Doctor Who #784: Adam

"Our memories define us. Adam changed those memories, he changed who we are. Now I have to help you all go back. Find a memory that defines you, rediscover who you are. If I'm wrong, he'll still be here when we've done this."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.13 2008.

IN THIS ONE... An alien that infiltrates and changes your memories fanfics Torchwood in his image.

REVIEW: I love the frisson I get from this episode, because to me, we really are the sum of our memories, and any force that changes them (yes, even the passage of time) is a disturbing violation. (With that word, the TNG episode Violations just came flooding back, because it has the same premise, though it failed where Torchwood succeeded.) Adam is a living, false memory that has inserted himself into the lives of the Torchwood team, and whether for fun or as a side-effect, has changed their personalities. Most notably, Tosh and Owen have changed roles - her the sexually confident one, him the shy homebody suffering unrequited love. All trust Adam implicitly, though he's really only been around 24 hours, and he's still tweaking their memories in front of our very eyes. Ianto is turned into a tortured psychotic killer of women. Tosh into a pliable and obsessed love partner. And the process has unforeseen effects - Gwen forgets Rhys, causing an anomaly that eventually makes Adam's story unravel, and Jack has hallucinations drawn from repressed memories of his childhood and his lost brother Gray (there's that name again). And we're affected to, or didn't you notice the clever inserts of Adam into the opening sequence?

Seeing the cast twisted like this fills this viewer with dread and apprehension. It's psychological horror that works for me. However, the episode also manages to explore the characters' pasts. These aren't alternate-universe versions of Torchwood, they're the real deal with only SOME things changed. The biggest revelation, of course, is that Jack lost his little brother during an alien raid when he was a kid, which sets up the season finale and tells us a little something about what Jack is running from, and why he might have joined the Time Agency. This might have been a good time to address the memories the Agency took from him, though we could easily imagine these moments from his childhood were part of what was lost, only now coming back thanks to Adam's prodding. Less tragic is how Gwen and Rhys met and fell in love, sweet and amusing. It's lovely to see Gwen fall for the big lug all over again, and experience first-time sex with a partner who knows all the right buttons to push. From what we see, Toshiko is driven by a mixture of brainy self-love and crushing loneliness (I know it well), while Owen's difficult relationship with women may stem from his mommy issues (see Versions). Ianto gets the short straw, mostly thinking of Lisa, nothing new there, and we even hate his cyber-girlfriend a little bit.

The set-up is brilliant, harrowing stuff, but the resolution is... bizarre. I do like the idea that Adam can only be defeated if he is forgotten, and using retcon to do this is a great use of the tools on hand (as opposed to inventing some convenient new alien tech). Adam's last ditch attempt to stay alive is equally great, trying to infiltrate a cherished lost memory, forcing Jack to sacrifice the memory if he wants to destroy the monster. Because of course everything needs to be reset and undone, but it doesn't feel cheap because a price is paid. And I like the lyrical (and ambiguous?) epilogue with Adam's puzzle box opening and revealing simple sand, at once evoking Adam's remains, Jack's beach front memory, and the idea of memories slipping away with time (sand in an hourglass). What's bizarre is the retcon-taking scene. It's like something out of a cult's suicide pact, with Jack acting as cult leader, imprinting himself as some kind of loving Messiah in each his teammates' lives. Some of the memories and feelings they share are out of left field, especially Owen's (though they make sense), and Gwen admitting she "loves" Jack in some other way (she implies a LESSER way) than she does Rhys. I wish they'd stop beating that dead horse, it really doesn't fit with anything we've actually seen in the series. But I'll forgive this strange scene, given everything else in this episode.

The DVD includes three deleted scenes from this episode. A long bit where Owen is embarrassed at the mention of sex. Gwen spooning with Rhys. And a phone call between Owen and his overbearing mother, making sense of his latching on to that memory.

- A creepy psycho-thriller, ironically quite memorable.



Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Orville The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine