Timestamp #204: The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End

Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth
Doctor Who: Journey’s End
(2 episodes, s04e12-e13, 2008)

 

The return of a long-dead enemy and the rise of a family.

 

The Stolen Earth

The Doctor and Donna race back to Earth to find that everything is fine. It’s a calm Saturday, but the Doctor knows that the walls of the universe are breaking down because Rose has been able to travel between realities. When they return to the TARDIS, the planet begins to shake. When the violent tremors subside, the Doctor and Donna look outside to find themselves in space.

The TARDIS is in the same place, but the Earth has been stolen.

Far across the universe, Martha Jones wakes up in New York with her UNIT team. In Cardiff, Torchwood Three are picking up the pieces. On Bannerman Road, Sarah Jane Smith and Luke dust themselves off before Mr. Smith tells them to look outside. Sylvia and Wilfred look upward as well.

The planet Earth is among twenty-six other stolen planets, all of them visible in the sky above, and Rose Tyler has just arrived with a big freakin’ gun.

Back in Earth’s orbit, the Doctor and Donna puzzle over the mystery before setting a course for the Shadow Proclamation. On Earth, Torchwood Three discovers that the planet still maintains atmosphere and heat. Both Torchwood and Mr. Smith detect a space station and a fleet of ships. UNIT spools up their alert status as the two hundred ships enter orbit.

As rioters swarm the streets, Rose stops a pair of looters before using a stolen laptop to get an update.

Martha calls Jack as the planet intercepts a single repeated signal: EXTERMINATE! It rattles all of our heroes to their very cores as Dalek saucers open fire on Earth. The Supreme Dalek declares that they are now the masters of Earth.

The TARDIS touches down at the Shadow Proclamation and is greeted by a squad of Judoon. The Doctor meets with a member of the Proclamation and learns that twenty-four planets have been taken. Donna reminds the Doctor that Pyrovillia and Adipose 3 are missing. Adding the lost moon of Poosh, they have twenty-seven planets taken out of time and space and formed into an engine. The Doctor recalls that someone tried to steal the Earth a long time ago, but it can’t be…

The UNIT forces decide to activate Project Indigo, their top-secret project that Jack doesn’t think will work. Martha puts on a backpack apparatus, is handed something called the Osterhagen Key, and teleports away using Sontaran technology. Jack believes that she is scattered into atoms because the technology lacks coordinates and stabilization.

On the Dalek station, the Supreme Dalek orders the fleet to commence landing and rounding up of humans for “the Crucible”. A familiar-looking form asks about the Doctor, warning the Supreme Dalek about his pride and that Dalek Caan has an uneasy prophecy: The Doctor is coming.

Donna is deep in thought when a member of the Proclamation gives her sustenance. She knows that something was on Donna’s back and is sorry for the loss that’s about to come. The Doctor asks Donna what he’s not thinking of and she reminds him that the bees have gone missing. The Doctor says that it means that they were going home to the planet Melissa Majoria before the Earth vanished. The Doctor uses that to trace the planet’s course – an act that forces the Proclamation to order him to join their war fleet, which he declines – and the TARDIS is off to the rescue.

On Earth, the humans in Wilf and Sylvia’s neighborhood resist. The Daleks respond by destroying their homes. Wilf uses a paintball gun to try blinding a Dalek, but it doesn’t work. Before the Dalek exterminates Donna’s family, Rose rescues them by destroying the Dalek with her gun.

The TARDIS materializes in the Medusa Cascade, a place that the Doctor hasn’t visited since he was ninety years old. They’re in the middle of a rift in time and space, but there’s no trace of the missing planets.

Torchwood and Bannerman Road listen as the United Nations surrenders the planet to the Daleks. Their sorrow is interrupted by a mysterious (familiar sounding) signal from a “subwave network”. The caller is Harriet Jones (former Prime Minister) and she links Torchwood, Bannerman Road, and Martha Jones (who materialized at her mother’s house). Rose can only listen in since Sylvia considers webcams to be “naughty”.

Introductions are made around the table – Jack admires Sarah Jane’s work, but Sarah Jane has been staying away because of all the guns – and Harriet Jones warns that they will not use the Osterhagen Key under any circumstances. Rose is a bit jealous.

