Age Rating (UK): 15 (equivalent to R in the US)
Recently I have been re-watching the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, a series which ran form 2006-2011 on BBC Three and was a series aimed at more young adults than Doctor Who.
Here is my episode by episode review of the first series, hopefully with more to follow. Note each episode review contains a detailed plot breakdown with spoilers. If you don’t want to read these, go down to the conclusion where I review the entire series.
- Everything Changes
- Day One
- Ghost Machine
- Small Worlds
- Greeks Bearing Gifts
- They Keep Killing Suzie
- Random Shoes
- Out Of Time
- Captain Jack Harkness
- End Of Days
Ep. 1: Everything Changes
Everything Changes was written by series producer Russell T. Davies and is the first episode which establishes who Torchwood are. We first meet the character Gwen Cooper who is an ordinary police officer attending a murder scene when Torchwood turn up and tell them to leave, lead by Captain Jack Harkness who was in the first series of Doctor Who. However she instead climbs up a car park and from the roof spies on them using a device which temporarily resurrects the dead and they interrogate the victim to ask him what happened. Captain Jack sees Gwen who runs away and they disappear. However, rattled by what she saw with the murder victim and how he died, she decides to investigate.
The next day she is on duty in a hospital when she comes across Torchwood again and has a run in with a Weevil before Jack rescues her. He manages to disappear in the crowd but Gwen finds him leaving the hospital in a car so gives chase, however him and his team suddenly disappear outside of Millennium Centre. Later that night she returns to try to find them, trying local takeaways and finds one which takes orders for Torchwood. She takes an order into their base and discover who they are and what they do.
They were set up to keep the world safe from alien threats and meets them all: Suzie Costello, the second in command; Toshiko Sako, a computer genius; Owen Harper, a surgeon and Ianto Jones who is a server or tea boy. Captain Jack however drugs Gwen so she forgets everything that she has seen. She tries to fight it by typing it all down, however Toshiko hacks her computer and deletes the file.
The next day she appears to have forgotten, however when she goes to the police station and sees the board investigating the man from the beginning of the episode, in her mind’s eye she keeps seeing images of a knife with three edged prongs but can’t work out where she has seen it.
Eventually she finds herself back outside Torchwood and learns who committed the murder. Suzie Costello had become obsessed with the resurrection gauntlet so was killing people in order to test it in the hopes of cheating death. She tries to shoot Gwen but Captain Jack appears so she shoots him, then tries again to kill Gwen. However Captain Jack comes back to life and then Suzie shoots herself. We then learn following on from the events of the first series of Doctor Who that Captain Jack can no longer die and is trying to find the Doctor to work out why.
Overall I really enjoyed this episode, it is fast-paced and definitely has a much darker tone than Doctor Who which is shown right at the beginning when the man is resurrected. Jack tries to reassure him by asking him what he saw but instead of being a paradise there is nothing but darkness.
The character of Gwen Cooper is relatable and helps to draw you into the series and of course Captain Jack from Doctor Who is a very popular character who is great to see again on screen.
We also learn he is a far more morally ambiguous character than the hero we see in Doctor Who – he is more than willing to drug Gwen, even though it may have been to protect her. Also Torchwood and it’s members are all morally ambiguous and flawed: they cover up alien attacks to prevent the public from finding out and some of the technology they collect the team take out of the office to use at home, we see Owen use a liquid which makes him sexually more desirable and Toshiko uses a device which scans entire books in a split second.
It is also filmed in a very slick way, similar to the American science fiction / fantasy shows of the era such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer which helped inspire it (though of course nearly everyone has a Welsh accent).
Ep. 2: Day One
This episode is unfortunately a little bit ridiculous and is know by fans of the show as the infamous ‘sex gas’ episode.
The story starts strongly, Gwen has taken on a job at Torchwood and is out with her boyfriend Rhys when they see what appears to be an alien rock falling to Earth. Gwen is called with the Torchwood team to investigate. As she looks on the team trade banter and throw equipment to each other but when Owen asks for a screwdriver, Gwen throws it and misses, striking the rock causing a pink gas to escape. Jack gives them all gas masks and the gas flies away to find a girl outside a nightclub where it goes into her and possesses her.
She goes into a nightclub and immediately pulls a man into the toilet where they have sex. Just as he climaxes however he suddenly explodes, leaving just a pile of dust and energy which flows into her.
Back at their base, the Torchwood team intercept a 999 call from the security guard at the nightclub who witnesses it and they watch the footage and the footage of the camera outside, eventually finding the woman whose name is Cerys. They lock her in one of the cells and Gwen talks to her and realises she is fighting the gas inside her which throws her against the wall. Gwen goes into the cell to see if she is OK and they suddenly start kissing before she pulls away. Later on the team are eating a Chinese takeaway and Gwen confronts Jack for the fact they aren’t helping Cerys. Jack reveals the cell is being analysed for changes in the atmosphere as well as Cerys’ life signs. However Gwen decides to go one step further and does a full background check on Cerys.
Eventually they work out that the gas craves the energy from orgasmic sex and drives the host to get more and more of it. In the meantime, Cerys manages to escape from her cell and gets loose. Owen does some testing on the gas on a mice and learns the gas increases the hosts heart rate and lungs to shrink until eventually the mice explodes. Using Gwen’s research, the team try to track her down to stop this from happening, firstly to her ex-boyfriend’s house where they are too late but then to the sperm donor clinic she works at where she has already started killing the men there.
However they manage to find Cerys who is now close to death and Gwen persuades the gas to leave her and go into her, as it is floating in the air though Jack imprisons it with a device and it disappears.
