Torchwood: The Gathering
(1 episode, s04e09, 2011)
Two months later…
Really? Two months? With a critically wounded Jack, a world full of overflow “death” camps, and a planetary economic crash?
Times are tough enough that Gwen smashes a car into a local pharmacy, sparing enough time for a stranger to steal a couple of boxes of pills. She and Rhys have been using the stolen supplies to help their loved ones and neighbors. After all, her father is bed-ridden and in constant pain. Gwen and Rhys are able to spend the time getting closer again.
In St. Margaret’s Halt, Scotland, Esther has been tending to Jack’s gunshot wound. Esther is worried about evading local skeptics, but Jack is more concerned about Esther stored bags of his blood in the fridge. Either way, Esther has hardened a bit in the meantime.
CIA Headquarters brings us Rex and his team working hard to track down the Three Families under Allen Shapiro’s leadership. Rex finds a tale about a man who could not die, and that tale leads the team to a knife stored in the archives. The hope is that the blood on the blade can lead to family roots. Charlotte Wills, the Three Families mole in the agency, takes the lead and comes up dry, so Rex takes it on himself.
The Three Families invite Jilly Kitzinger, under an alias, to Shanghai on a one-way ticket. She’s being asked to observe the Blessing. Across the pond, the authorities search Gwen’s house on the hunt for her father. Gwen claims that he’s been cremated, and while the police don’t believe her, they don’t find a thing thanks to a hidden room in the basement.
Worse than that, however, is Oswald Danes sneaking into the house under the guise of a delivery man. He’s in search of information about Jack Harkness, but when he picks up Anwen, Gwen takes a saucepan to his face. Rhys steps in as well before Oswald reveals that he knows that Gwen helped hide Jack and Esther. He’s willing to exchange the name of the man who created the Miracle.
Gwen covertly summons Jack and together they Retcon the spy across the street before confronting Oswald. The Torchwood team is reunited. Oswald presents Jilly’s laptop, which he has been using to track her. He knew something was up when she totally disappeared from the grid, but he did keep seeing the name Harry Bosco. Esther tells him that “Harry Bosco” is a process that mistranslated the truth to hide it through simple obfuscation. She calls in Rex in an attempt to decrypt Jilly’s work, which is to write history in the favor of the Families.
With the help of Oswald and Rhys, the team tracks the Blessing to Shanghai and Buenos Aires, the latter of which correlates to the possible location of a man who was in the butcher’s cellar in 1928 when Jack was repeatedly killed. The discussion comes to a screeching halt as the police crash through the door in search of Gwen’s father. They find him using thermal imaging. His abduction adds more fuel to Gwen’s passion to find the Families.
Rex informs Shapiro that he has to go off-book to find the Families himself because he suspects there is a mole in the CIA. Meanwhile, Rhys discovers that Shanghai and Buenos Aires are antipodes, cities on exact opposite sides of the world. They’re also the very inspiration for the PhiCorp logo.
The team splits up: Esther, with her stockpile of Jack’s blood, travels to Buenos Aires and meets up with Rex while Gwen, Jack, and Oswald travel to Shanghai using old Torchwood liaisons. It’s in Shanghai where a new connection is discovered as Jack’s blood draws out of his gunshot wound and into the ground, thereby implying a connection between him and the Blessing.
Meanwhile, Jilly is introduced to the Mother. It’s time for her to meet the Three Families and, deep underground, the Blessing itself.
You know that pithy office saying about the meeting that could have been an email?
That’s this episode. I’ve mentioned before that this entire story could have been compressed by about thirty percent without losing any cohesion or substance. This episode embodies that philosophy with only a few big story movements coming among a lot of filler.
There are positives, such as Oswald finally getting something to do. The emotions invoked were also hard hitting, from Rex and Shapiro’s discussion about shadow dictatorships – literally every conspiracy theorist’s wet dream come true – to the chilling sadness as Gwen’s father (abducted?) by the “just following orders” police inspector.
But that’s just not enough to compensate for an episode makes ten minutes of mileage in a fifty-five minute runtime. Jack’s tired of a mortal life that hurts so much, and I’m tired of writing and pacing that hurts to watch.
Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Night Terrors
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.