Sunday, 12 July 2009

Someone else'll have to make the tea, then

Episode 3.04: Day Four
TX: 9th July 2009

Previously on Torchwood: fuck all happened for two and a half hours, and then some invisible aliens arrived and said vaguely sinister things about stealing children, which it turns out Jack was complicit in back in the day. HORRA!

We're back in 1965 again, and Jack is driving a Land Rover along the road at night. A lady in a headscarf stands waiting for him, and confirms that this is the location "they" specified. She alludes to a virus which the aliens say can kill up to 25 million people, like when Spanish flu killed 5% of the human race in 1918. "I know, I WAS THERE," says Captain Jack, doing that thing where he stares blankly into the distance because that's what internal conflict looks like, apparently. Headscarf Lady exposits that the aliens are offering a cure for the virus - in exchange for some children. 12, to be precise. "What do they want them for?" asks Jack. Maybe they need one more football team for their schools' league? With an extra kid in case of injury? Hey, it could happen. Headscarf Lady says the aliens have said the children will live forever. Jack asks what they need him for: is it because he can't die, assuming the aliens are hostile? No, says Headscarf Lady: it's because he doesn't care. Oh, Headscarf Lady, that's just John Barrowman's acting.

Present day: Barrowman continues to do Distance Face while telling Gwen and Clem the story. "You just handed them over and hoped for the best?" says Gwen, incredulously. Back to 1965: an overly-lit Barrowman summons some kids to join "Uncle Jack". Footage of ADORABLE INNOCENT MOPPETS with music-box style melodies over the top, and an ovary going "ahh-ahh-ahh". I think that's every possible cliché checked off - nice work, Euros Lyn. Jack gets the kids out of the van and tells them to follow him for "an adventure". A bright light appears, and Jack tells them to walk into it. One (Clem, presumably) remains behind and asks if it's safe. Jack rather creepily fondles the back of his head and assures him that it is. WeeClem walks towards the light. "Keep going! You don't want to be left out, do you?" Jack urges. The light flashes, and the children vanish - all except WeeClem, who takes advantage of Jack and Headscarf Lady's temporary blindless to get the fuck out of there. Jack surveys the empty road. Headscarf Lady says that the 5-6-7-8 have sent the antivirus as they promised. She wonders if the children really are in paradise. I'm guessing not.

Present day: Clem tells Jack he's in every nightmare Clem's ever had. Yeah, I know that feeling. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry," says Jack. Unsurprisingly, Clem does not consider this to be adequate compensation and grabs Gwen's gun from its holster and shoots Jack in the chest. Gwen attempts to coax Clem to give her the gun, but he's appalled that she's on Jack's side and is therefore tainted. Then Clem gets all verklempt at having killed a man, and how he is now dangerous, despite having thought himself not to be. He hands the gun back to Gwen, who gives him a hug. Clem tells Gwen that back in 1965, Jack held his hand and tried to give him over to the aliens. Jack comes back to life; Clem wigs. Gwen tries to point out that this is normal, but Clem is having none of it and runs. Gwen chases him.

In another corner of the warehouse, Clem's cowering behind some debris. "You get to shoot first and ask questions later, how good is that?" smirks Gwen. Yeah, now's not the time for quips, Cooper. She manages to coax Clem back with her AMAZING PEOPLE SKILLS. Back in the main warehouse, Jack and Ianto are sitting in silence, until a clearly disturbed Ianto pipes up: "I can't believe you didn't mention this before." Jack says that the aliens didn't speak through kids back then, so he didn't recognise the signs at first. Clearly, this is not what Ianto was getting at, and he says as much, but before they can resolve it, they're interrupted by Rhys, Gwen and Clem. "The man who sent me and my friends to die can't die himself!" exclaims Clem. Yeah, karma's a bitch, isn't it?

Pat Kerrigan's HQ. "This is to do with Uncle Jack, isn't it?" says Steven, as Pat Kerrigan escorts him and his mother through a gloomy corridor. Alice tries to convince him that it's all a mistake and they'll be out soon. Pat exposits that Steven doesn't even know Captain Jack's his granddad, Alice points out that it would take some explaining, given how Mum looks older than Granddad. Except that isn't actually true, especially since Lucy Cohu is three years younger than John Barrowman, and the Botox hasn't really made Barrowman look younger, just tighter in the face. Alice exposits that she's being held as insurance against Captain Jack, but: "a man who can't die has got nothing to fear, so you watch it."

