“The speed of light is 299,792,458 metres per second. Pain travels through the body at 350 feet per second. Even a sneeze can reach 100 miles per hour. And as for life, well, that just bloody whizzes by…”
Eugene Jones wakes up and finds himself lying in the middle of a country road, with no knowledge of how he got here. He sits up and looks around confused, then approaches some nearby vehicles. The police are cordoning off an area of the road and he sees Gwen, Jack and Tosh by the Torchwood SUV. He calls out a greeting to them, but they ignore him and continue with their investigation. They’re examining the body of a young man killed in a road traffic accident. The victim was hit at 50 miles an hour, then he bounced off the bonnet and smashed his face on the road. Gwen wonders if he was hit deliberately, perhaps because he really did have something important to show them. Jack has deduced that he was hit by a red car as there’s paint under the victim’s fingernails. Eugene is shocked to see that the dead body on the verge looks exactly like him. It slowly dawns on him that he’s dead, and when he reaches out to touch Gwen, his hand passes straight through her…
A mobile phone rings not far from Eugene’s body and Tosh answers it. It’s Eugene’s mother Bronwen telling him she’s just got back from a shopping trip. Gwen takes the phone and tells Bronwen that something’s happened and she needs to talk to her. The group head back to the SUV and Eugene decides to stick with them. He climbs into the vehicle and sits next to Gwen, although none of the group are aware of his presence. He looks in the rear-view mirror, but there’s no reflection and he realises he’s invisible. Gwen checks the photos on Eugene’s mobile, but they seem to be just pictures of people’s shoes, apparently taken randomly. He‘s still not sure whether he’s a ghost or a zombie, but he’s thinks he’ll be OK if he sticks with Torchwood. Whatever’s happened to him, he’s somewhere he always wanted to be.
“Let’s back up a bit. I mean, every story’s got a beginning. I think mine started here - the final of the inter-school maths competition, 1992. I used to be a maths-head. Binary coding, topology, quadratics, I love stuff like that and I’m supposed to be really good at it. Dad took the day off work to come and see me, but when the moment mattered I blanked. Let the side down. Made a mess of it. Everyone blamed me for losing the final, but it must have been what happened afterwards that started this whole thing off…”
The young 14-year old Eugene sits alone in the science classroom, depressed by his failure during the maths competition. His teacher, Mr Garrett, tries to take his mind off things by showing him something from his private collection. He explains that he plays golf, and one day when he was playing really badly, an object fell out of the sky and landed beside him. Mr Garrett gets the object out of the classroom cupboard and shows it to Eugene. It’s the size of a golf ball, but when you look at it closely it looks more like an eye. The teacher lets him keep it, and Eugene is examining it when his father bursts in angrily and orders him home.
“Dad was mad at me for losing the final, but now I had the eye - and what I realised was, if it fell from the sky, it probably…no, it almost certainly belonged to an alien. That was the night dad went away, but it was OK because I had the eye and the possibility of an alien encounter. I mean, if you leave something really important behind, you come back and get it. Don’t you..? God, I wanted that alien to come back and claim his eye more than I wanted anything in my life. I worked out the possible provenance, the life form and galaxy, planetary escape velocities, launch windows, necessary fuel capacities. And then, I waited. My dad never came back. As I got older I became interested in UFOs, collected alien artefacts, watched the stars and waited alone for my alien. And then I found you, Gwen Cooper.”
The first time Eugene met Gwen was when she arrived at the scene of an earlier incident. He nervously tried to tell her he was a keen follower of their work and that he had something to show them. He tried to hand her some paperwork, but she was called away by Jack and the papers were caught in the wind and blown away. On another occasion, Eugene met the group again and he tried to ignore Owen’s rude dismissal while he spoke to Gwen, but once again she was too busy to stop. He couldn’t quite make contact or get her interested in the eye, no matter how hard he tried.
