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 #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.

 

 

Timestamp #TW30: Children of Earth – Day Four

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Four
(1 episode, s03e04, 2009)

 

Torchwood suffers a terrible loss.

Confronted by Clem, Jack recalls his actions in 1965. The 456 offered a cure for a deadly flu pandemic that was about to break out, but they wanted twelve children in exchange with the promise that those children would live forever. Jack was specifically chosen because they needed someone who couldn’t die and didn’t care.

The children were taken to the specific coordinates, during which Clem escaped. His escape went unnoticed because the 456 left before disappeared first. Jack didn’t notice his escape, and it’s uncertain why the 456 didn’t notice either. It’s possible that Clem was on the verge of puberty and was thus undesirable to the aliens.

Clem, haunted by Jack’s face in his nightmares, steals Gwen’s gun and shoots Jack. After Jack resurrects, Gwen talks Clem down. Ianto is upset that Jack never mentioned this before.

Meanwhile, Agent Johnson takes Alice and Steven to her facility. Alice warns Johnson not to anger Jack.

The Torchwood team tunes back into the summit with the 456. While Frobisher questions what will happen to the children they demanded, the aliens state that a “remnant” is watching. Clem assumes that the 456 is speaking of him, while everyone else believes that it is the camera linking the summit to the party in the Prime Minister’s office.

The 456 demand that Frobisher sends a camera into the tank. When he does, a 456 is captured in profile and three heartbeats and distinct forms of life are detected. One of them is a child, one of the chosen from 1965, who has not aged a day since. The child’s eyes widen in shock. Presumably, it has not seen another human in the decades since its abduction.

The cameraman leaves as the 456 spew more green goo and transmit a recording of Frobisher’s voice announcing that this is off the record. The 456 says they do not harm the children, that they feel no pain, but if humanity refuses their demands, the entire species will be destroyed.

The Americans are furious. They demand all the records of the 1965 encounter and threaten Prime Minister Green with United Nations sanctions for withholding the information.

Ianto feels betrayed by Jack’s secrecy about 1965. Jack leaves to call Frobisher. Confirming that the 456 have returned, Jack warns that their return is proof that they cannot be trusted. After the call, Frobisher is summoned to the Prime Minister’s office for an emergency planning meeting. Lois continues to record the proceedings as the PM decides to negotiate with the 456 as they explore options for viable children that no one would miss.

Frobisher returns to the isolation room and offers the 456 one child per million people on the planet, approximately 6,700 in total. The 456 refuse and the children around the world start chanting various numbers, each country with a different value.

The hard line is ten percent of the children of Earth. No negotiation.

Agent Johnson discovers that her unit has been cut off by the government, so she decides to go to London to get more information. As she travels, the assembled officials try to decide how best to select the “units” for delivery and how to sell it to the pubic. The meeting becomes contentious as they bounce from random lottery to alphabetical selection to simply filtering out the “drains on society”.

They finally decide that those who are less likely to contribute to society are the viable targets, including those living on benefits and those destined for prisons, based on school league tables and academic performance.

The proposal is accepted and given to Frobisher for execution.

The Torchwood team decides to use the recording as leverage to blackmail the Cabinet. Jack and Ianto head to Thames House while Gwen secures Lois’s cooperation. As Jack and Ianto hit gridlock in the city, Ianto calls his sister to warn her, fully aware that the line is being traced. He extends the warning to the government officials monitoring the call before telling his family that he loves them. He also calls Gwen, therefore providing Johnson with the location of the new Hub.

Frobisher outlines his plan to the Cabinet, offering a vaccine against the chanting as a cover story. When the vaccine goes wrong, they can pretend that they didn’t know and that the 456 were behind it all. When Jack is in position, Lois addresses the Cabinet on behalf of Torchwood, informing them of the recording. Jack and Ianto surrender themselves at the entrance of Thames House.

When Johnson arrives at the Torchwood warehouse, Gwen shows her the recording and informs them of the gravity of the situation. Rhys has a copy of the recordings and is ready to send them to the public if anything goes wrong.

Jack and Ianto are taken before the 456. The 456 refuse to yield and Jack declares that they are making it a war. The 456 responds by releasing a virus into the facility, prompting an immediate lockdown. Ianto demands that an anti-virus be deployed or he will destroy the tank. The 456 refuse, and the tank is bulletproof. The 456 starts to shriek, a scream that goes beyond the recording as Clem screams in agony and starts to bleed. The 456 declare that the Remnant will be disconnected and Clement dies in Gwen’s arms.

