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 #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.

Timestamp #TW37: The Middle Men

Torchwood: The Middle Men
(1 episode, s04e06, 2011)

Timestamp TW37 The Middle Men

One truth is out, but more mysteries remain.

At PhiCorp Los Angeles, Stuart Owens and his secretary Janet are working late. On the television, the news is talking about the “45 Club,” a group of people who believe that jumping from greater than 45 stories is enough to permanently lose consciousness. Owens calls Zheng Yibao in Shanghai to discuss a large land purchase.

Yibao investigates the facility, then calls Owens back to report that there is nothing of interest at the facility. After that, he takes a swan dive from a tall building for reasons unknown.

In San Pedro, Rex is still upset about what he has discovered. He believes that the powers that be will simply burn anyone they don’t like. In the admin area, Esther tries to call Vera without success. She then turns her attention to Colin Maloney and Ralph Coltrane after watching them fighting. Colin plans to drop Vera’s car at the local mall. He also tells Esther that Vera completed her inspection and left. Finally, he places the camp on lockdown to keep everyone at the facility.

In Cowbridge, Gwen confronts Dr. Alicia Patel about her father’s classification. Patel tries to tell Gwen about the fine line between categories, but Gwen chastises her for running a concentration camp as a medical professional. She then makes plans with Rhys to break her father out.

In Los Angeles, Jack works his magic on Janet in a bar. He reveals (via Torchwood hacking) that Stuart intends to send Janet away against her wishes. He also knows that she is having an affair with her boss. With Janet’s help, Jack tracks Stuart to a local restaurant where he is having dinner with his wife Elizabeth. After revealing the affair to Elizabeth, Jack settles in for a one-on-one discussion with Stuart.

Stuart suggests that he is merely a middle man. He also states that Phicorp is just a pawn. The pattern started around five years ago based on “Market Share Projections”. Stuart found an Italian document which said, “They have found the Blessing,” but he doesn’t know what it means. Since Jack had staged Janet’s abduction, Elizabeth called the police. When they arrive, Jack quickly vanishes.

In San Pedro, Rex tries to sneak his video evidence out of the camp. Unfortunately, he is caught and taken to Colin by request. Rex tells Colin of his intention to go public and expose the camp. Colin watches the video and has a break down, then decides to silence Rex. He slowly pushes his ballpoint pen into Rex’s heart through his open wound. Rex screams but points out that he cannot die, which overwhelms Colin. Once Rex determines that Colin killed Vera, Colin cries as he shoves the pen back into Rex again. Rex faints from the pain.

Esther finds the generator room where the interrogation is taking place. Colin drops the pen and confronts Esther. Esther tries to bluff him by saying that Dr. Juarez is on the phone for him, but he attacks her instead. Esther holds her own for the majority of the altercation, and she eventually chokes him to death. She rushes to help Rex, but she needs to get the keys from Colin’s pocket. The Miracle resurrects Colin. He tries to choke Esther but he’s stopped by Ralph who fires two bullets into Colin’s side.

In Cowbridge, Rhys steals a truck and meets Gwen. As they get her father moved, Gwen hears that sick people are arriving in Wales by boat. Once Gwen’s father is loaded up, Rhys rams the gate to escape the facility. Gwen uses the Eye-5s to contact Jack in California.

Gwen steals some explosives and sets the camp ablaze with a message that makes Jack laugh triumphantly.

“This is the truth for the whole world to see, we let our governments build concentration camps. They built ovens for people in our names. Now I don’t care if the whole of society bends over and takes this like a dog. I’m saying no.”

In San Pedro, Rex comforts Esther. The mission was a success but they’ve paid a heavy price. Rex tells her that the fight is not over, then starts the car and drives them away. When they meet up with Jack in Venice Beach, they find out that the White House stands by the camps as a state of emergency in time of famine or pestilence. Jack says that they need to look at the bigger picture.

Gwen arrives in Los Angeles and is immediately paged to the courtesy phones. She receives a message: “Lenses.” When she puts in the Eye-5s, she learns that the forces behind all of this have taken her mother, husband, and child.

In exchange, they want Jack Harkness.


The overall plot has entered another housekeeping phase with this episode. The overall goal was pretty simple: Get the news of the camps into the public. Even though that revelation is deflected by officials, the world now knows. More importantly, this team has finally adapted the name of Torchwood.

Of course, that cohesive attitude is about to take a hit since Gwen’s family is in jeopardy.

It was a decent enough episode, but despite the explosions and fights, it didn’t do much to move the ball forward.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Immortal Sins

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

Timestamp #TW36: The Categories of Life

Torchwood: The Categories of Life
(1 episode, s04e05, 2011)

Timestamp TW36 The Categories of Life

Miracles breed atrocities.

In Washington, D.C., Vera Juarez is told that the medical panels have ended. A report has been submitted to Congress and the new categories of life have been enacted. People in Categories 1 and 2 are sent to the new overflow camps. Vera is upset about these three categories and the government’s control, so she calls Rex and declares that she is part of his investigation efforts.

Gwen returns to the United Kingdom under the alias of Yvonne Pallister. She reunites with her family and finds her mother tracking her father’s whereabouts. He’s located at the Cowbridge Camp in an abandoned army barracks, and Gwen travels with Rhys and Andy Davidson to the site. The area is flooded with people demanding the release of their loved ones. Gwen is directed to the admin building where she gets roadblocked by military officer in charge. The site is under lockdown while all of the occupants are sorted into categories. Gwen storms out, intent on breaking her father out that night.

Back in Venice Beach, Esther confides her feelings of inadequacy to Jack. Their discussion is interrupted by a text from Rex summoning them back. They meet Vera and get her settled. Soon after, the team converges in the makeshift “hub” to review their data. Jack officially welcomes Vera to Torchwood and then introduces the categories.

Category 1 consists of people who should have died before the Miracle. Category 3 is all of the perfectly healthy people. Category 2 the wide swath of people in the middle. The world governments now have the ability to determine who is alive or “dead”, and PhiCorp is behind it. Esther reveals her research into the PhiCorp camps and the possibility that PhiCorp is doing something horrific to the Category 1s.

Gwen goes undercover at Cowbridge as a nurse. Vera and Esther join the staff at San Pedro and Rex volunteers to be taken away as a patient. The “fragile mortal man” Jack is left behind, so he decides to attend the Oswald Danes rally in Los Angeles.

At the San Pedro camp, Rex is designated as Category 2. Vera and Esther settle into their undercover positions, including a hefty dose of overt sexism from camp supervisor Colin Maloney. As Vera begins her inspection, Esther reclassifies Rex as Category 1 and smuggles a camera to him. Rex is moved to the appropriate module where he discovers it to be a dark and cold space with patients stacked on metal racks. He finds some clothes and leaves the module.

Vera breaks away from the normal tour route to find a building full of patients without insurance. They are living in filth and squalor, and one of the patients has been wrongly categorized. Vera threatens to prosecute Maloney. He retaliates by stealing his military escort’s sidearm and shooting Vera twice. The two men take Vera to a Category 1 module and leave her barely conscious on the floor.

At the Cowbridge camp, Rhys and Gwen begin their quest to find Gwen’s father. Gwen finds her father and tries to extract him, but he collapses just before reaching the truck. When Gwen calls for help, her father ends up being reclassified as Category 1 because he fell unconscious.

At the Miracle Rally, Jack lures Oswald away. When Oswald can’t find Jack, he returns to the staging area before the rally begins. Jilly meets a mysterious stranger who tells her that she’s doing well and getting noticed by important people. Jack eventually confronts Oswald, tempting him to become the hero of the story instead of a PhiCorp mascot. Jack presents Oswald with a new speech that will expose the truth. In exchange, Jack offers Oswald an end to the Miracle and a pathway to death.

Oswald takes the stage and follows his heart instead of the scripts. He declares that those who have survived the Miracle are the first angels on Earth. His revelation, an endorsement of PhiCorp, is greeted by an arena of cheering fans.

Rex notes that the Category 1 area is only three small modules, and therefore is unable to house all of the appropriate patients. While Rex watches, Vera wakes up and Maloney starts a process that seals the building. Each module is a crematorium. Rex watches as Vera is burned alive, reduced to ashes.

Rhys and Gwen make a similar discovery in Wales. Gwen can only look on in horror.


In a brutal upswing from the previous episode, this entry was tense and thrilling. It leveraged each character’s strengths and circumstances to drive further into the heart of the plot. It also uncovered barbaric horrors and was unflinching in its portrayal.

It was disturbing but engaging.

What is particularly interesting is the apparent recycling of circumstances from the previous season. Vera’s fate parallels that of Owen Harper, another medical professional. Both were locked into a state between life and death, though Owen was undead while Vera was undying. Both were suffering from gunshot wounds and both were disintegrated while trying to save innocent people. Both of them also had love interests — Rex and Tosh — each with mortal chest wounds who witnessed their deaths through the lens of electronic devices.

The major differences were that Rex survived the encounter and Tosh wasn’t physically present at Owen’s death.

This recycling aside, which I found to be more fascinating than distracting, this hour of television was good.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Middle Men

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

Timestamp #TW35: Escape to L.A.

Torchwood: Escape to L.A.
(1 episode, s04e04, 2011)

Timestamp TW35 Escape to LA

Assassins and espionage try to cover for a lack of story.

Despite Gwen’s warnings, Esther decides to visit her sister Sarah. The house is boarded up and the door is guarded by a series of locks, but Sarah is at home. Sarah warns Esther that people are looking for her, warning her away from major metropolitan areas like Boston and New York City. Sarah rejects Esther’s comfort and concern about Sarah’s children. Esther promises to return as soon as she can.

When Esther returns to her car, she calls Child Protective Services to help the kids. Esther leaves, unaware of the car following her on orders from their mysterious antagonists.

The Torchwood team travels to Los Angeles, California. Jack gazes upon the Pacific Ocean, musing that he hasn’t seen it for about seventy years. They’re looking for PhiCorp, and despite Gwen’s desire to stay on the sand in the sun, Jack decides to look for a temporary headquarters elsewhere.