Back in the present day, Eugene is with Gwen at the moment she tells his mother that he’s dead. At first Bronwen can’t comprehend it and thinks they must have mis-identified the body, but as the truth sinks in it becomes too much for her and she breaks down in tears. Eugene’s tea is still on the stove being reheated, waiting for his return. Eugene heads for his bedroom where he finds Owen and Ianto going through his belongings, looking for clues. They find a flyer advertising a forthcoming lecture on ’Black Holes and the Uncertainty Principle’, and in his cupboard there are a number of alien-looking items, all carefull labelled.
Downstairs, Gwen breaks the news to Eugene’s younger brother Terry, but the boy seems completely disinterested and continues watching the television. He tells Gwen their dad works for a big corporation in America, but before she can find out more, Owen calls her out. She joins the others examining the artefacts in the cupboard, but despite Eugene’s genuine belief that they’ve been authenticated as genuine, the group dismisses them as fakes and bric-a-brac. Gwen notices one item seems to be missing, but when she asks Bronwen about it, the mother just wants to talk about the hit-and-run driver. Eventually the group pack up some of Eugene’s possessions to take back to their base. Bronwen watches them leave, then goes back inside and closes the door. Eugene tries to reassure her that everything will be OK, but she can’t hear him.
Gwen, Owen and Ianto return to the Hub, followed by Eugene. The young man is amazed at the interior of the Torchwood base and examines the equipment with the eyes of a child in a sweet shop. He’s in Heaven - and for just a moment he wonder whether that’s where he might actually be! Gwen is still curious to know what Eugene was doing in the middle of the road in the first place, but Owen suspects he was probably just categorising chevrons like any other geek. He believes she’s feeling guilty because Eugene had a bit of a thing about her, but she denies this. Owen challenges her to conduct the examination of the body while he gets on with some admin, and to prove a point she agrees. Eugene follows them into the autopsy room just as Gwen unzips the body bag to reveal his own dead body inside. Gwen leans over the body and prepares to use the scalpel - and Eugene faints! Just then Ianto arrives with the news that a red Vauxhall has been stopped outside Carmarthen with a very drunk driver who’s admitted knocking someone down near Cardiff that fits Eugene’s description. Owen is satisfied there is nothing more to the case than a simple hit-and-run and wants to get on with some proper work.
Some time later, Eugene wakes up again. He’s still on the stairs by the autopsy room where he fainted, and his dead body is lying untouched on the slab. He decides to return home where he watches his mother through the window, crying. Back at the Hub, Gwen asks the others whether they think Eugene may have committed suicide, but Tosh points out that it was a straight-forward road accident and there wasn’t even any alien involvement. Gwen isn’t so sure, as something seems really odd to her. She’s not sure what exactly, but she just feels there’s something else going on. Owen is getting angry with her insinuations that she’s the only one of the group with a heart and he starts bickering with her until Jack intervenes.
The next day Gwen finds Owen watching “A for Andromeda” on the Hub monitor and realises it’s from Eugene’s DVD collection. He tells her the disc was on loan from a local video store and he was planning to take it back, but she offers to do it herself, which suits Owen as there’s likely to be a fine. Before she leaves, she packs away some of Eugene’s other belongings, but decides to pocket his mobile phone in case it proves useful. Later, Gwen enters the café next door to the video shop to see if the owner knows when the shop will open, but he can’t help. Eugene arrives and is delighted to find Gwen in his local café, but when she asks the owner if he remembers serving someone with Eugene’s description he can’t remember him. Eugene is angry as he used to come to the café and order two eggs, ham and chips every single day. Gwen decides to stay for a bite to eat and orders two eggs, ham and chips. Eugene is finding the whole experience weird - he used to follow Gwen around all the time, but now it seems like she’s following him. As she waits for her order, Gwen toys with Eugene’s phone and calls up the photos of random shoes. Eugene can’t remember taking the photos and doesn’t recognise any of the shoes. He tells Gwen to phone his friend Gary in case he can tell her something, and even though she can’t hear him, Gwen suddenly gets the idea to scan through the list of names on the phone. She selects the name Gary and calls the number…
After her lunch, Gwen calls at the video rental shop, followed by the invisible Eugene. The shop manager, a young man called Josh, makes an immediate attempt to chat Gwen up, but she tells him she’s here to drop off some DVDs on behalf of someone who died. Josh vaguely remembers Eugene’s name and says he was a bit of a dreamer who used to come in here with a mate. He charges Gwen £34 for the late return of the discs, claiming that Eugene borrowed them months ago and it wouldn’t be right to bend the rules just because he’s dead. It’s obvious to Gwen that he’s lying, but she pays anyway. Josh asks whether Eugene committed suicide as he had ‘loser‘ written through him and perhaps he couldn‘t live with being a failure.
