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.

 

 

Timestamp #TW17: Meat

Torchwood: Meat
(1 episode, s02e04, 2008)

 

Relationships are tough, but in Torchwood they are tougher.

Rhys is driving down the road, singing along to an advertising jingle, when his phone rings. Responding to news of a car accident, he finds that one of his company lorries has overturned and the driver has died. As he talks with the police officer, he watches as the Torchwood SUV pulls up and Gwen gets out.

He had no idea who she actually worked for.

The delivery truck was carrying meat, all of which Torchwood Three confiscates and takes back to the Hub for analysis. Gwen recognizes the lorry as one from Rhys’s company, and as they depart, Rhys tries to follow the SUV but is blocked by the police.

Owen analyzes the meat and discovers that the stamp that marks the product as fit for human consumption is a fake. Tosh calls Rhys’s company, posing as the police, and finds that the meat comes from Harries & Harries. Owen figures that the meat is alien and has been on the market for some time, and the team discusses the case over pizza (from which they remove the meat toppings).

Owen asks to see Gwen and she heads home. He tries to get the truth out of her, but she doesn’t break. When she returns to work, Rhys follows and watches her meet with Jack near the Roald Dahl Plass entrance to the Hub. When Gwen and Jack head to the meat factory, Rhys follows and is subsequently discovered. Jack and Gwen notice Rhys being taken and assume that he’s involved.

Rhys is taken inside the factory and questioned. He poses as a friendly face, suggesting that he could pick up where the former driver left off. While he’s inside, he discovers the source of the meat: An alien being that regenerates whenever someone slices a piece off of it.

It’s endless torture for the creature.

Rhys leaves the factory and returns home. Gwen’s not far behind him and they have a falling out over the whole affair. Gwen finally admits that she works for Torchwood, but Rhys doesn’t believe the scope of her career. So she shows him.

She takes him to the Hub and he sees everything from the invisible lift to Myfanwy the pterodactyl. He meets Jack, Owen, Tosh, and Ianto and learns what Torchwood does. He tells them what he saw in the warehouse, and after some conflict with Jack, reveals that he has applied to be the new delivery boy.

Jack calls for a team meeting, including Rhys.

Rhys provides the lay of the land, but Gwen is adamant that he doesn’t get involved. The plan ends involving stun guns, saving the alien, and sending it home through the Rift. Owen works on a model of what the creature looks like while Tosh brings him a sandwich. She hints at possibly starting a relationship with someone, but Owen is oblivious to her advances.

Rhys and Jack pick up the truck for the infiltration. While they drive, Jack explains why he picked Gwen for Torchwood. The team loads up in the back of the van and Rhys takes them to the warehouse. When Rhys tries to stage a distraction so the team can exit the van, he finds out that they’ve already gone.

Inside the warehouse, Jack, Gwen, and Tosh find the “cash cow” and discover that it is sentient, but their cover is soon blown and Ianto and Rhys are captured. They are taken by gunpoint to the creature, forcing Gwen to reveal herself. Tosh and Jack are also discovered, and Jack explains what the workers have on their hands. Ianto unties himself as Rhys is shot, and the ensuing fight prompts the creature to strain at its bindings.

Owen develops a sedative while the team dodges the out of control beast. Ianto apprehends the remaining workers as Owen realizes that sedatives won’t work, so he euthanizes the creature instead. Jack mourns for the loss as Owen tends to Rhys’s wounds.

Back at the Hub, Owen patches Rhys as Jack informs him that the workers have been given Retcon. The creature has been incinerated. Jack privately tells Gwen that Rhys will need to forget his adventure, and she requests to be the one to give him the Retcon.

She decides that she can’t do it. She gives Jack an impassioned speech and he relents, unwilling to fire her and lose her from the team.

He gives her the rest of the day off. Torchwood Three has a new team member.

 

Starting with the unnamed creature, the torture is heartbreaking. The howls and screams built instant sympathy, and the need to euthanize it was tragic. The actors completely sold all of it.

Noting, of course, that the creature wasn’t the point of the episode, it was great to see the team dealing with the repercussions of exposing their secret identity and not pushing the reset button less than an hour later. The Retconning of Rhys in Combat was troubling since it betrayed everything about a trusting relationship. This story builds an authentic yet complicated relationship for Rhys and Gwen, which makes them better characters overall.

On a final note, Jack’s flirtation has certainly amplified this season. This is the Jack that we all know and love.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Adam

 

 

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 #TW16: To the Last Man

Torchwood: To the Last Man
(1 episode, s02e03, 2008)

 

A story of love and loss across time.

Cardiff, 1918: At the climax of World War I, Gerald Kneale and Harriet Derbyshire of the Torchwood Institute are investigating reports of ghost activity at St. Teilo’s Military Hospital. Heading into the ward, they see a bright light and a glimpse into the future where Tosh and a soldier named Tommy are huddled. Tommy tells the 1918 Torchwood team that they need to take his earlier incarnation from the recovery ward to ensure his existence in the future.