Jack's being quizzed: "It's a protection racket, you must've known they'd be back, but you still gave them the payoff?" asks Gwen. Jack explains that Clem and his cohorts were chosen because they wouldn't be missed. His only consolation in all this time was that the deal seemed to work. "Why was I left behind? What's wrong with me?" asks Clem. Gwen explains that they only want pre-pubescent kids, so maybe Clem was too close to puberty for the aliens' liking. And, yeah. This is really heading in a deeply dodgy direction right now, isn't it? "Saved by your hormones," adds Rhys.

Suddenly everyone's attention goes back to the laptop, which Ianto confirms is still recording. Malcolm, Bridget and Lois are returning to Floor 13 to consult with the Ambassador. Malcolm wants the aliens to clarify something: what do they intend to do with the children? "Somebody is watching. Some remnant," splutters the Ambassador, and Clem worries that it's talking about him. More squealing, more squelching. Lois visibly gulps. Malcolm explains that the video camera in the room is a feed to the prime minister, and he needs to know what will happen to the children. The Ambassador tells Malcolm to bring the camera into the gassy blue chamber. "It's hiding something," Clem tells Gwen.

Dekker puts the cameraman into a biohazard suit, and he walks through into the airlock. Bet you anything he's dead within the next two minutes. Malcolm and Dekker monitor his blood pressure and suchlike. Camera Guy steps out of the airlock and into the gassy blue chamber. The camera footage shows...blueness, mainly, until there are some grainy shots of the alien, which looks to be about seven feet tall and has snot dangling off its limbs. The readouts start to go crazy, and Dekker realises he can determine three separate heartbeats in the room: there's another lifeform in there. Malcolm tells Camera Guy to get closer. Camera Guy's like "easy for you to fucking say". But he moves tentatively closer to the Ambassador until he catches sight of a little green man back there. Everyone recoils. "No! No! No!" exclaims Clem. It's one of the kids from 1965, of course. "Is he conscious?" asks Rhys. Lois cries, which mists up the feed back to the laptop, something we can all clearly determine for ourselves, but for some reason John Fay feels the need to have Gwen explain it to Clem us anyway. Then the ambassador strikes violently, and Malcolm screams for them to get Camera Guy out of there, while Malcolm's voice plays soundbites like "4-5-6" and "off the record" on a loop coming from the alien. Camera Guy escapes the chamber and stripes out of his biosuit, and then takes off his t-shirt as well, despite there being no logical explanation for it other than he is quite buff and this is Torchwood, where no male should remain clothed any longer than strictly necessary.

"We do not harm the children," explains the Ambassador. "They feel no pain. They live long beyond their years." Gwen is not happy with this explanation. Jack is looking into The Distance again: "But we still don't know. What does it want them for?" Rhys quite rightly points out that it's a bit late in the day to be asking questions like that. The ambassador says that they've given their answer, and that Earth has one day left to round up 10% of its children. "And if we refuse?" asks Malcolm. "We will wipe out your entire species," replies the Ambassador.

The US general, a bit slow on the uptake, asks the PM if this means Britain has had dealings with these aliens before. The PM is all "yes, but I was a child at the time myself. No harm, no foul, amirite?" The General points out that the PM chose to kept those negotiations secret all the same. The PM's reply pretty much amounts to "yeah, my bad". The General informs the PM that the United Nations will hear of this. Tattletale.

Warehouse. Ianto approaches. He wants to know why Jack didn't tell him. Jack tells him he couldn't have helped. Ianto says that he tells Jack everything. Jack snarks, "yeah? So, tell me, what should I have done?" Ianto thinks that "the Jack he knew" would've stood up to them. "I've only just scraped the surface, haven't I?" he asks, sadly. Jack tells him that's all there is, and Ianto hits back that no, that's just what Jack pretends. and blah blah blah blah these two have NO FUCKING CHEMISTRY, seriously. Jack tries to run off, and Ianto calls him on it. Jack curtly informs him that he's off to phone Malcolm, and he can't do it from in the warehouse because the signal will be traced. The signal on my DVR breaks up temporarily, and I am spared having to listen to any more overwrought woobie dialogue. Hooray!

