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Dead Man Walking was the seventh episode of Series 2 of Torchwood. It was written by Matt Jones and directed by Andy Goddard. It was the middle of a loose trilogy that featured Martha Jones as a guest character and was linked by the resurrection of Owen after his death in the previous episode.
This episode examined the nature of the afterlife. It revealed that one place where people can end up after death is an empty netherworld of darkness, inhabited by a demonic creature that expunges all life with which it comes into contact.
"I'm bringing Owen back."
Owen Harper lies dead of a gunshot wound, about to be opened up for autopsy by Martha Jones at the Hub. Jack orders the team to do nothing until he arrives. Jack enters a strange café where a girl, that appears twelve years old, reads tarot. She tells Jack he owes her a favour and where to find what he is looking for. As he leaves, she holds the Death card.
Jack goes to St Mary's, an abandoned church where Weevils sleep and store collected bric-a-brac. He breaks into a safe and retrieves from it a box. When Jack returns to the Hub with the box, to the astonishment of the team, it holds a left-handed resurrection gauntlet. Gwen objects to what Jack is about to do, reminding him of what happened with Suzie. Jack ignores her. He hopes to bring Owen back for two minutes for everybody to say their goodbyes. He resurrects Owen, who is confused and scared. Tosh tells Owen that she loves him, and Jack — after initially upsetting Owen by asking for the morgue access code — tries to prepare Owen for death. The connection is lost, Owen stops breathing and Jack holds his hand, believing him dead. Then, Owen says that he will need his hand back.
The glove has brought Owen back from death permanently. Unlike Suzie, there is no obvious source of life energy. No energy is being drained from Jack as Suzie drained energy from Gwen, but Owen is getting energy from somewhere. Toshiko tells Owen she didn't mean it when she told him that she loved him. Owen says that this is a textbook reaction to grief, but does not want to discuss it further. He changes the subject and leaves the room.
Owen has visions of himself in a place shrouded in darkness, full of eerie whispers. He temporarily loses control of his body. During this incident, his pupils turn black and he speaks the phrase "melenkurion abatha, duroc minas mill khabaal". Although he has been put in quarantine, Owen escapes and goes to a bar in Cardiff. He finds he can no longer get drunk or get an erection (which depends on blood flow), so he can no longer have sex as all his life processes have stopped. He is now the walking dead.
Jack catches him and they have a bar brawl. When Owen shouts that he belongs to Torchwood "special ops", Jack assumes a fake English accent and denies it. This results in them both being put in a police cell. As they bicker, Owen hears the drinks in his stomach sloshing and realises that he can no longer digest them so they'll just sit there if left. Also unable to force himself to be sick by sticking his fingers down his throat, he is forced to stand on his head until the liquid comes back through his throat allowing him to vomit, much to Jack's amused disgust. After a moment of panic, Owen and Jack bond. Jack says that he once dated Marcel Proust and that his immortality, which Owen covets in his position, is not the gift that Owen envies. They leave after Jack reveals his thoughts on immortality. Outside they encounter Weevils which chase Owen and Jack until they are cornered on a rooftop. Instead of killing them, the Weevils bow to Owen, who again temporarily loses control of his body and addresses the Weevils in the same unknown language.
At the Hub, the team learn that Owen's cells are changing slowly. When complete, something will take over Owen's body. Research shows a similar incident occurred in legend, at the town that predated Cardiff during the time of the Black Death: a little girl died, and the town priest (undoubtedly using the same resurrection gauntlet that has brought Owen back) subsequently performed a miracle to resurrect her, but Death itself came back with the revived girl. Death sought to kill thirteen victims, as doing so would allow it to enter the world permanently. But before Death could take more than twelve victims, what the story simply describes as "faith" stopped the entity.
Believing this legend is recurring, Owen suggests he must have his neural pathways closed by embalming to stop Death from using him as a gateway. As the team are getting Owen ready for the process, the resurrection gauntlet springs to life and attacks Martha. Owen destroys the gauntlet with a gunshot, but not before it has drained Martha's life and reduced her to an old woman. Before the team can get Martha help or do anything about Owen, the cellular conversion completes, allowing Death to fully possess and then emerge from Owen.
Upon manifesting, Death kills Jack, and heads to a hospital, drawn to those close to death. It begins going after patients who are helpless or alone, sucking each one dry and adding their death to its count. As Jack resurrects, the Torchwood team rush Martha to the hospital in her greatly aged state, where a nurse says that as her red blood cell count is low and as she is over eighty, her chances of survival are slim. Upon realising from the Weevils gathering outside that Death is here, the team evacuates everyone from the building, while Death, after taking twelve souls, chases after Jamie Burton, a young leukaemia patient who has been left behind.
Owen saves Jamie and helps Tosh and him escape. Ianto, who is waiting with Martha, explains to the team that according to research he's uncovered, the "faith" which defeated Death before was the resurrected child, whose name was Faith. Owen realises that he is the only one who can fight Death; he is already dead and has nothing to lose. After kissing Tosh (and stealing her alien lockpick device), Owen locks the other team members out of the hospital and begins a brawl with Death, finally consuming its energy and forcing it back into the darkness.