Jack promises to get Ianto out, but it’s too late. Ianto has already been exposed. Ianto collapses and Jack catches him.

Dekker has donned an environmental suit. Jack is immortal. Everyone else in Thames House dies.

Including Ianto.

Jack says that it’s all his fault, but Ianto says no. Ianto says that he loves Jack and asks him to never forget him. As Ianto slips away, the 456 tells Jack that humanity will deliver the children. Jack succumbs to the virus as he kisses Ianto goodbye.

The Cabinet is left with two choices: Deliver 35 million children or face annihilation. Brian Green chooses to deliver the children.

Gwen arrives some time later in a room filled with body bags. She finds Ianto and Jack, knowing that Jack will come back but Ianto has paid the price for their efforts. As Gwen mourns, she declares that there is nothing they can do.

 

Working with Torchwood is not conducive to a long life. We learned this on Gwen’s first adventure, and it was reinforced with Suzie Costello, Owen Harper, and Toshiko Sato. But this one was a deep cut for Jack, the team, and the fans. Jack lost the man he loved and the team has already seen so much death, but the fans reacted by building a shrine in Cardiff Bay. The memorial was a persistent feature for several years and eventually became a permanent attraction in the area.

This episode and its terrible toll also proved that the 456 were a significant threat. In fact, one to be taken seriously. One that could not be defeated by sheer strength alone. The team was outmatched and outmaneuvered, and they’re left with little hope at the end of the chapter.

That makes this part a very powerful one.

A minor note comes by way of the mention that the 456 are only in the market for pre-pubescent children. That explains why the Bannerman Road Gang does not crossover into this series.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Five

 

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 #TW29: Children of Earth – Day Three

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Three
(1 episode, s03e03, 2009)

 

“We are here.”

Torchwood has gone to ground.

They’re hiding out in an old factory once used by Torchwood One. As the world reels in fear of its own children, Gwen uses her police knowledge to steal laptops, debit cards, and mobile phones while Jack swipes a car. The team secures supplies, including a new set of appropriate clothes for Jack. Ianto makes contact just long enough to tell his family that he’s okay, but Alice is still left wondering about her father.

Torchwood Three’s “Hub 2” is up and running.

The Prime Minister locks the country down to protect the children. Clem McDonald is doing the best he can under the circumstances but ends up in police custody after stealing a woman’s pocketbook. Meanwhile, Alice tries another route to find out about Jack and ends up flagged by the government.

Gwen makes contact with Lois Habiba and asks her to wear a pair of Torchwood contact lenses so they can see what’s going on. Lois is hesitant but Gwen asks her to take the lenses in case she reconsiders. Back at the Hub, Jack and Ianto dig into the kill order while they discuss Jack’s status as a fixed point in time and space. Ianto is shaken by Jack’s immortality but they promise to make the most of what time they have.

When they find out that Clem has been arrested, Ianto sends Gwen to the police station to bail him out. She calls PC Andy Davidson to secure Clem’s release. While Ianto digs into Clem’s history, Jack asks to see the history behind each of the blank page victims. What he finds sends him running.

Agent Johnson’s group makes the connection between Jack and Alice. Frobisher orders Johnson to bring her in while he (and a sneaky Lois) head to Thames House. Johnson’s team storms Alice’s house – the bastards kill the dog! – and pursues her. When they catch up to her, they find young Steven pointing into the distance.

The rest of the world’s children point skyward, tracking a pillar of fire descending into Thames House. The 456 have arrived. They fill the containment chamber as Frobisher meets with Mr. Dekker and makes contact. The aliens instruct the humans to call them 456, and Frobisher extracts a promise that they will not speak of the previous visit to Earth in 1965. The 456 wish to speak with the world but will settle for a diplomatic liaison.

Representatives from UNIT and the United States meet with Prime Minister Green and make their displeasure clear. Green hands control of the 456 situation to Frobisher, a non-elected official with no powers of state, to defuse the tension.

Jack sneaks into the Frobisher home and steals a mobile phone to make contact. Jack asks if the current events are linked to 1965, and Frobisher confirms that the kill order was designed to silence those who remained with knowledge of the event. Jack wants to talk to the 456 but Frobisher counters with the revelation that he has Alice and Steven.

