Sleeper

Posted in Episode by - July 03, 2018
Sleeper

Aired 23 January 2008

Following the enjoyable but light-hearted ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ to open its second run of episodes, Torchwood proves just how far it has progressed since its uneven run of early episodes by offering a much darker tone in James Moran’s ‘Sleeper’ that still feels like part of the cohesive universe being created. When a nighttime domestic burglary attempt ends with one thief hospitalised and the other dead with only the husband and wife as suspects with a window inexplicably broken from the inside and wounds from an unknown sharp weapon present, the Torchwood Three team is called in to investigate this strange closed-door mystery.

As Gwen and Owen form their own theories and travel to the hospital, they find the critically injured man pleading to keep the woman away from him before he, too, succumbs to his wounds. Jack states with complete certainty that Beth is an alien and quickly amplifies his team’s attempts to discover the truth beneath her convincing claims that she knows nothing about what happened in her home after seeing his confined Weevil show a sort of deference to Beth that he has never seen before. When Owen breaks two needles and a scalpel on Beth’s skin, Jack orders the use of an invasive mind probe that Tosh hesitantly says they’re not supposed to use anymore because of disastrous previous attempts. With strong performances from Nikki Amuka-Bird and all of the onlooking Torchwood team, this sequence as the probe goes deeper and deeper comes to life wonderfully with an unnerving tension that questions Jack’s motives and drives along the way until Beth’s entire demeanour changes and she utters an incoherent phrase while her right arm changes into something else entirely.

Jack realises that Beth is a sleeper agent of a deadly alien race and is unsurprised that this being will give nothing more than the equivalent of a name, rank, and serial number. As Beth’s consciousness reasserts itself without memory of what has just occurred, there is no time to question what in Jack’s past has given him this knowledge, the focus instead shifting to prove to Beth her true nature and to deal with the fallout of this woman who so implicitly feels and believes she is human but understands that her life and love will be lost when the alien within takes over. Unfortunately, after she agrees to be placed in cryogenic sleep, Torchwood’s bypassing of her protective field awakens the other agents in her cell, and Beth’s humane desire to say goodbye to her husband ends all too tragically in a terribly effective scene laden with conflicting emotions. As attacks mount throughout the city and Beth helps the team track one man heading to a secret cache of nuclear weapons that proves that these aliens know even more than Torchwood, a race against time ensues that Jack just barely wins while ominously learning that other sleeper agents are already here.

Colin Teague’s direction ensures a riveting experience throughout that captures the subtle tension and more overt danger wonderfully, the only part of the production failing to fully deliver being an almost sort of boredom in the eyes and actions of some of the sleeper actions that goes beyond a simple unknowing indifference to following commands. Nonetheless, with Gwen a continuing strong counterpoint to Jack and the essence of humanity being used as a theme for good, ‘Sleeper’ is unquestionably one of the stronger episodes of Torchwood to date and successfully sets up the intriguing prospect of a recurring menace in the future.

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