Published on March 30th, 2008 | by Christian Cawley
A Day in the Death Reviewed
The tale of Owen Harper continues in A Day in the Death, as he and the team come to terms with his new found deathness.
It is an interesting direction the show has taken with this storyline, one that hopefully will not have a reset button. Owen being dead and Jack being unable to die (at least for a few billion years) counterpoint each other nicely, and raise questions about the nature of life and death. It also calls into question the actual fate of the previous opponent of Death.
A Day in the Death revolves around Owen and a young woman named Maggie who is trying to commit suicide. As the story begins, we don’t know that Owen has come to terms with his new life, and instead we’re faced with a typically morose Torchwood doctor, apparently himself on the edge of attempting suicide.
Of course, we also know that he is already dead.
Maggie it turns out has lost the love of her life in a tragic manner some months earlier, and has been unable to come to terms with the loss. The conversation moves on to what Owen has recently been upto, and how Jack, Ianto, Gwen and Toshiko have dealt with his lack of life and confidence, and how he steps in to solve a particular Torchwood quandary.
These reviews don’t often throw quotes into the mix, but the following illustrates exactly how well the Owen mini arc is wrapped up in A Day in the Death, with serious, touching moments and some typically Torchwood humour:
Captain Jack Harkness: [Owen has just resurfaced after an attempt to kill himself by drowning] Thirty-six minutes. Not bad.
Owen Harper: You were watching?
Captain Jack Harkness: Skinny guy in tight jeans runs into water, I was taking pictures
With a number of flashbacks and recollections, A Day in the Death plays its cards close to its chest, keeping the viewer guessing.
Burn Gorman as Owen Harper again carries episode effortlessly, and there’s no reason why in a John Barrowman-free series he shouldn’t be able to carry the whole series.
A Day in the Death is notable not only for tying up the Owen Harper thread, however. Joseph Lidster’s episode also concerns the aging millionaire alien artefact collector Parker, and a piece of alien tech that is about to go supernova. With no way to contact Parker, and heavy security at his mansion, Owen volunteers to get past the heat sensitive security system and retrieve the power source – after all, he’s dead, and has no body heat.
The highlight of the episode is therefore setup, with Owen Harper and Parker discussing life and death, and Parker’s attempts to hang on to life. He believes that the alien technology that Torchwood suspect is highly dangerous is keeping him alive – but this turns out not to be true, and Parker suffers a heart attack. Owen is unable to resuscitate him, as there is no air in his dead lungs.
It is an affecting conclusion to the story, but there is another surprise, as back up on the roof Owen makes a plot twisting admission to Maggie, and displays the amazing power of Parker’s alien artefact.
A superb episode, one of those televisual treats where the audience gets completely drawn in to events, and further proof that despite the earlier misfires of the series, Torchwood is moving on.