Using a sentient computer program from the Mr. Copper Foundation, the subwave network can boost the signal to reach the Doctor. Sure enough, the Doctor’s Army pools their resources and opens a channel, but the Daleks are hot on their trail. The TARDIS locks onto the signal as the Daleks blow a hole into Harriet’s home. She transfers control and faces them down before they exterminate her.

The TARDIS materializes in the middle of the missing planets, now one second out of sync with the rest of the universe. The Doctor opens a channel and makes contact with everyone but Rose. Moments later, Davros breaks into the signal and reintroduces himself to the Doctor. The Doctor saw him destroyed in the first year of the Time War, but Davros was rescued by Dalek Caan after the mad Dalek hybrid shifted through the time lock and rescued him. Davros returned the favor by donating his own DNA to rebuild the Dalek Empire.

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS to Earth while Dalek Caan predicts death for the most faithful companion. Jack uses Martha’s coordinates to fix his vortex manipulator and teleport to her location as the Daleks descend on Torchwood. Ianto and Gwen mount a defense.

Sarah Jane leaves Luke in Mr. Smith’s care as she races to the TARDIS’s landing point. Rose also teleports away with a wish of luck from Donna’s family, appearing behind the Doctor and Donna on a street full of abandoned cars. The Doctor and Rose race to each other, but a Dalek rounds the corner and shoots the Doctor. Jack appears and destroys the Dalek, but they’re too late.

Rose, Jack, and Donna take the Doctor back to the TARDIS. Rose and Jack know what’s coming, but Donna has no idea. The Doctor’s hand begins to glow.

Sarah Jane is trapped by Daleks. Torchwood is under assault.

The Doctor begins to regenerate.

 

Journey’s End

The Doctor channels the regeneration energy into the hand in the bubbling jar, leaving his companions baffled. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is rescued by the surprise appearance of Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler, and Torchwood’s certain doom is stopped by a strange bubble in time. It’s a time lock developed by Tosh before her death, but it means that Ianto and Gwen are trapped in Torchwood HQ.

The Doctor used enough regeneration energy to heal himself, but refused to change his face. The Daleks surround the phone box and place it in a temporal prison before transporting it to the Crucible. Sarah Jane warns her saviors to put down their guns before they all surrender to the Daleks, intent on being sent to the Crucible. Martha uses Project Indigo, but only makes it as far as Germany.

Rose tells the Doctor about the coming darkness and how all the timelines are converging on Donna. The loss of power on the TARDIS also means that the capsule is as fragile as the wooden doors that it resembles. These are, after all, the Daleks that fought the Time Lords. The TARDIS lands at the Crucible, but Donna is lost in thought once more. The Doctor and his companions exit the TARDIS, certain of their fate as they face the Supreme Dalek, but Donna doesn’t leave the ship.

The TARDIS door closes and the Daleks eject the time capsule into the heart of the Crucible. The Doctor fears that it will be destroyed and begs for Donna’s life. On the TARDIS, Donna is enthralled by the hand in a jar, and she reaches for it, it glows with regeneration energy and explodes into a fully formed duplicate of the Doctor.

The new Doctor – the Metacrisis Doctor – pushes a button and the TARDIS vanishes. Everyone in the Crucible above believes it to be destroyed and Jack opens fire with his revolver. The Daleks exterminate him and lead Rose and the Doctor away as Jack revives and plays possum.

The Metacrisis Doctor fixes the TARDIS and bonds with Donna, discovering that he only has one heart. He’s a human-Time Lord hybrid, and he believes Donna to be special. They’ve been heading to this moment from the very beginning, from the runaway bride to the convenient parking of Donna’s car near the TARDIS during the Adipose incident. But time or destiny or fate or whatever is not done yet.

Martha arrives at a castle, one of the Osterhagen bases. The caretaker threatens her by gunpoint not to go through with the plan, but Martha presses on.

On the Crucible, Jack escapes disposal and is free to find his allies. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane and her new friends arrive. The Doctor and Rose are put in confinement beams and converse with Davros, who the Doctor calls the Daleks’ pet. Davros reveals Dalek Caan, the last of the Cult of Skaro, and says that the Supreme Dalek is afraid of the mad hybrid’s prophecies about the Children of Time. Davros revels in the darkness with the Doctor, but the Time Lord puts it away as quickly as it surfaced when he learns about the secret weapon: A reality bomb.