Rex finds a flyer for Dead is Dead and calls Vera. The campaign is being spearheaded by Ellis Hartley Monroe on the premise that those who should have died are to be treated as if they are dead, merely waiting for their “pause” in mortality to end. In contrast, Doctor Juarez and the medical panel are looking at an abandoned hospital as an overflow for ICU patients.

Jack secures a hideout and Gwen phones Rhys to check in while Rex wonders if Jack’s goal is to turn everyone he meets gay. Jack quips that it is the plan. The team starts to settle in, tracing the threads on Oswald, Jilly, and PhiCorp.

Elsewhere, Jilly and Oswald continue their public relations campaign. Oswald is enjoying the perks of fancy hotels, but while she remains professional, Jilly can’t stand Oswald’s history. She also brings news that Oswald’s appearance that day has been cancelled in lieu of Ellis Hartley Monroe. Oswald is in danger of being kicked to the curb and into the hands of the waiting mob.

Rex decides to find his father, who is now a thief stealing PhiCorp drugs. The reunion is testy, but in the end Rex ends up with another box of pills.

Later, Esther briefs the team on PhiCorp’s secure server and her plan to exchange it for an empty duplicate. Access is restricted to the biometrics of Nicholas Frumkin. To secure his biodata, Jack and Gwen go undercover Mission: Impossible-style as an annoying American couple.

The new hospital under Vera Juarez’s management is failing miserably. There are no protocols, no electricity, and people just being deposited without permission. Regardless, Monroe stages a Dead is Dead rally outside, which is where Oswald was going to hold a public event. Oswald decides to enter the hospital, drawing media attention as he boldly states that he’s not scared of the people inside. He reinvents himself as the spokesman and advocate — perhaps, even a messiah — for them. Monroe departs in anger, being poisoned on the way by the antagonists.

One of those agents, posing as Torchwood, ambushes Frumkin in a parking garage. The agent secures the biometrics by force, including mutilating him for his eye scan and handprint. Frumkin lives through the torture courtesy of the Miracle.

Gwen goes undercover as Yvonne Pallister, International Sales Representative at PhiCorp. She’s backed up by Esther, posing as Lorraine in Human Resources, and Jack as a delivery worker. The team stages a fire to evacuate the building and uses the biometrics to enter the server room.

As the operation kicks off, Esther discovers that Sarah has been detained for psychological evaluation and her kids are in the system. Rex realizes that someone may have follower Esther during her ill-advised trip and berates her while she works. While Esther balances Rex and Gwen, Gwen is attacked by the bad agent. Jack tries to assist but is knocked out as well. Rex rushes to the rescue, having to climb the stairs all the way with his chest wound, while the assassin monologues to Jack.

The assassin says that the reason Jack is mortal is because of something that happened many years ago. Apparently, Jack caused all this, and the moment has come as they have found “specific geography”. Just as he is about to reveal his employers, Rex comes in guns-a-blazing. The assassin collapses against the wall as Rex demands thanks for saving their lives.

Monroe awakens inside a car that is in a compactor. The poison should have killed her but she was saved by the Miracle. The triangle pattern appears on the car’s screen and a voice apologizes for what is about to happen. They liked her style and acknowledge that they could have been friends, but her methods were exposing their plan. As the voice promises that the “families” will rise, the car is compacted. Monroe’s shattered remains still live in the metal prison.

Back at their base, the Torchwood team discovers the plans for the overflow camps. Unfortunately, Rhys has already schedule Gwen’s father for one of the camps. Rhys is too late to stop the transfer.

Gwen’s father now belongs to PhiCorp.


Torchwood stumbled here with a mediocre story with quite a bit of padding. Getting the team to Los Angeles to pursue PhiCorp was good, as was the spy story to access and swap out the secure server. Adding the assassin to the plot was a great foil and served well to push the antagonists into the spotlight alongside the Oswald Danes story.

It was good to see that Jilly has some semblance of a soul, merely tolerating Oswald to serve her employers. It was also good to see the concentration camp narrative threads continued, as well as seeing Oswald chasing the spotlight to remain relevant.

The points where the story lost pacing were with the family tangents for Esther and Rex. The Esther tangent was tolerable, even though it could have been easily skipped over in exchange for a shorter way for the assassin to track the team, but the Rex tangent was pointless. The parallel between Gwen’s and Esther’s phone usage was important to note, but I think it would have been more powerful if the phone was how Esther was traced instead of by burning precious minutes talking through a barricaded door.

It feels like a lot of missed opportunities were swaddled in unnecessary drama, and the pacing established in the first three episodes was sacrificed in the process.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Categories of Life

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

Timestamp #TW34: Dead of Night

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

Timestamp TW34 Dead of Night

The people of Earth have nothing and everything to lose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Escape to L.A.

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

Timestamp #TW33: Rendition

Torchwood: Rendition
(1 episode, s04e02, 2011)

Timestamp TW33 Rendition

Airborne chemistry and conspiracies abound!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Dead of Night

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

Timestamp #TW32: The New World

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

Timestamp TW32 The New World

Who are they? Torchwood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Rendition

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

Timestamp #TW31: Children of Earth – Day Five

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the effort will kill the child.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

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

 

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