OK, here’s an interesting idea: we have an episode where, perhaps, there are not much in the way of stakes for the main cast. Yes, there are problems they need to try and do something about, but there’s a short scene where Jack more or less tells Tosh there this time, there’s no puzzle to solve or bad guy to beat. There’s just three very lost people.
OK, they’re time lost, but still lost.
See, a plane just lands in Cardiff airport. It came out of the rift under Cardiff, and there are three people onboard: early feminist pilot Diane, older man John, and 18 year old Emma-Louise. They think it’s still 1953. And, well, there’s no way back.
As such, the episode follows these three as they attempt to find places for themselves with a little help from Torchwood. Their ability to adjust seems to mostly depend on how much they lost in the intervening years. Emma-Louise’s parents are both dead, and she was an only child. John’s wife is likewise dead, but he had a 14 year old son, so it is not outside the realm of impossibility that his son is still alive. Diana had no one really, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to adjust quite so much. After all, her pilot’s license is long since expired, and as much as she could maybe fly more small planes once she can get her license renewed, she has no interest in jets.
Worth noting is how the different members of the main group take to the newcomers. Jack tries to help out John as much as he can, Gwen is with Emma-Louise, and Owen takes Diane. Tosh and Ianto don’t do much, though Ianto gets to take them to a modern supermarket, and they had rationing in the time they left. Also, cigarettes didn’t have warning labels.
Now, there are levels of tragedy to all this. John does find his son, but the boy is now an old man with no kids of his own, living in an old folks home with severe Alzheimer’s. John has no interest in starting over. He opts to commit suicide, and while Jack tries to talk him out of it, Jack relents and lets the man die in the end.
Emma-Louise actually adapts the best, moving in with Gwen for a time, needing to get a talk on what women do causally now that wasn’t true in 1953, and keeping secret from Rhys what Gwen actually does. Sadly, Gwen’s cover story that Emma-Louise is a cousin looking for crash on the couch for a bit doesn’t hold up when Rhys asks Gwen’s mom about that, but Emma-Louise ends the episode in high spirits and moving to London to establish an independent adulthood. So, that was nice.
As for Diane…she and Owen started seeing each other, and given every other thing I have seen that actor in, it always amazes me that this show treats Owen like a real ladies man. Owen actually falls for Diane, but she ends the episode in a plane, looking to fly into the rift again and see what else is out there, so Owen and Diane are maybe a little heartbroken.
This was treated as a rather quiet episode, one where sad music played over most scenes and even the more comedic possibilities are not really played much for laughs aside from a bit here and there. These are lost people with the main cast trying their best to make things comfortable for them.
A certain U.S.S. Enterprise could learn a thing or two from them when it comes to helping people from the past suddenly stuck in the future…