As the prisoners are processed, Sarah Jane and Mickey escape with her sonic lipstick. The Daleks test their reality bomb on the prisoners, using the neutrino energy channeled through the aligned planets as a weapon. Just as it’s about to fire, Jackie’s teleporter recharges and she escapes as the prisoners are vaporized. They literally vanished from existence.

Davros plans to destroy the entirety of creation, every single corner of reality in every universe. The only thing to remain will be the Daleks.

Jack meets up with Sarah Jane, Mickey, and Jackie. Jack and Mickey share a manly hug as Sarah Jane produces a warp star – a warp fold conjugation trapped in a carbonized shell, or an “explosion waiting to happen”, gifted to her by a Verron soothsayer – to destroy the Crucible. On Earth, Martha makes contact with the other Osterhagen bases and opens a channel to the Crucible, threatening to use a chain of twenty-five nuclear warheads around the globe to destroy the planet. Jack also makes contact, threatening to use the warp star to destroy the Crucible, and Davros is pleased to see Sarah Jane once again.

Davros is pleased that the Doctor, a pacifist, has honed his companions into weapons ready to kill. He asks the Doctor – the man who keeps running because he dare not look back for fear of the shame – to consider how many others have died in his name. The drama is a distraction as the Supreme Dalek locks onto all of the Doctor’s allies and teleports them to the Doctor’s location.

The Daleks then initiate the reality bomb.

One the TARDIS, the Metacrisis Doctor and Donna rig a device to cause the reality bomb to backfire. The TARDIS materializes in the Crucible and the Metacrisis Doctor races out, but Davros strikes him with an electrical charge before trapping him. Donna picks up the device and is similarly dispatched before Davros destroys the weapon. Unfortunately for the Daleks, Donna stops the reality bomb, Davros, and the Daleks with knowledge that she shouldn’t have.

The creation of the Metacrisis Doctor was a two-way street. It created the Doctor-Donna, which was sparked by Davros when he shot her.

The Time Lords and humans send the missing planets home and round up the Daleks. Davros asked why Dalek Caan couldn’t see this coming, but the truth is that Dalek Caan put everything in motion to end the Dalek reign of terror. The Supreme Dalek tries to stop them, but Jack destroys it. As the Doctor rushes into the TARDIS, the Metacrisis Doctor decides to send a surge of energy into the entire fleet to prevent the Daleks from attacking the universe.

As the Daleks explode, the Doctor is appalled at the bloodlust of his duplicate, and he rushes his allies into the TARDIS. The Doctor offers sanctuary for Davros, but earns the name “Destroyer of Worlds” in return as his offer is declined. The TARDIS takes off but cannot break free of the time bubble, so the Doctor contacts Torchwood and Bannerman Road – including K9! – to break free with every companion on the console.

Just as the TARDIS is meant to be flown.

The time capsule tows the planet Earth back to its rightful place in our solar system. As they arrive, having saved the world in epic fashion, the console room erupts in a celebration that bleeds onto the planet below.

The Doctor bids farewell once again to Sarah Jane, who tells him that he has the biggest family on Earth. Mickey decides to stay behind in this reality as the Doctor disables Jack’s vortex manipulator. Jack and Martha walk away with Mickey in close pursuit.

The Doctor takes the TARDIS to Bad Wolf Bay in Rose’s parallel universe. Jackie tells the Metacrisis Doctor that she needs to find her husband and son, and the Doctor tells Rose that he’s leaving his clone with her. The Metacrisis Doctor is exactly how Rose found the Doctor, full of anger and fury, and he needs Rose’s influence to grow and change. The big difference is that he is part human and will grow old with her.

She asks the Doctor what he was going to say on the day he left her behind in Bad Wolf Bay. The Metacrisis Doctor whispers the answer to her and they kiss as the TARDIS vanishes from sight.

As the TARDIS flies, Donna’s Time Lord knowledge begins to overload her brain. She wants to stay with him, but if she does, the metacrisis will destroy her. She cannot be with him forever as she wanted. She begs him not to leave her behind, but he has no choice but to say goodbye as he wipes her mind.

