A Day in the Death
|21 – "A Day in the Death"|
Owen holds on to "the Pulse", expecting it to explode.
|Script editor||Gary Russell|
Chris Chibnall (co-producer)
|Executive producer(s)||Russell T Davies
|Originally broadcast||27 February 2008|
"A Day in the Death" is the eighth episode of the second series of British science fiction television series Torchwood, which was broadcast by BBC Three on 27 February 2008. This episode is the last of three to feature Doctor Who companion, Martha Jones, and also features guest star Richard Briers.
Owen Harper narrates the opening of the episode, detailing his life and his death, which he is living through. On top of a building Owen sits with a woman, asking her if she is ready to jump.
After revealing his undead state, Owen tells the woman about the days since his death, shown as a series of flashbacks. Jack relieves Owen of his duties so he can be monitored and protected. Owen is angry when Martha Jones assumes his position, and further disheartened when he is given Ianto's job of making coffee. He feels useless, conscious that he's always been alone while each one of the Torchwood team has or has had someone in their life (Ianto and Jack, Gwen and Rhys, Martha and her boyfriend, Tosh and Tommy).
Martha concludes that Owen is 100% human yet will not age. The team discusses a series of energy spikes coming from the estate of a reclusive collector of alien artifacts, Henry Parker. Parker has not been seen since 1986, leading the team to wonder what he has inside his house. They devise a plan to find out the origin of the energy spikes, excluding Owen from the task.
As Owen toys with a scalpel in the autopsy room, Martha tries to reassure him that she doesn't want his job. While talking, she realises that Owen has sliced his hand - a wound he can't feel, which won't heal. Owen heads home, where he begins to clear out his apartment. Tosh arrives to keep him company, and Owen zones out.
On the roof, the woman says Owen and Tosh sound like a married couple. She tells him that her husband died in a car accident on their wedding day. She asks Owen if things get better when you die, and Owen flashes back to his apartment. He asks Tosh why she is there, and becomes angry when she offers to help. After insulting Toshiko, Owen intentionally breaks his finger to show her how 'broken' he is, before attempting suicide. He fails to drown since he has no need for breath.
At the Hub, the team realise that heat-sensors on the Parker estate make it impossible for them to get inside. When Owen points out that he has no body heat, Jack agrees to take him on the mission.
After successfully entering the house, Owen reaches Parker, an old man linked up to many ventilators and medical machines. The man says he suffered a failed bypass and three heart attacks, but is being kept alive by a glowing object he calls "the Pulse". Owen explains that it isn’t keeping him alive; hope is doing the job. Owen promises to help Parker face his fear of death, but Parker suffers another heart attack. Unable to draw breath himself, Owen cannot perform CPR, and Parker dies.
Tosh tells Owen that energy levels of "the Pulse" have increased off the scale and the device may explode with nothing to prevent it. Owen holds the object, telling the team he’ll try to absorb its energy. Owen begins to say his goodbyes, praising Martha as his replacement, and apologising to Tosh. Tosh says she loves him and Owen hugs the object as it begins to glow. On the roof, the woman looks at Owen incredulously, asking what happened next. Owen mentions that life is sometimes not as bad as we think, and retrieves "the Pulse" from his backpack. They had falsely identified it, as it was actually a reply to NASA messages transmitted into deep space during the 1970s. The object produces a beautiful light and Owen answers the woman's earlier question: it does get better.
In flashback, after the team says farewell to Martha, Owen promises to tell Tosh whenever he’s feeling bad, admitting he's scared to close his eyes, fearing that he may become trapped in the darkness. After leaving Tosh, Owen is walking along a footpath when a piece of paper flutters out of the sky in front of him. Picking it up, Owen unfolds a photograph of a young couple and, looking up, sees the woman on the roof preparing to jump. This is what brought him there: not to jump himself, but to save her. Owen tells her that if she cannot see anything left for her, then she should jump; but if she can see a glimmer of hope then it's worth taking a chance. She introduces herself as Maggie; and as Owen holds her hand, they watch the light show from "the Pulse".
- One of Henry Parker's purchases was a Dogon Eye, an item last seen in "Random Shoes". The official website states that he has recently purchased a Cyberman arm and chest unit.
- In the opening scene, archive footage of Louise Delamere as Diane Holmes, Owen's first series love interest, is shown. Also in the opening montage, clips from episodes such as "Everything Changes", "Ghost Machine", "Out of Time" and "Meat" can be glimpsed.
- This is the second episode in which Owen is relieved of his duties. He was previously dismissed by Jack after he opened the rift in "End of Days".
Outside references 
- Owen says that Torchwood filed Henry Parker as "Mostly Harmless," a reference to the book by the same name by Douglas Adams, who used to write for Doctor Who. "Mostly Harmless" was the revised entry for planet Earth in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, also written by Adams. The original entry for Earth was "harmless".
- Owen criticises Ianto for liking Tintin. Owen thinks Tintin is weird, and reckons "he was shagging the dog" (his pet Snowy). Later in the episode, Owen is given a Tintin T-shirt. Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat co-wrote the 2011 Tintin movie.
- In reference to his reclusiveness, Parker is stated to be "a bit Howard Hughes".
- The symptoms of Owen's death (numbness, inability to heal) have similarities to leprosy, as suffered by the protagonist of Stephen R Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. The alien words spoken by Owen in the "Dead Man Walking" (melenkurion, abatha, duroc, minas, mill and khabaal) were also taken from Donaldson's novels.
Cast notes 
The song playing in Owen's apartment is "Atlas" by Battles.
- "Torchwood, Series 2, A Day in the Death". bbc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Torchwood|
- A Day in the Death on TARDIS Data Core, an external wiki
- "A Day in the Death" at Doctor Who: A Brief History Of Time (Travel)