This second episode does have some interesting ideas within it; the character of Jack Harkness is still as enigmatic as ever, also how much the Torchwood team have been consumed by work that they have lost what it means to be human.
There are also some interesting scenes such as when Cerys walks down a high street whilst possessed and sees a lot of sexual imagery in advertising billboards which could be a societal comment on how sexualised we are as a society. It’s just overall the plot is a bit ridiculous and seems like an attempt to make the show more adult oriented but actually comes across a bit immature and silly.
Also as stated in other reviews some scenes can be quite jarring and at the moment as it is only episode two it can be hard to engage with any of the characters as they sometimes seem to be gloating and smugly boasting rather than helping Cerys.
Ep. 3: Ghost Machine
The third episode is written by Russell T. Davies and Helen Raynor and begins right in the thick of the action. Torchwood are chasing a lad through a shopping centre as he has some alien technology on him. Gwen manages to grab his coat but the lad runs away, inside it is a mysterious alien device which she activates.
She is transported to the 1940’s and sees a young boy, a wartime evacuee who is lost. She suddenly moves back to the present and says she saw a ghost and she could also feel his sense of confusion and fear.
At the beginning Gwen investigates what she saw and remembers seeing the boy’s name tag, from this however they find he is actually very much alive and well, now in his 70’s and living in Cardiff.
They then also try to use the device again which appears to be deactivated so the team try to find the lad they were chasing to see if they can find out more about it. Unfortunately they are unsuccessful but under a bridge the device suddenly reactivates and Owen pushes the button. He is transported to the 1960’s where he sees a young woman being brutally raped and attacked by a man called Ed. Like Gwen he feels how terrified the woman was but then is transported back to the present. They find out the woman’s murder was never resolved and the man was released due to lack of evidence. Gwen takes the device home that night and uses it to recollect some memories of her with her boyfriend.
However, Owen begins to obsess over the case and decides to find Ed and threaten him with what he knows. Ed becomes agitated and throws him out, however he sees and manages to catch the young man from the opening of the episode who reveals he had also used the device and saw a woman he knew dumping her baby in Cardiff Bay after the baby died.
They go to his flat where he reveals there is a second half to the device which he only used once. Gwen presses him for what he saw and he says he saw himself dead in the road outside his house and it was to happen sometime soon. Gwen catches up with the others and the now completed device now reactivates and she sees herself saying she didn’t mean to kill someone with a knife and covered in blood.
They discover Ed is a paranoid depressive and that the lad may have also seen the rape that Owen saw and was blackmailing him. Owen’s conversation with him tips Ed over the edge and he goes looking for the lad to kill him with a knife. The team manage to turn up and save him and Gwen disarms him.
However whilst Gwen is relieved and saying nobody died Ed suddenly lunges at the knife and kills himself on it. In the final scenes, Captain Jack takes the device and they agree to lock it away.
Overall I really enjoyed this episode and it is one of my favorites in the series. The alien gadget is an interesting plot device and it is great how the plot instead of trying to work out who created the device and why, instead uses it to focus on a very human-story instead. In fact the central mystery of the device goes unresolved which is actually more scary than finding out everything about it.
It is also used to build up more of Gwen’s backstory so that we start to appreciate her as a character in a really lovely scene of flashbacks of her with her boyfriend, as well as the anguish she feels at the little boy alone in the railway station at the beginning. We also learn more and start to like Owen now who understandably becomes tormented by what he saw and we can see his heroic and caring side as well. The subject matter in this episode is darker than the previous one but is handled much more maturely.
Ep. 4: Cyberwoman
The fourth episode begins with the team relaxing as Ianto Jones, who up until this point has just been a bit of a butler character looks on. The team leave and we see Ianto invites a doctor into the base who he takes down to the basement where we see a woman who has been half converted into a Cyber man – she appears to be weak and at the moment in control of her emotions.
We learn the woman’s name is Lisa, she was Ianto’s girlfriend and a Torchwood employee from London. She was nearly converted during the Battle of Canary Wharf (which was seen in the Cyberman vs Dalek episodes during the finale to series 2 of Doctor Who).
When the battle finished, Ianto rescued her and secretly took her to Cardiff in the hope he could change her back and the cyber conversion station has been her acting life support. The surgeon starts to operate on her and manages to get her breathing on her own. In the meantime, Ianto orders some food for the doctor and himself. However they are interrupted by the Torchwood team so Ianto helps take her back to the basement and leaves the doctor with her, however now she can breathe on her own it turns out she was more Cyberwoman than human and she kills the doctor by plugging him into the machine and trying to convert him.
This causes a power drain on Torchwood so the rest of the team investigate and whilst Ianto hides the doctor’s body, Gwen and Owen find the chamber and are attacked by the Cyberwoman, who puts Gwen in the machine and tries to convert her as well before Jack rescues her. The team then do battle with the Cyberwoman whilst Ianto protests they can still save her. The Cyberwoman manages to delete and kill Jack but the entire team sees him come back to life, something which up until that point only Gwen had seen.
Jack eventually throws some BBQ sauce on her which the pterodactyl they keep as a pet at Torchwood associates with food so he starts to attack the Cyberwoman as the team escape. Ianto however is furious that Jack has tried to kill her and goes back to try to save her. Jack however pulls a gun on him and orders him to kill her, saying if he doesn’t then Jack will kill them both.
At the same time as their escape, the pizza delivery girl who Ianto ordered food from for the doctor at the beginning of the episode turns up and goes into Torchwood where in a horrific operation the Cyberwoman has killed her and transplanted her brain into the girl. Ianto tries to shoot her but cannot as Lisa recalls a date they had in the past. However she then says she will upgrade everyone and she is shot to death by the rest of Torchwood, who have followed him in.