Malcolm answers the phone to Jack. He barks at Lois to bring him lots of strong coffee. Jack tells Malcolm that if he releases his family, they can work together. Jack tells Malcolm that it doesn't take a genius to work out that the 5-6-7-8 want more children. Just as well, really, because geniuses are in short supply on this show. Jack threatens Malcolm that if he has to stop him, he'll tell the world what's really going on, because there's too much at stake not to. The surveillance folks haven't got a hold on him, but will keep trying. Lois tells Malcolm the PM wants to see him.

Gwen spots that Lois is walking into Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (COBRA, for short), where emergency planning takes place. Team Torchwood huddle around the laptop. Gwen promises Jack that they'll rescue his family. Yes, because that's what's really important right now.

The PM has decided to make the 5-6-7-8 an offer: a realistic number, that they can manage, and then they'll see what happens. "You're going to haggle," translates an official. More exposition: the 5-6-7-8 must have a base of operations somewhere in orbit, but no one can find it. Attacking the gassy blue chamber would involve declaring a war they can't win.

Clem wigs that they're really going to do this. The PM says that every country will be making a "camouflagable" contribution. Malcolm asks Lois for the "FAS" file, from which he reads that there are 21 "units" available right away: the children of asylum-seekers - Gwen deduces that "FAS" stands for "Failed Asylum Seekers". They need more, of course: an official asks Malcolm to obtain 60, Malcolm thinks he can make it happen. The PM tells Malcolm to return to Thames House and make an offer of "60 units". You see? They no longer consider the children to be PEOPLE because they are JUST AS BAD AS THE ALIENS.

Malcolm frets in an official car. Wife Of Malcolm answers the phone to him: he tells her there's nothing to worry about, but he can't say more at this point. She asks if he's safe. He lies to her, a lot. She confirms they have bodyguards in place, to protect the VALUABLE NON-ASYLUM-SEEKING CHILDREN.

Malcolm returns to the Gassy Blue Chamber, and offers them one child per million people on the planet, which totals about 6700 altogether, and 62 from the UK. This is not acceptable to the Ambassador. Malcolm insists that it is "more than generous" and is their final offer. The ambassador starts chanting "three-two-five-zero-zero-zero".

Suddenly we're in Rhiannon's Overrun Daycare Centre, where Johnny is not helping her out as she runs around looking after stuff, and then the children start chanting the numbers in unison. Johnny wonders if these are the lottery numbers. Sigh. In the warehouse, Clem's chanting too. Gwen puts the number into Torchwood's Magic Über-Google to see if it's co-ordinates or what, as the news broadcasts that children in different countries are chanting different numbers: 448,000 in France, for example, or 2,340,000 in America.

Of course, 325,000 is 10% of the number of "units" (an official trips and almost says "children") in the UK. All the numbers being chanted by the children in each country amount to 10% in that country. Their final offer has clearly been rejected. One official suggests it's a handy solution to the growing population problems in the world, if they present it in the right way, blah blah spin.

Pat Kerrigan's HQ. She's taking a squad to That London to find out what's going on.

The PM announces they're facing the worst-case scenario, and there is no time for an ethical discussion: all they have time to discuss is how they would select these children, and how to transport them, and how to sell it to the voters. Malcolm does not want to make the selection himself, but obviously his department can take care of the red tape. One official says it has to be random, another points out that unless some of their children are involved somewhere, the public will never believe it was random. They all start snarking at each other because this is a Sensitive Issue. A steely Government Bitch says she's going to say what's on everyone's mind: if the lottery goes ahead, her kids aren't in it.

"Bastards!" barks Clem, back in the warehouse. One official suggests they put it to the vote to see if their kids get to be exempt, but the PM points out he has the authority to make the final decision: the children and grandchildren of everyone sat around that there table will be exempt. "What about nieces and nephews?" asks Government Bitch. The PM tells her not to push her luck, and everyone starts arguing again. Government Bitch outlines her plan: since the exemption puts the prospect of a fair lottery out of the picture, they should also exempt the decent kids who will go on to staff hospitals and so on, and just target the failing schools whose kids will all end up on the dole or in prison. John Fay looks over at his notepad and crosses "SOCIAL COMMENTARY" off his to-do list. "SUBTLETY", of course, remains in tiny print at the bottom of the page, entirely forgotten.

Warehouse. "We've got enough evidence recorded here to destroy every person in that room," Gwen points out. Barrowman's staring into The Distance again: "And we can use it to force our way into Thames House and finally get face to face with this thing." And get Jack's family back, Gwen adds, having just taken a stand against people who put the safety of their own relatives above that of the masses. Hypocritical bitch. Gwen wonders what'll happen if they can't get Lois to agree. Jack says that they'll just bully and drug her into submission like they do everyone else. Sorry: he says that she's "not let [them] down yet." Jack and Ianto hope in a sports car pointed at That London. Gwen messages Lois to tell her that they need her help. Still.