He delivers her home and makes Wilf and Sylvia promise that she can never remember anything about her travels with the Doctor. If she remembers any thread of it, she will die. Wilf is understanding but angry, and he takes solace in the fact that she saved so many in her travels. For one shining moment she was the most important woman in existence. Sylvia says that she still is. The Doctor reminds her to tell Donna every once in a while.

Donna awakens and rushes in, but she doesn’t remember any of it. The Doctor bids her farewell as John Smith, and Wilf promises to look up to the stars on his behalf every night. The Doctor walks away in the rain takes flight in the TARDIS once more.

Time Lord victorious. Time Lord alone.

 

It is no secret that this story earns every last bit of a high rating.  The balance of action and dramatic tension as all of our heroes from the last four years come together to defeat one of the Doctor’s oldest enemies is masterful. They all bring strengths and weaknesses, and they leverage all of them together to save the world. The universe. All of creation.

The cinematography was quite impressive. I was blown away by the beautiful dichotomy between the close shots of the celebrating family and the long shots of the Doctor alone and somewhat defeated.

There’s also a great deal of attention paid to the franchise’s mythology, both old and new. It’s important for them to do so because, hey, it’s the Daleks. We met Davros in Genesis of the Daleks and watched him lose his hand in Revelation of the Daleks. UNIT gets another crack at the Daleks after their first encounter in Day of the Daleks. The Daleks tried to steal the Earth before in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, which is also where we first encountered a Supreme Dalek.

We last saw Davros and the Supreme Dalek in Remembrance of the Daleks as the Dalek Civil War came to a close, and that’s a really interesting dynamic: Davros commanded the Imperial Daleks and the Supreme Dalek commanded the Renegades. After the Time War, it seems that bygones are bygones as there is only one faction of Daleks now.

Of course, in the post-Time War era, we’ve seen the Cult of Skaro. Survivors of the Time War, it adds a twist as a hybrid helps give birth to the new Dalek empire before destroying it.

In more comical callbacks, we’ve seen Daleks disabled by attacking their eyestalks – The DaleksPlanet of the DaleksResurrection of the DaleksRevelation of the DaleksThe Parting of the Ways – often screaming, “My vision is impaired!” This time, the trope was flipped to both humorous appeal and heightened tension.

The Doctor has been shot by a Dalek before, but this is the first time it was effectively lethal. When the Third Doctor took a hit from a Dalek cannon in Planet of the Daleks, he was only paralyzed for a short time.

In terms of the missing planets, the theft of Earth is nothing new since it was stolen by the Time Lords (and renamed Ravolox) in The Trial of a Time Lord. Earth’s twin planet Mondas was moved and became home to the Cybermen.

We heard about Adipose 3, Pyrovillia, and the Lost Moon of Poosh through this series. We’ve never seen Shallacatop or Jahoo, but three others have been mentioned in one way or another: Clom was the home of the Abzorbaloff (Love & Monsters), Woman Wept was the site of an off-screen adventure for Rose and the Ninth Doctor (Boom Town), and Calufrax Minor could be in the same vein as the miniaturized Calufrax from The Pirate Planet.

Then we get to the Children of Time.

I know that Rose is a fan favorite, but I stand by my assessment that Martha was superior in every way. Rose is a liability to the Doctor, almost costing him his life in the middle of a war. Sure, the reunion was touching, but her jealousy was nearly intolerable.

It’s a little ironic that an avatar resembling her will be the key to saving the Doctors, the Time Lords, and Gallifrey down the road.

The consequences of the Rose and Doctor relationship also gives us the notion that Time Lords have some degree of control over their regenerations.

Martha, Sarah Jane, and Jack continue to bring their strengths to bear in a conflict, each tackling the problem with their unique skillsets. I had the biggest grin at Sarah Jane’s line about Torchwood using their guns too often, and Jack’s fanboy nature over Sarah Jane was adorable.

Gwen (who gets the callback to The Unquiet Dead) and Ianto holding down the fort at Torchwood makes sense, particularly since they’ve never encountered Daleks before. The same goes for Luke and Mr. Smith. I was also pleased to see Mickey (“Us Smiths gotta stick together!”) and Jackie following Rose through the breach and, in a natural evolution since their debut, fighting for their planet.

