Timestamp #TW15: Sleeper

Torchwood: Sleeper
(1 episode, s02e02, 2008)

 

What is humanity?

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

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

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

Jack immediately believes that she’s an alien.

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

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

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

Beth is in the middle of an identity crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: To the Last Man

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW14: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

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

 

Nothing good happens at midnight in Cardiff.

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

Yes, Jack, they missed you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The murder rehab never worked.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Sleeper

 

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #TW13: End of Days

Torchwood: End of Days
(1 episode, s01e13, 2007)

 

The last big fracture that brings a family together.

Gwen and Rhys have a rare moment to themselves, but Jack calls with an untimely but important interruption: UFOs have been sighted over the Taj Mahal, police are clashing with soldiers from the English Civil War, and people believe they are signs of Armageddon.

Ianto recites biblical verses (what he calls Daniel 12:10 is really Daniel 12:8-9), and Jack brings news that everything worldwide is linked to Owen’s breach of the Rift. Institutions around the world, including UNIT, have their eyes on Torchwood. Owen and Tosh are dispatched to a quarantined hospital, and PC Andy Davidson calls Gwen with word of a Roman Soldier in lockup. Gwen and Jack drug the soldier and lock him away in the Hub. Gwen also sees a vision of Bilis Manger that apologizes to her.

Owen and Tosh find evidence of bubonic plague, the Black Death, at the hospital. Owen is rattled since he brought this upon Cardiff, and he channels that frustration into the medical staff. Meanwhile, Tosh sees her mother who brings an ominous message: Darkness is coming and Tosh must open the Rift to stop it.

At the Hub, Ianto brings word that the weevils are swarming. Once he’s alone, he also sees Lisa again, and his vision tells him to open the Rift.

I’m going to say that opening the Rift is a bad plan.

When Owen and Tosh return to the Hub, Jack unleashes on Owen for meddling with the Rift. The two men quarrel, resulting in Jack firing Owen. He also tells everyone else that they can follow Owen if they want, and Owen reminds Gwen that he’ll likely be Retconned within the next twenty-four hours and walks out.

Jack and Gwen visit Bilis at his clock shop, A Stitch in Time. Bilis reveals that he can step through time and see the whole of history, but his curse is that he doesn’t belong anywhere within it. He says that the only way to solve the fracturing of time is to fully open the Rift. He then disappears, only to leave a message for Gwen: Rhys is going to die horribly at some point in the future.

Gwen rushes back to her flat to find Rhys cleaning the oven. He won’t come with Gwen, so she stuns him and takes him to the Hub. He’s understandably upset, but she asks him to trust her. She returns to the operations area and talks with the team, with whom she has shared the vision. When the power goes out, Gwen and Jack run for the cells. With the power off, the cell doors have opened, and Rhys meets Bilis. Bilis stabs Rhys multiple times and vanishes as the power comes back. Jack and Gwen find Rhys, but it is too late. Gwen’s screams are heart-wrenching and soul-shattering.

Meanwhile, Owen is drowning his sorrows at a bar when he sees a vision of Diane. She tells him to open the Rift. It’s still a bad plan.

As the team mourns around Rhys in the examination area, Jack consoles Gwen as she lashes out at him. Owen rushes in, but while Tosh is happy to see him, Gwen is furious. Owen announces his intention to open the Rift, and everyone but Jack follows him to help. Jack tells them that it’s a trap, threatens to shoot Gwen, and insults each of them: Tosh and her fling with Mary; Owen and his death wish; Ianto and his Cyber-girlfriend; Gwen and her affair with Owen.

Gwen punches Jack and Owen kills him with his own gun. The team is shocked, but then starts gathering retinal images to unlock the subroutine to open the Rift. It’s at that point that Jack snaps back to life. The team evacuates the Hub only to find Bilis healding the arrival of Abaddon, an enormous vision of the devil that is stampeding through the city. It was cast out of time, and anyone in its shadow immediately dies.

Jack tells Gwen to take him to an open space, intent on feeding Abaddon with his all-you-can-eat life smorgasbord. Jack stands in the shadow, writhing in pain, and a bright blue light arcs from his chest to destroy the beast and seal the Rift. Gwen grieves over the dead body of Captain Jack Harkness.

