Season 2 Episode 8

A Day In The Death

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Feb 27, 2008 on BBC Two
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Owen is determined to find absolution, can the girl on the rooftop help? How about retrieving an alien device? And will Toshiko help him?

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  • Light In The Darkness Written by Joseph Lidster Directed by Andy Goddard

    Owen: "Sorry, are you an expert?"

    Maggie: "Sorry, are you an idiot?"

    Owen: "Yeah, I'm a dead idiot".

    Life sucks when you're alive and it turns out that it blows just as much as being dead. Sadly for Owen he doesn't get a Georgia Lass fate and ends up a Grim Reaper. Nope instead it turns out that he's still trying to keep other people alive.

    Opening the episode up differently than usual, Owen gives the audiences a recap of his 27 years of existence and of course the nasty moment when Copley shot him for no good reason. What's interesting about this is that the gang don't ask him how he's coping but Owen doesn't exactly tell them either.

    Spotting Maggie on a rooftop, it's clear from the start that she wants to end her own life. Now there are plenty of usual responses Owen could use to keep her from jumping but his tactic is to show her the bullet wound that Copley left him with. A reminder that Owen is dead despite not actually going away.

    Maggie's first reaction is to think he's making it up but she soon realises that he's actually telling the truth and freaks a little. She's about to kill herself and now's she met a bloke who's dead and trying to persuade her not to end it all. I can only imagine what's going through her mind during those moments.

    However as much as Maggie factors into the episodes, there's actually a lot of cutting back to events before Owen found her. The first one being Jack firing him for his own good. It means that Martha gets to have his job and it also means that Owen has a reason to be pissed off with Jack. I can understand where Jack is coming from but as someone who can't abide boredom, I sided more with Owen.

    I don't doubt that Owen needs more medical testing and can't play an active role but reducing him to coffee boy isn't the most constructive thing to do either. It does give Owen a moment to snark at Ianto's sudden rise in the ranks, though I like the fact Ianto actually defends himself.

    Ianto might be sleeping with Jack and getting more action in the field but that's because it's actually useful for him to back up the gang and also we know that Ianto can handle himself. I do wonder whether or not Owen is jealous of Ianto. Not because of Jack as such but perhaps other reasons? He wasn't thrilled about Martha getting his job either.

    Owen's not the type of guy who likes to be excluded from activities (then again, who does?) and he does pry when Martha is giving him a physical examination. Once again the show goes with the idea of them flirting. Like with the previous two episodes, it's harmless but I did dread that something might have happened. Martha didn't seem too concerned about her mysterious boyfriend, did she?

    As for Maggie, two things are quickly established. The first is that Owen wastes no time in informing that there's nothing beyond death. I know that we're supposed to believe there's an element of truth behind that due to the likes of Suzie also saying that but I was also hoping that Owen was saying to further stop her from taking her own life. The second thing is that Maggie lost her husband less than an hour after marrying the poor fella. Owen doesn't get much of a chance to genuinely sympathise because Maggie is quick to shoot down any moments of sincerity he tends to offer. The more this episode goes on, the more I'm drawn to Maggie.

    In some ways she'd be a perfect woman for Owen. She can read him like an open book and has no qualms in calling him out on his crap whenever the mood takes her fancy. It also helps tremendously that actress Christine Bottomley has wonderful chemistry with Burn Gorman as well.

    Maggie is caught up in her own problems that Owen really does have to work hard in order to reach out to her. I liked that she believed everyone at first about things getting better even if she found that time wasn't a healer for her. Owen's interest in why she waited for her anniversary to try and kill herself was a nice way of highlighting that point.

    Another point of Owen's life that piques interest is his relationships with both Martha and Toshiko. At both times Maggie could tell that there was more to each of them than Owen was letting on even if she got angry during a moment when he tried to explain about Toshiko.

    Before meeting Maggie, Owen continued to flirt with Martha. While I'm glad that Martha has no interest in him, I get why Owen's drawn to her. Martha's got a lot of confidence in her abilities and while I love Toshiko to bits, her insecurities must ring as a red flag for a bloke like Owen.

