Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Reset - Torchwood 2.6

In which Captain Jack is reunited with Martha Jones, former travelling companion to the Doctor. Jack would have welcomed her into his team, but the Doctor arranged for her to secure a position with UNIT as soon as she qualified. She has come to Cardiff as part of an investigation into a number of suspicious deaths, the latest of which is in the city. In each case, the cause of death is a mystery. There appears to be no link between the victims, who are from diverse social, ethnic and age groups. After reminiscing with Jack about their recent experiences with the Doctor, Martha joins Owen in a medical investigation. Speaking to the flat-mate of one of the victims, they learn that the dead man had recently claimed to have been cured of an illness - one which has no known cure. This proves to be the link they were searching for. All the victims had been given the all clear for an incurable ailment, and all had taken part in clinical trials with an organisation known as The Pharm. They also discover that the victims did not die a natural death. A puncture mark from a hypodermic is found in the eyeball of the victims. They visit one of the trialists in hospital, where they witness a swarm of small insects pour from her mouth, killing her. They die shortly afterwards.

The team decide to investigate The Pharm and its Director, Professor Aaron Copley. The organisation is visited by Jack and Owen, but Copley refuses to co-operate with them. The organisation has powerful supporters, and official attempts to discover more are thwarted. The computer systems cannot be hacked remotely. It is decided that they need to place someone inside The Pharm posing as a clinical trialist. As Copley has not already met her, and she has the necessary medical qualifications, Martha insists on taking on this role. Initially Copley is not interested in taking her on as a patient, until she mentions contracting an incurable disease whilst travelling abroad. Martha has been given special contact lenses which allow the team to see what she sees, as well as to relay text messages to her. That night she sets out to break into the computer system so that Torchwood can gain access. She hears an alarm, and when she ventures outside to see what is going on, she is confronted by a huge insect. She is captured and taken to Copley.

The others have set a trap, meanwhile, for the killer of the medical guinea pigs. He is Billy Davis, an assassin hired by The Pharm to eliminate all of those who had undergone a particular trial. During interrogation he dies, having become infected by the insects. Martha learns that the creatures are known as Mayflies, and are alien in origin. Patients were being deliberately infected by them as they cured their illnesses. The drug was called Reset, as it put the body back to "factory settings". However, it was later discovered that the Mayflies then incubated within their host and killed them when they hatched out. The team use Billy's corpse to help get them into The Pharm. In a restricted area they find a number of alien species which the organisation has kept captive in order to create new medicines from them. Copley infects Martha then disappears when her colleagues arrive to rescue her. Owen has been practising with an X-ray Scalpel device, which can vapourise objects inside the body. He uses this to destroy the Mayfly within Martha. The captive creatures will be humanely put down. As the team is about to leave, Copley appears. He produces a gun and aims it at Martha. Owen jumps into the path of the bullet. Jack shoots Copley dead. Martha tries to save Owen's life, but in vain...

Reset was written by J.C. Wilsher, and was first broadcast on 13th February, 2008. Wilsher (the initials stand for John Christopher) was best know for creating, and writing for, the BBC police drama Between the Lines.
The episode is significant for introducing Doctor Who's Martha Jones to the series, and for the death of regular character Owen Harper.
When Freema Agyeman had been announced as departing at the end of only one season of the parent programme, certain tabloids attempted to make a story out of this - that she had not been very good, and that she had not been as popular as Billie Piper. Russell T Davies was quick to announce that this was all nonsense, and that Agyeman would feature in a trilogy of episodes of Torchwood, before returning to Doctor Who for the same number of episodes in Series 4. Martha is now a member of UNIT (yet to be renamed the Unified Intelligence Taskforce). This has been arranged by the Doctor after her departure at the end of "the year that never was", when the Earth had been ruled by the Master and the Toclafane. When Owen attempts to chat her up, just before his shocking demise, she mentions that she already has a boyfriend who is also a medic - a reference to Tom Milligan.

Right from the very first episode of Torchwood, we have known that they have a means of bringing the dead back to life - the Resurrection Gauntlet (or the Risen Mitten, as Ianto termed it). This was key to that opening installment, and returned later in the first series when it was used to reanimate Suzie Costello. Then, the glove was destroyed, but Ianto pointed out that gloves tend to come in pairs. Even if we didn't know that Burn Gorman was going to be remaining with the series, we could guess that death would not be the end for Owen. Indeed, the Martha Trilogy is also the Dead Owen Trilogy.

If Freema is a guest semi-regular character, then the main guest artist for Reset is Alan Dale, who plays Copley. He came to fame for his regular role in the popular Australian soap Neighbours. His on screen son was Jason Donovan, and his on screen daughter-in-law was Kylie Minogue. On leaving the soap he moved to the USA, where he has gone on to feature in some major films and TV series. Some genre highlights include the final ST:TNG movie, Nemesis, where he played the leader of the Romulans; recurring roles in The X-Files and Lost; and appearances in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Overall, it is a near perfect slice of Torchwood, enhanced by Martha's guest spot and the dramatic ending. Reset is exactly the sort of show Torchwood should be - alien technology (in this case genetic material) being abused by human villains, which the team have to investigate and put a stop to.
Things you might like to know:

  • Murray Gold uses Martha's theme from Doctor Who for her first appearance in the Hub.
  • The references to Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords tend to be oblique. We only find out later that it is Tom Milligan whom Martha is seeing, Jack asks after her family - who were emotionally traumatised by what they had to witness on the Valiant, and even the Doctor's help getting her the new job is only hinted at. Martha also mentions how she knows what it is like to be invisible - referring to the TARDIS key perception filters used by herself, Jack and the Doctor. Jack tells Copley that he does not like politicians as he recently had a bad experience of one - a reference to Harold Saxon.
  • For some reason, Copley knows that Martha has travelled through space and time, which has affected her blood chemistry. Presumably he has found this out through his powerful government supporters.
  • One of the captive aliens at The Pharm is a Weevil - once again played by Paul Kasey.
  • The first season of Torchwood had premiered on BBC 3, but Series 2 moved to BBC 2. This episode, however, got its first broadcast back on BBC 3. BBC 2 viewers had to wait until 20th February.
  • When Martha uses the special contact lenses, Jack references I Am A Camera, by Christopher Isherwood. This was the basis for the musical Cabaret. Jack says that he knew Isherwood personally. Later, Matt Smith would play the writer in the drama Christopher And His Kind.
  • Whilst undercover at The Pharm, Martha uses the name Samantha Jones. This may well be a reference to the Eighth Doctor's companion from the BBC books range.
  • According to Russell T Davies, it was originally planned that Ianto would be the one to be killed in this episode.

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