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Home > Entertainment, Film / TV, Review / Recap, Reviews > Review: Torchwood – Series 1-3 (2006-2009)

Review: Torchwood – Series 1-3 (2006-2009)

June 28th, 2010

The third Series of Torchwood is clearly the cream of the crop, but the entire run is enjoyable.

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 cast of Torchwood is good, but John Barrowman and Eve Myles really stand out in their performances.

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

  1. July 13th, 2010 at 22:43 | #1

    I’ve been following your blog since you’ve linked to it on (I’m one half of tddores)…and I really enjoy your thoughts. Torchwood sounds pretty good, and I’ll check it out, but your review above prompted me to ask this question: For someone who has never watched one episode of Dr. Who, where would you start? I want to watch it, I know I’ll like it – I like so many similar TV shows, movies and books (I can tell you what they are if it would help) – but there is such a huge backstory to Dr. Who that I don’t know where to begin.

    Oh, and BTW, I bought The Passage last night but am waiting to read it until I get past the next week or two at work.

    Jason Truss VU’96

  2. admin
    July 18th, 2010 at 00:57 | #2

    Thanks Jason. Yeah, Dr. Who… I sort of have the same problem as you. I’m generally aware of it, but have never watched it because I just don’t know how one would hop into it without starting from the beginning and then you ask what the heck the beginning is (for a show that’s had so many iterations). I haven’t tried as there are a number of other series I’ve queued up to start watching on DVD.

    Torchwood is a tough call. If you liked X-Files, then watch the first two Series. If you didn’t, just stick to Children of the Earth and read the Wiki page for Series 1 and 2 to get the background. Children of the Earth is some of the better true Sci Fi on TV. Excellent stuff.

    Thanks for following the blog. Sorry I’ve been too swamped to keep it up to date of late. I really am hoping to get my review of the Passage up this week. It was awesome.

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