Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Alien (I)ant(o) (f)arm

Episode 2.02 'Sleeper'
TX date: 23/1/2008

We begin this week with a montage of Cardiff and Team Torchwood in action, as Captain Jack VOs to remind us what it is that his rabble actually do. Remember, kids, the 21st century is when it all changes - and Team Torchwood are ready. [Well, they're, erm, there. - Georgi]

Cut to a darkened bedroom, and a polka-dot duvet cover. A couple are asleep and snuggled up, until a noise awakens them. The man reaches for a cricket bat, which is underneath the bed, while the woman rings the police. A fight ensues. We see the chaos that has been created, and we hear the screaming of the victims, but we don't see what happens. Coo, what are the chances? [I just assumed it was Owen trying to rape them, as per. - Steve]


Team Torchwood are at the scene of the crime, and immediately decide that there is evidence enough to conclude that this should fall under their jurisdiction. Captain Jack has reasserted his authority, and nobody seems all that disgruntled. He sends Owen and Gwen off to the hospital to talk to the couple who were being burgled and to observe the one surviving burglar; he and Tosh head up to the flat to inspect the evidence, including a burglar corpse and a broken window. A regular policeman is already up there, and he posits the opinion that the husband was the one to stab the burglars, because he was armed with a cricket bat in his bedroom and was therefore looking for a fight. Jack makes innuendo about hockey sticks in his bedroom. (Clearly a paddleball joke would have been better.-Joel)

The hospital, and Owen and Gwen are talking to the couple, who engage in affectionate domestic bickering. Owen notes that neither of them have blood on their hands, and says the wife did it. [I give him full points on his Occam's Razor exam, but deduct points for missing the chance to mention it. - Georgi] Gwen says the husband did. Jack rings and tells them to stay in the hospital to continue with their observations, and Owen passes on the message to Gwen. [Hasn't Owen learned by now that Gwen can't be trusted with *anything* by herself? - Georgi] She's happy to stay put, and in Ianto's absence, she sends Owen on a hot beverage run.

Gwen settles herself in a chair next to the injured burglar, and dozes off, plastic coffee cup in hand. She drops it, and it clatters to the floor, waking the burglar, who is terrified, and tells Gwen that it was the woman in the flat who attacked them, then promptly dies.

The woman from the flat, whose name is Beth, is in Torchwood Three with the gang. Jack is interrogating her in aggressive style. She demands her legal rights of a lawyer and a phone call, but Beth, if the laws of science aren't obeyed along that rift line, why on earth should the laws of the land be? Jack thrusts pictures of the murdered burglars in front of her, and she denies having anything to do with it, as well as denying that she is covering for her husband, Mike. As Jack isn't getting anywhere, Gwen tries the gentle WPC touch, but is similarly unsuccessful; Beth maintains she doesn't know what happened in the flat, but it wasn't her.

Ianto mocks Jack's fierce interrogative skillz [and Steve mocks John Barrowman's facial expression when he does those scenes - Steve]; Tosh does techy things; Gwen explains to Beth that she needs to have blood samples taken. Beth seems fairly unruffled by this, and is more concerned as to why there are no windows in the building. Gwen says they wouldn't be much of a top-secret organisation if people could peer in all the time. Yes. Quite. [Beth appears to be the only person left in Cardiff who hasn't heard of Torchwood. - Georgi] Ianto interjects to ask Beth not to sniff some odd piece of equipment. They tie her to the medical chair, and of course this is the cue for Owen to appear in his white medical coat, because he is a DOCTOR. He readies his sharps to take the samples, but as he tries to insert them into Beth's arm, the needles snap, as does a scalpel blade. Jack gets his anger on again and demands to know where Beth is from, because clearly she is an alien. She scoffs at him, telling him there are no such things.

They take Beth down to see the weevil in the cells, which, obviously, scares the hell out of her. The weevil makes a weird noise, and Jack does not know why. (Although you'd think the fact that it is bowing down and hiding in the corner would indicate pretty strongly it's scared of her. Torchwood really are spectacularly stupid.-Joel) Beth is desperate to prove she is not an alien, which turns out to have been a rash thing to say, because Team Torchwood's next plan is to tie her to a chair and strap on a mind-probe. Not before an aerial shot of Cardiff, however.

Jack is dead set on doing this mind-probe, even though Ianto reminds him what happened last time - the subject's head exploded, and just to emphasise his point he does a little impression thereof. Beth asks them not to kill her. Yeah, wouldn't get your hopes up, Jack's in an absolute fouler of a bad mood today. While she's undergoing the mind-probe, Ianto will be giving her water, proving his versatility - he's good with the cold drinks too. Jack explains how the mind-probe works, and confirms to Beth that it will hurt. Tosh will be operating the probe; Owen is being a DOCTOR and keeping an eye on Beth's vital signs; Ianto is of course in charge of the water; and Gwen will just be sitting and watching. Seriously, what is the point of her? (She is the HUMAN HEART of the show. We are supposed to identify with her, being out of place in this weird environment. ALthough I refuse to identify with rancid bitches, so...-Joel) Anyway, the probe starts up, and Beth screams in agony. She continues to insist that she doesn't know who killed the burglars, and that she is human. Jack tells Tosh to make the probe go further - still Beth sticks to her story. Again - and again - and Beth is still in excruciating pain, but there's something bugging Jack today [Not getting any? -Georgi] and he's not going to show any mercy. The lights are going mad; an electromagnetic field is going all haywire around Beth; and then something odd happens to her arm - it lights up and beeps. Well, that can't be good.