The events reset the timeline with one exception: Jack is still dead. Owen, Ianto, and Tosh are resigned to his fate, but Gwen won’t give up. She sits with him for days despite the team’s growing worry about her. Ianto breaks down and cries into Jack’s coat, and Tosh nearly convinces Gwen to let Jack go.

She kisses Jack and starts to walk away when he wakes up, weak but alive. He gets dressed and reunites with the team, all of whom are happy to see him in their own way. Jack even forgives Owen and embraces him as the team’s black sheep weeps.

Later on, Jack and Gwen discuss the Rift. It’s due to become more volatile, and Jack tells Gwen what vision would have convinced him to open it during the crisis: “The right kind of Doctor.” He walks out to find the tank with the hand bubbling and glowing. He also hears the faint sound of the TARDIS materializing, to which he snatches up the tank and runs, leaving Gwen confused as the team returns with coffee.

Something has taken him. Jack is missing.

 

This story ties all of the threads together that have been strung across the last twelve episodes. Every one of our main characters has been broken in one way or another, and it’s this trauma that finally unites them for a common cause as a dysfunctional family. It brutally unearths everyone’s secrets for the bright light of day, and that honesty is healing.

The story twists and weaves in one way while being direct in others, linking the Torchwood series definitively with Doctor Who, and not just in the final moments. It was well-crafted and exhilarating, and a fantastic way to close this chapter.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Series One 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 #TW12: Captain Jack Harkness

Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness
(1 episode, s01e12, 2007)

 

An eye-opening tale of star-crossed lovers.

Jack and Tosh arrive at a derelict dance hall called The Ritz to investigate 1940s music that has been drifting out of the premises at random. Pushing past the Vote Saxon posters, the duo dance in the dust before finding the music. They are transported back in time, presumably thanks to the Cardiff Rift. While Jack is happy to be there, they are trapped in 1941.

Back at the Hub, Owen wakes up to find Ianto monitoring Rift activity. Of course, Ianto can’t reach Tosh, so he calls Gwen. Owen analyzes the data, still maudlin about Diane’s disappearance, and Gwen investigates The Ritz. When Gwen calls for Jack, he can hear her voice but doesn’t get to her in time.

Tosh and Jack find themselves at a party on January 20, 1941, right in the midst of the London Blitz. Trying to blend in, they meet with an American captain who saves Jack and Tosh from a fistfight.

The American is Captain Jack Harkness.

Torchwood Jack is stunned but eventually comes up with an alias: Captain James Harper. He tells Tosh that he took the captain’s name as a disguise when the man died the next day in a training exercise. Torchwood Jack and Tosh start to work on the second half of an equation that will bridge the Rift and send them home. They transfer the equation from Tosh’s dying laptop to paper, but are interrupted by the manager, Bilish Manger. He has a Polaroid camera, which shouldn’t exist yet, and a file labeled Torchwood.

He’s also in the present and admits Gwen into the building to continue her investigation. She checks in with the Hub and learns that Manger exists in both time periods.

Tosh and Torchwood Jack return to the party. Tosh chats up another airman to get the local coordinates while Torchwood Jack gets to know the real Jack. Tosh also encounters a bit of racism – she’s Japanese, and the Japanese are one of the enemies in World War II – but Torchwood Jack is able to cover for her. Tosh sneaks back upstairs and uses the Polaroid to photograph the equation. She’s interrupted by Manger, so she only gets part of what she needs, so she finishes the equation with her own blood and seals it in a can to hide for the future.

Back in the present, Ianto and Owen spar over their lost loves and the equation. Owen is dead set on opening the Rift and bringing Diane back. He tries to use the rift manipulator but finds that a piece is missing. Owen leaves to search Manger’s office for clues as Gwen finds the can. Owen finds the missing piece and returns to the Hub.

Torchwood Jack is falling for Real Jack, only to be interrupted by Real Jack’s girlfriend Nancy. Torchwood Jack urges Real Jack to kiss her goodbye as she leaves the party, but the American captain only finds his situation worse when Nancy professes her love for him. Jack confronts Jack and exchange war stories to make their respective points. As the bombs begin to fall, everyone takes cover.

Real Jack confides in Torchwood Jack that he is scared. They sit down for a private talk as the bombings stop and the partygoers return to their revelry. Real Jack heeds Torchwood Jack’s advice to spend more time with Nancy, to treat that night as if it were his last, but later returns to spend those moments with Torchwood Jack. They hold hands before being interrupted by another couple looking for Lover’s Corner.

