Tuesday, 22 May 2018

A Day in the Death - Torchwood 2.8

In which Owen Harper struggles to come to terms with his new condition. Walking home one night he spots a young woman sitting on the ledge of a building - evidently contemplating throwing herself off. He goes up to the roof and joins her. Her name is Maggie. He starts to tell her of his problems.
He is being studied by Martha Jones of UNIT, who has stayed on as new medical officer for Torchwood. He cuts his hand on a scalpel and she stitches the wound, and explains to him that he will have to do this every week from now on, as the wound will never heal. Back at his flat he begins to throw out things he no longer needs - food, as he can no longer eat, shaving foam, as his hair no longer grows. He is visited by Tosh and tries to force her to reject him, as he can no longer love her back. He runs out and throws himself into the bay. Half an hour later, he accepts that he cannot drown, as he does not breathe. He emerges from the water to find Jack waiting for him.

Back at the Hub, the team have a case. They have been keeping an eye on a reclusive millionaire named Henry Parker, who has not left his home for decades. He is known to be a collector of alien artifacts, having the largest private collection of items which have come through the Rift. Strange energy readings have been registered coming from his home, and the team is worried that one of the alien devices is going to self-destruct. Someone needs to break into the house and remove this, but Parker has security guards and the building is protected by heat sensors. Owen points out that his present condition means that he no longer generates any body heat, so he will be invisible to the sensors. He breaks in and makes his way to the bedroom, where he finds Parker in bed, connected to life support machines.

He is clutching the alien device, which glows with a strange light. He calls this the Pulse, and is convinced that it is keeping him alive. He and Owen talk for a long time about life and death, and Owen scans the Pulse. He manages to convince Parker that the device has nothing to do with him staying alive. It is his own will to live which is doing this. Parker relinquishes the device to Owen, but then suffers a heart attack. Owen tries to save him, but cannot administer the kiss of life as he has no breath. The old man dies. The Pulse continues to generate energy and Owen takes it - shielding it from his colleagues before it can explode...
Back on the roof, Maggie has been listening to his story. She has revealed that the reason she is feeling suicidal is that her husband was killed in a car crash on the day they got married. Owen produces the Pulse and it begins to emit beautiful tendrils of light. He explains that it is really a form of message, sent to Earth in response to probes which we have sent out to contact alien life. Maggie and Owen are both given a fresh perspective on life. We are not alone in the universe, and there are still wonders to see.
Jack accepts Owen back onto the team as medical officer, and Martha leaves to return to UNIT.

A Day in the Death was written by Joseph Lidster, and was first broadcast on 27th February, 2008.
Lidster will be familiar to viewers of Doctor Who DVD extras, though he has never been called upon to write for the programme. This is his only Torchwood contribution, but he has written three stories for The Sarah Jane Adventures. However, he has written many peripheral works relating to Doctor Who, including short stories, website content and audio dramas.
The story marks the third and final part of the Martha Jones trilogy. She returns to UNIT once Owen is taken back into the Torchwood team - just in time to call upon the Doctor for help in Series 4.
As mentioned last time, this shows the darker side to Owen's new existence, as he is forced to come to terms with everything that he is losing, badly at first. He becomes suicidal, but fails to drown himself. Even something mundane like shaving is lost to him now. He and Tosh get an opportunity to discuss her feelings for him, but of course he is unwilling to reciprocate, deliberately pushing her away.

The episode is all about Owen's relationship with Maggie, and with Henry Parker - the two guest artists for the story. Maggie is played by Christine Bottomley. Parker is Richard Briers, who had previously appeared in Doctor Who as the Chief Caretaker in Paradise Towers. Mercifully, this is a much more nuanced performance. Briers had moved on from the more comedic sitcom roles by this stage and was well established as a fine Shakespearean actor. He passed away in 2013, and his widow is the actress Ann Davies, a great friend of Jacqueline Hill and who played Jenny in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Overall, it is, at first glance, a fairly inconsequential story, with no real threat. But look beyond that and it is a lovely character piece, comprising the conversations shared between Owen and the two people contemplating death - one wanting it, the other fighting against it. As a whole, the trilogy hasn't been terribly strong for Martha - only really having a significant role to play in Reset. The other two stories have been very firmly focused on Owen, pushing Martha to the background.
Things you might like to know:

