Torchwood: Revisiting RESET

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Dr. Moo hears the song of a nightingale.


Reset is the Torchwood episode where Tosh FINALLY plucks up the courage to ask out Owen. He says yes. Then he dies. Because it’s a TV show and that’s how life works in TV land. Don’t worry about it too much though because he’ll be back to life next week.

Also it has Martha Jones crossover from Doctor Who. This being Torchwood there are rules about how explicit they can be in naming the parent show – you REALLY don’t want kids to watch this series – so they find clever ways round it, like in this exchange:
OWEN: So what brought you two [Martha and Jack] together?
MARTHA: Let’s say we were under the same doctor.
As pleasant as it is to have Martha show up and as good as it is to have Freema Agyeman return, why is she here? Turns out that there’s been a spate of recent deaths that have Torchwood confused, even Owen, prompting Jack to call her in for help. So along comes Martha to Cardiff, because apparently UNIT just allow their employees to up and leave on a whim now. I doubt the Brig would’ve been so lenient back in his day.


Anyway, here she is and at last Martha comes into her own! Without a skinny boy in a suit to lust after she can finally be as good as she could’ve been all along. She’s the youngest of the six people there but she’s the most competent of the lot. Alas it doesn’t last too long before she has some guy, Owen, going crazy for her while she goes along with Torchwood’s cavalier slapdash ad hoc Hope-It-Doesn’t-Blow-Up-In-Our-Faces methods rather than apply the Doctor’s and UNIT’s clinical approach. Burn Gorman and Freema Agyeman don’t come across as a good couple and so it’s good to see Martha figuratively shoot Owen down. I say figuratively, later he’ll be shot down literally by the villain. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, the secondary story to do with Martha joining Torchwood is good, but is the main storyline an interesting one as well? Yes, it most definitely is!


The team are investigating a mysterious pharmaceutical company called The Pharm. The Pharm has discovered a cure for every disease, provided you don’t mind being overcome by an alien parasite and killed a few weeks later. Alan Dale takes the role of The Pharm’s leader, Prof Copley, and manages to give off some real menace alongside a brilliant screen presence, effortlessly stealing every scene he’s in. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to know he’s hiding something and so Torchwood set out to infiltrate his organisation – step forward Martha!

Can I have one of those contact lens cameras? Those things are awesome! Why can’t I buy one anywhere? Surely it’s only a matter of time before something like that is on the market?


Then Martha gets to prove herself as one of the Doctor’s companions by getting captured and restrained. Agyeman does some of her best work here but Dale’s villainous performance is what makes the scene work. This is followed by Owen charging in with his singularity scalpel (sigh) to save her, while Jack shuts down The Pharm, disgusted by its practices. The ethical side of The Pharm’s methods and the complexities of the issues of animal (read: alien) testing isn’t really explored as well as it could’ve been, but I fear this episode may have got a tad self-righteous if it went that way so I’ll forgive it that.

Besides, the way Prof Copley sneaks away the moment Jack turns his back allows us the twist ending when he shoots Owen in the head at point blank range. This is an emotional scene that hits home hard. As difficult as I’ve always found it to warm towards Owen, Gorman always plays him well. When Owen dies without even a shout and collapses dead on the ground you’ll catch yourself tearing up.


The bullet had been intended for Martha but Owen took it instead. Then Jack shoots Copley first and kills him, saving Martha. But Owen’s dead! It’s a shocking twist ending and you can believe that’s the end of it for him. We know it wasn't because he comes back to life in an undead zombie-like form for the remainder of series two, but, still, as far as this episode is concerned, he’s dead and gone.

For the shocking twist ending, for the brilliance of Alan Dale’s villain and, above all, for the presence of Martha, Reset is a great episode. Even if the writers didn’t have the guts to follow through and let Owen stay dead, on its own merits Reset is a fantastic episode of Torchwood that stands as one of the better installments from its stronger second season.

When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.

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