What has happened? Why, she has a buried compartment, and every question Jack asks is met with a response of her name, rank, and serial number. That's all she will say, and Jack is sure of this because he knows who she is and where she comes from. Gosh.

Time for a Torchwood team meeting, and Jack tells his minions that Beth is a sleeper agent, sent to infiltrate the planet to gather intelligence prior to a takeover. [Ianto: "She knows more about this place than I do. Nobody knows more than I do!" - Georgi] She has been given false memories in order to blend in as a human, and she has no idea that she is an alien. [Although, having claimed to know who she is and where she comes from, Jack doesn't get any more specific than "She's a sleeper agent." - Georgi]

Beth is locked in a cell and watching the footage of her interrogation. She's not happy. Gwen reassures her that her love for her husband is REAL and gives us a brief philosophical soliloquoy about the nature of humanity. Because, of course, Gwen knows all about what love and humanity are. Jack says that they can't make her fully human, and Beth asks the reasonable question of will they kill her. [I'd almost be more concerned about being kept in a mouldy concrete cell beside the weevil for the rest of my life. - Georgi] Gwen says no; Jack responds with a characteristic impenetrable stare. He continues to be really horrible to Beth, which is kind of unreasonable bearing in mind he's just SAID that she has NO IDEA she's an alien. Beth cries. Honestly, I'm even liking Gwen more than I like Jack today; that's what a tosser he's being. (Srsly. Stop yelling at the poor confused woman who's just discovered she's an alien killing machine. You jackass.-Joel) [It doesn't help that subtle dramatic acting on the small screen really isn't John Barrowman's strong point. Eve Myles and Nikki Amuka-Bird are acting him right off the screen without even breaking a sweat. - Steve]

Tosh does her techy thing and suggests freezing her, while Owen indulges in a bit of gardening and demonstrates his own new-found empathy by expressing his concern for Beth's husband. Goodness. Could this be...character development?

Beth has flashbacks to the apartment, which are obviously distressing, and just to make her day even better, they tie her to the medical table. White-coated Owen does his doctor strut, and Beth begs to be killed if she can't be made human. Gwen won't kill her, but Jack will.

Ooh, it's CARDIFF! A middle-class English-accented couple are sitting in their apartment drinking wine. The man is called David, but he is AN ALIEN. His arm lights up and beeps, and then he's in full-on alien mode, breaking his wife's neck on his way out of the flat.

A paramedic is treating a patient, but he is AN ALIEN too with AN ALIEN ARM. So is a young mother with a pram, and as her arm lights up and beeps, she lets the pram roll away into the road, where it is crushed. Nice.

Back in Torchwood Three. Beth is frozen. Owen is pensive. Gwen scurries down to the vaults, where Ianto locks Beth's body away, and is then pounced on by Gwen, who takes his arm as they walk meaningfully away. As they leave the room, we hear a clanging from the chamber, which evidently they can't hear. ZOMG Beth isn't frozen! Who knew? The alarms ring! The chamber is open! Where has Beth gone? Ianto mulls over the possibility that maybe the building needs its locks changing. I'd suggest you need to review your entire security system, sweetie, but it's a start. Gradually it dawns on the team that though Beth's vital signs may have been zero, they've been tricked. Owen realises that "everything about her is a lie!"; Tosh realises that it's no wonder there was so much energy surrounding her; Jack realises that Beth has another agenda.

Yes, she's gone back to the hospital to see her husband. She loves him. He loves her. She says she has to go away and can't tell him why, for his own good, but she still loves him and always will. Mike begs her not to leave him. They cry and embrace, and suddenly he groans. Oh NOEZ, Beth's arm has turned into a big old blade, and she has stabbed her beloved. [And herein begin the Terminator 2 references. - Georgi] She screams. Jack and Gwen race in and take her away. Then the doctors and nurses turn up. Hospital staff, when even bloody Torchwood are quicker off the mark than you, you know you need to reevaluate your emergency drill.

The alien Englishman turns up on the doorstep of a nice-looking family. ["Sarah Connor?" - Georgi] He stabs people. The alien paramedic puts an explosive device on a [liquid nitrogen? Oh, sorry - Georgi] petrol tanker and blows up the hospital. But for why? Well, there is an underground fuel pipeline for emergencies, operated by the military; and we discover that the father of the nice-looking family was Patrick Granger, the leader of the council. Ianto explains that Granger would know the procedure for emergencies, such as alien invasion. Tosh and Owen don't understand how Ianto knows that. He tells them he knows everything. "And it says so on the bottom of the screen." Heh, Ianto is brilliant this series.

