Some SPOILERS here.
TORCHWOOD, a spinoff of DOCTOR WHO, is yet another television show with nifty science-fiction and paranormal elements, and it IS a marvelous and fun show. The premise: the Torchwood Institute is a covert organization given the responsibility of being Great Britain's watchdog against all things malicious and extraterrestrial. This series revolves around the amazing exploits of Torchwood Three, a branch of the Torchwood Institute which operates out of Cardiff, Wales.
In the debut episode "Everything Changes," Policewoman Constable Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) witnesses a deceased stab victim's temporary return to life. This becomes her introduction to a hidden world of frightening monsters, incomprehensible alien technologies, and extreme paranoia. She meets the very charming Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), a man displaced in time and leader of Torchwood Three. Oh, and he can't die. He obligingly places Gwen in the loop: "We don't just catch aliens. We scavenge the stuff they leave behind, find ways of using it, arming the human race against the future." Fairly soon, after some fairly interesting - not to mention, harrowing - moments, Gwen finds herself recruited as the group's police liaison. And with a spacetime rift located in Wales, she and the other Torchwood members remain up to their necks in weirdness and peril. On a more personal scale, Gwen struggles to maintain a normal relationship with her lived-in boyfriend. It's not easy being Scully.
I happened to stumble onto this dark, moody series on the On Demand's BBC America channel and became speedily hooked. It's done by the Brits and they bring their sensibilities to the table. Its tone, while somewhat reminiscent of the X-FILES, also does remind me a bit of DOCTOR WHO, but that one's to be expected as these two shows are closely linked. In fact, the word "Torchwood" is an anagram of Doctor Who and was a security code used by the crew of that series to foil television piracy.
The sci-fi elements naturally loom large. The show immediately immerses the audience in its peculiar and scary universe lurking just behind the veil of normality. Cool and wondrous gadgets and concepts abound: perception filters, invisible lifts, ghost machines, time rifts, resurrection gloves - you know, screwy science-run-amok stuff. The show's contents do tend to stray toward more adult themes, and the casual use of earthy language underscores this. As a reflection of this maturity, the show isn't shy in depicting several of the team members as leaning towards an alternative lifestyle. Captain Jack Harkness himself is bisexual and disarmingly casual about it. In the sexually-charged "Day One" the baddie is a snog-happy (wonderful word, "snog") space creature who snuffs out its victims at the moment of orgasm (As Jack off-handedly comments regarding one casualty: "He just...came and went."). So, no, not for the young 'uns, this show.
There are 13 episodes in the first series, and they are thoughtful and lushly plotted and just as splashy as their American counterparts. The CG is certainly there. The mostly British actors are very good. Gwen Cooper is played by Welsh actress Eve Myles, and Gwen makes for an engaging and ideal point-of-view character. The popular Captain Jack Harkness, last seen in the DOCTOR WHO series, comfortably crosses over into this show and drags actor John Barrowman with him. Barrowman, by the way, is magnetic! The cast of characters is interesting and complex and develops as the series progresses, with team members keeping their share of dark and dangerous secrets. One of them even turns traitor, dies, and comes back from the dead. Needless to say, the group dynamics tend to be volatile.
One negative is that most of the episodes are self-contained, which introduces a certain faltering in overall cohesion and continuity. However, the episodes will still suck you in. The best ones, in my opinion, are "They Keep Killing Susie" (Former Torchwood member Susie Costello returns), "Out of Time" (great and melancholy episode with three aircraft passengers from 1953 disembarking in the present and forced to acclimate to this brave new world), "Captain Jack Harkness" (very good time travel story as Jack and Toshiko journey temporaly to 1941 and meet the real Captain Jack Harkness, whose identity Torchwood's Jack would soon steal), and the exciting season finale "End of Days" (Wales' time rift becomes unstable and begins causing disturbing temporal anomalies).
Hmm, the Doctor Who universe seems to be rapidly expanding. First, this riveting Torchwood offshoot and now followed by THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES (longtime Doctor Who-philes will recall investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith, a popular companion to the 3rd and 4th Doctor). As a fan, I say keep it coming. To the curious out there who somehow haven't yet turned on to a good thing: c'mon, get hip to TORCHWOOD.
