Adrift was the eleventh episode in the second series of Torchwood. It was an unusually Gwen-heavy plot that also featured a larger-than-normal role for PC Andy Davidson. For contemporary audiences, it would also have been notable for its use of Ruth Jones, a then-prominent Welsh actor.
Jonah Bevan is walking home across the Cardiff Bay Barrage when a bright light appears. Six seconds later he is gone. Seven months later, at the instigation of PC Andy Davidson, Gwen is investigating the disappearance of Jonah. Her research reveals there are more cases resembling Jonah’s disappearance. Toshiko discovers that these disappearances happened during a negative spike of rift activity, which were previously discarded as aftershock. Gwen then compiles a list of all missing persons and informs Jack. However, Jack tells Gwen that nothing can be done and orders her to stop the investigation, which she refuses to do.
The investigation slowly turns into an obsession and takes a toll on the relationship between Gwen and Rhys. Returning to the Hub, Gwen interrupts Jack and Ianto during a sexual encounter and, after apologizing, tells Jack that she wants to continue the investigation. Jack sternly refuses, but Ianto secretly gives Gwen a GPS device with coordinates to a hidden location, leading Gwen to a facility on Flat Holm. It harbors 17 of the missing people that the rift took and subsequently brought back, including Jonah, the boy she has been looking for. However, he has aged 40 years and is very deformed. Gwen also finds Jack there, and she demands access to Jonah. Jonah tells how he was stuck on a “burning planet” and how he was taken into a building that was actually a rescue craft, from which he witnessed the burning of a solar system. Afterwards, Jack reveals that he set up the facility when he first took command of Torchwood, in order to care for the victims of the rift, who had previously been locked away in the vaults.
Gwen brings Nikki, Jonah’s mother, in to see him under the supervision of a facility staff member. At first she is horrified, believing it to be a cruel joke, but Jonah starts telling her things that only he would know. Nikki calms and they hug for a moment, but when Jonah tells the staff member with growing distress that he can feel “it” starting up, she urgently tells Nikki to get away from him. She resists and says that she can take care of him. However Jonah starts screaming, a scream so horrible that everyone flees. Gwen reveals that the scream lasts for 20 hours every day because he looked into the heart of a Dark star, which drove him insane.
A week later, Gwen goes to see Nikki, who implores her not to show the island to anyone else. She states that it would have been better for her to have remembered her son as he was, rather than to know of his true fate. Gwen takes down her notes over the missing. Nikki packs up Jonah’s room and, knowing he can never return home, breaks down into sobs. At home that night, Gwen prepares a romantic candle-lit dinner for Rhys, who, realizing that she is shouldering a massive heartbreak, instead lets her cry into his chest. Rhys comforts his wife and lets her confide her sorrowful experience with him.