Lois slips the contact lenses in before joining Frobisher and Bridget Spears at the containment chamber. The conference is also being transmitted to Prime Minister Green, UNIT, and the American representatives. In the end, Frobisher demands that the 456 cease using human children to communicate. In exchange, the 456 demand a gift: Ten percent of the children on Earth.

Gwen takes Clem to Hub 2 where he meets the team, learns a quick lesson on social acceptance, and has a bite to eat. The team watches the diplomatic conference with the 456, and as Jack returns to the new Hub, Clem says that he can smell the man who previously delivered the children to 456.

Jack is that man. Gwen protests that he is a good man who fights aliens, but Jack reveals that he did what was asked of him.

In 1965, he gave the 456 twelve children. He gave them the “gift.”

 

This episode provides a bridge and a moment to breathe as the team gets its feet back on the ground. Not a moment is wasted, however, as the 456 arrive and the story climaxes with their demand as Jack’s allegiance is brought to question.

In that sense, the team’s grounding is short-lived. They end the episode off balance just like they started, and that keeps the drama moving until next week.

 

 

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

 

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Four

 

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 #TW28: Children of Earth – Day Two

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Two
(1 episode, s03e02, 2009)

 

The band is on the run and the Hub has been destroyed.

All that’s left is a giant crater in Roald Dahl Plass. As Gwen stumbles to her feet, an emergency response team pulls her away from the flames and loads her into an ambulance. This team is not your standard emergency response but rather an assassination squad. Gwen bites and shoots her way free before hijacking the ambulance.

Meanwhile, Ianto pulls himself out of the rubble and runs from a sniper as the police arrive, complete with Andy Davidson and a defense of Gwen’s character. Agent Johnson calls Frobisher and reports that the job is one-third of the way done, then takes Davidson to raid Gwen’s home. Frobisher also receives some information about a mysterious device and the 456.

Gwen stops the ambulance and interrogates one of the surviving assassins, learning that the government as ordered the destruction of Torchwood. Gwen rushes home, wakes up Rhys, and unceremoniously tries to usher him to safety. Ianto makes contact while Rhys gets dressed, and Gwen rushes away, shooting out Johnson’s tires before escaping.

Government forces also storm the Davies household in a search for Ianto, but he’s one the streets elsewhere. Gwen and Rhys end up dumping their car since the license plates are trackable.

As morning dawns, Frobisher tries to patch up relations with his family before heading to work. At Home Office, Lois Habiba does some more digging while Frobisher briefs the Prime Minister about Jack and the 456 device. The 456 have only directly contacted Britain. Lois tries to ask Frobisher if Jack can help, but she’s chided for her efforts.

Jack’s daughter tries contacting him without success. We also discover that Timothy White has survived and is on the run.

At what’s left of the Hub, recovery teams find an arm, a shoulder, and a head. They take to a warehouse in London while Ianto watches from a nearby rooftop. In the warehouse, the remaining pieces of Jack’s body start a gruesome and extreme resurrection sequence. He goes from a skeleton to a blind, screaming burn victim. Johnson reports this to Frobisher as gets ready to check on Mr. Dekker’s progress with the 456 device.

Gwen and Rhys find that their accounts have been frozen, so they take their fight to London by stowing away on a food delivery lorry. During the trip, Gwen finds the right way to tell Rhys about their pregnancy, leading to mixed emotions of joy and anxiety given their current situation.

Meanwhile, Ianto’s family receives a card in their newspaper, which is a covert request for Rhiannon to bring him supplies. Johnny runs a distraction while Rhiannon sneaks away, and when she makes contact, she’s happy to see him but upset about his condition. During this meeting, the children stop again.

In unison: “We are coming tomorrow.”

Timothy White is particularly upset about this revelation.

Ianto takes the laptop and Rhiannon’s car in his pursuit of the ambulance that took Jack. At Home Office, Gwen Cooper tries to make contact with Frobisher but ends up finding an ally in Lois. The women covertly set up a meeting, though Gwen was clearly expecting Frobisher instead of the new hire. Luckily, Lois is a much friendlier face, and she bears news of the kill order. Lois doesn’t like covering up murders.