Cardiff, 21st century: Tosh dances about in her home as she gets ready for work, then goes to the Hub where Torchwood Three is about to awaken Tommy Brockless from cryogenic hibernation. Apparently, they have to revive him every twelve months, and Tosh is able to calm him down when he comes back to life.

Tommy settles in for a meal with the team, complimenting Tosh on her dress while he eats. Later on, during his examination, he recites name, rank, regiment, and parents’ death dates. Elsewhere, Jack briefs Gwen on the events from 1918 where time zones were colliding. Agents Kneale and Derbyshire left orders sealed with a temporal lock, and when the time is right, Tommy’s presence will prevent the temporal collision from spreading to the rest of the world.

Tosh takes Tommy outside for a day in the world while Gwen looks into the 1918 Torchwood team. Gwen decides to investigate the hospital. She finds a man with a missing leg who vanishes and a team of firemen who intend to demolish the building. Jack arrives soon after and theorizes that the workers may have released psychic trauma that has charged the Rift. As the workers continue to tear into the building, Jack feels a burst of energy and sees a man being wheeled down the hallway. Gwen sees an injured man in a chair being tended to by a nurse. Unlike all of the other ghost sightings, however, this time the nurse notices her. Gwen’s not supposed to be here, she says as she chases her back.

Tommy and Tosh share drinks over a pool game. Tommy sees news from hostilities in Iraq on the television and laments the fact that there is always a war somewhere. He asks if the human race is worth saving, and Tosh immediately says yes. He feels a bit of the psychic energy from the hospital before the pair head to the boardwalk. Tommy gives Tosh a kiss, but she returns some mixed signals before kissing him back. It’s evident that they’re falling for each other, but before anything else can happen, Jack calls them to the Hub.

Demolishing the hospital is the trigger.

After a briefing, the team heads for the hospital to start setting up rift monitors. Owen cautions Tosh about her relationship with Tommy, telling her that he doesn’t want to see her get hurt. Gwen calls them with a strange note from the 1918 report: “Through a hole in the external wall, we hear the roar of great engines. Outside is a woman in strange armor, ripping a Union Jack, perhaps some future heroine of the Empire.” Owen spots a car advertisement through a hole in the wall matching the description. Today is the day, punctuated by the Rift monitors alarming.

On cue, the temporal lock lifts and Jack reads through his orders from 1918. The instructions are for Tommy and Tosh: Tommy needs to be ready to jump through the fracture when it opens, leaving present Tommy trapped in the past after sealing the fracture with a Rift Manipulator.

Separately, Jack tells Tosh that Tommy will die three weeks after returning. His mind will revert to the way it was before being frozen, shell-shocked from the war, and he will be executed for cowardice. Tosh protests, but she has no choice.

Ianto pulls Tommy’s hospital attire out of storage, preparing him for his trip. Tommy then joins the rest of the team in the Hub and wonders what to do with the rest of his time. Tosh offers to take him to her place for the night. Back at the Hub, Ianto asks if Jack could return to his own time as well, but Jack wouldn’t want to sacrifice all of the amazing things he’s done since leaving home.

Both couples consummate their respective relationships, but Tosh’s is bittersweet.

At 6:30 am, the Rift monitors alarm and ghosts begin to appear. Tommy hears the 1918 Torchwood team speaking to his past self, realizing that Torchwood took him for this purpose, and he begins to question his role in this operation. He says that Torchwood is no better than the Army, knowing that if he goes back, he’ll be headed back to the front.

Tosh comforts him as the fracture begins. They find themselves in 1918 and Tosh tells Tommy that he has to step up and save the universe. He issues his orders to Torchwood 1918. before Tosh kisses him goodbye. Tommy heads to bed like he’d never been away.

Tommy watches as Torchwood 1918 takes his previous self away. As he climbs into bed, he doesn’t trigger the device. Tosh engineers a psychic projection so that someone can remind him to use the key. Tosh volunteers since Tommy trusts her the most. Once projected into the past, she helps him to activate the key and seal the fracture.

Tosh laments Tommy’s sacrifice as she packs his modern era clothes away. Jack thanks her as she leaves. Outside, Owen tells her that she saved the world. Tosh disagrees: Tommy saved the world.

But she wonders if humanity is worth it.

 

It was great to see Naoko Mori in the spotlight as Tosh. The last episodes with her in a major role were Greeks Bearing Gifts and Captain Jack Harkness (also a time shift episode involving a world war), and they are few and far between. We also get a good look at the Torchwood Institute as it would have functioned closer to its inception.

There was a humorous callback to Doctor Who with Tommy’s remark about how silly it would be to save the world in pajamas. The Tenth Doctor embraced that silliness just after his regeneration.

