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During the discussion, they realize that the tapes are no longer valid leverage.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.

 

 

Timestamp #TW25: Fragments

Torchwood: Fragments
(1 episode, s02e12, 2008)

 

Torchwood Three: This Is Your Life!

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

Snap.

Boom.

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

 

Captain Jack Harkness – 1,392 deaths earlier

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Toshiko Sato – 5 years earlier

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

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

 

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

 

Ianto Jones – 21 months earlier

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

 

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

 

Owen Harper – 4 years earlier

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Exit Wounds

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW22: Something Borrowed

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

 

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

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

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

Surprise!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: From Out of the Rain

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #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.