“Failure? Is that right - has my life just been one big failure? I mean, maybe I never quite lived up to my early promise as a maths genius, but that’s because I was waiting for the alien to collect his eye and change my life. And while I was waiting, I joined Passmore Telesales selling kitchens, home insurance, barbecue sets… Selling life and still waiting. So how come I can remember the details of my daily fascinating life, but the vital couple of weeks before I died are still a complete mystery to me?”
Gwen visits Passmore Telesales and wanders around the sales floor comparing people’s shoes with the images on Eugene’s mobile phone. Eventually she finds Gary, the man she called earlier from the café. She asks him whether he saw Eugene on the day he died, but he says he didn’t. In fact, his colleagues are at that very moment signing a card that’s going around for Eugene’s mum - although one idiot has signed it ‘good luck in your new job’ and Gary storms off to see if he can remove it. Gwen is then called over by a young woman who asks her if it’s true that Eugene got run over. She starts to cry and introduces herself as Linda. She says Eugene wasn’t exactly the best salesman because he always acted true to himself and the boss Craig only kept him on out of the goodness of his heart. She doesn’t want to say anything more in the office because she’s dating Craig, so she agrees to meet Gwen at lunchtime for a chat. In the meantime, Gwen goes over to the desk where Eugene used to sit. As she looks around, she’s called by Owen who tells her Jack wants her back as soon as possible. Just before she leaves, she find another flyer advertising the lecture on ’Black Holes and the Uncertainty Principle’.
Later, Gwen meets up with Linda at a nearby pub to discuss things more privately. Linda tells Gwen that one day Eugene came into work feeling very low, although he wouldn’t say why. She was fed up too and happened to mention that she’d like to get away from it all and move to Australia. Eugene got very excited and told her she should go, but Linda didn’t have the money so Eugene said he’d buy a ticket for her. Gwen wonders if Eugene was in love with Linda, but she says he wasn’t. He’d told her that he was in love with someone else, but that person was unobtainable. Eugene is listening in on the whole conversation and is embarrassed because that person is Gwen. Linda thinks Eugene just wanted to help and he told her not to sit there and waste her life away waiting for something that may never happen. Gwen wonders where he was going to get the money from, and Linda tells her Eugene was planning to sell his ’alien artefact’.