Overall, this story was a breath of fresh air in a franchise that often deals with darkness and drama. It handled weighty issues like sacrifice and historical approaches to PTSD while letting the sun in for a little bit. That is much appreciated.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Meat

 

 

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 #TW15: Sleeper

Torchwood: Sleeper
(1 episode, s02e02, 2008)

 

What is humanity?

Beth and Mike, a happily married couple, are fast asleep when an intruder startles them awake. Mike faces the danger with a cricket bat while Beth calls the police. Two burglars enter the room, knock Mike out, and assault Beth. The criminals scream as the lights grow brighter.

Torchwood Three is called to the scene. One of the burglars is dead but the other is severely injured. Tosh and Jack investigate the bedroom while Gwen and Owen follow the ambulance to the hospital to interview the survivors. Both Jack and Owen suspect Beth in the incident, but Beth remembers nothing. The surviving criminal eventually succumbs to his injuries, but before he dies, he tells Gwen that “the woman” did it.

Beth is taken to the Hub for interrogation. Beth still can’t remember anything, even in the face of crime scene photographs. A power surge occurs, just like one at the hospital, and Gwen takes a more gentle approach. Tosh tries a body scan, but nothing is out of the ordinary. Things get weird when Owen tries to draw blood and two needles break against her flesh. Owen tries a scalpel with the same result. Beth also tells him that she’s never been sick.

Jack immediately believes that she’s an alien.

When Beth says that there’s no such thing, he shows her the captive Weevil, and it cowers before her. Beth, scared out of her mind, begs for a way to prove herself to him, so Jack brings the mind probe out of storage. Ianto objects since the last subject to be probed ended up exploded, but Jack assures him that it won’t happen again. Tosh commences the probe, lights flicker, and Beth passes out before sitting upright and displaying a lighted ridge-like formation on her arm. Beth repeats a series of words in an alien language, and Jack is satisfied when he recognizes them as name, rank, and serial number.

Jack tells the team about this species. It isn’t much since they don’t tend to leave survivors. Cell 114 infiltrate planets by disguising themselves as local inhabitants and relay the information home, leaving their sleeper agents completely unaware and cloaked in false identities. The implant in Beth’s arm is protected by a force field.

Jack shares the results with Beth, leaving her distraught. Gwen assures her that humanity doesn’t just lie in the body but in the mind as well. Jack rebuts, telling Beth that she will transform on invasion day and the Cell 114 inside her will take over.

Beth is in the middle of an identity crisis.

The team debates over what to do with her. Tosh suggests cryogenic storage with an electromagnetic pulse to disable the transmitter. Before she’s sedated, Beth asks for euthanasia if they can’t keep her humanity intact. Unbeknownst to the team, a secondary transmitter activates, waking sleeper agents nearby who kill loved ones and abandon tasks in progress.

The Cell within Beth awakens and breaks out of the vault. She escapes through the tunnels, and the team assumes that she showed them exactly what they wanted to see. Meanwhile, Beth takes advantage of her status off the alien network to visit Mike and say goodbye. The farewells become too much and Beth accidentally impales Mike with an alien blade. Jack and Gwen arrive and drag her away.

Across town, one of the sleeper agents kills Patrick Grainger, a local council leader. Another sleeper agent uses a fuel tanker to destroy a highway and underground fuel pipeline. More and more sleepers are scrambled to seed chaos and prepare the planet for invasion. The demand information from Beth and urge her to connect to the network. She reveals that there is only one agent left.

While the team panics about loss communications, Jack rigs a CB radio to reach them. They track the sleeper to an abandoned farm which was a front for a coalmine housing ten nuclear warheads. The soldiers guarding the arsenal are unable to stop him. When Jack and Gwen arrive, they ram him with the SUV.

The sleeper runs Jack through with the arm-sword while Gwen disables the transmitter. The sleeper tells Jack that they’re too late before committing suicide by bomb: The invasion is already underway.

Beth returns to the Hub for cryogenic freezing. She feels guilty for what she has done, but fears becoming an uncaring murderer. She thanks Gwen for her compassion, asking her to remember who Beth was before holding Gwen hostage with the arm-blade. Gwen begs the team not to kill Beth, realizing that Beth wants to them to kill her while she’s still human. She succeeds by threatening Gwen, falling dead as the team opens fire.

Gwen and Jack talk later, discussing the upcoming wedding and the invasion. Gwen believes that even if they haven’t stopped it, they know enough now to fight when the day comes.

 

This was a pretty straightforward story that outlined a hidden threat in society. The drama surrounding Beth’s humanity and identity crisis was riveting and engaging, and it kept the episode from becoming another monster-of-the-week bonanza.

