Tommy Brockless (Anthony Lewis) is a shell-shocked World War One soldier. In 1918, Torchwood agents (Roderic Culver and Siobhan Lewlett) remove him from the Saint Teilo’s Military College and put him in cryonic storage. They leave a message for future Torchwood agents that Tommy will save the world. One day a year, they release him for a medical check-up. They have done so for a hundred years.
Toshiko (Naoko Mori) agrees to keep him company. Jack (John Barrowman) and Gwen (Eve Myles) learn that the Cardiff Hospital is prey to time distortions. Moments from 1918 are popping up in the present time. Tosh and Tommy grow closer, and he kisses her. Owen (Burn Gorman) warns her to be careful. He should talk! Jack realizes that he will have to travel back to 1918 and activate a Rift Key to fix the time distortion problem. Tommy is scheduled to be executed for cowardice in three days in 1918. Jack persuades Tosh that Tommy must return.
After Tosh and Tommy spend the night together, the disruptions at the hospital intensify. The present team sees the 1918 team. Jack relays a message through Tommy that they must take the 1918 version of Tommy into custody before the present one is returned. Tommy has instructions about using the Rift Key, but when he returns, he is shell-shocked once more and cannot operate the Key. Jack and Tosh project an image of Tosh into Tommy’s mind. She is able to instruct him in using the Rift Key and the distortions end. Tosh knows he was executed long ago and brushes off Owen’s sympathy.
The practice of executing the shell-shocked was instituted by General Douglas Haig during the First World War. Tommy, watching footage of the Iraq War, realizes nothing has changed. Every time he wakes up, it seems there is another war. In 2006, 306 soldiers were posthumously pardoned for cowardice, most of whom were shell-shocked. The episode was praised for the use of Toshiko. Tommy is played by Anthony Lewis, the brother of Matthew Lewis, who plays Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies. The story was written by Helen Raynor. George Carlin wrote a brilliant monologue on how shellshock became post-traumatic stress-disorder.