  • Amongst Parker's alien artifacts is a Dogon Eye - one of which featured prominently in the Series 1 story Random Shoes.
  • Ianto describes Parker as being classified by Torchwood as "Mostly Harmless" - a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy reference. 
  • The episode title may well be a reference to the Beatles song "A Day in the Life", though it had already featured as part of the title of the 1967 play by Peter Nichols: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.
  • Dialogue reveals that this story takes place the very next day after the events of Dead Man Walking - Owen telling Maggie he was shot three days ago, and resurrected two days ago.
  • The sequence with Owen and Parker talking was cut for timing, but also, it is claimed, to remove some mentions of Christianity - the old man being derogatory about it. The latter seems unlikely, as there have been a number of mentions over both seasons of nothing existing beyond death.
  • Another cut scene may be inferred from the credit for Kai Owen (Rhys), as he does not appear in this episode.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

D is for... Duggan

A private detective employed by an influential group of art lovers to investigate the collector Count Scarlioni. He had recently begun selling off a number of valuable art treasures, and Duggan was to check that they were the genuine article. Blunt, and to the point, he liked to let his fists do the talking. Seeing the Doctor and Romana taking an interest in Countess Scarlioni at the Louvre, he decided to follow them - believing they were mixed up with the Count. At a nearby cafe, all three of them were captured by Scarlioni's men and taken to his mansion. Here, Duggan had to come to terms with the fact that he was really dealing with aliens and time travel. Scarlioni had six original Mona Lisa's in his cellar. Duggan and Romana attempted to stop the Count from stealing the one at the Louvre - so that he could sell all seven - but they were too late.
Scarlioni was really Scaroth, last of the warlike alien Jagaroth. He was intending to go back in time to stop the spaceship explosion which had splintered his self through history. However, the blast had helped to create life on Earth in the first place. Duggan travelled back into prehistory in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Romana. Scaroth materialised, but was prevented from warning his ship when Duggan punched him and knocked him out.
Back in 1979, Duggan informed the Doctor and Romana that one of the paintings survived the fire which destroyed Scaroth and his home - one which the Doctor had inscribed as a fake under the paint.

Played by: Tom Chadbon. Appearances: City of Death (1979).
  •  Chadbon returned to Doctor Who in 1986, playing Merdeen in the first four episodes of Trial of a Time Lord.
  • The character of Duggan originated in David Fisher's original version of this story, a detective nicknamed Pug. He was based on the adventure hero Bulldog Drummond, created by H C "Sapper" McNeile - hence the name "Pug".

D is for... Dudman, Kathleen

One of the WRENs stationed at a military base on the north east coast of England during World War II. The base was home to the Ultima Machine - a decryption device created by Professor Judson. Kathleen had her baby with her, a girl named Audrey. The base commander, Millington, wanted her to get rid of it but she explained to the Doctor and Ace that she had no-one she could send the child to. Her husband was in the navy. She was offended when Ace implied that she was an unmarried mother. She and Ace became good friends, and Ace doted on the baby - although she disliked the name. It was the same as her hated mother's. Kathleen received a telegram stating that her husband was missing, presumed dead, at sea. When the base came under attack by Haemovores, Ace helped Kathleen and the baby escape - sending her to her grandmother's house in South London. Later, however, Fenric revealed that the baby would grow up to be Ace's mother, and so Kathleen was her real grandmother. By sending them to Streatham, she had created her own future.

Played by: Cory Pulman. Appearances: The Curse of Fenric (1989).