Overall this episode is a bit of a mixed-bag for me. I really like how it serves as a continuation for the closing episode of series 2 of Doctor Who, which are some of my favourite episodes form that series which served as the departing episodes for Billie Piper’s companion Rose. Also the episode asks some interesting questions and really opens up Ianto’s character who has really only been a bit part in the previous episodes up until this point, it also asks how Jack copes without having anyone to love.
There is also some disturbing imagery which takes the horror of the Cyber men to another level, the half-converted doctor is very scary and the transplanted brain in the pizza delivery girl is another horrifying image that shows how disturbing the concept is of upgrading humans by taking away what makes them human.
The only thing which is a bit ridiculous is the Cyberwoman herself. Though the idea itself of a half converted Cyberwoman is scary and Caroline Chikezie puts in a great performance and it is a scary idea to see a Cyberwoman with a human face, you can’t help but also see that the design is an attempt to sex up the villain, with her stomach and legs showing and the armour plating resembling a bra and looking nothing like the plating on the Cybermen in Doctor Who which makes it seem even more ridiculous. It is however an entertaining episode which works for most of its running time.
Ep. 5: Small Worlds
The fifth episode of series 1 is written by Peter J Hammond, a writer who has worked on various Doctor Who episodes.
The episode begins with an old lady walking into a forest and taking a picture of what appears to be some fairies. However as she turns her back they morph into something horrific and the screen fades to black – foreshadowing what is to come.
At Torchwood, Jack is alone and is awoken by a nightmare where he is in a soldier’s uniform in a battalion and sees all his men dead with rose petals coming out of their mouths. Ianto interrupts him and explains there has been some strange weather patterns in the area.
The next day, Jack takes Gwen to visit his friend Estelle, the old lady in the opening scene who talks about fairies as being positive beings full of love and protection and that she has seen them and taken some pictures. Jack however comments that the fairies are dangerous beings from the beginning of time. Estelle confuses Gwen by saying “that’s what his father used to say”. Jack wants to see the photographs at Estelle’s house and Gwen is confused further when she sees a black and white photograph on the mantle piece of Jack in his war uniform with a younger Estelle.
Meanwhile at a school, a girl named Jasmine Pierce is walking alone from school after her mother’s boyfriend Roy fails to pick her up when she is approached by a man who is clearly a paedophile and wants to kidnap her. As he tries to, a strong wind picks up with strange voices causing the man to retreat to his car and Jasmine to carry on home quite happily. However he is still chased by the voices through a market and begins to cough up petals so he tries to get himself arrested for protection from the beings. He is put in a jail cell where later that night the creature returns and kills him by asphyxiation.
The police call Torchwood who visit and find he is dead and his mouth is full of petals. Jack says he was murdered to protect the fairies chosen one who will become one of them if Torchwood don’t find her first.
Later that night, Estelle sees one of the fairies and it smashes the window. In fear she calls Torchwood and Jack tells her to stay inside, however she tries to find her cat who has gone into the garden and the fairies lock her out and cause a violent rainstorm over the garden, even though the weather around her house is completely dry and she drowns in the rainstorm.
Jack mourns his loss and Gwen finds out it was him in the picture with Estelle and they were in love, but during the war Jack decided to disappear rather than let her know the truth that he can’t die. He also explains he saw the flower petals before, in 1909 when he was on a train in Lahore and his men died. The fairies had chosen another child but the soldiers had drunkenly ran them over and killed them so the fairies sought revenge.
Gwen returns home to find her flat has been ransacked by the fairies, with leaves and rock patterns everywhere which Torchwood take as a warning from them.
At school the next day, Jasmine is attacked by two bullies when the fairies start a violent wind to protect her, however the teacher gets to the schoolgirls so the fairies stop their attack. Torchwood pick up the weather changes and go to the school where they learn form the teacher they’ve closed the school and Jasmine was being protected – making them realise she is the chosen one.
Back at home, Jasmine’s mum and stepdad are celebrating being together and Jasmine tries to run into the forest, only to find her stepdad has fenced it off. In anger she bites him and he slaps her and calls her a little bitch. This causes the fairies to swoop in and attack by turning the weather thunderous and clogging her stepdad’s throat with petals.
Torchwood arrive to save the other guests but Jasmine and the fairies run off into the woods. the team pursue and catch up with Jasmine who Jack grabs and demands they don’t take her. The fairies refuse and say she is the chosen one, and if she doesn’t go the world will end. Jack makes them promise she won’t be harmed and they say she will live forever so he let’s her go with the fairies and they disappear. Jasmine’s mum then turns up and reacts with fury and the rest of Torchwood give Jack dirty looks.
In the closing scene, Gwen is looking at the Cottingley Fairies photograph from 1917 whilst tidying the case away and notices Jasmine within the photograph.
Overall I am quite unsure what to make of this episode as I liked some bits but other parts I’m not so sure about.
I do like the concept of the villains and for a series aimed at adult’s its interesting to take something nostalgic, that they associate as something magical and wonderful in fairies and make them something quite scary. The teasing glimpse we get of them at the beginning and the fact they aren’t in the episode until the final scenes makes them an interesting villain with a real sense of foreboding. The CGI does look a bit dated now however but they are still scary.
I also do really like the sub-plot with Estelle as it asks some questions of Captain Jack’s character that we know he is immortal and what happens to the people he has to leave behind and how that affects him when Estelle passes away.
It also shows his moral ambiguity again when he just allows Jasmine to go with the fairies at the end in order to save the world and the animosity the team show helps a small way to develop their relationship as they are disgusted with him in the closing scenes.
The episode also develops Gwen’s character and shows her confidence growing as she begins to question Jack throughout the episode.