The young mum blows up the telecoms centre. Jack is angry and snapping at Beth, like it's all her fault [when actually it is Torchwood's fault for bloody activating them all - Georgi], and Gwen tries being nice, asking her if she could trace the other aliens. Oh, what a surprise, she can. Whoop! Into the Obviousmobile! [Also, now I think about it, those alien arm panels are a bit Predator too. - Georgi]

The alien Englishman is driving round looking malevolent. Back at Torchwood Three, Tosh is trying to explain to Owen that the phones are down. All phones. Landlines and mobiles. All phones. DOWN. Ianto is adorably snarky again. [Does this count as character development for both Owen AND Ianto then? Now we just need them to flesh out Tosh and this will be the BEST EPISODE EVER. - Steve] Jack beeps in on some kind of walkie-talkie to tell Tosh where they are going, and then is rude to Beth again. The alien Englishman drives through a roadblock, and into a military testing zone, prompting Tosh to hack the military security system in a matter of milliseconds. Why, the zone is used for nuclear weapons storage! The aliens don't need their own heavy weapons, they can use OUR OWN WEAPONS AGAINST US! Jack describes himself as a dashing hero, and Ianto agrees. Team Torchwood think it's the end of the world. Owen: "Let's all have sex." Ianto: "And I thought the end of the world couldn't get any worse." [Tosh, meanwhile, has stripped down to her undies and strewn Torchwood Three with rose petals and candles. - Georgi]

The alien Englishman drives on. The military guards order him out of his vehicle, and when he doesn't respond, they shoot him. He is entirely unbothered, and stabs the soldiers. Team Torchwood in the Obviousmobile are close behind, and see the alien Englishman open the security system to the military centre, unlocking all the areas. What do you do when someone is impervious to bullets? Why, run them over, of course, because that'll work. Strangely it does. The alien Englishman is hindered by the Obviousmobile's impact, and Jack and Gwen rush to his side. Inevitably, he stabs Jack, who DOES NOT DIE. "We know who you are, Jack Harkness, and we know all about Torchwood." So does everyone else in the world and all others, alien-boy, so don't get cocky. "You'll be factored into our plans." Jack isn't interested in the alien's plans, and shoots him. The alien has one last trick, though - the explosive device in his hand. My notes for the next sequence read thus - RUN! LOOKIT! SPECIAL EFFECTS! [Plus we probably haven't heard the last of this lot. Jack: "When are the rest of you coming?" Alien: "They're ALREADY HERE!" Sinister. - Georgi]Oh, Torchwood. You did really well in the first half with the emotional dilemmas of finding out you're an alien. Then you went zoom zoom bang bang and it was shit. Also, why did those other two die? 'They're totally invincible with a micropore forcefield. Except for explosions.--Joel

So the world is sort-of saved, at least for the time being. We're back in Torchwood Three, and Tosh looks a bit like a strumpet, bursting out of her blouse. Gwen tells Beth they're ready to freeze her again, and Beth wants to know what will happen to her when she tries to harm them. She asks Gwen about her homelife, and on learning that she has a fiance, asks if she has ever hurt him. [Where to start? - Georgi] When Gwen confirms that she has, Beth asks her to imagine that guilt multiplied by a billion all the time, every second of the day. Beth doesn't want to die as an alien, and asks Gwen to remember her as Beth. Oh, and then her arm becomes a big old blade again, and she takes Gwen hostage. Team Torchwood aim to shoot, despite Gwen telling them repeatedly that it's a trick [I'd have called her bluff. It's a sacrifice worth making - Georgi], and as Beth draws her arm back as if to stab Gwen, our ace gunslingers shoot! Bang bang bang, and Beth is dead.

Gwen reiterates that Beth wanted them to shoot her - it was her last shred of humanity. Owen says that Beth must have known they wouldn't take the chance on Gwen being harmed, and Jack says that she made the decision easy for them. Gwen sits by the corpse and holds her hand. [I really liked Gwen this episode. Why can't she be this sympathetic more often? - Steve]

Cardiff! Jack is at his desk. Gwen asks him if they have stopped it. [Steve's PVR stops here, because the damn show didn't start until 9.03pm. SORT IT OUT, BBC2. - Steve] Jack tells her they know nothing, and she completely disagrees, listing all the stuff they do know, which for some reason prompts Jack to do a Cornish accent, then ask about her wedding plans. Bored after about two sentences of Gwen's wedding-related twitter, he sends her home, and remains in his office, a solitary figure, surveying the alien arm-blade [or possibly wondering if it would make a nice addition to his cabinet of sex toys - Georgi].

Next week! Tosh has a storyline! [And it is about The War again. Torchwood is like school history lessons. - Georgi] Don't miss it!

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