That leaves us with Donna. Oh, Donna. Her departure is heartbreaking, particularly since she wanted to travel with the Doctor for the rest of her life. She considered him to be her destiny, and she was correct thanks to Dalek Caan. Now she doesn’t remember any part of her adventures with the Doctor, even though the universe remembers her.

Donna Noble was the Doctor’s conscience, saving him with her direct nature and wide-eyed innocence more than once. She reminded him of his empathy, which Davros tries to use against him by reminding him of those who sacrificed themselves for him and those he couldn’t save – Harriet Jones, Ceth Ceth Jafe, the Controller, Lynda Moss, Sir Robert MacLeish, Angela Price, Colin Skinner, Ursula Blake, Bridget Sinclair, the Face of Boe, Chantho, Astrid Peth, Luke Rattigan, Jenny, River Song, and the hostess – and how easily any of his Earth family could join those ranks.

None of the Doctor’s companions physically died to save the world, but the Donna that he knew is gone. She didn’t love him, but she loved everything about him. She believed in him. She saved him.

And he saved her in turn.

I’m going to miss her.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Series Four Summary

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW26: Exit Wounds

Torchwood: Exit Wounds
(1 episode, s02e13, 2008)

 

Gray’s revenge tears Torchwood at the seams.

Picking up right where we left off, Tosh detects severe Rift activity St. Helen’s Hospital, the Cardiff Police Station, and the Central IT Server Building. With their SUV missing, the team piles into Rhys’s car and heads to their respective assignments.

Jack returns to the Hub and finds John Hart. Hart shows his love by unloading two machine guns into Jack’s chest. Captain Harkness wakes up chained to the wall and subject to the disappointment of an apparently lonely Time Agent. Hart fires up the rift manipulator, takes his captive to a nice vantage point, and pages the rest of Torchwood Three.

Gwen and Rhys head to the police station to find PC Andy Davidson supervising bloody corpses and the Weevils that caused them. The Weevils apparently targeted the four most senior officers on the force. Convenient, that.

Ianto and Tosh arrive at the Central Server Building to find three cloaked figures wielding scythes. The menace is easily dispatched with a little gunplay.

Owen finds a Hoix at the hospital and takes care of it with a sedative and a pack of cigarettes.

When John Hart pages their comms, he orders the team to their respective roofs. Once there, they watch helplessly as Hart detonates explosives in fifteen locations around the city. Hart then whisks Jack away from Cardiff Castle into the past.

The city, meanwhile, is crippled.

Jack finds himself in 27 AD. John Hart refuses to take Jack back to the present, revealing that he is a walking bomb and that his vortex manipulator is fused to his arm. Jack’s brother Gray arrives and Jack apologizes for abandoning him. Gray doesn’t accept the apology, preferring to stab Jack in the chest with a large knife. Gray is furious that he was left to suffer unspeakable torture for years, and he wants Jack to suffer as he did.

Gray throws Jack into a grave, destined to die from asphyxiation and resurrect thousands of times over the next 2000 years. Hart protests, but relents to Gray’s wishes as he throws a ring to Jack and fills the grave. Gray travels to the Hub in the present and releases Weevils into the streets.

Gwen takes command of the local police, dispatching them into the city to deal with the crisis. Tosh and Ianto are reassigned to the Turnmill Nuclear Power Station where a potential meltdown looms, but the Weevils block their path.

When Tosh detects Gray and Hart’s arrival in the present, Gwen returns to the Hub and finds the captain. Hart explains things to Gwen, especially Gray’s story. The vortex manipulator releases from his arm as Gray promised and Hart uses that as evidence that he is telling the truth. He tells Tosh of a tracker – the ring – that he left with Jack as the only means to save him, but the signal is nowhere to be found. Tosh and Ianto return to the Hub and help wrangle the Weevils still in Torchwood HQ, but Gray traps Ianto, Hart, and Gwen in the vaults.

Meanwhile, Owen uses his status as “King of the Weevils” to navigate the streets to the nuclear plant. He finds Nira Docherty, a scientist trying to singlehandedly prevent the meltdown, and convinces her to leave with a can of Weevil repellent. Owen establishes comms with Tosh and they set to work, but Tosh is interrupted by a gunshot.