On the flip side, I wasn’t entirely sure if I liked the ending – obviously you fully expect Torchwood to save Jasmine and the world which they fail to do and this is the first episode that they do fail which shows them as fallible. However when they show their anger at Jack the episode just literally ends there and it doesn’t really seem like the anger has had any consequences at all.
Ep. 6: Countrycide
The sixth episode of the first series is the second story to be written by Chris Chibnall. The story starts with a woman on her own, driving in her car in the Welsh valleys, late at night. She spies what looks to be a body in the road so goes to investigate. She hears a noise and gets back into her car where someone dents her roof and smashes the window as we hear her screams.
Torchwood then appear and look to investigate by setting up camp in the valleys as she is the latest in a string of 17 disappearances. Whilst setting up camp they have an argument as talk turns to relationships and Ianto mentions the last person he had kissed was Lisa.
In the end, Gwen and Owen set off to find some firewood. Whilst looking, they kiss again after kissing in Cyberwoman but are disturbed by someone in the trees. They go to investigate and find a mutilated body where the flesh has been picked clean. The rest of the team turn up and they discuss what might’ve caused it. They then hear their SUV has been started up so run back to camp where they see it crash through the tent and race off.
They track the SUV to a small, deserted village on foot. Jack, Gwen and Owen split up to investigate the houses and village pub whilst Toshiko and Ianto follow the trace to the car where they both get captured by a mysterious being who we don’t see. Meanwhile, Jack, Gwen and Owen find more dead bodies in the houses similar to the one in the woods and they find a deserted pub.
When they reach the final house Gwen kicks the door in to be shot by a villager who so far hasn’t been killed. The boy says he thought it was them coming back for him, so Owen removes the bullet and together they head back to the pub and barricade themselves in. However at night they hear a noise and realise they didn’t barricade the cellar which makes whatever is stalking them attack and take the boy. Owen and Gwen insist on going after him whilst Jack tries to find out who or what is attacking them.
At the same time, Toshiko and Ianto find themselves trapped in a basement and see various body parts and clothing around them. They try to kick a door in when a mysterious woman opens it from the other side.
She claims she has been forced to work for whoever put them there and that they have to go with her to them otherwise she will be killed. They follow and arrive in another basement where it appears people have been butchered. A man turns up and it turns out the two of them are working together and have been doing a “harvest” cannibalizing the villagers and people passing through every 10 years.
Ianto distracts them and Toshiko manages to escape with the man chasing them. At the same time Gwen and Owen are trying to find the boy when they bump into a policeman. They hear Toshiko’s screams in the woods as the man manages to catch up with her and Owen threatens him with a gun. However the policeman is also working with the man and woman with them and pulls a gun on Owen. Owen surrenders so the policeman and man take Gwen, Owen and Toshiko back to their basement.
Back at the basement the man is about to cut Ianto when Jack crashes the SUV through the wall and saves them. They interrogate the man and ask why he does what he does to which he chillingly responds “because it made them happy”. In the final scene we learn Gwen and Owen have progressed from their kisses in Cyberwoman and earlier in the episode into a full blown affair.
Overall I did enjoy some aspects of this episode but not others. I liked the links with Cyberwoman as it helps to continue to grow the relationships between the members of Torchwood rather than it being a series of standalone episodes. It also shows the friction Ianto has with the rest of the team following them executing Lisa is still raw and continues to develop.
The other thing I love is the beautiful, yet oppressive location of the Welsh valleys which is the perfect setting for a creepy story like this. They genuinely look isolated in the middle of nowhere and it is a fantastic way to build tension. Similarly the villains aren’t revealed until much later in the episode but they move very quickly which makes for some very tense scenes as the team try to investigate. The remains of the victims as well are also horrific and gruesome to look at and are very realistic.
The main thing I didn’t really like was the ending. Though it was interesting that the story line actually had nothing to do with aliens it also feels like it should’ve been building up to something more than what it actually was. There are also certain things in the plot which happens for “reasons” which you wouldn’t expect e.g. the SUV being stolen and yet conveniently one of the team has put a tracer on it. Also there is no explanation on why specifically the villagers cannibalized people every ten years.
Ep. 7: Greeks Bearing Gifts
The next episode was written by Toby Whitehouse and begins in 1812 with a woman running through the woods being chased by a soldier when she spots and runs into a mysterious light. The soldier catches up and is mesmerized by the light when the woman comes back. He calls her a whore and then a gunshot rings out.
In the present day, Torchwood are called to investigate a body discovered on a building site, they also find what appears to be some kind of transportation device. Outside the building site, a woman who looks just like the one from 1812 but in modern day clothes looks on.
Later that night, Toshiko is alone in a bar when the woman comes up to her. She introduces herself as Mary and says she knows about Torchwood and wants to give her a pendant passed down through her family. She asks her to put it on and suddenly Toshiko can hear the thoughts of everyone around her. Distressed, she takes off the pendant and tells Mary she will have to take it into Torchwood.
In the morning at work, she puts it on with the aim of showing Gwen and Owen when she starts hears their thoughts about her and each other. They criticize her dress sense and also are thinking about the next time they meet up for their affair. She also has it on when Ianto walks past her and she hears how distressed he is still over losing Lisa.
On the way home, Toshiko finds Mary outside her house. They talk about the pendant and Toshiko says how wrong it was of her to use it. Mary says the best place to use it is somewhere public to hear strangers thoughts. Toshiko does this and hears the thoughts of a stranger, a man who wants to kill his ex-wife and possibly their son. Toshiko follows him and prevents this. However word gets back to Jack of what she did and arouses his suspicions.