The next day he brought it into work to show everyone, but they dismissed it as just a plastic eye. But Eugene was convinced it was an alien body part and thought he could sell it on eBay - although Linda suspected it might not get her the bus fare into town, let alone a flight to Sydney. Eugene went ahead and put the eye up for auction and, not surprisingly, it just sat there for a few days until out of the blue a bid was put in for £2.50. Then a few more bids were made until it reached £75, then £200, then £300, £1000... It kept on going up until it reached £3000. And then one day it suddenly jumped to £15,000, and then finally £15,005 and fifty pence. Unfortunately she has no idea who bought it. Gwen’s phone rings again and it’s Eugene’s mum on the other end telling her there’s something she should see…
When Gwen arrives at Eugene’s house, his mother shows her a video recording that his dad took of the night when the 14-year old Eugene lost the inter-school maths competition. In the background, they can hear his dad cursing his son for letting him down. Bronwen tells Gwen that the science teacher gave Eugene the eye as a sort of consolation prize. Eugene’s younger brother Terry joins them and says that was the night their dad walked out on the family for good. Terry has no time for Eugene and upsets his mother by bad-mouthing him. Bronwen insists that her husband only left because he had a very important job and when Gwen asks whether anyone’s told him yet about Eugene’s death, she claims she’s had trouble tracking him down because he works for a very large American corporation. Terry refutes that and says he’s actually a night cashier at a local garage in Filey Road. He claims Eugene discovered the truth about two weeks ago after searching the internet. Bronwen breaks down in tears again and the ghost of Eugene is clearly shocked as he’d forgotten all about this.
“Now I remember why I sold the eye. Life can be such a letdown, can’t it? All those years I believed my dad had gone to America because I was a failure - and here he was, all along, doing his important secret work in Filey Road, Cardiff. When I found him I couldn’t even bear to say hello. I’d spent my life believing in stupid stories, fantasises. I’d wasted my life. Once I’d seen him there, everything I’d dreamed about was like rubbish. Just a crock of nuts. Including the eye. So why not sell it, along with the woodworm treatment and loft insulation and all the other crap floating around the world? Linda was welcome to the money.”
Gwen visits the garage late at night and sees Eugene’s dad Shaun working outside. She starts to get out of the car, but the invisible Eugene sitting next to her begs her to stop. He pleads with her not to have anything to do with him, then tells Gwen he’s sorry. Gwen says that it’s OK, and drives off.
Gwen returns to the Hub and starts collecting together some more of Eugene’s belongings. Jack joins her and she tells him Eugene didn’t understand why his father left and he just needed a bit of help. Jack points out that he’s dead, but she knows that already. She can’t explain what’s bothering her, so Jack decides to get back to work. The invisible Eugene is worried that Gwen is going to let the matter drop, so he urges her to continue. He prompts her about the £15,000 so Gwen goes back to Jack and tells him about the alien eye. Jack thinks it sounds like a Dogun ‘sixth eye’. There was a trade in them a little while back - they let you see where you’ve been and helps you put things in perspective. They’re useful, fun, and slightly terrifying, which is why they’re in such demand. Gwen says she can track it down and he gives her until the weekend. She’s not sure where to start, but then she finds the advert for the lecture on ’Black Holes and the Uncertainty Principle’. It’s being held at the North Wales Astronomy Convention and the Science and Natural History Museum at Aberystwyth University. Eugene suddenly remembers that he was planning to attend with his friend Gary…
Eugene also remembers that for some reason black holes and anti-matter were pretty important to him and Gary. He joins Gwen in her car as she drives to Aberystwyth and looks forward to spending the night with her. When they arrive at the Museum, Eugene is impressed but Gwen isn’t really sure what she’s looking for - until she unexpectedly bumps into Gary. He’s shocked to see her and runs off, then returns sheepishly a few seconds later. He tells Gwen he’s not proud of what he’s done. He reveals that he created three or four online aliases and used them to inflate the bids on the auction for the alien eye. At first he did it just to cheer Eugene up, then when the bidding took off he continued in the hope that he could help raise some extra money. Then one morning Eugene caught up with Gary outside work while he was having a cigarette break and told him he thought the alien was the one doing the bidding and had come back to claim what was rightfully his. Eugene admitted that he’d recently stopped believing in the alien and was starting to think he was a total sucker, but now he was certain no one else would be bidding that sort of money unless it was genuine. He guessed that the alien couldn’t contact him any other way, so was doing so via cyberspace, namely eBay. He was convinced that he was finally going to meet the alien…
Gary tells Gwen that he was doubtful until the unexpected bid of £15,000 turned up out of nowhere. He reasons that no one would spend that kind of money unless it was their own personal body part. Eugene now remembers that he got an email telling him to meet the buyer at a nearby restaurant. Gary admits to Gwen that he saw Eugene the day he died and met up with him just before he went to meet the alien. Gwen shows him the photos of shoes on the Eugene’s mobile phone. She’s realised one of the pictures is of him, but she wants to know who the other people are, but he thinks the photos were just taken randomly.