Torchwood is the most-times dark, sometimes gory, adult tie-in to the new Doctor Who series, but that hardly matters as it is the most unique TV you'll ever see. ..Dr. Who producer & two-time Hugo-nominated writer Russell T. Davies created the series as an opportunity to do more than just family fare, part CSI, part X-files and the remaining part is out there on its own. In Dr. Who there have been hidden references to the "secret" organization TORCHWOOD (the name which is an anagram of DOCTOR WHO) since season one (an answer given by the ANNE DROID in BAD WOLF episode 12 ), then appearing more physically throughout season two, even featuring the origin of the organization created by Queen Victorian herself to defend the Earth from alien threats, including The Doctor. The series takes place over a hundred years later as Jack says on the promos, "In the 21st century, everything changes." Captain Jack Harkness (played BRILLIANTLY by the dashing John Barrowman, best known to Americans as the singing Nazi lead in the "Springtime for Hitler" number in the Producers musical) is a character introduced during season one of Dr. Who, an ex-time agent, con-man, the Doctor & Rose meet in the 1940's and turn towards the path of good and righteousness, well almost.
Jack is originally from the 51st century, which is intended to explain his oversexed ways (i.e. he is very liberal in who he "SNOGS"& "SHAGS" ) His background is really complex, even before he meets the Doctor, but he is missing some of his memories from his time as a time-agent, during the "Parting of the Ways" the first season finale of Dr. Who his character becomes even more interesting, but I won't say more without spoiler warnings.
I know I've referenced Dr. Who, a lot, but WATCHING DR. WHO IS NOT A PREREQUISITE FOR ENJOYING TORCHWOOD, MERELY A BONUS. There is a level to Torchwood that is directed at DW fans, but it isn't obtrusive. The initial season of Torchwood begins introducing the viewer to its world through the eyes of Gwen, a low-rung Cardiff lady cop, eventually becomes part of a jaded almost amoral group that uses scavenged alien-tech to protect the world from future threats. The neophyte member eventually serves as catalysis to re-humanize the team. But the dynamic of the characters is one of abrasiveness, deceit, love and lust. The major players are far from perfect, by the end of the season, most of the team have done things both unexpected and at times alarming.
Most of the performances are great to watch, much Americanized, gritty acting. Gwen, played by Eve Myles, who oddly enough played a Victorian servant girl named Gwyneth who opens the closes the very rift Torchwood is build on in Dr. Who season 1. Gwen is an earthy attractive but not unrealistically so, as are most of the players, except Jack, of course, who is over-the-top silver-screen good looking, which is perfect for his over-the-top fearless-leader-with-a-mysterious-past archetype.
Torchwood is very stylish, lots of aerial shots of building in Cardiff, the Welsh city where the series is filmed and most of the action takes place. Its waterside features remind me of New Orleans. Another anchor location of the show in Cardiff is soooo appropriately the Roald Dahl Plaza (Carciff-born creator of Willy Wonka) it would naturally hold a time-space rift and the headquarters of a secret organization under the fountain where it can monitor extra-terrestrial traffic through the rift. Kind of a sexed up Men in Black, except no one wears black, well ok Iantos does, but he's more of a case manager type. The series music co-composed by Dr. Who's Murray Gold is both edgy and original. As is the special effects and make-up. In the pilot episode, the make-up on the Weevil, a reoccurring species, is so good that a long scene is shot in full-light with Gwen and another character studying the creature. That is how confident and bold the makers of Torchwood are! The series won a BEST DRAMA SERIES BAFTA (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts), besting Doctor Who season 2 in the category and first episodes gave BBC 3 its highest ratings ever. One series flaw is that Torchwood is meant to be very covert, but they also seem to be high profile "special ops," other than that amusing conflict, I love the series and think that many Americans who may have never watched any British TV before, will be hooked!
The episode guide that follows may have some MINOR SPOILERS, okay?
#1 "Everything Changes"
This is a good one, I give it 9 out of 10, it is one of the best series pilots I've seen. Unlike some series openers, it seems familiar with characters and where they are going, there's no early season one awkwardness here, INFACT, Eve Myles WON a "BEST-ACTRESS" BAFTA (Wales) for this one, John Barrowman got a nom...
South Wales coffee makin' cop Gwen Cooper is at the scene of a murder when Torchwood shows, Gwen snoops on the group and sees in a disturbing scene in which the victim is temporally resurrected, then questioned. She starts her own investigation to learn more, and ends up meeting an alien and literally going underground unsuccessfully disguised as a pizza-girl, joins up and then things get weird....
#2 Day One
This one is less good, but is all about the fact that Torchwood is an adult series and begins to set some boundaries. Even so, this one has a great pre-titles scene with Gwen & her boyfriend, and a great opening line...7 out of 10 for this one...