She again meets Mary and begins an affair with her and Mary then reveals she is an alien and her true form. She says she came to the planet as a political prisoner and needs the piece of alien technology found with the body at the beginning to get back.
At the same time, Owen has been investigating the body. He discovers it was a man and that the heart had been ripped out. He also does some digging and finds a history of bodies killed just like him going back over many years.
Toshiko takes Mary to Torchwood but Jack confronts the pair. He tells Toshiko that the alien technology was a two person transporter and that Mary wasn’t a political prisoner but a prisoner with a guard. Mary reveals she killed the guard and took over the woman’s body from 1812 where she killed the soldier at the beginning and ripped his heart out – the body Owen discovered being his as she needed to eat his heart.
She grabs Toshiko and pulls a knife and uses her to bargain for the transporter. Jack gives it her and she disappears. However, Jack tells Toshiko he programmed it to send her to the middle of the Sun. In the final scenes, Toshiko apologizes for reading the teams thoughts and destroys the pendant.
The concept in this episode is very interesting with the pendant and is used very creatively. I’m sure everyone at some stage or another wants to know what people really think about them and this pendant allows people to do that. However the episode also shows what the price is of that as Toshiko learns about things she isn’t supposed to know which hurt her such as Gwen and Owen’s affair and what they think of her. We can see how much this tortures Toshiko throughout the episode as she grapples with what she is doing and whether it is the right thing.
I also liked how the episode focused on Toshiko over other characters as have been the case with the other episodes. It finally allows you to get a glimpse into her life and her motivations of working for Torchwood, whereas up until this point she has just been the tech expert and nothing more so that was very interesting from a character development perspective. We also learn she has had a crush and pining for Owen for a very long time.
The one minor thing I would say is that the episode does have it’s token shock moment with Mary and Toshiko starting a lesbian affair. I don’t mind gay relationships at all in TV shows but it does come as a bit of a bolt out of the blue in Toshiko’s character at this point and seems to be done more for sensationalism than anything else. However that is a minor thing and overall I really enjoyed this episode.
Ep. 8: They Keep Killing Suzie
Torchwood are called to investigate a series of murders. They arrive at the latest double murder and see the bodies but are shocked to discover Torchwood has been daubed on the walls in the victim;s blood.
After they can’t find any evidence, Gwen suggests they use the resurrection glove from the first episode to interrogate the victims, though they only have a limited time before the person is gone again. One of them mention a group called Pilgrim, a man named Max and Suzie Castello’s name, who shot herself during the first episode. They go to a lockup where all of Suzie’s things were stored following her death and find an Emily Dickinson poetry book and a flyer for the Pilgrim group.
They resurrect her to ask her about Pilgrim which she questions why they are asking her. She is about to slip away but Gwen tries to keep hold of her when she suddenly loses the connection. However according to the life support machine Suzie is now breathing on her own and appears to have been resurrected.
They interrogate Suzie and she reveals she went to Pilgrim to offload about Torchwood to Max and gave him an amnesia pill after each session, however this meant he was overdosed and made him psychotic. With her help they realise the murder victims were all members of the same group and that Max is killing them and is about to target a fourth victim. They find him in the nightclub and manage to stop him beforehand and take him back to Torchwood. However his behavior is very strange – he is very calm until the word Torchwood is mentioned when he suddenly loses it and starts punching the glass door.
In the meantime Gwen chats with Suzie who tells her that her dad has cancer so out of sympathy she breaks Suzie out to see him. The Torchwood team discover whilst she is alive she is actually connected to Gwen and draining the life out of her. They also find out Gwen broke Suzie out and try to leave to stop her but suddenly find themselves locked in.
They quickly realise that Max was a distraction setup by Suzie whilst she was alive in order to get herself resurrected and break out of Torchwood. Meanwhile, in the hospital Gwen takes Suzie to see her dad but her headache is getting increasingly worse when Suzie stands up and rips out her dads oxygen mask, killing him. She then reveals she is draining Gwen’s life and the headache is her slowly receiving the bullet which killed her. Gwen crumbles and it is clear she is deteriorating fast.
Still locked in, Toshiko thinks Suzie may have programmed Max with verbal cues to cause the power cut so she might’ve given him more cues in case something went wrong. They deduce it might be to do with the Emily Dickinson poetry book so they call the police to find a copy and read it out. This doesn’t work so Toshiko then says it might be the book’s ISBN code which finally brings back the power.
Owen and Jack race to the SUV to give chase to Suzie and Gwen and find them on a pier. Gwen is close to death and Suzie is nearly back to life. Jack shoots her thinking it will kill her but nothing happens so he does it again and again. In the nick of time, he realises the glove is connecting the two of them and radios Toshiko to destroy it. She does so and finally Suzie dies.
In the final scenes, Jack puts Suzie’s body back into the morgue and there’s a hint Jack and Ianto start an affair.
I quite enjoyed this episode as well, it is interesting how it links to the first episode and continues the exploration of what the glove can do as well as the price of resurrection. It also delves into Suzie’s character and some of her motivations, plus also just how much Torchwood had turned her into someone with much darker intentions.
The plot is a bit strange, with the idea she used Max and the amnesia pills to make him a distraction she could use to escape before she died, even though Episode 1 suggests she was panicking when she went on the run at the end.
Overall though it was a good episode and enjoyable to watch.
Rating – 8/10
Ep. 9: Random Shoes
The ninth episode, Random Shoes, was written by Jacquetta May and focuses mostly on Gwen and a new character called Eugene who only appears in this episode.
At the beginning we see Eugene lying on the ground, he gets up and walks behind police tape to a crime scene where Torchwood are there and he finds out he is invisible and is shocked to discover they are investigating a hit and run and he was the victim.