Jack has finished his resurrection. He demands to see the man in charge but instead meets Agent Johnson before being sealed in concrete while Ianto watches from afar. Meanwhile, Gwen and Rhys use the information provided by Lois to sneak into a secure compound as funeral directors to retrieve Rupesh Patanjali’s body. This takes them into the lion’s den, and Rhys almost blows their cover when their contact, Corporal “Kodak” Camara, flirts with Gwen. Luckily, Camara’s a bit thick. He also hits the deck nicely when Gwen sucker punches him.

Unfortunately, as Gwen disables the cameras, the alarms are sounded and the couple is surrounded by Johnson’s forces just as they discover the concrete cell. They find an escape route when Ianto uses heavy machinery to rip the makeshift sarcophagus from the building. Gwen provides an explosive exit and Johnson reports her failure to Frobisher. The man is not pleased.

Ianto stops the machine at the edge of a large quarry and drops the sarcophagus over the edge. The concrete shatters and frees Jack’s body. He comes back to life once again and is reunited with his Torchwood family.

Frobisher, Spears, and the Prime Minister observe the device’s construction. It ends up being a tank of some sort. Later that night, the tank is flooded with a gas mixture that is poisonous to humans. Bridget wants to investigate the 456, but Frobisher tells her that they don’t have time. The 456 will be arriving tomorrow.

Frobisher and Spears leave as Dekker embraces the tank with an unnatural sense of welcoming anticipation.

 

It’s under extreme pressure where Torchwood works best, and this is no exception. Watching the team play to their strengths without the guidance of Jack Harkness behind them says a lot about how well they have adapted to their roles over the last two years. The endgame, of course, was the rescue of their team’s leader in a tense action sequence that left me cheering multiple times.

I do feel bad for Jack’s daughter, Alice, who is left wondering throughout the entire episode.

This episode brings some further Torchwood mythology to bear, including snippets of how Queen Victoria created other institutions (of which the current government is unaware) and the official stance that Torchwood Two has been disbanded (but that the current government is unsure).

Finally, we get another tease of Gwen Cooper’s linage with the funeral director sequence. Gwyneth, her ancestor from The Unquiet Dead, was the servant to an undertaker.

The team dynamic and resourcefulness make this an amazing chase episode as the mysterious threat bears down on the planet Earth. They arrive next week.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Three

 

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 #TW27: Children of Earth – Day One

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day One
(1 episode, s03e01, 2009)

 

The Home Office gets explosive results.

Scotland, 1965: A bus full of children stops at an undisclosed location. When they stop, the children disembark and are walked toward a bright light. All of them but one walk into the light. The lone child flees as the light flares.

Cardiff, 2009: Gwen is withdrawing money from an ATM when she notices that the children around her have frozen in place, totally catatonic. The same is happening all around the area. As suddenly as it began, the phenomenon ends and the children start moving again as if nothing happened.

Gwen heads to Torchwood and begins to investigate the oddity. We’re reminded that Jack, Ianto, and Gwen are all that remains of Torchwood Three.

In a nearby hospital, a patient dies on the table. The doctor, Rupesh Patanjali, informs Ianto and Jack, believing that they are the patient’s neighbors. Jack and Ianto ask for a moment with the body, which they then open with a laser saw and withdraw an alien organ. They’re discovered by the doctor and leave with the organ, but before they leave Patanjali informs them of several more missing bodies. Jack and Ianto refuse to help due to all of the red tape involved in the investigation.

We are next introduced to a new set of players. Lois Habiba is starting a job working for Bridget Spears, who is the assistant to the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, John Frobisher. Secretary Frobisher (who looks very familiar) is visited by UNIT Colonel Oduya who informs him that the phenomenon with the children happened all around the world.

Torchwood discovers this at the same time. They’re naturally concerned, and so is UNIT, the latter going to yellow alert while they investigate if the incident was extraterrestrial or not. Obviously, everyone wants to keep it quiet.

Jack is perturbed that Martha Jones chose now to go on her honeymoon – to whom, we do not yet know – but luckily Dr. Patanjali arrives at Roald Dahl Plass just as Torchwood needs a doctor. Jack and Ianto lured him in just like they did with Gwen. Naturally, Gwen goes above to serve as a recruitment officer and review the files that Patanjali brought. While they talk, the children all stop again.

But this time, they scream. Then they chant, in unison, “We are coming.”

It happened worldwide. It also happened with one adult, Timothy White, a patient in a mental institution in East Grinstead.

