Jack, Gwen and Owen wait patiently at an airstrip as a prop plane makes its touchdown. The pilot and two passengers disembark and introduce themselves, although Jack seems to be more interested in what day they think it is. The pilot believes it's December 18th, 1953.
The time-displaced trio are led into the Hub, where Jack explains to them that they've fallen into a "transcendental portal" triggered by the Cardiff rift. From here, we spend the episode following our fish out of water as they grow acclimated to their new surroundings. Pilot Diane Holmes aches to get into the sky again, but finds a confidant in Owen. Businessman John Ellis bonds with Jack and yearns to find his son, who may still be living. Proper young lady Emma-Louise Cowell is having a harder time, having lost the family she depended on, and realizing that the modern woman is a much different person these days — but even she finds companionship in two young chavvish girls living in her hostel.
Gwen takes Emma under her wing as if she were a little sister, and teaches her about the new world. It ends up grating things with Rhys as he begins to discover the lies she has had to tell him while working for Torchwood. Emma takes the decision out of Gwen's hands by accepting a job in London, which she had always wanted to do.
Owen and Diane hit it off and have a lot of sex. They quite accidentally fall in love within the week, which terrifies Owen. In the end, the sky ends up being more important to Diane, and despite Owen's feelings for her, she departs in her plane for the wild unknown. Owen, very heartbroken while watching her go, is brought to tears when Diane flies back through the rift.
As for John, he's the one having the toughest time adjusting to The Future, which is punctuated when he warns Emma not to, either. He does finally find his son, now in his seventies and in a rest home with Alzheimer's. With no family and no place, he tries to kill himself. Jack stops him and explains that, being a Fish out of Temporal Water himself, he can promise that it gets better. John won't have it and kills himself regardless, with Jack by his side out of sheer sympathy.
Three people come to Torchwood, and they each leave in their own way. As a result, three members of Torchwood learn more about themselves in the process. And, as we'll soon see, Owen's about to go off the deep end.
- Ace Pilot: Diane.
- Breather Episode: No aliens. No monsters. No world-saving here. Just three lost people picking their lives up, and three members of Torchwood learning more about themselves.
- Of course, being Torchwood, the Breather Episode still includes one definite suicide, one act so dangerous it could be considered an attempted suicide with unknown results, and a failed love affair.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: For three time-displaced people from The '50s, this is a given. John's attitude towards Emma letting her hair down, for instance. While Emma has grown up around such an attitude, she's slowly learning to get past it.
- Driven to Suicide: John, when the loss of his whole family and his lack of place in the present day catch up to him.
- Fish out of Temporal Water
- I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: Gwen gets a bit of this for Emma. Mostly a Big Sister complex thing. One can easily see it when Emma says she has a job offer in London, which would take her away from Cardiff. It leads to conflict with Rhys.
- It's a Long Story: Jack's response to John asking him about himself.
- I "Uh" You, Too: Inverted. Owen describes in detail how horribly off and "out of focus" he feels when he's not with Diane. Diane's response? "I love you, too".
- Love Hurts: Owen learns this. Harsher in Hindsight because he previously fell in love with someone before and wanted to marry them, but lost her, too.Diane: The thing about love is that you're always at its mercy.
- Put on a Bus: Two cases, one literally. Diane flies off into the sky (and what's hinted indeed travelling through the rift), while Emma boards a bus to London to start a new job and life there.
- Twisted Christmas: It's set at and broadcast shortly before Christmas, and two of the three story threads end on fairly depressing notes.
- Whole Plot Reference: There are similarities between this episode and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Neutral Zone", in which three people from the late-20th century are discovered cryogenically frozen in the year 2364 and must adjust to the era they find themselves in. The primary difference between the two episodes is that the temporally-displaced people are the focus of the narrative here, while in that episode theirs is the B-story for the episode.