News montage. They've all figured out that the numbers are 10% of the percentage of children in their respective countries, and everyone's looking suspiciously at the UK, as well they might.

That London. Jack and Ianto arrive. Ianto tries to ring Rhiannon, but she can barely hear the phone above the hubbub. Ianto explains to her that the aliens want children, so whatever happens, she mustn't let anyone take her kids away. Ianto tells all the people listening in that it goes for them too: fuck the Official Secrets Act, they need to get the word out and tell everyone not to hand over their kids. Oh, well if they've all been told not to just hand over their kids, that's the problem sorted, isn't it? Because I'm sure the process was just to knock on a few doors and ask nicely to borrow someone's offspring, and to retreat if they resisted. Idiots. Ianto tells Rhiannon he loves her and the kids, and: "I'm even warming to Johnny a bit." Oh, all right: heh. Rhiannon tells Ianto she loves him too, but he's not there any more. GOSH, I HOPE HE DOESN'T DIE OR ANYTHING.

Warehouse. Gwen tells Rhys they need to mobilise, and sends him off, actually being nice to him for a change, but probably just because she wants something. Shrew. Pat Kerrigan's squad arrives in That London, but too late to catch Ianto. Surveillance Guy tells Pat that they've found an abandoned warehouse in the vicinity that used to be a holding facility for Torchwood One, where Ianto used to work until it got invaded by Cybermen who partially converted his girlfriend in an entirely incomprehensible way and left him to transport her to Cardiff and hide her in a basement until she emerged to wander around looking like an embarrassing cyber-wank fantasy in an episode that most of us wish we could unsee.

Malcolm is briefing the important types, because they need to cover their tracks and encourage participation: he suggests talking of an innoculation that will prevent the children from speaking in unison. When it goes wrong, they'll blame the aliens. Gwen stares at the laptop incredulously. Ianto rings Gwen, and the surveillance types spot Gwen's location on their fancy computers. Gwen messages Lois to tell her to get the plan into action. Meanwhile, the evil government types talk about how they act like they didn't know what was going on, because they are Shady Politicians From London, not Heroes From Beautiful Cardiff.

Lois raises her hand tentatively. No one is looking at her, of course, because she is unimportant. So she says "excuse me" and is fobbed off by the PM who says that this is not the time. Lois starts talking about how she is a voter and speaks on behalf of the many, and the Evil Jaded Politicians start rolling their eyes and talking about referendums and revolutionaries in the way that the rest of us might talk about late-running trains. One of the poor sods playing a Jaded Official is actually given the line "you and whose army?" to say, and of course, Lois replies "Torchwood". Bizarrely, the entire room does not burst out laughing, but actually seems quite scared. Clearly they have not actually dealt with Torchwood before. Lois tells them that Torchwood has been recording all these meetings, and will be making public everything that's been said unless they all do what Torchwood says. So expect all the government officials to get out a stopwatch and some video contact lenses and indulge in sexyfuntiems any minute now.

Pat Kerrigan arrives at the warehouse and her troops run in with guys which do not hire. Jack and Ianto arrive at Thames House and turn in their guns, also expecting that the word "Torchwood" will open any door necessary. Gwen turns to Pat Kerrigan, all "Mr Bond, I've been expecting you", and primly instructs Pat that she will be taking Gwen to Alice and Steven. If I were Pat, I'd have shot the snotty bitch there and then. Pat threatens this, but Gwen tells her that this would be a mistake, because of what they've been recording. Whatever, I still say shoot the bitch. Lois tells the PM that Captain Jack will be dealing with the 5-6-7-8. Gwen tells Pat Kerrigan that Rhys is concealed with the laptop in a secret location, ready to press send unless Pat does what Gwen tells her. JUST SHOOT HER, PAT, IF NOT FOR YOU THEN PLEASE DO IT FOR ME.