We find out quite a bit about Eugene’s life – that he was a child maths genius but fell out of favour when he answered a maths question wrong. His teacher gave him an alien artifact however, an eye which he keeps hold of and he becomes obsessed with locating the alien it belongs too. He finds out about Torchwood and tries to take it to them, though they initially ignore him.
Gwen feels there is more to his death than a hit and run though so decides to look into his life and find out what happened. It turns out the eye was a real alien artifact and Eugene planned to sell it on eBay in order to raise money for a colleague of his to go to Australia. His two friends try to help him at first by setting bids unknowingly to generate interest but then the bids go up to £15,000, the final bid is a very strange £15,005.50.
Gwen follows the various leads through to an American diner of the motorway where she learns what happened. Eugene turned up with the eye hoping to meet the alien but his two friends are there. It looks like they wanted to try to lure him there to get the eye off him and then sell it themselves. Eugene gets the eye off them, swallows it and flees but ran out into the road which caused his death.
In the final scenes, Eugene has his funeral and he is shocked to find he hasn’t disappeared yet when he thought after his funeral he would. Gwen retrieves the eye from his body in order to take back to Torchwood and Eugene’s ghost follows Gwen back to his wake as she walks out into the path of an oncoming car. Eugene sees Gwen, shouts and pushes her out of the way. For a moment both she and his family can see him but then he disappears into a white light and it appears the eye kept him in a ghostly state in order to save her.
To be honest this episode I didn’t really enjoy very much. There definitely seems to be a pattern as it is the fourth episode in the series to deal in some way with death, ghosts and the afterlife and it is somewhat contradictory to the other episodes ideas that in this one people do exist in an afterlife.
The main problem is the episode instead of focusing on Torchwood uses a new character called Eugene so as such much of the episode depends on how like able he is as a character.
Though Paul Chequer who plays Eugene is fantastic in the role it just feels as if 45 minutes is too brief to really get to know him as a character and I also found the narration of everything happening by him to be a bit tedious by the end of the episode.
This also makes the real dramatic end of the episode not really pay off as he disappears into the light in a very Patrick Swayze from Ghost kind of scene but whereas that film’s ending is tragic and romantic, here it comes across as cheesy and a bit flat. To me this comes down to the character having too many strands to explore in a short space of time.
The eye concept keeping him alive is interesting but probably not the best use of the object either. The funny thing about the episode in an ironic kind of way is that many of the characters dismiss Eugene’s eye as nothing but a piece of plastic but the prop does look like a plastic eye which I’m not sure if that is the intention meant with the episode but also adds to a sense of ridiculousness in the episode for me.
Ep. 10: Out Of Time
Out Of Time was written by Catherine Tregenna and kicks off right in the middle of the action with the Torchwood team at an airport where a plane called the Sky Gypsy lands. The three people on board, pilot Diane Holmes and passengers Emma-Louise Cowell and John Ellis are dressed in 50’s clothing and are completely unaware that their plane has flown through the Rift (a wormhole in time and space that was established in Doctor Who) from 1953 to land in the present day.
The main plot device of the episode is Torchwood trying to help these three people to settle into their new lives in the present day and how they adjust to it and in a sense it is three different stories and character arcs.
Diane Holmes is a World War Two pilot who lives for adventure as a pilot. She yearns to fly again but in the modern day her pilot’s licence is no longer valid so Owen tries to help her with arranging pilot’s lessons so she can fly again. The two form a romantic connection and begin an affair.
Emma-Louise bonds with Gwen Cooper and is initially very upset at the idea that her parents never found out what happened and believed she died, with both of them now dead. However she bonds with Gwen and her boyfriend Rhys by living in their flat, and becomes used to the rules of modern dating and romance.
Her uncle John however desperately wants to seek his only son so that he can hopefully reconnect. The Torchwood team manage to track him down but unfortunately he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and tragically doesn’t recognize him when they meet.
At this John becomes remorseful at missing most of John’s life and cannot adjust to modern life. He steals Ianto’s car and tries to commit suicide with carbon monoxide poisoning. Jack initially tries to stop him but he says he will keep trying to commit suicide so Jack lets him.
Emma-Louise however eventually discovers a new job role as a shop assistant in London and goes on a coach there. Meanwhile, Diane one morning realises the weather conditions are exactly the same as they were when she took off in 1953 so she believes she might fall through the rift once again to land further in the future so she leaves Owen in the night to fly the Sky Gypsy plane away. Owen wakes and manages to catch her but she refuses to stay behind and flies the plane into the sky again.
Overall I really enjoyed this episode. It has a brilliantly simple concept of three people who are fishes out of water at the beginning and it uses this to brilliant effect. There are many stories involving mysterious incidents with aircraft and this is a brilliant example of using it as a plot device in sci-fi.
There is a very funny scene at the beginning as Ianto takes them to a supermarket and they see how everything is readily available and their reactions to seeing things like DVD’s, warning signs on smoking packaging and lads mags really highlights just how much their world, and our lives, has changed in the space of 50 years.
The episode is also beautifully tragic in how it shows the life that has been missed. This is shown mostly in Emma and John’s arcs as Emma realises she will never see her parents again and, most tragically of all, John meets his son who is now an old man and can no longer recognize him.
This also is a great way to reflect on Jack Harkness’ story as we know he cannot die and though it was touched on in the Small Worlds story how he stays looking the same age whilst those around him he loves ages and dies and how lonely that must be for him too.
I also really liked Diane’s character as this tough, heroic adventurer who really should be seen again in the Doctor Who / Torchwood universe. She seems to adjust the quickest to the new world and actually seems to tire of it by the end of the episode, as she wants the next adventure. In some ways her character is similar to that of the Doctor in Doctor Who in that she wants to go to the next place, to have the next adventure which is something that is actually very inspiring.
