The Cardiff Space-Time Rift, known locally as the Rift, was a time rift situated in and above the city of Cardiff. It brought all sorts of alien phenomena to the Welsh city, and sent locals to other galaxies, or indeed other times, when active.
Torchwood Three was tasked with observing it, controlling it, and dealing with the aftermath of Rift activity. The Doctor's TARDIS also sometimes used the Rift to refuel, most notably whilst travelling with the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors.
One end of the Rift was located in the Cardiff area, said by Rose Tyler to run straight through the centre of Cardiff. (TV: Boom Town) When the Rift fractured, it temporarily spread out from Cardiff to cover parts of the entire Earth, including London and Tokyo. (TV: End of Days)
The other end of the Rift varied, and encompassed various times (TV: Out of Time, End of Days, To the Last Man, AUDIO: Asylum) and places. (TV: The Unquiet Dead, End of Days, Meat, Adrift) According to Vox, the Rift had many openings, particularly in the Sanctified's area of their galaxy. (COMIC: Rift War!)
Travel through the Rift
When the Rift became active, beings and objects could be transported through Rift flares either from one end of the Rift to another, or to another point in time on the same end of the Rift. Rift storms were also capable of transporting objects and beings caught up inside of them through the Rift. (TV: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, COMIC: Rift War!) Bursts of radiation were also known to pass through the Rift, sometimes giving humna living near it enhanced psychic abilities. (AUDIO: Instant Karma)
The Rift could cause time shifts, which could cause two different points in time to overlap and could transport beings from one of the two overlapping times to the other. (TV: Captain Jack Harkness, To the Last Man)
Some extraterrestrials were also known to be able to manipulate travel through the Rift, as the Weevils could use the Rift to cross into Cardiff, and the Sanctified were able to transport their Harrowkind troops through the Rift and could create and manipulate Rift storms to transport wanted objects through the Rift to them. (COMIC: Rift War!)
The Rift several times displayed traits similar to those of a living or sentient creature. For example, the Rift would sometimes after a length of time return those it abducted from Cardiff, which Jack Harkness believed was an attempt by the Rift to correct its mistakes and the damage it was doing. (TV: Adrift) Also, when Vox attempted to absorb the power of the Rift, the Rift sent antibodies to eliminate Vox. (COMIC: Rift War!)
Prison of Abaddon and Syriath
During Abaddon's and the Light's war against Pwccm and the Dark, both sides eventually became caught up in and trapped within the Rift, although they could escape the Rift and fight when it was opened wide enough. (PROSE: The Twilight Streets)
The Gelth's use of the Rift
Following the Last Great Time War, the Gelth attempted to flee through the Rift to 1869 Cardiff, but initially, only a few of the Gelth were successful in travelling through to Cardiff. Using a psychic named Gwyneth as a bridge through the Rift, the Gelth successfully began to come through into Cardiff and tried to invade Earth and kill off the entire human race and use their corpses to become corporeal. During the Gelth's attempted invasion, Gwyneth was able to trap the Gelth already on Earth and close the Rift. (TV: The Unquiet Dead) The closing of the Rift left behind a "scar" which released energy. On his first visit to Cardiff, Jack Harkness considered this radiation "harmless" to humans, but viable as a power source that the Doctor's TARDIS could "soak up". (TV: Boom Town)
Torchwood Institute's interest in the Rift
Around the turn of the 20th century, the Torchwood Institute became aware of the Cardiff Rift. Agnes Havisham believed it was a threat and helped set up Torchwood Three to study it. (PROSE: Risk Assessment) Located in an underground base called the Hub, Torchwood Three had the tasks of monitoring the Rift and phenomena associated with it and securing for Torchwood any artefacts that came through. (TV: Everything Changes et al.)
Following Torchwood's conclusions about Object 1, Queen Victoria ordered Torchwood Three agent Jack Harkness to dispose of it in the Rift. He failed to do so, hoping the object might attract the Doctor, until 1914 when he finally threw it into the Rift. (AUDIO: The Torchwood Archive)
Exploitation by Blon Fel-Fotch
The Rift was used in September 2006 by both the Ninth Doctor to power up the TARDIS from the energy released from Gwyneth closing the Rift, and by Blon Fel-Fotch. Blon Fel-Fotch, then mayor of Cardiff, plotted to cause a core meltdown within the Blaidd Drwg nuclear power plant. A meltdown on top of the Rift would have destroyed Earth, generating a shock wave that she could ride to escape off into space using a tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator. The Doctor and his companions discovered her plan however connected her extrapolator to the TARDIS to accelerate its refuelling. This enabled the extrapolator to carry out Blon's back-up plan; opening the Rift by latching onto the TARDIS. This caused a powerful earthquake in Cardiff, however the Doctor was able to shutdown the TARDIS in time to prevent any further damage. (TV: Boom Town)
The fracturing of the Rift
Ianto Jones and Jack Harkness together dealt with a pterodactyl that had come through the Rift. (TV: Fragments) Later, Torchwood encountered an increasing number of cortex leeches arriving through the Rift. (AUDIO: The Vigil)
In December 2007, the Sky Gypsy arrived through the Rift from 1953. Despite Torchwood's efforts to help her adapt to the modern era the pilot, Diane Holmes, opted to fly the plane back into the Rift to see if it would take her home. (TV: Out of Time)
Bilis Manger contrived to trick Torchwood Three's Owen Harper into using the Rift Manipulator to widen the Rift on purpose. This caused the Rift to fracture, resulting in time slips worldwide. Many believed the end of the world had come. (TV: Captain Jack Harkness, End of Days)
In Cardiff, more Weevils came through the Rift, as well as a Roman soldier and sufferers of bubonic plague. Finally, as Manger had planned, the Rift opened wide enough for Abaddon to escape. Jack stated that the area would become more active after the opening of the Rift and the death of Abaddon. (TV: End of Days)
Later uses and discoveries
The Rift caused an overlap in time between 1918 and the 21st century, creating the illusion of "ghost sightings" in both times. The time shift was initially confined to a Cardiff hospital, but as it worsened it quickly spread out throughout the city. Torchwood Three sent a cryogenically frozen soldier from 1918, Tommy Brockless, back from the 21st century through a time hole with a "Rift key", and he was able to close the hole. (TV: To the Last Man)
Gwen Cooper discovered an unknown property of the Rift, that it abducted people from Cardiff as well as depositing creatures and objects from the other sides. She found out that a number of missing people could be connected to the activity of the Rift. Jack Harkness suggested that this had been going on for a long time, but that more of the people who had been taken were being returned in the last couple years. Jack's theory was that the Rift may have been trying to set things right. However, at least one man was returned to his own time by the Rift aged forty years from when he left. Others were disfigured or suffered some form of permanent damage from their travels through the Rift. (TV: Adrift)
The Rift war
The Sanctified used the Rift's energy to power their empire. In 2008, when the Sanctified were led to believe that Torchwood Three would use their Rift Manipulator to destroy their empire, the Sanctified declared war on Torchwood and used the Rift to send their Harrowkind troopers to Cardiff to attack Torchwood.
Vox hid from the Sanctified in the gaps and non-places inside the Rift, until Toshiko Sato unintentionally led the Harrowkind to Vox when she and the Torchwood Hub became one moment out of sync with time as a result of a Rift storm. Vox subsequently returned with Tosh and the Hub to Cardiff.
Vox subsequently used the Rift Manipulator and alien technology to absorb the power of the Rift, which caused the Rift to produce antibodies and send them to Cardiff to try to eliminate Vox. When Torchwood Three restored a natural focal point for the Rift's energy which Vox had previously destroyed, the focal point became a new outlet other than Vox for the Rift's energy, and thus Vox lost the Rift's power. (COMIC: Rift War!)
Contacting the Doctor
In the year 2009, when Earth was transported by the Daleks to the Medusa Cascade, the Rift seemed to move there with Earth. Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, and Ianto Jones of Torchwood Three used the Rift's power via the Rift Manipulator in conjunction with Sarah Jane Smith's supercomputer, Mr Smith, to power a message to the Doctor via Martha Jones' superphone. (TV: The Stolen Earth) They later used the combination of the Rift and Mr Smith again to help the Doctor return the Earth back to its regular orbit. (TV: Journey's End)
Despite the apparent closure of the rift, the Eleventh Doctor was still able to use Cardiff as a fuel source for his TARDIS, as he did in 2013. (COMIC: The Doctor and the Nurse) That same year, he warned Clara Oswald to stay away from space-time rifts in Wales, as she spent time alone living a "normal" life. (PROSE: Normality)
The area remained weak in the years that followed with temporary holes in space time persisting and thus alien phenomena in Cardiff eventually returned. In the 2010s, the revived Torchwood had to deal with the emerging phenomena, which they weren't sure was a sign of the rift reopening or simply the position in Cardiff being vulnerable. (AUDIO: More Than This) By 2017, Torchwood had to use the Rift Manipulator in the reopened Hub to prevent Rift breaches. (AUDIO: Changes Everything)
Ro-Jedda used Deliverables to take control of the Rift by altering reality through the pattern created by the repetitive movements of its employees, causing Torchwood's Rift Manipulator to lose control. After Torchwood disrupted Deliverables employees' routine the Rift Manipulator regained control. (AUDIO: Zero Hour)
