’s lazy writing that immediately devalues Esther as a character. No matter what happened with her to this point, her final intrinsic narrative value is a plot device to motivate a stereotypical action hero.

It’s also sad, because the story and characters could have been better served. Keep Rex as the vessel for Jack’s blood, an idea that came from Esther to begin with, and transfer the Gwen-shooting-Jack action to Esther instead. Let Rex die for the world and Esther come out with a completed growth arc that we watched happen over ten episodes of television. She could also end up with immortality, for all the good that it does Torchwood after this point, as a reward of sorts.

Other than that rather large elephant in the room, the finale was entertaining enough, if not a bit bloated (as was the rest of the Miracle Day season). The return of death to the world was emotionally stirring. Oswald was finally useful.

The cliffhanger itself is rather disappointing in the end given that this marks the end of Torchwood on television. In fact, Rex Matheson hasn’t appeared on television again to date. He’s been in two novels, one of which is a prequel, and an audio drama, but his parts in the post-Miracle Day universe appear to be sparse.

How disappointing.

It should have been Esther who survived the Miracle.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Web of Lies

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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 #227: Night Terrors

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

Timestamp 227 Night Terrors

The Doctor makes a house call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer lies with George.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Blood Line

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #TW40: The Gathering

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

Timestamp TW40 The Gathering

Two months later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Night Terrors

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #226: Let’s Kill Hitler

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

Timestamp 226 Lets Kill Hitler

Hello, sweetie.

Prequel

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

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

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

Let’s Kill Hitler

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, Mels has been shot by Hitler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Gathering

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #TW39: End of the Road

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

Timestamp TW39 End of the Road

We finally start unraveling the twisted web.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Let’s Kill Hitler

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #TW38: Immortal Sins

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

Timestamp TW38 Immortal Sins

It’s time for a history lesson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angelo is still alive.


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

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

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

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

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

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: End of the Road

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.