The title says it all...it is Gwen's first day on the job, and because of her obligatory noob screw up she unwittingly unleashes a hot-sex-addicted-alien....no REALLY...this one is about AN ALIEN WHO SHAGS HER WAY THROUGH THE EPISODE...it seems like a Captain Jack natural. There are some great moments and some great lude dialogue, like following the discovery of the alien's nature and the disintegrated remains of its first partner, Harkness remarks that the guy "came and went, at the same time." More lines like that and hot-girl-on-alien action...
#3 Ghost Machine
This one is spooky and provides some insights into the gruff team member Owen's character. Usually, so far, Owen, played by Burn Gorman, isn't the sort to get involved or outwardly show his real feelings, in the series thus far, he has deflected them and given Gwen and the others attitude to cover. This time, due to his unique interaction with the machine, he is very open and driven.... 8 out of 10 for this one...
The team retrieve an alien artifact that shows ghost images of the past, thus allowing Owen to witnesses a girl's murder some forty years before. He becomes obsessed with bring the murderer to justice, while Gwen tries to stop future projections from occurring as well.
This one may be too much for the Dr. Who fans, but you need not know the back-story to appreciate the story, but it helps to forgive the nature of the story that seems awkward when compared to the rest of the season. The Cybermen, humans converted from a parallel Earth, were all meant to be destroyed at another Torchwood base on this Earth, this is the exception. This time a half converted erotic-cyborg with more gruesome conversion effects and other creepiness, oh and Cyberwoman vs. the pterodactyl...did I mention they have a pterodactyl in the Torchwood HQ...7.5 out of 10 for this one...
Ianto, played by Gareth David-Lloyd who is sort of the teams Alfred the Butler, managing the Batcave, has hidden what's left of his girlfriend at Torchwood. His plans to get outside help end with the entire team at risk of finding themselves converted or worse!
#5 Small Worlds
This one is creepy, if a little predictable, take something inherently cute and friendly, like say fairies, and make them dangerous, powerful and a little homicidal, throw in a spooky little girl, an old girl friend of Jack's er... Dad...and you have a winning mix, 8.5 out of 10 for this one....
Jack's senior friend has discovered fairies in a nearby wood, while Torchwood uncovers a mysterious jail death and weird weather bursts. Jack sees a pattern connected to his mysterious past....
This one is grisly, edgy and very frightening, playing-out like a mainstream horror movie, a good one! This one isn't for the squeamish. ...9 out of 10 for Countrycide...
Deaths in the middle of nowhere split up the team, Gwen and Owen find themselves in another tight situation, a survivor hides from the killer, Tech-chick Tosh and Ianto race against the clock, and the team fight to stay off the menu.
#7 Greeks Bearing Gifts
This one isn't the best of the season, but it does give more development to Tosh's character...6.5 out of 10...
Tosh gets a strange pendant from a strange woman and she gains the strange ability to read minds. In the process learning way more than just casual thoughts, in order to make things right Tosh must get this woman into Torchwood H.Q.
#8 They keep killing Suzie
This is a great one...disturbing and well written, a fallen Torchwood member returns providing a unique opportunity to deal with the consequences of events in the pilot episode. A great exploration of Gwen and her place in Torchwood... I give it 9.5 out of 10...
The "Resurrection-Gauntlet" was classified as too dangerous to continue experimenting with, but a link to pre-pilot events, force the team to use the gauntlet on a deceased Torchwood member. The process goes wrong and events go from bad to worse
#9 Random Shoes
Another surprisingly good story, most of the regular team is sideline for much of this one as it's point of view is from a deceased peripheral character, like Dr. Who's B team stories (used for shooting two shows simultaneously ), it brilliantly features an outsider's view of the team, more outside than even Gwen's episode one intro...9 out of 10...the end is a bit sappy...
Eugene Jones learns that he has been the victim of a hit-and-run and is dead. He retracing his "steps" leading up to his death, including his interaction with the Torchwood team and what he believed was an alien artifact, while Gwen is the unwitting partner in the same investigation.
#10 Out of Time
This one is a weak one, "the fish out of water/ romance that can never be," great pre-title opening with the Team on hand as a temporally -displaced plane touches down on an airstrip, mostly-predictable and unnecessarily sappy...7 out of 10...
Three stangers from the early 50's are trapped in present-day Cardiff, after flying from the Rift. Torchwood helps each of the them deal with making a new life, one way or another and Owen gets serious with one.
This one is written by Noel Clarke a.k.a Mickey Smith, really. You've asked for it, you got it! The Weevil Fight Club! This one is pretty good, what it lacks in originality it makes up for in style and intensity...9 out of 10...
Weevils continue to come from the rift surfacing across Cardiff, but where are they disappearing to? Owen goes undercover to find out.
#12 Captain Jack Harkness
Warning this one is not for the homophobic; Jack is particularly randy in this one. There's loads of drama and amazing acting in this one, although a visually limited view of the WWII era, the character of Bilis Manger, mysterious time-walker, is fascinating to watch as he manipulates the staff in this episode and the next, played by Murray Melvin (who could play William Hartnell if they every need him). .. 9.5 out of 10
Jack and Tosh are transported to the 1940s, during the Blitz where they meet another Captain Jack Harkness and it isn't Jack. The rest of the team go in search of decades old clues Jack and Tosh may have left.
( Watch for the "Vote Saxon" posters in this one. A Dr. Who series 3 ref.)
#13 End of Days
Tightly following the events in the last episode, all hell breaks loose, literally as the mysterious Mr. Bilis plans for the Rift continue with it wide enough to release the deity he worships. This one has its roots in H.P. Lovecraft's work, ...10 out of 10...
People from thoughout history come through the rift into the present across the world. Jack learns he is the only thing standing between the world and the "Son the Beast". Jack is put in a position where he may have to sacrifice it all to save everyone. (This one connects directly to the final 3 episodes of Dr. Who season 3.)
Check out the Deadringer's spoof of the series on YOUTube.
And BBC America showing Series TWO in January, it has had such a good response in the States that it seems we're getting it "fresh" this time, synchronized with UK broadcast premiere.
on February 16, 2009
I've never watched a single episode of Dr. Who, so if you are feeling a bit undecided on TW because it's a spin-off of Dr.Who and you've never watched the Dr. any way, then don't be. I have been watching TW since the 1st episode and I love it. It has a lot of action, drama, humor and there is some same-sex snogging(kissing) so if that bothers you don't watch. It all centers around a group of people that work at TW an organization that was formed to deal with alien threats on Earth. There are a few TW offices and this one happens to be in Cardiff, where Captain Jack says there is a rift in time and "things" from "out there" keep popping up in Cardiff. The series begins with the introduction of Police Constable Gwen Cooper, our link to TW so to speak for we are as lost as Gwen is when she stumbles on them. There is Captain Jack Harkness a guy from the future and the past, Ianto Jones the "gopher" coffee/tea maker but he will become much more then that in due time, Owen the doctor and resident ladies man, Toshiko the computer wiz.
To give you an idea of the series here are the episodes and a brief discription, no spoilers promise,and rating 1star worst 5 stars great.:
Epi.1: Everything Changes- Gwen Cooper comes across TW, and Jack discovers that rules aren't always followed. 5*
Epi.2: Day One- TW has to stop a sex addicted alien as it leaves a trail of dead bodies.5*
Epi.3: Ghost Machine- Gwen gets hold of an alien object that gives you visions of past crimes.4*
Epi.4: Cyberwoman- Ther's a dark secret in the basement of the Hub. Even jack is unawareof it, but Ianto knows.And he'll go to any lengths, sacrifice anything and anyone, to protect what's down there.5*
Epi.5: Small Worlds- A withdrawn child has some very gruesome friends.4*
Epi.6: Countrycide- TW team goes investigating in a deserted village and find themselves out of their elements.5*
Epi.7: Greeks Bearing Gifts- Tosh gains the ability to read minds after receiving a special gift.4*
Epi.8: They Keep Killing Suzie- A series of murders are linked to Torchwood, Jack and the crew turn to the one thing that might help, resurrect Suzie Costello. But was this a fluke or does Suzie have other plans?5*
Epi.9: Random Shoes- The invisible spirit of a hit and run victim tries to convince Gwen to locate the alien that might have been responsible for his death.4*
Epi.10: Out of Time- A 1950's passenger plane arrives in 21st century Cardiff, can the TW team help them assimilate to modern life?5*
Epi.11: Combat- The team discovers a ring of that are kidnapping Weevils (aliens) for there own mixed up reasons.3*
Epi.12: Captain Jack Harkness- The Captain and Toshiko are transported to WWII Cardiff, there Toshiko soon finds out that being Japanese at this time is not that good and they meet the real Capt. Jack. Back in the present the rest of the team have to battle there own demons in order to find a way to bring their friends back, but things are going to go horribly wrong.5*
Epi.13: End of Days- The rift is splintering, strange things are happening all around the world.These events resemble those in the prophecy of the arrival of Abaddon, the Great Devourer, who will lead the world into shadow and bring about the End of Days...5*
So ends season 1 of this great series, I recommend you get it in Blu Ray because this is one of the few shows that is actually filmed in HD, and it looks incredible. I really like the interaction between the characters and the way they all seem like very rounded individuals and not paper cut outs. There are a lot of extras in these discs, they are full of lots of fun stuff.
I'm always mystified that people think a three or four star review is bad; it's not folks it just shows that a good show could use some improvement. "Torchwood" is one of those shows that has a lot of potential and could become quite exceptional. Russell T. Davies "Dr. Who" spin-off "Torchwood" is a pretty good show and could be an exceptional show if it layed off the sex and violence so much. Why? Because the show focuses entirely too much on it to its own detriment. The first series starts off well if a bit uneven. The pilot "Every Thing Changes" sets up the premise of the series but really would have benefited from a two hour or two episode set up since the serial killer story angle isn't developed enough. We meet Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman)the new head of Torchwood a MI-5 like organization that deals with threats from aliens and we don't mean illegal aliens. Torchwood (which is an anagram for "Doctor Who") was developed BECAUSE of the good doctor and, when all of its members were turned into Cybermen, Harkness started the organization again in honor of its original primary target--the good Doctor himself. He and his crew including Owen (who looks a bit like Willem Dafoe), Tosh and Suzie deal with alien incursions that occur because of a rift in time/space located in Cardiff. When Gwen a police officer witnessesTorchwood ressurecting one of the victims of the serial killer to try and find out his identity she starts trying to find out more about the investigation, she gets drawn into their world. Gwen is later invited to join Torchwood and assist the group and becomes its conscience filled with the compassion that have become as alien to them as the creatures they hunt.
The quality of the writing veers from weak to brilliant over the course of the 13 episodes included. As mentioned the pilot episode could have been much better (it's good but underdeveloped) if it was longer allowing for the plot and characters to be better deveoped. As the series progresses it does get better with "Countrycide", "They Keep Killing Suzie", "Random Shoes" and "Out of Time" all well written. The problem is that the show will deal with a emotionally charged issue and then two characters will decide, "oh, let's go have casual sex right now". It's an odd shift in tone much more in keeping with a series like "Queer as Folk" (also created by Davies)or "Coupling" than, say, "Doctor Who". As Davies himself states in an extra just because they can show more gore and sex doesn't mean they necessarily have to ALL the time. It disrupts some of the well written narratives and seems almost like the focus of those that are NOT well written with else everything is built around it. "Out of Time" and "Greeks Bearing Gifts" are both perfect examples where the sexuality is well integrated into the script and inseparable from the story itself. There are others, however, where is like those moments in "NYPD Blue" where it felt like it was the obligatory sex scene.
Regardless, I like this show and I think fans of "The X-Files" or "Doctor Who" (and "Supernatural") will as well but the writing isn't as sharp as any of those shows. In fact, it suffers from the same flaws (but to a larger degree)as the third season of "Supernatural".
The show looks like it came from an inferior source with the image quality good when it should be terrific. Perhaps in the switch from the normally incompatable European format to the US or during the Telecine process something unexpected happened or the source wasn't properly handled. Either way, it looks good but could look GREAT given the high definition video format it is shot in.
Audio sounds extremely good unlike "Doctor Who" the 5.1 mix sounds very good even when it is listened to in 2.0 (the dialogue in"Doctor Who" tends to get lost in the mix with the music and sound effects overwhelming it--it's not as big an issue here).
The extras are terrific as with other BBC shows released by Warner. There are commentary tracks by cast and crew in for every episode of the series. We also get outtakes, a variety of featurettes on each disc on various episodes and, as with "Doctor Who", we get the weekly edited version of "Torchwood: Unclassified" that runs around two hours on the last disc.