On returning to the Hub, Martha explains to Owen that the energy keeping him "alive" is dissipating but it could take anywhere between thirty seconds and thirty years to die out completely and end Owen's "life." Owen asks Jack to let him work again, as by doing his job as a doctor, he can try to repay the twelve lives that have been lost as a consequence of his resurrection. Toshiko and Jack discuss Owen literally fighting off Death in the hospital; Jack gravely declares, "Ah, you can never really beat Death. Never escape it. It's always in the shadows, waiting!"
- Captain Jack Harkness - John Barrowman
- Martha Jones - Freema Agyeman
- Gwen Cooper - Eve Myles
- Owen Harper - Burn Gorman
- Toshiko Sato - Naoko Mori
- Ianto Jones - Gareth David-Lloyd
- Rhys Williams - Kai Owen
- Little Girl - Skye Bennett
- Weevil - Paul Kasey
- Nurse - Joanna Griffiths
- Jamie Burton - Ben Walker
- Hen Night Girl - Lauren Phillips
- Doctor - Golda Rosheuvel
- Hospital Patient - Janie Booth
- Police Officer - Rhys Ap Williams
|Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner|
|General production staff
Camera and lighting department
|Make-up and prosthetics
General post-production staff
Special and visual effects
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
This episode did not have a "created by Russell T Davies" credit.
- Martha asks Jack why he didn't inform UNIT about the resurrection gauntlet and its ability to bring back the dead.
- Jack visits a psychic fortune teller.
- Gwen mentions the resurrection glove's last use on Suzie Costello.
- Owen has previously shown a connection with the Weevils.
- After escaping from the Hub, the pub Owen visits is in the midst of a costume party where a number of people are dressed as angels.
- Acting as a drunk, Jack claims that Owen is special needs.
- Owen calls a police officer a meathead.
- After Owen is resurrected from the dead, he soon loses many bodily functions, including the ability to produce flatulence or enjoy sex.
- A Shrek poster is pinned to the wall of the children's ward.
- Owen mentions necrophilia.
- This episode aired 10 minutes after the BBC Two repeat of Reset at 10:00pm on BBC Three; and was repeated on BBC Two in its usual 9:00pm timeslot the next week, on Wednesday 27 February 2008.
- A family friendly pre-watershed edit of this episode aired at 7:00pm, the following day, Thursday 28 February 2008 on BBC Two.
- Suzie Costello's resurrection in They Keep Killing Suzie, as well as her statement about what the afterlife was like, are mentioned and referenced to several times in this episode. Her final warning to Jack before her second death also comes to fruition when the creature lurking in the darkness escapes.
- The phrase "Melenkurion abatha, duroc minas mill khabaal" is a reference to Stephen R. Donaldson's dark fantasy series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. In the series's setting, the Land, they are part of a powerful incantation known as the Seven Words. "Melenkurion" means bastion or source; "abatha" means endurance, or the need for it; "duroc" means Earthpower, a type of energy, in a theurgic sense; "minas" means Earthpower as a foundation; and "khabaal" has numerous meanings. The sixth word, "harad", which signifies a commitment not to use Earthpower for dark purposes, is omitted here; it had not been revealed until the then-recent eighth volume, so it is unclear whether its omission from the episode is significant or intentional. When a fan told Donaldson, who had never heard of Torchwood, about the reference, he replied that "if it isn't a) an "homage" or b) an in-joke, then it's just stupid. I suggest that we all simply enjoy it for whatever we think it is. Unless the makers of "Torchwood" know something I don't? <muffled gasp>" However, Donaldson was impressed when an anonymous fan subsequently told him that Davies was a huge fan of the Covenant books and re-read them once a year.
- When asked by Jack to give him the passcode for the alien morgue, Owen gives the code “231165” - this may be a reference to the date 23/11/1963 when the first episode of Doctor Who was aired, although the last digit is incorrect.
- 3.3 million BBC Two viewers, with an AI of 87%
- 1.0 million BBC Three viewers
- 4.32 million viewers - final BARB rating
to be added
- At 41:30, while Gwen and Jack are walking during the conversation "I'm getting reports of twelve people dead", the camera can be clearly seen reflected in the glass as they approach the door.
- When the black smoke is coming out of Owens mouth, the projection behind him can be seen flashing 95%, despite having previously shown 100%. Flashing back a couple moments later and it once again reads 100%.
- The resurrection gauntlet Suzie Costello used is mentioned, as are the events that occurred when Gwen used it revive her. (TV: Everything Changes, They Keep Killing Suzie)
- Owen remembers that he got shot. (TV: Reset)
- The concept of the afterlife as an empty black nothingness inhabited by a lurking entity in the dark has been addressed before, by John Tucker, Suzie Costello and Jack himself. (TV: Everything Changes, They Keep Killing Suzie, Out of Time)
- Owen has displayed a connection with the Weevils before. (TV: Combat)
- Tosh uses the translator she once stole from the Hub to translate what Owen says while possessed by Duroc. (TV: Everything Changes)
Home video releases
- Dead Man Walking, along with the rest of Torchwood Series 2, was released in a complete series box set in 2008.
- It was also released in the Series 1-4 boxset (Region 2 release: 14 November 2011.)
- Ianto mentions that the team pulled the first Resurrection gauntlet out of the harbour "last year", setting this story the year after TV: Everything Changes.
- BARB Ratings - April, 2008
- Dead Man Walking at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Dead Man Walking at The Locations Guide
- The Discontinuity Guide to: Dead Man Walking at The Whoniverse