The Rift began opening as the Sorvix God came to Cardiff, despite Mr Colchester's efforts to control it with the Rift Manipulator. Jack Harkness had him let it open briefly, separating Ng from Gwen Cooper. The Rift opened again shortly afterwards, which Ro-Jedda realised meant God had arrived. (AUDIO: Herald of the Dawn) A plasmic psychovore arrived through the Rift at the same time, initially being mistaken for God by Torchwood. The Sorvix subsequently fled their God by tearing open the Rift. (AUDIO: Future Pain)
After resurrecting Mr Colchester, God had to let a few things through the Rift to restore the balance, (AUDIO: Thoughts and Prayers) including the predator, (AUDIO: See No Evil) and the Night Sun, with the Light following in its wake. (AUDIO: Night Watch)
Exploitation by the Committee
Yvonne Hartman and Andy Davidson helped Norton Folgate escape Flight 405 which was caught in a time loop at the edge of the Rift. (AUDIO: Flight 405) The Committee subsequently conspired with Yvonne and Andy to use the Sorvix power plant to stabilise and fully control the Rift, however Norton discovered the Committee were actually causing the Rift to send energy into Earth's core, threatening to destroy the planet. With the discrete aid of the Sorvix God, he diverted the energy to Flight 405, causing the time loop and sending himself back there. God's actions triggered a tsunami towards Cardiff to restore the balance, which Yvonne and Tyler Steele attempted to mitigate by opening the Rift as wide as possible to send the water away. (AUDIO: Eye of the Storm)
After using the Disaster Recovery Committee to lock Torchwood out of the Hub, the Committee installed their own Rift Manipulator, which they used to stabilise the Rift and create a dimension bridge to Erebus for their final form to travel through. Using the Lens, Yvonne directed the powers of God, which were destroying Earth, through the Rift to destroy Erebus. (AUDIO: Thoughts and Prayers)
Use by other extraterrestrials
The Weevils used the Rift to cross over into Cardiff for reasons of their own, more so as the Rift destabilised. (TV: Everything Changes, Combat, End of Days) The Sanctified Empire were also known to harvest energy from the Rift, and used it to send their Harrowkind troopers to their intended destinations. (COMIC: Rift War!)
Behind the scenes
The closing of the Rift
Different sources say a variety of different things in regard to the closure of the Rift. According to the audio story The House of the Dead, the Rift finally closed when the House of the Dead was destroyed. On the other hand, Russell T Davies stated that the Rift closed with the Cracks in Time when the Eleventh Doctor rebooted the universe. However, Torchwood stories released by Big Finish Productions have since shown that the Rift was never actually closed in either case, just erroneously believed to have been.
A file on the series 1 version of the Torchwood website says that one end of the rift is fixed, ±5 miles from Cardiff Bay, while the other end is "wandering in a seemingly random progression across the universe". Though it notes Rift activity has increased since the "recent" Cardiff earthquake, it notes that after the events in December 1869, the Rift has not been quiet.
The series 1 version of the Torchwood website had a letter home dated 92 AD addressed from the soldier Q. Asinus Balbus to Ti. Marcus Musca. Toshiko Sato noted it had "interesting references". It said that the girls who hang around camp brought back messages of a "terrible god" beneath that land that became restless and hungry. When Balbus went on an expedition to the territory, he found entire empty villages along the shore. After hearing what sounded like "the howling of a giant beast", Balbus headed back to camp. By the time the expedition made it back, three of the patrol were "lost". Despite not hearing or seeing anything, the rest of the group "knew" that they were being "melted away", and carried on, knowing they could do nothing about it.
The series 1 version of the Torchwood website features a speech from Queen Victoria, calling the Rift a "chilling" example of what the British Empire can "only" be defended from. She was concerned how the Empire could protect against a "border" like the Rift and how anyone can be safe if "unimaginable demons" could step through the rift at any moment. She claimed that the Rift needed "[v]igilant, tireless and fearless" guardians to protect the "infinite shores" of the Empire.
The series 1 version of the Torchwood website had a "rift memo", dated 13 April 1913. It alerted the "chief" that on that day there was a sudden increase in Rift activity that manifested as "a series of small ground tremors". It was concerned about Robertson's conclusions from the data: it seemed to be a ripple from a "much bigger" event, or "[an] aftershock washing back to towards us through time – call it a preshock, if you will." Robertson calculated that it originated at some point in the 21st century. The memo claimed that Cardiff has "got about a century to go before the rift tears it apart." It said it "might be an idea" to increase safeguards on the rift manipulator.
Doctor Who: Legacy
In the story of Doctor Who: Legacy, Jack Harkness uses the rift as a focal point for creating artificial time paradoxes to reach the Doctors and their companions, joining them as they travel through time to stop and fix the damage caused by the Sontarans' attacks throughout history.
- More Torchwood Updates. Blogger - The Doctor In The TARDIS (29 July 2010). Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
- The Rift. Torchwood website. Archived from the original on 26 August 2007. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
- Balbus, Q. (92 AD). Roman letter. Torchwood website. Archived from the original on 26 August 2007. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
- Queen Victoria (August 1883). Queen Victoria on the Rift. Torchwood website. Archived from the original on 27 August 2007. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
- End of Days - Rift memo, 1913. Torchwood website (13 April 1913). Archived from the original on 27 August 2007. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.