"Torchwood" is a good series that hasn't completely found it's way yet. Once the series begins to find a better balance between its brand of "adult" sex and violence (as well as language)with the science fiction, supernatural elements AND character development, "Torchwood" will really be something. Here's hoping season two improves on season one as the inexperience of some of the writers in working within the genre shows.
on November 28, 2013
Despite the fact that I absolutely adore the Dr Who franchise I tried to temper my expectations. It is a spinoff after all and those rarely live up to their source. However, instead of a watered down Dr Who as I was expecting I ended up with one of the most god awful television shows in recent memory. I don't mind the swearing or the violence. It's quite honestly never really offended me. I enjoy a number of very graphic shows like Spartacus and Game of Thrones, but in this abomination we're introduced to one of the main protagonists as he uses an alien aphrodisiac in order to rape a woman at the bar. Granted, because of certain events he doesn't follow through with it, but it was definitely not a moral turnaround. The rest of the crew isn't much better. Little jealousy fits and love spats between all of them. It's almost as if they decided to take an idea introduced in the Dr Who franchise and hand it over to a day time soap opera writer and this is the result. I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to cheer for characters like this. there should be some attachment to characters in shows you watch. If a primary character perishes it should hit you, make you feel something. There isn't a single character on this show that I would shed a tear over.
on May 23, 2008
I never got into the X-Files, but I love Torchwood! It's smart, funny, and a little bit naughty. The science fiction parts are always interesting, sometimes scary and usually pretty cool. All the characters are well developed, well written and well acted. The show is anything but predictable. Many times, the show goes in an unexpected direction and really keeps you on your toes. Russell T Davies is a genius. I've even started watching Doctor Who for some of the background to Torchwood. Can't wait until Torchwood - Season 2 comes out in September!
This is a review with a bit of a difference considering I've never watched a single episode of Doctor Who in my life (I'll get to it eventually), despite knowing that "Torchwood" is a spin-off of that entertainment juggernaut, and in fact derives its name from an anagram of its mother show. But I'd been told that knowledge of the prior show was not strictly necessary, and thought perhaps I'd be able to watch with fresh eyes and without inevitably drawing comparisons with the original show.
Gwen Cooper is a young police officer who happens to be present when a crime scene is interrupted by a mysterious group of people who are offhandedly referred to as Torchwood by her colleges. She watches in astonishment from a nearby car-park building as the team use a gauntlet to temporarily resurrect the murder victim, and begins her own private investigation into discovering who exactly these people are.
Turns out that Torchwood is a secret organization "outside the government, beyond the police" which is led by the enigmatic, charismatic, long coat-wearing Captain Jack Harkness, who is intrigued by Gwen's disapproving point of view on their activities. After being introduced to the rest of the team: Doctor Owen Harper, computer genius Toshiko Sato, faithful butler Ianto Jones, and second-in-command Suzie Costello; Gwen learns that there's a rift in space and time over Cardiff, resulting in an influx of aliens, time-travel and other bizarre occurrences that require a specialized team of experts to deal with. That's where Torchwood comes in.
Unexpected tragedy means that a space opens up on the team, and Jack invites Gwen to join in order to infuse some degree of humanity in the business-like dealings of the Torchwood team. She agrees; a decision that will change her life forever. Thirteen episodes in all, the show purports to be a grownup sci-fi show that melds the detective work of CSI with plenty of sex, gore and violence. For the most part the episodes are standalone, with little continuity between them (unless you count the meaningless entanglements that the staff have with each other or with one-shot guest stars), and many of them follow basic sci-fi storylines. There's the one with the parasitic alien, the time-traveling visitors, the alien fight club, the device which reads minds, etc.
Yet when the show finds its feet, it suddenly becomes very, very good. Jack Harkness is an intriguing character with a mysterious past and an immunity to death. His agenda suggests that he knows more than he's letting on, whilst simultaneously being just as baffled about his own existence as the rest of his team. The scenes that centre on him and John Barrowman's boisterous, enthusiastic, larger-than-life performances are invariably the scenes worth tuning in for. Other episodes such as "They Keep Killing Suzie" have intricate plots, nuanced characterization and themes on the nature of life and the cost of immorality that are truly thought-provoking.
To make a long story short, the first season of Torchwood is a mixed bag. There's plenty of potential, and lots of pay-off, but the characterization and general content are often frustrating. For the record, I don't consider three stars a "bad" review by any means, but to my mind at least, the biggest detriments of the show are threefold.
As mentioned, the show tries to pass itself off as "adult" by making it a darker and edgier version of Doctor Who. Here's the rub: the process of making something "darker and edgier" has been interpreted as "adding more sex, profanity and violence." This does not automatically make a show more adult, in fact it has the opposite effect and can make it seem quite juvenile at times. Despite repeated claims by writers and producers in the DVD extras that their use of sex and violence is not gratuitous, most of the time it *is* gratuitous and serves no real purpose beyond giving the writers the opportunity to point at the screen and say: "look at how edgy we're being!"