Patanjali is paged back to the hospital as the Home Office is flooded with calls. Frobisher gets a visit from Mr. Dekker, the head of MI5’s technology division and alien monitoring, who tells him that “the 456” have re-established contact for the first time since 1965. At the same time, Lois takes a call from Torchwood, which the system flags as classified. Using her supervisor’s credentials, she learns more than she bargained for.

Frobisher meets with Prime Minister Brian Green, a man who is a bit overwhelmed with the various alien threats looming over them. Frobisher suggests keeping certain historical events off the record, and Green wants to keep his name out of it. Frobisher gets the privilege of a “blank page”.

Gwen discovers that every child worldwide was speaking English, and Jack and Ianto agree that they need to interview one of them. Gwen drives to meet Timothy while Jack visits his daughter, Alice Carter, and her son Steven, his grandson.

Wait… what?

They catch up for a few minutes and muse about Jack’s immortality, but in the end, Alice refuses to let Jack use Steven for Torchwood experimentation. So, Jack turns to Patanjali instead.

Ianto visits his sister, Rhiannon Davies, but she also refuses to let him take one of the kids out. She’s also nervous about Ianto’s relationship with Jack. Her husband Johnny is quite a bit more homophobic about it. Ianto is humiliated but tries to save face. The moment is interrupted by someone stealing the Torchwood SUV. Ianto is exasperated.

Gwen’s interview with Timothy reveals that he was the child who ran away in 1965. His real name is Clement McDonald, and he’s developed an unusually heightened sense of smell. He’s been smelling the aliens coming back for months, and he also can tell that Gwen is three weeks pregnant.

Surprise! Although, it works out well with Rhys shopping for a house.

Gwen calls Ianto, who has made it back to the Hub, and asks him to search for information about MacDonald, missing children, and Scotland. Unbeknownst to him, Ianto triggers an alarm at an unidentified military monitoring station.

At Home Office, Frobisher orders the blank page, which is code for a kill order. There are four targets on the list: Captain Jack Harkness, retired Colonel Michael Sanders, Ellen Hunt, and Captain Andrew Staines. Lois sees Bridget is distressed, and when she looks at Bridget’s e-mail, she recognizes Jack’s name from the earlier call.

Jack arrives at the hospital and receives word that another man has died. When Jack examines the body, Patanjali shoots him. As Jack dies, a military force arrives as a woman named Johnson waits until Jack revives. Johnson also discovers the link between Clement and Timothy. She sends officers to retrieve him, so he runs.

Patanjali reveals that he was a spy for this group, attempting to infiltrate Torchwood. Jack revives and Johnson kills him again, issuing orders for her men to implant a bomb in his body. Johnson covers her operation by killing Patanjali, stopping him from revealing the truth to Jack.

Jack, meanwhile, revives after the soldiers depart. He returns to the Hub.

At the Hub, Gwen verifies Clement’s claim with a scanner. Jack congratulates her and inadvertently uses the scanner, thus discovering the bomb. He orders Gwen and Ianto to evacuate. He kisses Ianto, watches him rise on the elevator, and promises that he’ll come back. He always does.

The bomb has a blast radius of one mile. The Hub is completely destroyed in a massive explosion that knocks Gwen to the ground.

Meanwhile, the children chant: “We are coming, we are coming, we are coming… back.”

 

Day One is tense and engaging, leading us into the first season-long arc in the Doctor Who universe since The Trial of a Time Lord. The show picks up the pieces left behind from the previous season and lays down several threads to pursue in the process. We meet Jack’s family and Ianto’s family – two families that we had not previously met – and learn that Gwen and Rhys are expecting a baby.

Torchwood has apparently lost its secrecy, including the general location of Torchwood Three’s headquarters. It’s no wonder since the world has been time and again been exposed to aliens, but perhaps the destruction of the Hub will reset that norm. At this point, half the world knows of or believes in alien life, and the other half is in denial.

Unfortunately, this brings into question the fate of the various beings and relics housed in the Hub, including the Weevils, Gray, and Myfanwy.

We get a nod to Martha Jones, which is a bit meta since she was expected to appear in this set of stories until Law & Order: UK picked up Freema Agyeman. We also meet the fourth Prime Minister in the revival era – Brian Green picks up where Harold Saxon, Harriet Jones, and the unknown politician in Aliens of London left off – which is something that the classic era didn’t play with much.

Finally, after reading Children of Time from kOZMIC Press, I can’t help but think of a penguin when I hear the name Frobisher.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Two

 

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.