Ep. 11: Combat
Combat is the 11th episode in the series and was written by Noel Clarke, an actor and writer who has unfortunately now been disgraced with allegations of sexual harassment. At the time of writing the episode he was starring in Doctor Who as Rose Tyler’s boyfriend, Mickey Smith.
The episode begins in the thick of the action, with Captain Jack chasing a Weevil through Cardiff. He passes a restaurant where Gwen and Rhys are on a date night and asks for her help. Rhys orders Gwen to stay but she leaves with Jack. They chase the Weevil into a car park where the Weevil is captured by a group of men in a van.
Later Toshiko manages to trace the van to a warehouse where she and Jack investigate and discover the body of a man mauled to death by a Weevil. The man’s phone rings and warns Jack to drop his investigation. In the meantime, Owen who is clearly distracted following the events of the previous episode and Diane leaving him, gets into a fight with a barmaid’s boyfriend. When he turns up at work, he is enlisted to look into the estate agent who owns the warehouse by pretending to be an interested buyer. There he meets the mysterious businessman Mark.
In the meantime, Jack orders Gwen to go home where she drugs Rhys with the same drug she had in Episode 1 and reveals all about her affair with Owen, hoping he will forgive her and then forget about it overnight and decides to end it. However he passes out before he can forgive he so she later goes back to work in order to cry it out.
Meanwhile, Jack and Ianto follow reports of suspicious Weevil-like injuries and interrogate one of the victims in the hospital. However, he refuses to talk and says they’ll kill him.
Mark and Owen go to the club where we saw him earlier and they get into another fight with the boyfriend and Mark is impressed with Owen’s fighting. They go back to his house where Owen investigates and finds a Weevil chained up in a locked room. Mark reveals that he knows Owen isn’t who he says he is but tells him what he is doing with the Weevil’s anyway.
It turns out Mark is using the Weevil’s in an underground fight club where men pay to go into a cage for a one-on-one fight with them. Each contestant pays £1000 for a fight and whoever is in there the longest wins the money in the pot. Mark considers Owen weak for disapproving of his chained Weevil but Owen agrees to fight one and is clearly not in a great frame of mind after losing Diane. However, the dead man’s phone rings again at Torchwood and Gwen picks it up and learns of the location of the club, allowing the team to get there and intervene.
Realizing it is over, Mark locks himself in the cage and he is killed by the Weevil. In the final scene, Owen admits to Jack he didn’t want to be rescued and goes to Torchwood’s captured Weevil’s to intimidate them.
Overall I did really enjoy this episode though it clearly takes inspiration from the movie Fight Club though I did really like the sci-fi twist in that the Weevil’s are being used to fight. It is probably not the most original concept but it does maintain interest throughout the episode and it is dramatic, violent and action-packed enough.
The episode is also great in how it continues events from the previous episode as we see the fallout of Diane’s decision on Owen and his behavior which is another great way of maintaining continuity and is something that is really comparable to Doctor Who where aside from the series mystery, the individual episodes are usually fairly standalone but in this each episode connects to one another and it is a great way to build to the finale as these plot strands hopefully come together.
Ep. 12: Captain Jack Harkness
Captain Jack Harkness is the penultimate episode of the series, written by Catherine Tregenna who also wrote the tenth episode, Out Of Time and the episode deals with very similar themes and concepts.
The story starts with Toshiko and Jack investigating an abandoned dance hall where someone has reported hearing 1940’s music playing. They walk around and go through a room which is clearly empty but also hear music. They decide to leave but return to the room to find it packed with people and outside their SUV gone. It appears they have fallen through time to 1941, where the dance hall is being used for service personnel.
In 1941, Jack and Toshiko meet a man who also calls himself Captain Jack Harkness. Jack reveals that he took the Captain’s identity after his death which would happen the next day during an ambush on a training exercise. Jack and Toshiko realise they must find a way to open the Cardiff Rift in the present day, in order to get back to their own time. However Toshiko has half of the equation on her laptop with her whilst the other half is in the present day, so she has to find ways to get the equation to the future so the others can use it.
In the meantime, Jack talks to Captain Jack and it is clear there is an attraction there but during that time it is socially unacceptable so the real Captain Jack refuses to act on it.
In the present day, Owen and Ianto realise that Jack and Toshiko are lost in time from photographs taken at the dance and Owen is adamant they need to open the rift, which Ianto says is too dangerous. As they also investigate the dance hall, Gwen meets the proprietor, Billis Manger, who lets her have a look around. However Gwen calls the base and says she finds him weird as he is dressed in old fashioned clothes and the team realise he was also present at the dance in 1941 and appears in the present day not to have aged. Gwen searches around the building and manages to find Tosh’s equations on cards hidden around the building but Bilis has attempted to alter them.
Once they have the complete equation, Owen decides to open the rift, despite Ianto shooting him in the shoulder to try to stop it. As the dance closes in 1941, the rift reopens and Jack kisses Captain Jack passionately before he and Toshiko travel through the rift. In the present, they return to base and Toshiko and Jack share a toast to Captain Jack Harkness.
As mentioned above, this episode has very similar themes to Out of Time, with people falling out of their time zones due to the Rift. However this time the team themselves are sent backwards rather than someone else coming forwards and they have to adjust.
Using Toshiko as one of the characters is also a great way to add an element of how attitudes have changed over time, being the only Japanese person she is treated with mistrust by the people around her and she is rightly fearful at being seen as the enemy due to Japan being at war against the Allies in World War Two, especially if they end up stuck there.