The one link back to the continuing Doctor Who mythology was the mind probe, an element mentioned before in Frontier in Space and The Five Doctors. Other than that, this is all-new territory with an all-new threat.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: To the Last Man

 

 

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 #TW14: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Torchwood: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
(1 episode, s02e01, 2008)

 

Nothing good happens at midnight in Cardiff.

As evidence of that claim, a sports car pulls up and motions an elderly lady across the street. When the light turns green, the car speeds off, but Torchwood is in pursuit. After a short chase, the team catches up to the Blowfish and Owen shoots out the car’s tires. They find the Blowfish holding a family hostage. The Blowfish taunts the team and urges Ianto to shoot him, but a mysterious gunman shoots the Blowfish between the eyes.

Yes, Jack, they missed you.

Back at the Hub, Gwen airs her frustrations with Jack’s disappearance. Jack says that he found his Doctor, but came back for the team. The moment is interrupted by Rift activity as a mysterious man appears from thin air and walks into a mugging. This stranger, Captain John Hart, solves the problem by dropping the mugger off the side of the car park. He threatens the victim, vowing that he was never there, and then retires to a nearby club. He tells everyone who he doesn’t find attractive to leave, and when that doesn’t work, he pulls two handguns. The crowd panics.

While Torchwood Three investigates the dead mugger, Jack gets a holographic message from John. After a nod to Star Wars, Jack rushes off to find the new arrival. Inside Bar Reunion, there’s a reunion involving kissing, fighting, and drinking to the sounds of Blur.

Torchwood Three responds to the disturbance, Jack and John catch up. John went to rehab for drink, drugs, sex, and murder. Jack finds out that the Time Agency has been shut down with only seven agents left in the field. John ridicules the team name – “Oh, not Excalibur?” is a nice nod to the original pitch for the show – and explains that they were partners for two weeks. Except that it was two weeks in a time loop, so it was more like five years.

John finally explains that he’s looking for three deadly radiation cluster bombs scattered across Cardiff. They must be found and neutralized or else the Earth is in danger. The team takes John back to the Hub (which is missing a pterodactyl) and scan him for weapons. He has a lot of them.

Gwen takes Jack aside and asks about his time away. Jack talks about seeing the end of the world but tells Gwen that he came back for her. Gwen reveals that she’s engaged to Rhys, mostly because “no one else will have” her. Well, then, back to work.

Tosh finds the bomb locations and Gwen organizes teams to search in pairs: Jack and Ianto, Owen and Tosh, and Gwen and John. Jack takes Gwen aside and they hash out her plan to figure out what John is really up to. Jack relents, but warns her not trust him and not to let John kiss her.

Gwen and John find the first cluster bomb at a container shipping yard. John double-crossed Gwen by kissing her with poisoned lip gloss. Gwen is paralyzed with a time limit of two hours before her organs shut down. John locks her in the container and leaves, disposing of her mobile phone along the way.

Owen and Tosh search through an abandoned building. They find the bomb, but John ambushes them. Tosh is knocked out and Owen takes a bullet to the hip. Elsewhere, Jack and Ianto search an office building and sort through their relationship. Jack goes to the roof while Ianto looks through the office floor. Ianto is ambushed by John and told to help his friends. John goes to the roof, and after Jack throws the final bomb over the side, John pushes the good captain over for good measure.

The murder rehab never worked.

Ianto goes to Owen and Tosh. After dressing the gunshot, they all go to the docks and rescue Gwen.

Meanwhile, John takes Jack’s wrist device and returns to the Hub. He retrieves a pyramid-shaped device from the Blowfish’s corpse but is surprised by the Torchwood team… including a resurrected Jack Harkness. John reveals that there are no cluster bombs, but rather an Arcadian diamond that belonged to a former lover that he killed. The “bombs” were a tracking system to find the diamond, but the loot is a trap. It turns out to be a bomb that locks onto the DNA of her murderer – John Hart – and will kill him in ten minutes.

John cuffs himself to Gwen and swallows the key, forcing the team to find a solution. They take John to the Rift where he first arrived while Jack and Owen develop a DNA plan. They inject John with the DNA of every Torchwood member, forcing the bomb to detach. Jack tosses it into the Rift and the shock wave launches all of them back to the moment when John arrived.

John produces the key and unlocks the handcuffs. Gwen sucker punches him and Jack shows him the door. As John disappears into the Rift, he reveals something: “I found Gray.”

Jack is stunned, but won’t reveal who Gray is. The team gets back to work.

 

The team is pretty much right where we left them, though the tensions are high due to Jack’s disappearance. James Marsters – Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame – amps up that tension with a good dose of chaos thanks to Chris Chibnall’s fast-paced writing.

Otherwise, the threads are laid for the season ahead with John Hart, Gray, Gwen’s pending nuptials, and the team’s distrust of Jack, all starting with this exciting return episode.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Sleeper

 

 

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.