That night, Gwen goes back to her hotel room and looks again at the photos of random shoes. Eugene is with her and is starting to remember that on the day he died he called a taxi and put the eye in a freezer bag, then he recalls walking towards a door with a sign on it that had something to do with happiness. Gwen goes through some more of Eugene’s belongings and finds a piece of paper with an illustration of a smiling face. But Eugene no longer wants Gwen to find out what happened to him as he doesn’t want this to end. He now knows that he loves Gwen. She gets up and crosses to the window where Eugene’s ghost is standing and her face moves close to his. He gently blows in her hair, and she closes the curtains to keep out the draught. Later, she goes to bed and as she sleeps, her hand inadvertently caresses Eugene. The next day, Gwen drives down the motorway and Eugene starts to recognise their destination. She sees a notice board promoting a restaurant called ’Happy Cook’, which contains an illustration of a smiling face. Gwen drives into the car park and goes inside. Inside the restaurant, Gwen sees a waitress wearing one of the pairs of shoes in Eugene’s photo collection.
Eugene remembers his last day, as he walked inside the restaurant wondering who he was going to meet…and to his surprise he discovered his mates Gary and Josh were waiting for him. He went over to them and asked them to leave because his rendezvous was expected at any moment. Josh revealed that they were the buyers. Eugene was shocked and produced the ’merchandise’. Gary admitted that they bid for the eye as a joke to cheer him up and Josh laughs at Eugene for thinking they were the alien. However, they weren’t the ones who bid £15,000 and it turned out there had been genuine interest in the item. Unfortunately Josh got greedy and couldn’t resist one more measly little bid, so he upped the bid to £15,005 and fifty pence - and then they got stick with it. The point is, they were now the official purchasers, but the best they could collect together was £34. Eugene was angry and got out his phone to call a cab, but the waitress returned with his milkshake and it was then that he took the pictures of everyone‘s shoes. Eugene realised that his ’friends’ were planning to resell the eye online and he still believed the alien was out there and was prepared to pay anything to get it back. Josh told him not to be so stupid - he’d the checked the online history of the person who bid £15,000 and found his name was Mr C Blackstaff and he was a collector of alien ephemera, Nazi memorabilia and Beenie babies. He was obviously a bit cuckoo, but was extremely rich and if he was prepared to pay that much money… Josh leant forward and tried to grab the eye from Eugene’s hand, but it fell to the floor and there was a struggle with both men fighting to get hold of it…
The waitresses picked the eye up of the floor and looked at it with distaste. Josh grabbed it from her and tried to run out, but Eugene leapt on him and they both fell to the ground. Eugene no longer knew whether he believe the eye was genuine or not, but he was damned if he was going to let it go for just £34 and a milkshake. He picked the eye off the floor again and then swallowed it! For a second his entire body shimmered - before Josh grabbed him from behind and tried to perform a Heimlich Maneuver on him to get the eye back. With Josh holding him, Gary poured the milkshake down Eugene’s throat, but he managed to struggle free. Josh punched him in the face, then Eugene turned and fled from the restaurant…
The waitress finishes telling Gwen the story of the incident. By this stage, they were starting to inconvenience the other customers and making a public spectacle of themselves, so she stepped in to split them up. Just then, Josh and Gary return to the restaurant. Unaware that Gwen is standing just a few feet away, Josh tells the waitress that a woman may come in to ask some questions about what happened here last week, and it would be in her best interests to keep quiet. Gwen steps forward and when Josh sees her, he tries to flee for the door - but Gary trips him up. He’s angry with Josh and admits that he misses his old friend Eugene.