    Even when she came round to see him, all Toshiko did was make pointless small talk because she couldn't really face up to what she was thinking. Owen's always known that she loves him and he uses his despair of being virtually nonexistent to actually blast Toshiko for being damaged in her own way.

    If it hadn't been for his current predicament, I would've hated him for those remarks. That being said, Toshiko needs to grow a spine because it doesn't look like Owen is ever going to see her the way she wants him to. Perhaps Martha could give her advice on how to get over an unrequited crush.

    If Toshiko wasn't particularly head wrecking for Owen, then Jack must've been a right pain in the arse. Owen pointed that both of them have been altered in ways neither chose but Jack was pretty unhelpful with Owen. Jack knows the implications of being caught in the middle but he acts like Owen doesn't have the right to be freaked out by what's happening to him.

    There are times when Jack's jesting is great but there are also times when it's not so much and telling Owen to chill definitely falls into the latter. Watching Owen mentally climb the walls in his own flat almost made me want to do the same thing and that's something I've done enough of without the excuse of Owen's predicament.

    Still being dead has its advantages and one of those being the ability to pas through heat sensors. This comes in handy when the gang need someone to break into the home of Henry Parker in order to retrieve an alien artefact that's giving off some serious bad vibes.

    Owen wasted no time in trying to assert his usefulness and there's no amount of warnings from Martha that would've made a difference. Because I'm siding too much with Owen throughout this episode, I'm not gonna stop here. He's the best guy for the job and he's the only character who could really face Parker as well.

    Getting past the entire security crowd was brilliant. The fake call about Taylor's wife being in a crash made me feel for Taylor but seeing Owen scaring the other security guard with sticking his hand in electricity gave me the creeps too. Burn Gorman can certainly pull off scary a little too well if you get my drift.

    One thing that did surprise me was the last security guard in the house. Maybe it was to help build up the Parker confrontation but it's a brilliant little scene because of ho graphically Owen describes being shot. This episode is largely wordy and it's brilliant that all the extremely talky scenes are laced with such intense dialogue.

    The guard could've shot Owen there and then but Owen was so convincing and so creepy it's easy to see how he got the upper hand. Did I mention how brilliant Burn Gorman is here? Seriously this guy is knocking this stuff out of the ball park and Owen's still my least favourite character out of this series.

    As for Parker, what can I say – he was another great surprise. I was expecting a nasty old man hell bent on destruction but really he was a sad soul who didn't want to die. He knew a lot about Torchwood, has some nice one liners regarding them (in particular Toshiko) and he thought the alien artefact was keeping him alive.

    Owen does appeal to his better nature and while it's an obvious attempt to make both Owen and Parker connect on the issues of dying and nothingness after death, it makes for some effective acting between Gorman and Richard Briers. The parallels between Owen and Parker are neat, especially when the reveal is the Pulse offers hope and not mortality.

    That's the big thing about this arc. There were two assumptions with this episode. One is that Owen could've died completely and the gang could bury him or that he could've been completely restored and live a life of boozing, shagging and sleeping to his hearts content. Neither happened and for the time being that could be okay, though I do wonder how long Owen might have to "live" like this.

    It's knowing what the Pulse can do that has Owen saving the gang from destruction and it's sharing that information that stops Maggie from killing herself. Owen only spotted Maggie by coincidence and that's also something that I can deal with. The fact that he alludes to being a doctor a lot in their conversations does remind you of a certain someone, don't you think?

    As for the gang, well Owen managed to save the day and score his job back so result for him. If there's one complaint I could have about this episode, it's just that Martha could've had a few more scenes. She did have less to do here than in either "Reset" or "Dead Man Walking".

    Still at least she gets a nice farewell scene with all of the gang and she also got to snog Jack as well. Depending on her future in Doctor Who, I actually want Freema Agyeman on Torchwood for more episodes. Maybe next season we'll get some more Martha action again. That wouldn't be asking for too much, would it?

