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“…I hunt down aliens and I scavenge the stuff they leave behind…”
Gwen explains her work to Rhys.
“There’s a rift through space and time that runs through Cardiff, Rhys, and stuff slips through it from other timelines and planets and it’s our job to monitor it.”
Owen explains Torchwood’s mission statement to Rhys.
Although Torchwood are still “outside the government, beyond the police” according to the Season 2 voiceover introduction, this is the third episode out of four so far this year that begins with Torchwood interfering with a crime/accident scene. What do the police think when Torchwood arrive? They are some sort of “special ops”, as Gwen described her new job to Rhys? Again, the Worldbuilding of the show Torchwood is not quite clear.
Rhys is introduced to her actual work – Torchwood, who are… well – refer to the above quotes. What they actually do in this episode is find a whale-like alien being used as a source of meat, then destroy its remains and mind-wipe the perpetrators. Why do Torchwood do this though? To protect the citizens of the UK from knowledge of aliens? At the end Rhys finds his world-view has been expanded: he now thinks of worlds beyond our own. Presumably the silver giants metamorphosing from ghosts across the entire Earth; two different UFOs above the streets of London on two consecutive Christmases; the recent display of the Toclafane on the telly by Prime Minister Saxon (who summarised all these previous events at the time); these weren’t enough.
If you try hard, you can suspend your disbelief about the central premise of the episode, which is: Rhys is introduced to the “unheard of” concept of aliens (and Torchwood, which every member of the Cardiff police vaguely knows about. And that senior citizen from 3 episodes ago), and Gwen must make a decision whether to retcon Rhys or not.
The value she places on that relationship is the real centre of the episode. It’s almost an irrelevance that a space-manatee is in a warehouse near Cardiff. Is there any sort of link between the A and B stories? Gwen decides she doesn’t want to treat Rhys as a big lump that she has to drug once in a while (like when she used retcon on Rhys in the episode Combat). The space-manatee being a big lump that has to be drugged once in a while, a situation that Torchwood decided to try to change. Was that the writer’s intention, the alien as a metaphor for Gwen’s decision?
The science-fiction elements are slightly risible but the interaction between Gwen, Rhys and Jack is the main story, which is funny, intense, and enjoyable.