The Doctor and Rose pay a visit to Jackie, only to find that ghosts are walking the surface of the Earth – and Jackie claims that, after the initial shock wore off, no one’s been worried about it much and the apparitions have become a fixture of everyday life, appearing at regular intervals. Ever skeptical, the Doctor rigs up a device to “trap” one of the ghostly figures, which elicits an almost violent reaction from his prey. He finds the source of the power that’s enabling the “ghosts” to appear, narrowing it down to a place known as the Torchwood Institute. Inadvertently bringing Jackie along, the Doctor and Rose go to investigate Torchwood, but the Doctor is startled to find that not only is his arrival expected, but Yvonne Hartman, the director of Torchwood, knows who he is and that he seldom travels alone. Once again accidentally bringing Jackie along instead of Rose, the Doctor learns Torchwood’s mandate: to secure alien technology (including the TARDIS) and repel alien threats (a category into which they apparently feel the Doctor belongs), not for the good of the world, but to restore Britain to its imperial glory days. In the depths of Torchwood’s secret headquarters, a strange sphere has been the subject of intense study – radiating no heat or energy, it doesn’t appear to exist, and yet there it sits. The Doctor recognizes the sphere as a voidship, a vehicle capable of traversing parallel dimensions, and warns that it’s an extremely dangerous artifact. Equally dangerous, he warns, are the “ghost shifts” Torchwood is deliberately setting into motion. Deep within the Institute, a force from another universe begins to take over Torchwood, even taking control of the ghost shifts. They are the Cybermen created by John Lumic, and they’re not alone – every ghost seen in every city and country in the world is one of their soldiers, and if they can figure out how to increase the energy of the next ghost shift and bring the legions of ghostly Cybermen into corporeal existence, their takeover of Earth will be complete.
Except that the Cybermen aren’t the only ones trying to take over.
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by Graeme Harper
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Tracy-Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman), Raji James (Dr. Rajesh Singh), Freema Agyeman (Adeola), Hadley Fraser (Gareth), Oliver Mellor (Matt), Barbara Windsor (Peggy Mitchell), Hajaz Akram (Indian newsreader), Anthony Debaeck (French newsreader), Takako Akashi (Japanese newsreader), Paul Fields (Weatherman), David Warwick (Police Commissioner), Rachel Webster (Eileen), Kyoko Morita (Japanese girl), Maddi Cryer (Housewife), Derek Acorah (himself), Alistair Appleton (himself), Trisha Goddard (herself), Paul Kasey (Cyberleader), Nicholas Briggs (Dalek voices / Cyber voices), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek operator), Nicholas Pegg (Dalek operator), Stuart Crossman (Dalek operator), Anthony Spargo (Dalek operator), Dan Barratt (Dalek operator), David Hankinson (Dalek operator)
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: I’ll admit, after a whole season of watching mentions of Torchwood being shoehorned into every nook, cranny and crevice where they’d fit (and one or two where they really didn’t), I wasn’t sure if I’d actually care about Torchwood when the thing was finally unveiled. As it turns out, once finally unveiled, Torchwood proved to be an interesting concept (though not a terribly original one – one wonders if they’ll eventually turn into Babylon 5’s Interplanetary Expeditions), and the episode introducing the organization once and for all is brimming with atmosphere. Which is really pretty nervy when the previous week’s episode had flagged up the Cybermen’s involvement, and in fact that element of the story had been leaked since before the season even started. The real zinger, also leaked though dismissed by some as rumor, was the involvement of the Daleks – but more on that in the review of part 2.
Very atypically, the resolution of the finale is foreshadowed in a first-person narration by Rose, over an episode-opening montage boasting some remarkable FX shots as well as one of the few glimpses back into Christopher Eccleston’s era since the torch was passed. There’s also plenty of goofy humor, from the “kidnapping” of Jackie to the Doctor singing the Ghostbusters theme, but it’s the more introspective stuff that’s interesting, from the red herring of Jackie’s reminiscences of her father to the return of a recurring Russell T. Davies theme, viewing events through the eyes of the media (also see Aliens Of London or Davies’ pre-Doctor Who miniseries, The Second Coming). We also see that Jackie actually might’ve made a decent TARDIS traveler, if an occasionally uncooperative one.
It’s interesting to see Torchwood introduced here as an entity that the viewer is highly unlikely to find sympathetic; it seems like this poses a challenge for setting up the spinoff series to follow. Another thing that almost begs to be followed up on, however, is a genie that may have been best left in the bottle: this episode and Doomsday bring us an Earth that not only can’t deny the existence of alien life (we rounded that corner in The Christmas Invasion), but an Earth devastated by an alien invasion. For all of Davies’ talk about the frequency of contemporary Earth stories being necessary to tell a story that an Earthbound audience cares about (remind me of that again the next time I see folks at a convention dressed up as Klingons), it seems like we’re moving away from anything that we recognize as contemporary Earth and moving into an Earth in the aftermath of events that would rock human society back on its heels on every level from the economic to the political to the metaphysical. I’m hoping this isn’t going to lead us into a clumsy post-terrorism allegory; I do trust Davies as a storyteller, but sometimes he paints in broad, obvious strokes. Whether or not he’s doing that here, we won’t know until season 3 and/or Torchwood premieres.
Notes: Freema Agyeman’s guest starring turn in this story predated her audition for the part of Rose’s replacement, Martha Jones, by months. The mention of “Dirty Den,” a villain from EastEnders, is almost a Doctor Who in-joke in and of itself; that character was played by actor Leslie Grantham, who got an early break playing Kiston in the 1984 Doctor Who story Resurrection Of The Daleks.