Review: Torchwood – Series 1-3 (2006-2009)
BBC America fans might be familiar with Torchwood, but it’s not terribly likely. It’s a bit of a shame, as this was one of the better serialized shows on TV in the sci-fi genre. For a country that really embraced The X-Files for nine seasons and two full length features, you’d think there could be a place for Torchwood.
I start with the X-Files reference because, for comparison purposes, it really is the most spot on. Torchwood is a serialized mystery show spun off from the BBC’s thirty-plus season Doctor Who phenomenon. It follows Doctor Who crossover Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and the Cardiff-based branch of a secret agency referred to as the Torchwood Institute.
It’s hard to decide to what degree of depth I should go into on the series mythology on this. I’m gonna go on the light side, but give just some of the basics. Cardiff is the Welsh city in which a space/time tear has opened a dimensional gateway of sorts. As a result, there’s a tremendous amount of alien activity in and around the city. The British Government commissioned the Torchwood Institute a long time ago to monitor and keep alien activity in check.
Click through to keep reading.
Harkness assembled a team to manage alien activity and exploit their technology to both protect humans and keep them ignorant of the goings on. The team includes computer specialist Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori), medical doctor Burn Gorman (Owen Harper) and administrator Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd). But the eyes and ears of the viewer are through Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), a Cardiff police officer who’s curiosity gets her recruited to the team.
Myles is quite easy to relate too, even if she can be a bit cheeky at times as Cooper. She’s the everywoman type of character. Not too brilliant at anything, but just smart and driven enough to be convincing as a key asset of the team. The other characters all have their eccentricities which makes Cooper all the more important as a grounding force. She’s a bit like Gillian Anderson’s Scully, but dumbed down without the MD and PhDs. Conversely, Harkness is somewhat otherworldly, and openly so. The rest of the team are all most definitely human and mortal, but just carry certain specialties.
The stories themselves vary in how good they are during the first two series. There is the overriding story arcs that cross over the course of the series, but most episodes are easily self-contained. None of the episodes were easily forgettable, but some highlights included “Greeks Bearing Gifts”, in which Tosh is granted through alien technology the ability to read minds. Instead of focusing on what a person with that ability can do, it focuses on the psychological interplay between characters.
But where Torchwood really exceeds is in its third series, a Five Hour Miniseries called Children of Earth. Although the background of the characters is key (only Harkness, Ianto, Gwen and Gwen’s husband Rhys are main characters for the Miniseries), it’s pretty much a self contained storyline involving the arrival of an alien species called the 4-5-6 who demand a tribute of ten percent of the world’s children. Harkness and team work to uncover the alien plot. Also interacting are the British government, led by civil servant John Frobisher (Peter Capaldi) and secretarial aide Lois Habiba (Cush Jumbo).
The storyline for Children of Earth is very tight and well written — more like a condensed version of the early seasons of 24. And the acting and production values are a step above of where they were in Series 1 and 2.
All in all, the entire run of the show is enjoyable, even if Children of Earth stands out. It’s a bit more adult than the traditional network show. In particular, it’s probably the most liberal non-niche show to be overtly pan-sexual. For those who might have a problem with that, this might not be the best show for you, but if you can get over girls and guys kissing folks of the same sex, and you like the sci-fi genre, you’ll find some enjoyment in this one.
Series 2 Trailer
Children of Earth Trailer