Countrycide was the sixth episode in the first series of Torchwood. It continued to push the boundaries of an after-watershed time slot and contained strong graphic elements beyond the family-friendly archetypes of Doctor Who.
The episode is interesting for its almost complete abandonment of science fictional elements. It has no aliens, no display of Jack’s superhuman abilities and no technology beyond what was reasonably available in the year the episode was broadcast. However, it doesn’t entirely turn its back on its sci-fi roots, since the characters initially fear that the strange goings on in rural Wales are the result of the Cardiff Rift. Regardless, it is considered the least fantastical televised episode in the DWU since the sci-fi-lite adventure Black Orchid.
In terms of the ongoing Torchwood narrative, it was important for advancing Gwen’s burgeoning sexual fling with Owen, which evolved into a stint of cheating on her lover Rhys Williams. Of perhaps more long-lasting impact was the fact that it gave a clear indication of Tosh’s attraction to Owen, and his diffidence towards her — a theme that would pick up steam in the latter half of series 2 and form the emotional basis of their final scene.
A woman is on the phone with her dad when she loses signal. She stops her car when she sees something resembling a body laid out on the road. Taking with her a baseball bat, she ventured outside to see if he’s okay. As she nears the corpse, she realizes it’s actually a football in a hoodie. She sees a flash out of the corner of her eye, and runs back to her car. Her car’s not starting, her car keys are gone, and her mobile’s not working. Someone from the outside unlocks the doors, and begins to pull her out of the vehicle. She screams out of sheer terror.
The Torchwood team responds to reports of 17 people missing in the same 20-mile radius in the Brecon Beacons using the last mobile phone signal from the last disappearance as their starting point.
After stopping at a rural hamburger stand, they begin to set up camp. During friendly chatter, Owen reveals that his last kiss was with Gwen, prompting the others to get more details. Owen and Gwen quickly go off to get firewood, Gwen scolding Owen for revealing the kiss, when they suddenly see two hooded figures through the trees. They try to chase them, but instead find a corpse. As the team investigates it to determine the cause of death, they hear their SUV start and drive off without the team. Ianto tracks the vehicle to a nearby village; Jack believes that the corpse was a lure to make them come to the village, and warns the team to be alert as they split up to investigate.
Jack, Gwen and Owen search the pub and nearby homes to find two further corpses, each stripped to the carcass much like the first. Other than that, the homes are deserted, save for one young man named Kieran who accidentally shoots and wounds Gwen with a shotgun, believing “they” had come back for him.
Jack tries to calm Kieran down, but the man insists the only way to protect themselves is to barricade themselves in a building. Jack orders his group to the pub to create a defensive position while Owen tends to Gwen’s wound. They learn from Kieran more about the victims, still unsure if they are dealing with aliens from the Rift. Suddenly, though, as they discuss possibilities, the lights go out and movement comes from both outside the pub and from within the pub’s cellar. The diversion prevents them from keeping Kieran from being dragged away, and Gwen and Owen try to follow against Jack’s orders. Jack stays behind to interrogate Martin, the man he shot from the cellars. Gwen and Owen come across a policeman named Huw, who says that he is there for the town meeting that night. The man directs the two towards one of the lit buildings in the village.
Meanwhile, Toshiko and Ianto attempt to find the SUV, but are both quickly captured. They awake in a cellar full of old clothes, shoes and a refrigerator full of human body parts; Toshiko realizes they are to be food for their captors. The cellar door opens, and a scared woman named Helen enters the room holding a shotgun to the two, learns from them of the other Torchwood members, and then tells them that she cannot help them; she has been asked to collect the two for the “Harvest” which happens every ten years. They are taken into a kitchen filled with body parts and corpses. Toshiko quickly realizes that Helen is acting, and that she and others are cannibals. A man named Evan begins to handcuff them to be prepared for butchering. Ianto headbutts Evan, allowing Toshiko to escape, pursued by Evan. Evan catches up to Toshiko and starts strangling her, but before he can choke her to death, Owen and Gwen, along with Huw, show up to stop him. Evan looks unconcerned as Huw reveals himself to be Evan’s nephew, and the two lead the three Torchwood members back to the village at gunpoint.
Just before Ianto is cut open and bled, Jack, having learned of the villager’s intent from Martin, bursts through the building on a tractor, and disables the assembled villagers. They spare Evan’s life to try to learn the truth: that every ten years, the village target travelers passing through the area, and butcher them. When Gwen demands to know why, Evan simply whispers to her, “‘Cause it made me happy.” which Gwen finds to be highly disturbing. The surviving villagers are taken into custody by the police.
After returning to Cardiff, Gwen looks outside the windows of Owen’s flat and thinks about how she cannot share any of her Torchwood experiences with anyone, including her boyfriend Rhys. Owen then appears behind her, and reassures Gwen that she can talk to him. They kiss in the nude, and begin a long-lasting sexual relationship.