Another serious problem is the fact that many of characters simply aren't very likeable: not in the "flawed but human" way, but in the "what a jerk!" way. Essentially, most of them act like irresponsible and immature children, only with sex drives that they can't seem to keep in check. The drama of the show doesn't derive from characters grappling with moral conundrums or with the weight of the responsibility placed on them, but from their inability to keep their pants on. The relationships they foster are shallow and meaningless, and the audience is given little reason to care about any of them.
In particular, the focus of the show keeps coming back to Gwen and Owen. Although Tosh is a cool intellectual and Ianto is a sweetheart, the writers seem to be more interested in making most of the plots revolve around Gwen and Owen; the former an inconsistent character who never seems to do the job that she was hired for, and the latter a complete jerk. Gwen is apparently meant to be the empathetic one, but this usually involves her trusting the wrong people, getting aggravated with her team mates when she feels they're not being compassionate enough, and cheating on her boyfriend.
Owen is meant to be a dark, smooth ladies man, except that the actor isn't really handsome or charming enough to pull it off, and in his first appearance he's using an alien aphrodisiac to entice strangers into having sex with him. Wow, just like a sex offender with date-rape pills! Later he makes a rather disgusting proposition to Gwen whilst he has her forcibly pinned against a tree, and by the end of the episode they're sleeping together. Even Jack, ostentatiously the main character, is marginalized in favor of these two.
Finally there are also some things that just plain don't make sense. If Torchwood is a secret organization, why do they drive around in a giant SUV with flashing lights and blaring music? Why is this team of "experts" so ridiculously incompetent and disorganized? What exactly is it that they do that couldn't be done just as easily by the local police force? If they're above the government, where do they get their funding? (admittedly, the answer to this may lie in Doctor Who, where it was first introduced). Why do they have a pterodactyl flying around their headquarters, and who cleans up after it? Is it just a coincidence that they're all bi-sexual or is it something to do with the rift? (I just think four out of five bi-curious characters are rather unlikely odds).
Yet my three-star review does not mean that I think the show is bad - not by any means. The episodes, whatever else their faults, are fast-paced, well acted and built on a solid premise. There is room for much improvement, but the promise is there, and (according to general opinion) is acted upon in the second season.
This DVD box set boasts some exceptional extras: along with the usual deleted scenes, outtakes, making of featurettes, and interviews with the cast and crew, it also has a commentary track for every single episode, something I've never seen before (usually they opt for just one or two). There's even a segment in which John Barrowman grabs hold of a microphone and belts out "Anything Goes" for a 1930s audience. The enthusiasm and care with which the cast and crew discuss the show is contagious, and it's difficult to really condemn a show that so many people obviously enjoy being a part of. Although I was not hugely impressed by Torchwood's first offering, I'm sufficiently intrigued to give season two a try.
on June 8, 2013
With the exception of two or three episodes, the entire first season is utterly disappointing. How did the original Torchwood team ever get together to begin with?! They don't respect their boss Jack, they don't work well together, they, to a person (except Jack), are out for themselves and do the most STUPID things imaginable for a group that supposedly are professionals and have dealt with aliens and alien technology for at least some time. Gwen, at least, has an excuse for being stupid - she's new and she can get away with it for a few episodes, but neither she, nor any team member have ANY growth or maturity over the entire first season. Almost every problem situation they bring on themselves for being plainly reckless and stupid. The potential for a terrific series is there, but the writing rarely lifts the show beyond marginal sci-fi. If the writers think that because this is a BBC show shown and advertised as 'adult', that by making almost every cast member omni-sexual, adding colorful language and bedroom scenes that this could possibly lift the drama out of the quagmire of painful writing and ridiculous story lines - they are SO mistaken. It's too bad, I actually like the cast, the show looks great in HD, the Torchwood set and locations are nice, the directing is good - but the writing cripples what should be an enjoyable earth-bound sci-fi show. Let's see if season two can redeem the show. If you want to see the show at its best in season one, check out Countrycide and Random Shoes. Then follow that with Captain Jack Harkness and the finale End of Days (although pretty awful, it gives the minor tie-in at the end to Captain Jack's re-appearance in Doctor Who - for you DW fans, like myself). Skip the rest.