Owen continues his work and breaks into Jack’s safe to find the manipulator’s blueprints. Ianto takes the blueprints, but Owen overpowers him. Ianto returns with a gun, eventually shooting Owen in the shoulder to stop him. The bullet is too late. The manipulator activates as Owen slips into unconsciousness.

Torchwood Jack watches the party, telling Tosh about how the real captain will die the next day. He also explains how he was brought back from death and apologizes for dragging her into this. While Torchwood Jack mourns for the pending loss, Tosh looks on as Real Jack makes his decision. Jack takes Jack’s hand, leads him to the dance floor, and they share a dance before the Rift bursts through the door. They share a kiss as the partygoers watch in astonishment, then the wayward members of Torchwood Three return home.

They meet up with Gwen and return to the Hub. Owen performs surgery on himself to remove the bullet as Ianto searches for signs of Manger. Tosh joins Jack in his office and together they raise a glass to the memory of the real Captain Jack Harkness.

 

First things first, if we presume that this story and the Ninth Doctor tale that introduced us to Jack are happening at around the same time, then there are (at least) two versions of that character roaming about in that time.

The Jack story is quite touching, from Jack finding a moment of love with the man whom he replaced to Tosh getting to know her boss in a fantastic change of pace for the character. I mean, look, Tosh has a role in the plot! Yes! This also is a crazy story in terms of time travel for both Jack and Tosh. Tosh’s actions are quite straightforward, echoing other time travel adventures where the stuck-in-the-past hero has to send a message to his/her support team in the future in order to be rescued. Jack’s temporal threads are a bit more complex: Jack took the Captain Harkness identity as a matter of convenience, then travels back parallel to his own timeline and interacts with the man he replaced. The implications and possibilities could have spun wildly out of control.

There is the question of the dance and the kiss. From what I gather, homosexuality was still illegal in England and Wales until the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed, and that did not apply to the armed forces. In reality, Captain Harkness would have likely been either imprisoned or rebuked for sharing the moment with Jack, and probably wouldn’t have been allowed to fly his mission the next day. Since the Torchwood Jack Harkness still exists, it’s reasonable to assume that either the event was washed away as a mass delusion – two people did disappear in a mysterious burst of light – or it was a moment of poetic license for the sake of drama.

Either way, I consider it a minor quibble. It was a beautiful moment for Jack, even if actor Matt Rippy didn’t seem to be totally into the role.

Owen’s story is one of obsession and subversion of power. He wants nothing more than to get love back in his life, and he’s willing to tear time and space apart to make it happen. Even a gunshot wound to his shoulder won’t slow him down. I’m interested in how it will play out with the season finale next.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: End of Days

 

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 #TW11: Combat

Torchwood: Combat
(1 episode, s01e11, 2006)

 

The first rule of Weevil Fight Club…

This adventure starts with Jack pursuing a weevil. It evades him, apparently immune to the weevil spray, and runs past where Gwen and Rhys are having a tense dinner. Rhys has none of it, but Gwen leaves with Jack after he curses at her. The pair track the weevil to a parking deck, but the being is apprehended by masked strangers in a white van.

The next morning, the team analyzes a wave of weevil attacks. There has been a surge of injuries at the local hospital and Tosh can’t track the van from the night before. Meanwhile, Owen is drowning his sorrows over Diane at the bar. He gets in a fight with the bartender’s jealous boyfriend – a man whom he easily bests – in between bouts of ignoring calls from work.

Tosh confides in Gwen about Owen’s relationship with Diane: Tosh is upset and Gwen is oblivious. In the holding cells, Jack and Ianto watch as a weevil howls. They are supposedly somewhat telepathic, and something is inducing psychic pain in this one. Tosh finds the van on CCTV, prompting Jack and Tosh to investigate the docks. They find a male corpse, presumably attacked by a weevil, and a call on his cell to stay out matters that they don’t understand.

