I commented a few weeks ago about how bad Torchwood was getting – thankfully it turned out that in general the episodes improved a good deal, so the final double episode we sat down to watch as part of post-holiday catch-up was really rather good.
Interestingly, although shown as a double episode, this was really two separate episodes shown back to back. The first, Captain Jack Harkness appeared to be primarily a character piece where whilst investigating reports of 1940’s music coming from a derelict dance hall, Jack and Tosh find themselves pulled back in time to a dance in 1941 – a dance attended by the real Captain Jack Harkness the day before he looses his life in the war – the man whose identity Jack has assumed. However the episode also introduces the character of Bilis Manger, who is the manager of the dance hall back in 1941, and also the caretaker in the present day – looking no older. In both cases he has the same, clock filled office. He also, back in 1941 has a file marked ‘Torchwood’ and is also taking pictures with a Polaroid camera that hasn’t yet been invented. Subsequently he sabotages a plan by Tosh to leave equations to safely open the rift to bring them back, trying to trap them in the past.
Meanwhile in the present day, the team are arguing over how to bring Jack and Tosh back, and when they discover that the equations to open the rift are incomplete, Owen opens it anyway, despite being shot by Ianto in the process. This brings Jack and Tosh back to the present day, but Bilis Manger is not captured.
The opening of the rift leads directly to the events of End of Days. Having incorrectly opened the rift, fractures in time start to occur – UFO’s are sighted over the Taj Mahal, soldiers from the English Civil War, and Roman times are appearing in present day Cardiff, and bubonic plague breaks out at the local hospital. Various of the Torchwood team also receive visions of dead loved ones, all suggesting that opening the rift fully would be the way to fix the problems. In amongst this, the mysterious Bilis Manger appears again, this time in his shop, ‘A Stitch in Time’ which sells antique clocks and time pieces. When questioned, he suggests again that the rift should be opened, and also confirms that he can move through time as easily as walking into another room. He demonstrates when Jack tries to take him into custody.
Jack leaves, but Gwen goes back, and meets Bilis again. He shows her a vision of the future where her boyfriend has been brutally murdered. This convinces Gwen to bring Rhys to the safety of the Torchwood base, however Bilis appears and murders him in the cells. This leaves everybody in Torchwood except Jack convinced that the rift should be opened. The reason why everybody needs to be convinced becomes clear – to open the rift fully requires authorisation of all the Torchwood staff via iris scans. Utterly convinced that they need to open the rift, Owen shoots Jack dead to obtain the scan.
As we have previously learnt from the episode Everything Changes, Jack cannot die – however he takes time to recover from any experience such as being shot, so he is unable to stop the rift being opened. Although all the anomalies, including the murder of Rhys resolve themselves, the opening of the rift also releases Abaddon, a Biblical demon that, like the Beast in the Satan Pit has been trapped beneath the rift – indeed the creature is referred to as ‘the son of the Beast’. It transpires that Bilis knows of the presence of the demon, and has been manipulating events in order to release him.
The giant Abaddon stalks Cardiff, killing anyone who falls under his shadow, and Jack realises that only someone who cannot die such as himself can defeat the demon. He goes to face him alone.
As with the other victims when the shadow of the demon reaches Jack, he is affected, but he doesn’t die immediately eventually white flows of energy form between Jack and the demon, and it appears that the energy that is keeping Jack alive, is too much for the demon, and Abaddon dies. However it leaves Jack apparently dead too. Most of the Torchwood team are convinced Jack is now really dead, except for Gwen, who keeps vigil by his side. Gwen is proved to be right, and after many days, Jack wakes up, weak and shaken, but alive.
We then get an intriguing epilogue. With Jack catching up on paperwork in his office, he has a conversation with Gwen. He again suggests that he ‘needs the right kind of Doctor‘, to help his condition. Then the hand that has been kept throughout the entire series, the Doctor’s hand from The Christmas Invasion starts to glow, and a familiar sound is heard, that of the engines of a TARDIS landing. Jack runs towards the sound, whilst Gwen stands shocked. When she gets over her surprise she follows, but Jack is gone.
It is well known that Jack is due to return to Doctor Who next season, in the eleventh episode Utopia. However the exact details of how and why he returns are not yet clear. From the end of End of Days most people are assuming that it is the Doctor who has just picked up Jack. But why pick him up so quickly without stopping – and if he is able to pick Jack up so accurately – knowing exactly where he is, why hasn’t he done so sooner? On the other hand, could it be accidental, the TARDIS briefly appearing, and Jack jumping on board – the last time Jack met the Doctor he looked somewhat different, so there doesn’t seem to have been time for any sort of discussion of the change of face.
However what is intriguing is that although you hear a TARDIS materialise, you never see whether it is the TARDIS, nor do you see the Doctor. All you see is Jack running towards the sound, and subsequently being gone – could it be a kidnapping? Remember also that Bilis Manger was again not captured or destroyed – Jack’s apparent immortality was a closely guarded secret, not known to even all of the Torchwood team. Certainly I would not be surprised to find that Bilis Manger is more than he seems, so maybe a careful watching of the details of Utopia is in order. A number of Doctor Who forums are discussing theories (including the fact that ‘Mister Bilis Manger’ is apparently an anagram of ‘I’m Master, bring Lies’), although the opinion that people are reading too much into it all seems to feature pretty prominently too – I guess we’ll have to wait to the spring to find out!