Gwen questions Josh and Gary. They tell her Eugene ran out of the door and they chased after him, but they lost him when he outran them and headed across the road. Satisfied they’re telling the truth, Gwen makes a decision and calls directory enquiries to get the telephone number for the garage in Filey Road. She speaks to Shaun Jones and introduces herself as a friend of his son, Eugene. She tells him she has some bad news… Now Eugene finally remembers what happened in the moment leading up to his death. He recalls running across a field not far from the restaurant, his ears still ringing from when Josh punched him. He ran out into the path of a red Vauxhall, was knocked across the bonnet and left dying on the side of the road.
Later, Eugene attends his own funeral service. He should be feeling upset because his mates cheated on him and he didn’t get to meet any aliens, but he now realises that when he swallowed the eye at the Happy Cook, he was given a chance to look back on his life and see it for what it really was. The turnout at the funeral isn’t particularly huge, but apart from his mum and his brother, his friend Gary is also there, and so is Gwen. Most importantly, so is his father, who he hasn’t seen properly for fourteen years. Bronwen goes up to the stand with some notes, but she breaks down in tears and is unable to go through with her speech. Eugene’s dad Shaun goes over to her and takes her place in front of the mourners. As he says a few words, Eugene realises his dad didn’t leave because of him after all. His dad was just an ordinary bloke who made a mess of things. Shaun starts to sing ‘Danny Boy’ and Eugene momentarily panics as his coffin descends, before disappearing out of sight completely. As the service concludes, he knows that both he and his dad have missed out on their life together.
Eugene waits patiently as Gwen paces nervously up and down outside the crematorium. The back door opens and one of the staff hands Gwen a package containing the alien eye which has now been retrieved from Eugene’s body. He knows that he’s going to have to go soon as it was the eye that was keeping him here and it’s no longer inside him…but why hasn’t he gone already? Why is he still hanging around?
The mourners start to arrive at Bronwen’s house for the wake. Gwen approaches from the opposite side of the road, but pauses for a second to speak to Eugene - who she knows has been accompanying him on her investigation. Just then, the Torchwood SUV pulls up alongside her and Jack, Owen and Tosh get out. She shows them the eye, which impresses Jack. They’re keen to get back to the Hub to run some tests, but Gwen wants them to wait for her for a moment as she’s seen a taxi pulling up with Eugene’s father inside. She spots Bronwen and Eugene’s brother watching them nervously from outside the house. Shaun goes over to them and cautiously offers his hand to his younger son.
While this reunion is going on, Gwen watches from the road, unaware that she’s stepped out in front of a fast approaching vehicle. Eugene spots her just in time and leaps on her, bringing her safely to the ground. The eye falls from her grasp and rolls across the road. All the onlookers are amazed, including Jack and the others. No one is quite sure what made Gwen fall to the pavement, but Gwen looks up and actually sees Eugene on top of her. She’s shocked, but is delighted to see him. As he helps her to his feet, Eugene becomes aware that everyone else can see him too - including his mother and father. Gwen thanks him for saving her life and she gives him a long and heartfelt kiss. Eugene picks up the eye and gives it back to Gwen, then he says goodbye and slowly fades away. Gwen pleads with him not to go, but there’s nothing anyone can do…
“In an average lifetime, the human heart will beat two million times. You’ll produce over eight thousand gallons of saliva and grow three hundred and fifty miles of hair. You’ll eat the equivalent in weight of six elephants. The average life is full of near misses and absolute hits, of great love and small disasters. It’s made up of banana milkshakes, loft installation and random shoes. It’s dead ordinary and truly, truly amazing. What you’ve got to realise is, it’s all here now. So breathe deep and swallow it whole, because take it from me - life just whizzes by and then all of a sudden it’s…”