Thames House. Jack and Ianto are in the lift. On emerging, Jack hands Dekker a post-it (technical!) and tells him to feed the live TV pictures to that number. Ianto is here for absolutely no reason, by the way. Just pointing that out. Jack (and the spare) stride meaningfully towards the chamber. Jack tells the aliens they're not getting what they want this time. "You yielded in the past," sneers the Ambassador. That's what she said! Jack tells them he won't let it happen again, because an injury to one is an injury to all. Ianto tells them the deal is off, and continues to be superfluous. Jack tells them that everything has been recorded, and that the tapes will be released to the public unless the aliens leave for good. The Ambassador repeats: "You yielded in the past, you will do so again." Jack tells the Ambassador that when word gets out, the entire human race will be carrying arms and out for extraterrestrial blood. Wow, I bet they're quaking in their space boots. Ianto drops Jack's name and tells them what they're up against.

The Ambassador starts waffling on about infant mortality rates and how the human race adapts to it. Jack tells them that they're adapting right now by making it a war. "Then the fight begins," replies the Ambassador. Suddenly alarms go off all over the building, sealing all the doors. Ianto gets a "HO SHIT" look on his face, because he knows what's coming. Jack asks the Ambassador what gives. "You wanted a demonstration of war; a virus has been released. It will kill everyone in the building," is the reply. Watching the footage over in COBRA1, Malcolm reveals that the building is designed to withstand chemical attack: nothing can get in - or out. "Happy now?" snarks the PM at Lois. Hee. People flee Thames House, trampling others underfoot. Jack tells waiting sentries that the air is poisoned, so they should turn off the air con and shut down the air vents and get gas masks. He doesn't sound terribly perturbed.

Ianto gets his gun out and tells them to release the antivirus that they must obviously have (why?), and that if they don't release it now, he'll blow the tank wide open. The alien tells them that they are dying even now. Jack and Ianto open fire. Not much happens. Then suddenly high pitched screeches burst out, causing Clem to cover his ears in agony. Liz screams at Pat Kerrigan to turn off the sound.

Jack turns to Ianto and tells him that they have to get him out, because he's not indestructible like Jack. Ianto replies that it's too late. Jack screams "NOT HIM!" at the aliens, which again: so much for the 'people who prioritise their loved ones over the good of the masses are villains' philosophy. Finally the total lack of chemistry between Jack and Ianto causes the latter to collapse onto the ground.

In the warehouse, Clem is freaking out. Pat Kerrigan looks concerned. Clem start s to bleed from the nose. "The remnant will be disconnected," intones the Ambassador, and then Clem stops screaming. Gwen lays him down, and then informs Pat Kerrigan that he's dead. She puts her head in her hands contemplating the fate of Clem, Jack and Ianto - unfortunately, at this moment Paul Copley visibly continues to breathe behind her. Hee.

People continue to flee the building. Some do not make it. An ovary wails. It is all very sad. Dekker straps himself into a biosuit. Those who did not expire on their way to the doors find the doors to be locked. Oh dear.

Ianto is busy dying. Jack tells him it's his fault. Ianto says that it isn't. Ianto weeps that he loves Jack, and his eyes close. Jack begs him to stay with him, strokes his face, etc. Ianto whimpers "don't forget me" and Jack tells him he never could. "In a thousand years time, you won't remember me," Ianto insists. "I promise, I will," Jack tells him. I'd find this all a lot more moving if it hadn't taken Ianto under ten episodes to forget that he swore he was going to kill Jack and would never forgive him for murdering his Sexy Robot Girlfriend, so I'm not hugely convinced that Ianto's death is going to leave a lasting imprint on Jack's consciousness. Anyway, Ianto dies, and fangirls weep, but Barrowman does not. "He will die," intones the Ambassador. "And tomorrow your people will deliver the children." Jack kisses Ianto's cold, dead lips. He gets exactly the same reaction as he did when Ianto was alive. Told you they had no chemistry. Jack slumps to the floor.

COBRA1. Everyone's looking a bit guilty. "What now?" asks the PM. They have two choices: to fight an enemy they can't beat, or fight their own people for the greater good. Government Bitch thinks they should surrender. The PM looks conflicted, but tells Malcolm to start putting his plan into action.

Gwen is led into a room full of bodybags and directed to numbers 13 and 14. She pulls the covers off Jack, and pulls a "well, he'll be back soon enough" face. She uncovers a pallid Ianto just as Jack returns to life. Gwen weeps quietly. Jack puts his arms around her. Gwen whispers that there's nothing they can do.

Next time: Torchwood versus the Government. The children are rounded up. Gwen records a video to show how the world ends. Jack stares Into The Distance some more.

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