    The last scene between Owen and Toshiko is decent enough. It would be better if there was some resolution but aside from Owen admitting to Toshiko that he was scared, their relationship hasn't significantly changed at all. There's the likelihood that it won't either. Owen already did admit that he has nothing to give Toshiko.

    Also in "A Day In The Death"

    Did anyone think that Owen's opening narration sound a little like Sam Tyler from Life On Mars? The dialogue had certain similarities.

    Maggie (noticing his wound): "What's that?"

    Owen: "I got shot"

    Maggie: "Yeah right. Oh my God. What the hell are you?"

    Owen: "I'm dead".

    Martha's analysis shows that Owen is unable to age. Both him and Jack get to retain their looks.

    Martha: "What about you?"

    Owen: "Cappuccino with chocolate sprinklers".

    Maggie: "What are you, some suicidal geek?"

    Owen: "No, I'm a doctor".

    The howling from The Pulse sounded a bit like that alien from "Meat" or was that just me?

    Owen (to Captain Jack): "You know you get to live forever. I get to die forever. Funny that".

    Owen: "You waited until your wedding anniversary to kill yourself. Why?"

    Maggie: "Does it matter?"

    We got flashbacks to Diane from "Out Of Time". Also the gang still don't remember the events of "Adam".

    Toshiko: "Stop it. What's wrong with you?"

    Owen: "I'm broken Tosh".

    Owen: "You were watching?"

    Captain Jack: "Any guy with tight jeans that runs into the water. I was taking pictures".

    Parker had a Dogan Eye although not the same one from "Random Shoes" and he fancied Toshiko.

    Owen: "You're too scared"

    Maggie: "Aren't you? How did you get from that to here? What happened?"

    Parker: "You're young. You don't understand what dying feels like"

    Owen: "Believe me I do. I really do".

    Although Gwen wasn't vocalised, it was interesting that she was handing out all the assignments for everyone while Jack watched.

    Parker: "Do you know what I want?"

    Owen: "Clean sheets?"

    Maggie: "What happened?"

    Owen: "We all assume that life is going to be **** that it's all darkness but you know what, sometimes it's not".

    Owen has a hatred for Tintin and used it to tease Ianto (before Jack gave him a Tintin T-Shirt) and he's gotten a bigger apartment.

    Captain Jack: "You can so come back"

    Martha: "Maybe I will someday".

    Maggie: "I thought you came here because you were drunk"

    Owen: "No I came here to help".

    Chronology: Three days since the end of "Reset".

    "A Day In The Death" ends the best arc this series has had so well. This episode was wonderful, dark but character driven and scribe Joseph Lidster needs to be commissioned another script ASAP. His history with the Doctor Who universe might be an obvious advantage but this was an excellent showcase no less.moreless
  • Written by Joseph Lidster "A day in the Death" is a very will told story of finding ones self. another fine, no.... Brilliant episode. Directed by Any Goodard.

    Self tortured Owen Harper is still coming to terms with the results of the last two eps. of torchwood. Unable to correct his current state of "being" he must come to terms with it. He confides in a suicidal women telling her of his ordeal, in an attempt to try to convince her that life is still worth living even tho all seems to be lost.

    I am not going to give a blow by blow account of the episode, that you can see by viewing it. I will say its has to be one of the freshly handled story lines i have seen in a while. Taking a walk thru of MR. Hapers mind in its current state was a brilliant story idea! ( And you read it here first, I think Burn Gorman will be recognized for his performance come award season. ) Also sad to see martha will seem like an eternity before we see her again in Doctor Who!

    Samuraikuroi USAmoreless
  • OMG, I loved this episode. I've said this before, but this episode is my absolute favourite.

    The whole Owen arc has been fantastic, it's such a shame it had to end some time *sob* but it ended on an amazing episode. The character of Owen has evolved so much since the beginning, probably more so than any other character. In the beginning of the series I so wanted to like him (because I just love Burn Gorman) but he was pretty unlikeable, and now that's completely changed; he's still the same but they've written him as a much nicer character. About time too.