Owen finally rolls back in and conducts the autopsy. The victim was attacked by humans before the weevil attack. Ianto also has no luck tracing the victim’s cell records. Gwen and Owen go out to notify the next of kin, and they have a heart-to-heart about their affair that doesn’t end well. Owen walks back to the Hub just in time to receive orders for an undercover assignment. He meets with real estate agent Mark Lynch as a businessman looking for space at the docks. He places a sniffer device on Lynch’s computer so Tosh can download the hard drive. After Owen leaves, Lynch does a web search on Owen and his jellied eel business. He ends up confident that Owen is the real deal.

Jack sends Gwen home to patch things up with Rhys. As soon as she gets there, Rhys heads out with his friends to the bar. Gwen is left home alone.

Jack and Ianto interview a weevil victim at the hospital, but the victim doesn’t want to discuss the matter. He’s afraid that someone will kill him if he talks, so Jack decides to release the captive weevil – he’s nicknamed it Janet – with a tracker to monitor its movements. Janet gets snatched by the white van moments later, and the team finds the tracker on a fence.

Owen and Lynch meet up for drinks. Unfortunately, it’s the same bar with the jealous beau. Fortunately, Lynch helps Owen defeat the thugs. The duo return to Lynch’s place. After the fight, Lynch is aware the Owen isn’t who he claims, but he still confides in Owen that something is coming. Owen later sneaks into a locked room and comes face-to-face with a chained-up weevil. Lynch catches up with Owen, uses the creature as a punching bag, and eventually shows Owen the entire operation.

Rhys returns home and shares a drink with Gwen. Gwen confesses her affair, an act that devastates Rhys but one that he won’t remember since Gwen spiked his drink with Retcon. Gwen begs him for forgiveness, but Rhys slips under the drug’s spell before offering it. She takes pizza to the Hub, but everyone else is out. She’s alone once again, but luckily she’s around as the corpse’s phone rings with a text message: “CF10 6BY.” She quickly figures out that it is a location and passes it on to Jack.

That location? It’s the same place where Lynch and Owen are. It’s a weevil fight club.

The person who stays in the cage with the weevil longest wins and the warm-up is men fighting with each other. The corpse in the Hub refused to leave the cage and ended up mauled to death. Lynch forces Owen into the cage with Janet – let’s be fair, Owen is more than willing to jump in regardless of Lynch’s threats – and Janet recognizes him. Owen tells Janet to attack just Torchwood Three arrives. They tend to Owen’s wounds and disperse the crowd as Lynch locks himself in the cage with Janet. The weevil tears Lynch to shreds.

Jack visits Owen in the hospital with a bag of grapes. Owen tells Jack that he didn’t want to be saved. Jack tells him to be back at work the next day. When he reports in, Owen has a moment alone with Janet and the other weevil. They hiss and growl, but Owen musters a sinister snarl that sends the weevils cowering into the corner.

Owen leaves with a satisfied smirk.

 

There is a lot to unpack here. I mean, okay, sure… they did Fight Club with weevils. But going deeper, there’s so much more with our main characters here. Owen and Gwen are two sides of the same coin, explaining why they ended up having an affair together, and they’re both torn apart by their respective loneliness. Owen takes it to one extreme by attempting suicide by weevil, and Gwen takes it to another extreme by drugging her boyfriend in a twisted attempt at forgiveness.

And this is the point where I lost a ton of respect for Gwen. Sure, she’s in a tight place with no good solution, but her move here was pure selfishness and vanity. Instead of coming clean and healing the rift in her relationship with him, Gwen continues to what’s best for her instead of what’s best for them.

I don’t know that she deserves forgiveness at this point. As an outside watcher, I’m having trouble seeing how to forgive the character myself.

The other big character moment here is how Jack handles each subordinate’s crisis. In Owen’s case, Jack effectively tells him to “man up” and get back to work. In Gwen’s case, he gives her time off and forces her to pursue reconciliation. It’s inconsistent in approach but says a lot about how Jack sees each of his employees.

Speaking of, Tosh and Ianto are (once again!) lost in the wake of the drama. That’s unfortunate.

 

Since this era of Doctor Who is rife with spinoffs, the Timestamps Project is proceeding in airdate order (for the most part). As such, we’re headed back to the Tenth Doctor for a Christmas Special before coming back to close out Torchwood‘s first series.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride

 

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 #TW10: Out of Time

Torchwood: Out of Time
(1 episode, s01e10, 2006)

 

Lessons learned from the most unexpected people.

