This episode of Torchwood contains one of my favorite things: MARTHA JONES! It’s actually one of the few times the viewer is reminded that the Torchwood universe is connected with the Who-verse, and what a great reminder. Martha is actually my second favorite companion (first place belongs to Donna Noble) but I still love her and haters can move to the left, please and thank you.Jones is brought in to help with a case, and what would otherwise be a standard “monster of the week” scenario turns into something tragic and far-reaching by episode’s end.
So it’s your typical Torchwood shift, chasing down a Weevil, when Tosh and Owen run across a dead man’s body. Then we cut to the front desk at Torchwood and Ianto scrambling to usher the visitor down to the hub (there’s really awkward point of view camera work going on here). Owen is examining the dead man, whose ID states his name is Meredith Roberts when Ianto announces that Jack’s VIP visitor has arrived. As Jack expounds about the song of a nightingale, in walks Martha Jones. Honestly, he really should have done a variation of the Regina George speech from Mean Girls (Martha Jones is flawless, etc). As she hugs Jack and the others look on in disbelief, she tells Owen she’s here to complete the post-mortem. Jack explains she’s from UNIT, the acceptable face of alien intelligence gathering, while Torchwood is more black ops. There’s been a rising number of corpses found in South Wales, all with the same puncture marks in the eyeball and ammonium hydroxide in the bloodstream and Martha’s been sent to investigate. No, she’s not just there to visit Jack.
They go and check NHS records, but they’ve been deleted in an apparent systems crash, but they’ve been wiped so completely, it can’t be anything but deliberate. While Tosh works her investigative magic, Martha and Jack have an “End of the World Survivors Club” meeting in his office. She is happy to see him again (and not just because of his jawline). She admits she misses a certain Doctor occasionally, but she’s happy with her choice (you go girl). She’s now a high roller within UNIT since she came highly recommended by an impeccable source, who also happens to be a Doctor. She was the woman who saved the world and all. I love the interaction between Martha and Jack this episode and how Jack reverts a bit back to his Who-verse persona. His presence is a bit lighter, less stoic.
She’s given a tour of the hub by Jack with Gwen tagging along and Gwen sneakily asks Martha how well she knows Jack. Martha admits that she only was with him for a few days, but it was intense. Not THAT kind of intense, but still. The women wonder why they seem to be the only women on the planet (try universe) who haven’t had a good shag with the Captain. In the lab, Owen does a demonstration with a “singularity scalpel” and tries to vaporize a piece of paper inside a cup. Except he misses and nearly vaporizes Ianto, whose bitch face is magnificent. After straightening himself up, Ianto tells them there’s been another attack with all the same markers; except this time the victim survived. The woman, Marie, also had her medical records wiped just like the others. Interviewing her at the hospital, Marie couldn’t identify her attacker; he simply came after her with a big needle before she kicked him in the balls.
Martha and Owen have a grand time together doing the blood analysis and he, like Gwen, tries to get information about Jack from Martha, who delivers such cagey answers as, “[They] spent a lot of time together, forwards and backwards.” As the pair ponder the use of ammonium hydroxide, Owen points out it’s like injecting bleach and that’s the kicker; the chemical is used to hide evidence about what’s truly being done to the victims. The team’s split up; Ianto and Gwen are covering the criminal investigation, Owen and Martha the medical and Tosh is to continue recovering the computer data. All the teams are scrambled into place when another victim is discovered, a student named Barry Leonard and Gwen and Ianto go to investigate. As Martha points out, these attacks are more like assassinations. They get word that Marie has had a seizure and Owen think he might know why; she’s got a parasitic infection, though everything else is normal, which actually makes her abnormal.
The pair visit Marie while Gwen and Ianto interview Barry’s boyfriend, Mike. He said that there was nothing unusual about Barry except his diabetes, which was cured. Since that’s impossible, Ianto reports it to Owen. Turns out, Owen is told by Marie that she was cured of HIV, which is equally as impossible. She tells them she’s been taking a drug called Reset from a medical research company called Pharm. Marie was given a lot of cash to keep quiet, but before she can go into more details, she collapses and dies. The weirdest part comes when insects come flying out of Marie’s mouth and attack Martha and Owen before dying.
When they analyze the bugs, they find it’s an alien larvae that needs a healthy host. The drug Marie took eliminates viruses, harmful bacteria, mutant cells, everything. Basically “resetting” the body back to the original factory settings. The pill is bundled, however with that lethal alien parasite. The Pharm has all your necessary elements to be of nefarious purposes; owned by multiple pharmaceutical companies with the means to eliminate medical records and led by an enigmatic guy named Dr. Aaron Copely. When they go to interview Copley at a highly secured site, he of course denies everything. There’s the standard accusations of lying and Copley has the armed guards throw them out, but not before Jack uses his wrist device to scan the facility and discovers alien lifeforms.