The relationship of Jack with Captain Jack also shows how attitudes have changed for the better with regards to homosexual relationships and it is brilliantly acted as a love story in a very short space of time. It culminates in a beautifully bittersweet moment when you realise Jack has to go back to the future and Captain Jack will be dead.
The character of Bilis is also a brilliantly creepy villain as he moves between the two time zones and adds an element of foreshadowing for the finale.
There is a couple of plot holes when the story line is thought about more deeply which is can often be the case with these types of stories e.g. Owen and Ianto just happen to come across the picture of Jack and Toshiko and you would also think that Jack and Toshiko might’ve seen the picture before going to the dance hall to investigate reports so they would see themselves but it is only really a minor thing.
I watched this episode with the final episode in one go and I really like how this episode doesn’t actually end on a specific cliffhanger though the story does continue into the final episode. There is a lot of emphasis that the Rift shouldn’t be opened and it is anti-climatic almost when at first it seems the team have got away with it. However it is a very clever episode in that the next episode shows this is far from the case.
Ep. 13: End Of Days
The thirteenth and final episode was written by Chris Chibnall and continues the events set in motion from the previous episode.
During her morning off, Gwen switches on the news and sees news reports of crazy events happening around the world. There are UFO’s hovering above the Taj Mahal and an armed clash between police officers and English Civil War era soldiers. She goes to work where she learns after they opened the Rift in the end of the previous episode, it destabilized it and caused this activity to occur.
It appears Torchwood have their hands full and are overwhelmed. Owen and Toshiko are called to a hospital which has quarantines due to an unidentified virus which turns out to be the Black Death (which has haunting parallels during the current pandemic – especially when Owen says to Jack if a virus comes from the future). Jack and Gwen go to the police station where she worked where her former colleague Andy has arrested a Roman soldier and there are more Weevil attacks than ever before.
All of the team apart from Jack also receive strange visions: Toshiko sees her mother, Ianto sees Lisa and Owen sees Diane. All of the visions try to convince each of them individually to open the rift. However, Gwen sees a flash of Bilis in one of the cells in the police station from the previous episode, where he apologies.
The rest of the team do not tell Jack about their visions so Jack and Gwen go to Bilis’ clock shop, A Stitch in Time, where they learn Bilis can move between time periods. When Jack leaves, Bilis shows Gwen a vision of her flat where Rhys is dead. She runs out of the shop and to the flat where Rhys is still alive. She takes him to Torchwood and locks him in the cells for his safety. However, Bilis causes a power cut which triggers a security breach so the cells open and he kills him.
Jack tells Gwen they have no hope of rescuing him but she knows the only way to do it is to open the rift. This causes the entire team to mutiny against Jack following their visions and even though he threatens them at gunpoint, they shoot him and open the rift. Jack revives himself and they discover Bilis manipulated them into opening the rift, releasing Abaddon whose shadow kills anyone it falls on.
This gives Jack an idea, as he cannot die so Abadon can feed on his life. The shadow attacks Jack, but a blue light flows out of him and kills both him and Jack..
The Rift is now closed and Gwen is pleased to see Rhys is now alive. She keeps a vigil at Jack’s bedside for several days and it appears this time he is, finally, dead. Gwen however kisses him and he is bought back to life. In the final scenes, Jack announces that the rift will now be more volatile than ever after what they’ve done and she asks him what would’ve tempted him to open the rift. He responds “the right kind of Doctor”. As the team leave, Jack notices the Doctor’s severed hand is glowing and he hears the noise of the TARDIS so he runs away, leaving the team shocked at his sudden departure.
I actually quite enjoyed the final episode of the series as it has a feeling of culmination and wraps up a number of plot strands. The team have to face the consequences of their own actions in this episode as it is their own actions which have put the entire human race at risk.
There has also been a continuing theme through the series of a distrust of Jack in the team and various unresolved conflicts from the previous episodes. Ianto blames Jack and the rest of the team for killing Lisa, Owen is still in an emotional state after Diane’s departure and when Rhys dies, Gwen blames Jack for coming into her life. This all ultimately culminates in the team betraying Jack and opening the Rift, letting Abaddon come through.
The episode also has several references to Doctor Who and the ending of the episode links to the opening of the finale episodes of the third series of Doctor Who, which at the time hadn’t been aired but I like the two shows built up a real connection and world between each other.
There are some frustrating plot holes however, in particular the usage of Rhys in the episode. During both Cyberwoman and They Keep Killing Suzie the base had power cuts but in this one, it suddenly caused the base cells to open. Also Bilis appears to be able to teleport anywhere so why didn’t he just teleport into the cell to kill him.
Also at the end of the episode Rhys is suddenly alive for no reason and if he survived almost as if nothing happened, what happened to the people killed by Abaddon? Also the budget was clearly spent on Abaddon but the CGI is really dated now and he definitely looks tacked into the scenes.
Overall, I did quite enjoy the series, though it does have some mixed episodes which are really not great. It is a a more adult version of Doctor Who and is similar in style to other 90’s and 00’s fantasy and sci-fi shows such as Buffy and Angel. Generally the show is well acted and entertaining enough to make each episode watchable, though some episodes are a bit cheesy and silly.
My top episodes in the series would have to be Out of Time and Ghost Machine – both of which have beautiful haunting stories with simple ideas that are very memorable and are actually quite human stories, which happen to have a sci-fi element rather than the other way around.
However there are laughable moments, such as the infamous sex gas episode and the Cyber-babe Cyberwoman.
Yet, the episodes are clearly linked and I like how the stories build up and are not just left to be forgotten about which can sometimes be the case with Doctor Who where each episode is generally more stand alone in nature.
I would recommend it and all the episodes are currently available in the UK on BBC iPlayer.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.