The team patiently awaits a plane called the Sky Gypsy at a local airport. The twist on this arrival is that it hails from 1953, and the passengers – pilot Diane Holmes, Emma-Louise Cowell, and John Ellis – are surprised that they have flown through the Cardiff Rift. The accidental time travelers are taken to the Hub and debriefed, but the news is hard to take. So is the revelation that they can never return home.

The newcomers learn about how their families fared, and they’re fascinated and appalled by modern items such as automatic doors, televisions, DVDs, lads’ mags, and tea bags. Torchwood Three takes on the task of caring for the travelers until they can adapt to the 21st century. Jack befriends John, Gwen looks after Emma, and Owen tends to Diane.

Diane wants to keep flying – aviation is in her blood – but her license expired long ago. Between her independence and desire for chivalry, she and Owen strike up a relationship. And by relationship, I mean Owen is typical Owen and Gwen has been replaced in the casual sex department. Their relationship builds, but Owen and love are no replacement for the open sky. She leaves him a note and heads for the airport. After a goodbye kiss, Diane takes to the sky once again in the Sky Gypsy, firm in her belief that the Rift will take her home. Owen softly cries as she disappears into the clouds.

Emma’s parents have died during her journey, and after getting a cheerful start with a couple of roommates (and a small altercation with an overprotective John), Gwen takes her home. Emma sleeps on the couch, gets an eyeful of Rhys, and poses as Gwen’s cousin from out of town. The trio goes out to a nightclub, but Emma gets some mixed signals about how relationships work in the modern era. Emma later gets a job at a shop in London, and although Gwen wants her to stay in Cardiff, she changes her mind when Rhys discovers that Emma and Gwen are not related. Emma moves on to London, but the damage is done between Gwen and Rhys.

John was a traveling salesman who wants to reconnect with his family. Specifically, he wants to find his son, Alan, his only surviving relative. Sadly, he is devastated to find his son suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and barely able to make connections to his own past. Jack feels for him since there is no enemy to fight and no clear way to solve the problem. John is watching the end of his family line rushing right toward him. John steals Ianto’s keys and drives to his former home. John sees no other way out besides suicide, and even Jack can’t talk him out of it. Together, they sit in an enclosed garage with the idling car and John dies from carbon monoxide poisoning. Jack is shaken because John was a kindred spirit, a fellow man out of time, and now the captain is alone once more.

Miles apart, all three of our heroes reminisce over the last week and how their lives have been changed.

 

For the three travelers, the adaptation to modern life over one week is both adorable and tragic. The wonder of the new world in their eyes is fun to watch, but it’s also overwhelming. The way that it affects Jack, Gwen, and Owen is wonderful and adds just a bit more dimension to their characters. Jack Harkness’s story in this episode was particularly touching.

The parallels to Countrycide are evident: Sure, there are no backwoods cannibals here – in fact, there is no enemy at all in this story – but the drama that doesn’t rely on Doctor Who tropes is exceptional. The science fiction is limited to time travel that we don’t see in action, and the superhuman abilities are limited to Jack’s passive ability to withstand carbon monoxide poisoning. We also see Owen and Gwen’s affair, which started in Countrycide, starting to fall apart here.

We also continue the Torchwood tradition of post-watershed f-bombs. Hey, it’s another Countrycide parallel!

On the downside, Tosh and Ianto were minimally used in this episode. That’s the second story in a row, and a trend that I hope gets reversed.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Combat

 

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 #TW9: Random Shoes

Torchwood: Random Shoes
(1 episode, s01e09, 2006)

 

Instead of Love & Monsters, we get Love and Ghosts

Eugene Jones, a man who monologues about science, wakes up in the middle of the road. He wanders a few feet to find Torchwood Three investigating his dead body, a victim of an apparent hit-and-run. He apparently knew the team and was interested in their work. His mobile phone rings and the team leaves (with Eugene’s ghost) to tell his mother the bad news.

During the drive, Eugene reminisces about his childhood and how he froze during a math competition. While he was down, his science teacher showed him an eye that fell from the sky. His father left home and Eugene obsessed over the eye, resulting in an interest in UFOlogy and (subsequently) Torchwood Three.

