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Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 1.02, “Day One”

What’s a really good subject to focus on for your show’s second episode? Well, sex. One of the major themes of the entire series is sexuality and gender fluidity and the introduce this theme right off the bat. This episode offers an interesting metaphor about society’s underlying fear of virulent female sexuality with a life form that literally kills with sex.

It’s a typical night in Cardiff with Gwen and Rhys out at the local bowling alley to celebrate her new job. Over dinner, Gwen explains that she’s working with a special ops team, but she’ll mainly be doing filing. As the two of them get ready to leave for a more private celebration, a ball of fire streaks over Cardiff and lands somewhere outside the city. As Rhys wonders what the hell just happened, Gwen gets a text with one word: Torchwood. Apparently when a ball of fire lands outside the city there’s lots of paperwork. So day one begins.

On the way, to the crash site, the team go over procedures in their tricked out SUV with top of the line surveillance equipment. It’s a simple containment and clean up operation. Gwen objects to the fact that Torchwood has access to the police’s computer, but what should she expect from an organization that is above EVERYTHING! Jack points out that she should stop thinking about herself as separate from the team.

The simple operation is complicated when Torchwood arrives to find that the “amateurs” have already arrived, probably an elite branch of the military. Gwen gets separated from the group and finds herself having to explain she’s with Torchwood with the officers not believing that a “little girl” like her is with Torchwood. Jack comes to the rescue and adds to the not-so-subtle sexism by commenting on Gwen’s curves, but he does extricate her from the situation and they head to the crash site to find what looks like a kind of meteor. Owen deems it standard space debris and all that needs to be done is take measurements and go home. As the team tosses tools back and forth, Owen, calling Gwen “sweetheart,” asks her to throw him a chisel. Reminding him that her name is Gwen, one syllable, she throws the instrument only to miss and hit the “debris.” A pink gas leaks out and heads in the direction of Cardiff. It’s just benign gas, right?

Carys being taken over by the alien.
Carys being taken over by the alien.

Outside a nightclub, a young woman is sobbing in an alley, leaving a voice mail for the guy who stood her up when she comes face to face with the gaseous life form. The alien needs a host. After possessing the girl, the girl/alien walks into the club and makes a beeline for a guy at the bar. She promptly shoves him into the bathroom and wastes no time getting rid of some clothing and having a quickie on the counter. As the guy climaxes, he explodes and his “essence,” as it were, is inhaled by the girl like a line of cocaine. All that’s left of the poor guy is a pile of dust on the floor. (I mean, the French did call an orgasm “le petite mort.”)

Back at headquarters, Gwen’s freaking out about screwing up and reassuring herself it was just some kind of space gas (because gas never hurt anyone) while Jack and the rest of the team assumes it’s an alien floating around somewhere in Cardiff. A report of the death at a nightclub sounding a little unusual comes through. The team heads to the club where Gwen runs into her old partner, and her old life and her new life come into stark contrast.

Inside the club, the team stands the pile of dust that used to be the young man. Apparently, the bouncer, who got a free show, saw the whole thing on the CCTV. The bouncer proves useless for information on the girl so the team gets to the business of covering up what happened (getting a body from their surplus supply matching the guy’s appearance, faking a suicide, etc) as Jack, using a device to trace the same elements they found at the crash site, follows the trail to the alley where they spot another CCTV camera. Jack and Gwen watch as the alien possess the girl and Gwen begins the blame game. If she hadn’t thrown wrong, the girl wouldn’t be a host for an alien, the boy would still be alive and so on. Jack points out she’ll get nowhere playing that game.

We find the young girl, Carys, at her house with her father in what looks like a state of shock. She tells her dad she doesn’t really remember last night; too much to drink, but later, she’s sobbing in the shower and probably not able to process what has happened to her. At the same time, while the team is trying to determine where in the universe the alien has come from, Gwen learns that none of her other team members have significant others or any life for that matter, outside the job.

The team struggles to discover the girl’s identity and address to keep her from shagging and killing again (God, it sounds like a right-wing conservative’s wet dream) and Gwen comes up with a useful idea based on her police training. As we see Carys double over in pain as she fights the alien inside her, the doorbell rings and it’s her regular delivery man. The alien inside her takes over and she starts to undress the very confused guy when Torchwood bursts in and stops her before it goes any farther. She almost escapes due to Gwen being distracted, but she’s stopped by Owen, who snuck out a force field device.

Gwen and Owen
Yeah. Owen is kind of an asshole.