She has been fatally shot in the stomach by Gray. As he looms over her, a pounding echoes through the Hub. Gray tracks the sound leaving Tosh to drag herself to the autopsy room and inject herself with a massive load of painkillers.

The pounding was coming from the morgue. Gray finds Jack in a drawer, and Jack tells his brother that he forgives him. The Torchwood Institute team from 1901 found Jack, who has at that point crossed his own timeline, and fulfilled his request to be frozen until the present day. Jack uses chloroform to incapacitate Gray.

In the vaults, Hart rigs a recall command for the Weevils. Jack finds the captives and releases them.

Tosh re-establishes comms with Owen and walks him through the recovery process, but the core is too far gone. The only option is to vent the coolant through the containment building, for which Owen will need to set up a delay to avoid being destroyed. Unfortunately, a power surge triggers and emergency lockdown, trapping Owen in the room.

A hopeless Owen falls apart, but Tosh asks him to stop before he breaks her heart. The two talk as they each prepare to die, although Owen is unaware of Tosh’s condition and Owen realizes that he will die by watching himself dissolve. They also talk about that one time that Tosh had to cover for Owen just after he was hired… that one time with the space pig.

Owen apologizes for the two of them missing each other and never getting that date. The coolant begins to fill the room, and Owen tells Tosh that everything is okay. His last words are, “Oh, God.”

Jack, Gwen, Ianto, and Hart find Tosh. She tells them about Owen before dying in Jack’s arms.

The next morning, Rhys and Gwen watch the news. Rhys holds Gwen as she mourns. At the Hub, Jack prepares to freeze Gray, unprepared to add more death to that which has already torn at the team. John bids Jack farewell with his condolences and a kiss.

Jack and Gwen pack up Owen’s and Tosh’s belongings as Ianto logs them out of the system for the final time. The team gathers around Tosh’s terminal as a message pops up.

It’s her farewell.

She thanks Jack, admits her love for Owen, and hopes that her death meant something. As she fades from the screen, Jack resolves that they should carry on. The end is where they start from.

 

I knew it was coming and I still cried. This story does what Torchwood does best by mixing action and drama and ensuring that the stakes are kept high. Doctor Who often pulls out the last-minute save and keeps the tone (mostly) hopeful and light, but Torchwood doesn’t pull punches. Everyone there is living on borrowed time.

It’s the last time that we will see the Torchwood Three team that we met in Day One together. It’s a milestone for the series.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Series Two Summary

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW25: Fragments

Torchwood: Fragments
(1 episode, s02e12, 2008)

 

Torchwood Three: This Is Your Life!

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

Snap.

Boom.

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

 

Captain Jack Harkness – 1,392 deaths earlier

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Toshiko Sato – 5 years earlier

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

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

 

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

 

Ianto Jones – 21 months earlier

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

 

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

 

Owen Harper – 4 years earlier

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Exit Wounds

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW24: Adrift

Torchwood: Adrift
(1 episode, s02e11, 2008)

 

The Rift taketh and the Rift giveth away.

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

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

Andy is unimpressed with the effort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Fragments

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW23: From Out of the Rain

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

 

Have you heard the music?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the other victims have died.

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

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

The threat still lives on.

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Adrift

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW22: Something Borrowed

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

 

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

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

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

Surprise!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: From Out of the Rain

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW21: A Day in the Death

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Perhaps both.

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Something Borrowed

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW20: Dead Man Walking

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

 

It’s a dead man’s party.

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

Jack plans to bring Owen back.

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

And then he wakes up again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death notices the straggler.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: A Day in the Death

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW19: Reset

Torchwood: Reset
(1 episode, s02e06, 2008)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owen dies on the ground as the team watches helplessly.

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Dead Man Walking

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW18: Adam

Torchwood: Adam
(1 episode, s02e05, 2008)

 

A science-fiction staple trope hits Torchwood Three: Fake memories for everyone!

Gwen is late for work due to some morning frolicking with Rhys. Meanwhile, the Torchwood team is investigating a strange box with new team member Adam Smith. Gwen doesn’t recognize him since she’s been away, but after a brief touch on her shoulder, Gwen is fully onboard thanks to some false memories.