The team notifies Eugene’s family and investigates his belongings. Some of the alien artifacts are fraudulent, but Gwen notes the stand where the eye should be. They leave with a box of things to research and return to the Hub. While the team gets to work, Eugene takes a tour of Torchwood’s headquarters, including a particular focus on a certain severed hand. Gwen begins the autopsy but is interrupted by news of a driver who admitted to the crime. Eugene faints at the autopsy, wakes up later, and goes for a long walk.

Gwen feels that there is something more to the goings-on, but she can’t put her finger on it. She offers to return an overdue DVD to the video store, but when she finds the store is closed, she stops at a local diner and goes through Eugene’s mobile. She finds pictures of random shoes, and after Eugene arrives, she phones someone called Gary on his suggestion. Gary’s call goes to voicemail.

Gwen returns the DVDs and reluctantly pays the £34 in late fees. A discussion with the clerk at the store plants seeds of doubt in Eugene’s head. Gwen’s next stop is Eugene’s former employer, a telemarketing firm, as she tries to match the shoes in the pictures. A pair of Converse All-Stars belong to Gary, who hadn’t seen Eugene on the day he died. She also meets Linda, a friend of Eugene’s, who is broken up by his death. She agrees to meet with Gwen later. Gwen looks over Gary’s desk and finds a flyer similar to one in Eugene’s belongings.

Over lunch, Linda fills in some missing details. A few weeks back, Eugene was depressed. He offered to help Linda move to Australia to start a new life, and tried to fund it by selling the alien eye on eBay. It reached a peak of £15,005.50. The story is interrupted by Eugene’s mother who wants Gwen to come by.

Gwen and Eugene’s mother watch the video of the mathematics competition. Gwen learns of how Eugene received the eye from his former science teacher, and together everyone learns that Eugene’s father is now working in a garage across town instead of living the fantasy life in America. Eugene remembers why he sold the eye: After discovering the lie, he realized that he’d been chasing fantasies his whole life, so he chose to get rid of them.

Gwen decides to go interview Eugene’s father but changes her mind when Eugene pleads with her not to. She returns to the Hub and learns from Jack about the Dogon sixth eye, an item that allows its user to see his past and put it in perspective. She convinces Jack to let her track this down and he gives her the weekend to do so.

Her first stop is the black hole conference at Aberystwyth University. She finds Gary and learns that he had artificially inflated the eBay bids to cheer his friend up. The £15,005.50 bid was real, however, and Gary admits that he met with Eugene before he went to make the exchange. Gary doesn’t know who the shoes belong to, but he is sorry for his part in all of this.

Later that night, Gwen sorts through the belongings back while Eugene muses about his fragmented memories. He also admits to loving Gwen, and although he can minimally affect the environment around him, Gwen goes to bed ignorant of his presence. The next morning, Gwen continues to follow the clues. She ends up at a diner called Happy Cook which sparks another memory in Eugene. His friends were the buyers: The £15,005.50 bid was theirs, but the one before theirs was real. In his frustration, Eugene took photographs of their shoes before a fight ensued. During the scuffle, Eugene swallowed the eye to protect it before they all ran out.

As Gwen interviews the server, Gary and Josh come in and eventually tell Gwen their side of things because Gary misses his friend. Eugene had just kept running, high on the effect of the eye, but didn’t look before crossing a road and getting struck by a car. Gwen finally calls Eugene’s father and tells him the bad news.

Gwen, Gary, and Eugene’s family attend Eugene’s funeral. Eugene’s father makes amends and Eugene sees him as a normal man. He also wishes that he had been able to spend more time with him. After the funeral, Gwen receives a paper bag containing the eye. Back at Eugene’s home, Eugene wonders why he’s still around. The Torchwood SUV pulls up and Gwen passes off the eye before watching Eugene’s family reunited. She’s nearly run down by a speeding car, but Eugene is able to push her out of the way.

He’s fully visible to everyone around for this final moment. He says his farewells and vanishes in a bright ascending light.

 

The most obvious connection here is Love & Monsters. The big difference despite the very deep similarities is that Love & Monsters was a fun romp where this one dragged. On the upside, however, this Gwen-centric episode highlighted her skills in a part police procedural, part ghost story adventure. It also continues to highlight Gwen’s quest for personal connections in a life that demands secrecy, but the pounding of that particular drum is getting tiresome.

This episode is pretty much a Doctor Who story that fell through the cracks and landed in a different series without the TARDIS or the Doctor.

 


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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Out of Time

 

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.