    I felt sooo sorry for him at various points in the episode. I thought that everyone was being really, really horrible. Gwen just ignored him, Tosh was being insensitive, Jack was just an a**hole. The only ones who seemed vaguely bothered were Ianto and Martha. With particular emphasis on the word vaguely.

    I was surprised by Tosh. She comes round with pizza, which he can't eat, and beer, which he can't drink, moaning about work, which he's not allowed to do. No wonder he flipped out. I mean, 'what is wrong with you?'. He's dead, his life is over, what the hell do you think's wrong with him?

    Jack really really annoyed me too. He was so cold and clinical towards him. He was the one who did this to Owen, yet all he can muster is 'how long are you going to keep doing this?'. I think that in Owen's situation he's allowed a little time to freak out. The teams reactions towards him added to his behaviour imo. And making him the tea boy was a low blow. I know Jack's not the most sensitive and considerate soul but even for him his behaviour was pretty appalling.

    And Gwen. Considering that she's the self appointed 'moral heart' of the team her reaction was a little poor. She couldn't even muster a little compassion for her own team mate? It's obviously not a challenge for total strangers. Having said that, those reactions made me feel all the more for Owen. First he has to deal with being dead and then he's ostracised by the team which has become a big part of his life. No wonder his behaviour was so excessive. Burn Gorman was fantastic, as usual. He's been great these last few episodes. I'm so glad that we've finally got some episodes that focus on him because he can totally pull them off. He's a fantastic actor and he's been so underused. Hopefully he'll start to play more of a role now.

    It was such a tear jerker of an episode. The writers did a fantastic job of this episode. And Burn's performance made it even more emotional. I hope there are more episodes like this, more character and less plot driven. The character driven episodes are a million times better, definitely the standouts.moreless
  • A wonderful installment in the Owen's dead arc.

    I wasn't too sure where they were going to go with the whole 'Owen's dead' thing. I really hope they do more explanation of that. But it's really made me care more about the character than I did before. The cinematography was brilliant. Showing Owen's separateness from the others, simply beautiful. I loved how they sewed the scenes of the past plot to the rooftop scenes so seamlessly. And, oh, the rooftop. I was near to tears at the end of that. I swear I was. The way he used his experiences to help someone else was great. I also loved the old man. He is every person afraid of death, which is the one thing Owen could help him with. The no breath thing, like on Buffy, bugged me immensely, but I let it slide anyway. And can I just say, the music almost stole the episode for me. It was absolutely amazing. All in all, a great episode, with a great title to go with it.moreless
  • Not as good as the last episode, but still good.

    Owen is telling the story of how he died and came back to life. Hes on the roof with a girl who may jump. Owen tells her and us (the viewers) the story about how he was fired from torchwood and become their coffee boy. He then helps the gang who need someone with no body heat to getpast the heat sensors and find out what is creating an energy spike in the house. It turns out richard briers is using something he clalls the pulse. he then dies. owen absorbs the energy from the pulse and stays alive. owen is still dead. martha leaves, but not before snogging jack.moreless
Richard Briers

Richard Briers

Henry Parker

Guest Star

Christine Bottomley

Christine Bottomley

Maggie Hopley

Guest Star

Louis Decosta Johnson

Louis Decosta Johnson


Guest Star

Kai Owen

Kai Owen

Rhys Williams

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • When Owen turns on the iPod to play the song, he only makes it go to the opening screen, therefore nothing is actually playing when the music turns on.

    • Richard Briers has previously appeared in the classic series of Doctor Who - he appeared as the Chief Caretaker in the 1987 serial "Paradise Towers" (with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor).

    • The song playing in Owen's apartment is "Atlas" by the band Battles.

    • Nitpick: They state that Owen has no body heat, yet he must have some in order to prevent rigor mortis from setting.

    • Nitpick: Owen stops CPR because he says has no breath. This is untrue since he is clearly speaking and deeply sighs on a number of occasions during the episode.