Adam does the same with Tosh, implanting some romantic memories after fiddling with his personnel file. Other changes include a playful Owen who is now wearing glasses and Jack seeing visions of a child in the containment cells. The cracks start to show when Gwen goes home but doesn’t recognize Rhys – Adam has never met the man, and his power tends to replace memories rather than merely inserting them – and calls in the team to deal with the supposed home intruder. Jack recognizes Rhys and, thanks to the engagement ring on her hand, Gwen is convinced enough to accompany her teammates back to the Hub.

Owen examines Gwen while Jack interviews Rhys to help jog her memory. Gwen returns home, and Jack keeps seeing visions of the kid. When Jack pursues a Weevil into the sewers, he finds a man who he recognizes as his father. Adam appears moments later and places a few more memories into Jack’s head while he probes the man’s past.

He thinks back to his childhood on the Boeshane Penninsula. His community was invaded by aliens, and Jack was given charge of his brother Gray when his father went back for his mother. In the confusion, Gray was lost, and Jack returned home to find his father dead. Jack is riddled with grief and guilt, and he storms away.

Owen and Tosh continue their investigation of the strange box. The box is made of wood, and Ianto offers to check his diary for any history of the artifact. Owen keeps flirting with Tosh, but she’s completely enamored with Adam. Owen professes his love for Tosh, but this only angers Tosh. Owen is devastated.

Rhys and Gwen go to a general store, and when the cashier ignores Rhys, he goes on a rant. Gwen laughs as some of her memories come back to her.

Ianto notes that his diary has no mention of Adam. When Ianto confronts the newest Torchwood member, Adam inserts false memories of Ianto as a serial killer. Adam relishes the thrill while Ianto is left crying on the floor. He then visits Tosh and leverages her fake memories of him to gauge her devotion to him. She claims that she would die to protect him.

Jack puzzles over why long-buried memories of his childhood trauma are surfacing now. He returns to the Hub to find Ianto begging to be incarcerated for his supposed crimes. Jack investigates, eventually finding the CCTV footage of Adam manipulating Ianto’s mind, and he finally uncovers the truth behind Adam’s touch.

Jack checks the records but can’t find a blood sample for Adam. The lights come up as the team arrives for the morning, complete with an apology bouquet from Owen to Tosh. Adam tries to bring the team in for a group hug, but Ianto rejects Adam’s touch. Jack confronts Adam by gunpoint and, despite Tosh’s protests, eventually sends the imposter to the cells. Adam claims that everything has changed the team for the better, but Jack is furious.

The team discusses the Adam situation as their real memories start to surface. Jack gives each team member a Retcon pill to wipe the last 48 hours – Adam’s existence – from their minds. Jack visits Adam one last time and Adam offers to revive a good memory for him. It’s a kindness born of an eternity spent floating in the Void: Jack recalls a day with his father and Gray. Adam can’t help himself, however, and inserts himself into the memory as means of survival. The memory is ruined and Jack takes the Retcon pill.

With no one left to remember him, Adam is destroyed.

The team wakes up sometime later, curious as to why the last 48 hours have vanished. All that remains is the bouquet and the mystery box that contained Adam’s essence. Jack figures out how to open the box, but all that it holds is sand.

Presumably from the memory of the Boeshane Penninsula.

 

The false memory and implanted memory trope is a staple of science-fiction. TV Tropes has a page dedicated to it, and the trope is everywhere. The saving grace is how Torchwood approached it with the show’s dark vision. In fact, Adam’s claim that his intervention has improved the team – gaslighting, anyone? – makes him a believable villain, and the writers hung a lampshade on his manipulation being a violation. Particularly with Tosh and the forced intimacy, which plays as an allegory for rape. Unfortunately, the recovery from that is never as simple as Torchwood‘s quick fix amnesia pill.

To that end, I enjoy the creepiness of this story, especially how it showed how vulnerable our heroes are despite their upfront strength. Guns and alien tech only discourage so much, you know? I also liked how the show keeps an eye on internal continuity: One of Ianto’s anchor memories was Lisa.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Reset

 

 

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.