In which a lorry belonging to Harwood's Haulage crashes on the motorway outside Cardiff, killing the driver. The police call in Torchwood, as the vehicle was on its way to an abattoir, and the back is full of some unknown meat. The company is the one which Rhys works for. He is called to the crash site, and sees Gwen and her colleagues examining the vehicle. Samples of the meat are taken back to the Hub for analysis, and Owen confirms that it is alien in nature. Gwen tells the others about Rhys' connection with the company, and there are suspicions that he might be involved with whatever is going on, as the meat seems to have been destined for human consumption. Back home, Rhys tries to find out from Gwen what she was doing that day, not letting her know that she was seen. She is evasive, which causes him to become suspicious.
He follows her to work the next day, and sees her meeting with Jack in the plaza above the Hub. They go off to visit a warehouse on the outskirts of the city, which is where they believe the meat had originated. He suspects that Gwen and Jack may be having an affair. He is spotted by some men and captured. Jack and Gwen see him enter the building with them, and assume he is known to them and therefore part of the conspiracy. In the warehouse, Rhys discovers that the men have a captive creature similar to a vast whale. They are harvesting meat from it whilst it is still alive. They explain that the meat keeps growing back, and they plan to make a fortune from it. Rhys explains that the driver who had died was his friend, and now he wants to take his place. This is a ruse to get information about them. At home once again, he and Gwen argue and she admits that she and her team investigate aliens after he accuses her of sleeping with Jack. Rhys does not believe her, and so she takes him to the Hub.
Jack confirms everything that Gwen has told him. He tells them of what he has seen in the warehouse, and he agrees to act undercover to get them inside. The plan goes awry and Ianto is captured. The men shoot at Gwen but Rhys jumps in the way and is wounded. The rest of the team overpower the men and they are given heavy doses of the retcon amnesia drug. Owen examines the whale creature, which originated in outer space, and determines that it cannot be sedated. To attempt to move it could harm them and it. It is in great pain so they decide that it should be euthanised. Jack gives Gwen some retcon to give to Rhys, but she refuses to use it on him. Rhys now knows about her life with Torchwood, and accepts it, and he was willing to assist them. Jack reluctantly agrees to this, as he had always wanted Gwen to have a life outside the work.
Meat was written by Catherine Tregenna, and was first broadcast on 6th February, 2008.
The episode was designed to take a deeper look into the realities of Gwen having to live a double life, something which had always been there since the second episode of the first series, as well as providing Kai Owen with a more significant role to play. In this, he actually progresses to become the unofficial sixth member of the team.
Another clear inspiration is the eco-message. The creature is basically a space whale, so we have comment on the treatment of terrestrial whales, though it doesn't champion vegetarianism. Tregenna claimed that she never intended the story to do this, and is not a vegetarian herself. Also, the initial concept she had for the creature was not of a whale. It was simply supposed to be a big slab of meat.
The first designs for the creature were of a more exotic shape and colour, but it was felt that the men who held it would have been more likely to make money from exhibiting it than from cutting it up.
You'll notice that I haven't named "the men" above. That's because they are the weakest part of the story. They are rather bland, generic villains, who aren't even seen to pay for what they have done - last seen simply having their memories erased.
Overall, a so-so episode, notable mainly for bringing Rhys into the fold.
Things you might like to know:
- Nothing much of note to mention for this story. It was generally well received, though the realisation of the whale creature was thought poor.
- In case the whale metaphor was missed, Ianto mentions Captain Ahab at one point.