Back at headquarters, Jack wants Gwen to interrogate the girl. She’s placed in the holding cell where they keep the Weevil. Carys is confused, not sure why she’s there. Gwen tells her she knows their something living inside her that made her kill the young man, named Matt Stevens. Another burst of pain and the alien takes over. Come to find out its purpose is not invasion as Gwen thinks; no, it’s a drug addict and a human orgasm is the best high out there. As Carys gets hit with pain again, Gwen runs into the cell as the girl begs for help. In a split second, the alien takes over and she and Gwen are snogging and tearing at each other’s clothes, all for the vast entertainment of Owen and the team watching on the CCTV. After taking a moment to enjoy the show Jack and Tosh rush to save Gwen, but it turns out there’s no need. Apparently, the alien can only feed off of male orgasmic energy as Carys once again breaks through and begs for help, Gwen gets a call from Rhys, saving Gwen from potentially being seduced into freeing the girl. As Gwen returns upstairs, Owen acts like the ass he is and comments on Gwen’s thorough investigation. Gwen reams him about mocking a situation where a young woman is sharing her body with an alien. Owen points out she’s a murderer and Gwen wanted her caught. Breaking the tension is Jack and then Ianto with Chinese food.

When Jack slips away at dinner, the team question Gwen on what she knows about Jack. Turns out they know nothing about who he is, where he comes from, his sexual orientation or the fact that he’s immortal. The conversation is interrupted by the sounds of Carys crying. Gwen is disgusted that they’ve been eating and laughing as Carys fights for her life. Jack, whose returned, points out that they’ve been running biomedical tests on Carys, the air in the cell, the works; what more does she want? Gwen sagely says, “You’ve been hidden down here too long. Spending so much time with alien stuff you’ve lost what it means to be human.” Jack challenges Gwen to remind him what it means to be human in the 21st century.

Gwen pulls up everything there is to know about Carys; where she went to school, her job, the fact that her mom died when she was young. It’s nothing that helps with the case, but it serves to remind Jack and the team that there is a person in that cell. Jack is overwhelmed, calling Gwen brilliant, but her next suggestion, bringing Carys’s dad in, squelches that sentiment. When the analysis comes back that there are pheromones in the air, Gwen revises that notion (and is given the explanation of why she succumbed to Carys in the first place). They realize that Owen is missing and they find him naked in the cell, Carys having stolen his swipe card. As Carys tries to escape, she runs into Jack and grabs the severed hand in the protective glass case; the one thing that is valuable to Jack. Using it as a shield, she escapes.

After Gwen points out the ridiculousness of letting a possesed girl escape over a hand, Owen reveals the results of his analysis. The combination of the alien’s chemical structure and a human body will lead to a very, very messy outcome of Carys simply exploding. Wondering where to start looking, Tosh points out that if she were a sex-starved alien that could kill, she’d go straight for an ex-boyfriend. Turns out she was right. Carys confronts her ex who confesses he never loved her and he seals his fate. The team is too late to save him.

Desperate to find her, the team discovers that Carys is a temp receptionist at a fertility clinic. There are sperm donors and seemingly limitless orgasmic energy. They also figure out that Earth’s atmosphere is poisonous to the alien, but a human host is the perfect environment. If they can isolate the alien in its natural state outside of a human body, it’ll die.

Carys arrives at the clinic and starts working her way through the men in the waiting room when Torchwood arrives. The strain on her body is becoming too much. She just needs one more “hit,” but each time the feeling’s weaker. She begs Gwen to make her feel human. Gwen can’t, but Jack can. Hey, the guy is immortal and has energy to spare; when he kisses Carys, she practically glows and passes out (just from the kiss).

The mysterious Jack Harkness.

As Carys lays there, Gwen implores the alien to use her as a host since she’s stronger than Carys. The alien takes the offer, leaving Carys in it’s natural gaseous state and heading for Gwen. Just as it’s about to poesses Gwen, Jack traps it in the force field used earlier. The alien dies, leaving only a pile of dust. Jack observes that a creature travels halfway across the universe for the greatest sex and still dies alone. Gwen gives Jack a quick kiss as thanks for saving her life and for once, Jack has no comeback.

They return a dazed Carys to her father and Gwen is wrapping up the case back at headquarters, she and Jack are the only ones left. Jack tells her to not let this job consume her; they need her perspective. Gwen asks him the questions that have probably been plaguing her since this whole thing started: who is he? How does he know that the 21st century is when everything changes? Instead of answering, he tells her to go home, live her life and be normal, for him. So she does, listening to Rhys prattle on about his job and putting away the questions for later.

Some of the best lines:

Jack Harkness:

He just came and went.

Hey, sometimes a little technobabble is good for the soul.

You people and your quaint little categories.

And one from Gwen:

Are you all right now or are you still feeling a bit of a cock?

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

10 replies on “Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 1.02, “Day One””

One of the things I really love about Torchwood is the way they handle sexuality. I don’t think that there are many other shows that are so even handed when it comes to portraying all forms of sexual relationships no matter what the genders involved. There is a uniform respect, and shattering devastation that happens to most relationships portrayed in the series.

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