  • QUOTES (13)

    • Owen: My name is Dr Owen Harper and this is my life. A life that is full of action and violence and work and wonder. Secrets and sex and love and heartbreak and death. My death. The death I survived. The death I am now living through. Except th is isn't living. Every day is the same. I get up. Get ready for work, same as everyone else. The thing is, I'm not the same. I get to work and everyone's doing the same old thing. Babbling away about aliens and weddings. I'm not real. Thee days ago, I died. And they think I'm fine, but they're wrong.

    • Martha: There is no sign of any muscle decay. You're in great shape, as ever.
      Owen: No use coming onto me, Jones. I'm a changed man.
      Martha: And no stiffening anywhere?
      Owen: Well...
      Martha: Just answer the question.

    • Maggie: So she offers to help you and you push her away. Charming.
      Owen: Yeah, hole in the chest. Sorry if I don't follow social niceties any more.
      Maggie: You mean you did before?
      Owen: God, you're a pain in the arse, aren't you?

    • Farrington: Okay, stop! Stop, or I'll shoot.
      Owen: No, you won't. You're a security guard. That's gun just for show, isn't it? Do you know what a bullet does to a living person? It's not like a knife through butter. No, no, no, no. It rotates, tears into the flesh and the gooey stuff behind. Rips into the organs, ooh, it's not nice. But, anyway, I haven't got any body heat, you must know what that means. You can't kill a dead man.
      Farrington: What are you?
      Owen: I'm wrong.
      Farrington: What are you?
      Owen: I'm broken. I'm Dr Owen Harper. And I'm having one hell of a day.

    • Owen: Martha.
      Martha: Owen!
      Owen: If it destroys me, they're going to need a new doctor. You've got all the credentials. Medical skills and a cracking arse.

    • Owen: Tosh, I'm scared. I'm scared that if I close my eyes, I'll get trapped. In the darkness.
      Tosh: I'm here.

    • Owen: I am literally too cool for school.

    • Maggie: Okay, you're dead, and clearly that's a bit shit, and I'm sorry and everything, but if, if you are dead, then why are you here? You can't be wanting to jump, you can't die twice!
      Owen: Sorry, are you an expert?
      Maggie: Sorry, are you an idiot?
      Owen: Yeah, I'm a dead idiot.

    • Owen: We all assume that life's gonna be shit, don't we? That it's all just darkness. But you know what? Sometimes, it's not.

    • Maggie: What do I do now?
      Owen: You've got a choice. If you think that the darkness is too much then go for it. But if there is a chance, just some hope... It could be having a cigarette, or that first sip of hot tea on a cold morning. Or it could be your mates. If there is even a tiny glimmer of light, then don't you think that's worth taking a chance?

    • Owen: Yeah, I was brought back. Like Jesus really, but without the beard, you know. Shit, I'm never gonna have a beard. Not that I wanted one, you understand, but you know, one day I...

    • Owen: What exactly do I do when I get (home)?
      Jack: Watch TV, chill.
      Owen: Jack, I'm dead. I'm permanently chilled. You know you get to live forever. I get to die forever. It's funny that.

    • (Owen gets out of the water and realises that Jack is standing right beside him)
      Captain Jack: Thirty six minutes, not bad.
      Owen: You were watching?
      Captain Jack: Skinny guy in tight jeans runs into water? I was taking pictures.

  • NOTES (3)


    • Owen: I'm wrong.
      This echoes what the Doctor said to Jack in regards to his inability to die in episode eleven, "Utopia", of the third season of Doctor Who.

    • Owen: Are we filing him in the mostly harmless category?
      "Mostly harmless" is a reference from Douglas Adams' 1979 novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", as traveller Ford's planned revision to the Guide's entry for planet Earth which, as protagonist Arthur Dent was chagrined to discover, currently read simply: "harmless". The phrase was also employed as the title for Adams' fifth instalment of the increasingly inaccurately named "Hitchhiker" trilogy, published in 1992.