‘There are opportunities here, with the Institute.’ A portmanteau explaining how each of the team came to join Torchwood Three, wrapped in a framing narrative reintroducing Captain John in time for the series finale. It’s a neat enough way of spending time with the whole team before writing two of them out, but like most of the vignette episodes none of the individual elements has the time or character development required to make it anything more than passable.
Of the four, the Ianto section is probably the best because it’s funny, and feels complete in a way the others don’t. As we already saw some of Ianto’s arrival in Cardiff as part of Cyberwoman, this can focus on his first encounter with Jack as they bond over capturing the Hub’s pterodactyl (and some terrible CGI) – which, in a neatly circular way, sets up the end of Lisa’s story. The weakest link is Tosh’s segment: a fairly vanilla industrial-espionage-gone-wrong plot complete with some bad acting and UNIT reimagined as Guantanamo Bay. In between these, we see why Owen turned so hard and cynical (his fiancée died of an alien brain parasite, giving Burn Gorman some opportunity to play heartbreak), and how Jack first encountered the institute.
The Jack section is most noteworthy for the glimpses it gives of past iterations of Torchwood from the Victorian age to the turn of the 21st Century. In 1899, psychopath partners Emily and Alice run the Institute as a kind of British supremacist, alien extermination facility that Jack only reluctantly joins because he has nothing better to do while kicking his heels waiting for the Doctor. This is suspect: would Jack really join an organisation that’s so blatantly evil, without articulating a plan to reform it? Especially since even a century later he’s not in charge – only at the strike of the millennium, as the eighth Doctor and Grace defeat the Master’s plan to pull the planet inside out, is Jack given the means to remake Torchwood Three as something more tolerable.
This diverting if inessential selection box ends with Jack faced with his lost brother, now all grown up.
Next Time: Exit Wounds