D is for... Ducat, Amelia

A somewhat eccentric artist, famed for her studies of flowers and plants. When the Doctor and Sarah returned from the South Pole they were the victims of an attempted abduction by an employee of the millionaire Harrison Chase. They found one of her paintings in the boot of his car. This led them to Miss Ducat, who identified the person she had sold it to. She recalled that he had never paid for it. Later, this gave her the excuse to go to Chase's home, but she was really there to get information for Sir Colin Thackeray of the World Ecology Bureau. It was he who had sent the Doctor and Sarah to the Antarctic to research the alien Krynoid seed pod discovered there. She was able to see Sarah and learn that she and the Doctor were trapped in the house. Miss Ducat wanted to do more to help, citing her previous experience manning an ack-ack gun during the last war, but Sir Colin sent her home.

Played by: Sylvia Coleridge. Appearances: The Seeds of Doom (1976).
  • Tom Baker was so taken with Coleridge, he suggested that she become the new companion when Lis Sladen left.

D is for... Dryads

Giant insects with an affinity for wood, they infested an old house which Bill Potts and her student friends rented. Many years before, a boy living at the property had found a handful of them in the garden and taken them to show his dying mother. The creatures were able to keep her alive, but only by turning her into wood herself. The boy grew up and rented out the house every 20 years or so, usually to young people. The Dryads would attack them and absorb them into the house. Now an old man, the landlord could control the creatures using sound waves. His mother - Eliza - also had control over them. One by one Bill's friends were attacked and absorbed by the Dryads. She and the Doctor met Eliza and convinced her that what her son was doing was wrong, and that she led no real existence at all, hidden away in a tower room in the house. She decided that it was time to bring things to an end, and the Dryads consumed her and her son. The house began to collapse, releasing all of Bill's friends as they had not been fully absorbed into the structure.
The Doctor was unsure if the Dryads, which he named after the mythic wood sprites, were terrestrial in origin or if they had come from another world.

Appearances: Knock Knock (2017).

D is for... Drummond, Esther

Esther Drummond was a CIA analyst who uncovered information about the defunct Torchwood group when 'Miracle Day' occurred - the day when people across the globe stopped dying. She informed her colleague Rex Matheson about what she had discovered, prompting him to travel to Wales to seek out the surviving members of Torchwood. Captain Jack Harkness was already in America, however, and he saved Esther from a suicide bomber. He then attempted to erase her memory of him, but this failed. She and Rex then found that they had been discredited by their own agency and were forced to go on the run. They joined forces with Jack and Gwen Cooper to investigate who was behind the miracle. Esther almost compromised the team when she attempted to save her mentally ill sister, but later killed the doctor who had murdered her colleague Dr. Vera Juarez. When the team relocated to Scotland to hide out, Esther helped nurse Jack who had been shot. Unlike the rest of the world, he could die.
Esther helped bring the miracle to an end, but some time later she and Rex were both shot dead by members of the Three Families, who had been behind the miracle. Now immortal like Jack, Rex came back to life, but Esther could not be brought back.

Played by: Alexa Havins. Appearances: TW S4 Miracle Day (2011).

D is for... Dream Lord

A cruel and manipulative figure who hijacked the TARDIS crew. He could change his appearance at will - appearing initially dressed like the Doctor. He never stated his origins, and took the title Dream Lord as he could manipulate the dreams of the Doctor, Amy and Rory. He presented them with a challenge - to determine which of two scenarios was real and which was a dream. One involved the TARDIS helpless in space, in orbit around a freezing cold star, whilst the other was based in the village of Leadworth, some time after Amy and Rory had left the TARDIS. In this Rory was a doctor, and Amy was pregnant. The village came under attack by aliens called Eknodines, who inhabited the bodies of the elderly, giving them great strength. The creatures could reduce their victims to a pile of dust in seconds. The trio were shunted back and forth between the two scenarios.
When the Eknodines killed Rory, Amy insisted that Leadworth was the dream, and the frozen TARDIS was real, but the Doctor had worked out who the Dream Lord was. Both scenarios were dreams, as the Dream Lord had no power over reality. Defeated, he vanished. The Doctor then revealed that the Dream Lord was created from his own psyche - the product of a grain of psychic pollen which had got into the ship.

Played by: Toby Jones. Appearances: Amy's Choice (2010).