Tosh still isn’t able to hack into Pharm’s system. At this point they’ll have to do this the old fashioned way and send someone into spy. Luckily, Pharm is looking for volunteers for medical trials. It’s perfect and Martha thinks she’s the perfect one to go undercover given her medical background. Jack makes noises about not letting her till she reminds him that she’s been through worse (like saving the FREAKING WORLD BY HERSELF). When Owen starts in on the sending her into danger, Jack points out the same thing. Ianto reviews the floor plans with Martha, pointing out the alien insects are most likely kept in the back. She needs to get the firewalls down so Tosh can gain access and then get out. Before, they get her “kit,” Martha asks Ianto about him and Jack and Ianto admits that they “dabble.” When asked what that’s like, Ianto replies with his deadpan delivery, “Innovative… bordering on avant garde.” Oy vey.
As part of the kit, Martha’s given contacts that are also cameras with the added bonus that she can also view messages the team types out. Alien technology, as Ianto explains in complicated terms as Martha picks it up right away. This scene is a perfect example of how Torchwood can be amazing as an ensemble show. The dialogue and humor during this entire episode is spot on.
Later, Martha gets into Pharm and is being examined by another doctor. The perspective in this scene switches between first person point of view with the contacts, the team watching at the hub and back to your standard camera angles. It’s actually quite clever. Martha’s introduced to Copley who seems uninterested in her until she lies about a previous hepatitis infection and she’s officially invited to participate in the trials. She’s all set for a slumber party in the facilities.
Tosh and Owen are settling in for a long night of monitoring Martha’s movements when she brings up the ease of Martha and Owen’s new friendship. He brings up that pool tournament she had mentioned earlier and Tosh admits she wasn’t asking him to a tournament, but a date. For a guy who claims to be a Casanova, he didn’t pick up on that. To Tosh’s shock, he agrees to one date, though he’s going to keep flirting. The scene is awkward and kind of cute.
Martha is able to sneak into Copley’s office and with Tosh’s help, gain access to files about the parasite, codenamed: Mayfly. Torchwood has access to the files and Jack orders Martha to get out of there. Meanwhile, Gwen has uncovered the name of the assassin used to kill the test subjects, as well as his next victim, and Jack tells her to pull the woman, Elin Morgan, in. Gwen and Ianto get to Elin’s house before the assassin, Billy Davis can kill her. When they get him back to Torchwood, they sic the pet Weevil on him to get him to talk. He only admits that he kills who he’s told to and he’s saving them from a worse fate. Before they can use him to get into Pharm, his stomach explodes Alien-style because of the parasites, though Owen tries to use the singularity scalpel to save him. He fails, but is able to bag the bug.
As Martha’s sneaking out, security alarms go off, warning an alien is on the loose. Martha escapes through a window and is about to make her escape when she comes face to face with the gigantic Mayfly and her contacts are fried so the team is unable to see the gigantic bug chasing Martha. I must say the CGI has greatly improved from the Abaddon days. The creature is cornered by Pharm’s security guards who shoot Martha with a tranquilizer dart. She’s strapped to a gurney while Copley gives the villain’s monologue, explaining how Martha’s blood is unique given that the radiation levels indicate she’s traveled through time and space (how he knows that is uncertain). He starts an IV drip of the drug and Martha’s blood drives the process faster.
Tosh has thought of a twisted way to use Billy’s body to get inside the Pharm, by taping his hands to the car and remote control driving it through security. Tosh, Gwen and Ianto check out the alien sector, while Jack and Owen bust into the lab to save Martha, guns drawn. Unfortunately, they may be too late as the larvae have already manifested in Martha’s system and Copley doesn’t know how to stop the process. Meanwhile, the others discover Pharm has been experimenting with alien lifeforms, not just humans. Gwen and the gigantic Mayfly have a moment as the creature mimics her movements. Jack orders Tosh to initiate total shutdown. Copley still is trying to justify what he’s done; the ends justify the means etcetera, ad nauseum. Jack basically calls him a war criminal.
Owen has the wonderful idea to use the singularity scalpel on Martha though he’s failed every other time he’s used it. In the chaos of trying to use the device and not kill Martha, Copley slips out of the lab. After some fumbling and a tense moment, lo and behold, Owen gets a hang of the thing and saves Martha. Seemingly, all’s well that ends well as Pharm is being shut down by the rest of the team and they move to head out.
That’s when Copley decides to reappear with a gun. Owen tries to reason with him, appealing to his rational nature. He shoots Owen anyway. Everyone is in shock as Martha goes to treat him, but it’s too late. He’s dead. And he died young like everyone else who’s been a member of Torchwood has as Ianto told Gwen once upon a time. I remember watching this for the first time and literally yelling, “Oh my God, you actually killed him!”
So, how did you handle the shock of the show seemingly killing off a main character? Do you prefer Who-verse Jack or Torchwood Jack? Talk away in the comments.