"Torchwood," a spin-off of the revived "Doctor Who" series, is a strange bird. It can be one of the greatest shows around and then tank miserably. The show centers around the Torchwood Institute's Cardiff operation, headed up by the dashingly handsome (and quite possibly immortal) Captain Jack Harkness (played with excellent flair by John Barrowman). He leads a small ragtag group of scientists, specialists, etc. who set out to protect the world from bizarre aliens and other creatures that make their way to our home planet via a rift in time and space. Some of the visitors are good, but the bad ones get the attention. The team includes Tosh (Naoko Mori), a shy computer specialist who longs for Owen (Burn Gorman), the cocky and not-all-too-likeable team doctor. Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) is the quiet and always reliable clean-up man who is basically a butler in the same vein as Batman's Alfred (although much younger). The team is rounded out by Suzie and eventual team newbie, Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), who adds heart to the team.
Fans of the new "Doctor Who" will recognize Captain Jack. He's still the dashing and cocky hero that the Doctor and Rose met, but throughout the season his character becomes more mysterious and, at times, morbidly dark and heartless. He is the glue that holds this show together.
What "Who" fans might not recognize is the heavy adult tone of "Torchwood." The language, violence and sexual content go way beyond family-friendly. This helps and hinders the show at the same time. The language is about as bad as a PG-13 movie for the most part, but a few scenes get (necessarily) R-rated. The violence is also essential for the most part, but the action can be too much for younger viewers. I felt like much of the sexual content was thrown in just because it could be. I have no problem with this sort of content but I do believe it should be used only when it adds to the story. In "Day One," a sex-crazed alien that survives off of orgasms (yes, I said orgasms), makes for an interesting and hilarious story. While some may not like seeing homosexual content, the episode "Captain Jack Harkness" uses just that develop the character of Harkness even more. In other episodes, there are brief encounters that really needn't be there.
The series has some excellent episodes, such as "Small Worlds," a downright creepy thriller involving the activity of fairies in our world. Another bright spot is "Random Shoes," told from the viewpoint of a dead man following the Torchwood team as they investigate his death. It's funny, interesting and even touching at times. The top of the heap as far as series one goes, though, is "Countrycide." The team visits a rural town where the body count skyrockets in cycles. Who or what is killling off these people? The answer will shock you.
Of course, for all that is great about this series, there are a few clunkers that almost turned me off to the show entirely. First was "Cyberwoman," which showcases a relationship of my favorite Torchwood member, Ianto. He's keeping his semi-Cyber girlfriend hidden in the bowels of Torchwood hoping to find help for her. The Cybermen are my favorite classic "Who" villains, but even I have to say that Ianto's Cyber-girlfriend was too hokey to digest. The ending almost saves the episode, but it's the biggest downfall of the series so far. Secondly is "Combat," which features a very interesting fight club that is used to develop Owen's character a bit more. Unfortunately, it all falls flat in the end. Also, a couple of episodes, "Greeks Bearing Gifts" and "Out of Time," are mediocre at best.
The DVD release is very good, with excellent extras including "Torchwood Declassified" and extensive looks into each character and special effects.
So, you take the good with the bad and you end up with a new series that has wonderful highs and horrible lows. I would recommend this series as a purchase since there are more pros than cons, but do not let your chidren watch this until they are much older. I understand that many "Who" fans were completely turned off by the series' abrasive ways, but it's okay with me. Remember, this isn't "Doctor Who," it's a whole new animal.
on June 12, 2009
Torchwood, is as the product editorial says is a spin off of Doctor Who, but unlike most spin offs, you do not need to watch or follow Doctor Who to watch it as it is truly self-contained.
Torchwood is kind of like the the British version of X-Files, if it was created and aired by HBO. Basically that means that there is a lot of stuff that has been touched on like same-sex relationships and romance to affairs, but at the same time never leaving the scope of the plot, so you are not bogged down by these scenes. Every episode is basically contained with in themselves so the story lines does not really follow each episode. There are the exceptions like with the two part episodes, or when they have to bring back something to help bring a story around.
Overall I will give this 10 out of 10 and can not wait for season 2 to come out on Blu-ray (Come-on BBC release Season 2 on Blu already).
I also would recommend that you watch this 10 episodes of Doctor Who, as it gives some more insight of Capt. Jack:
# The Empty Child (21 May 2005)
# The Doctor Dances (28 May 2005)
# Boom Town (4 June 2005)
# Bad Wolf (11 June 2005)
# The Parting of the Ways (18 June 2005)
# Utopia (16 June 2007)
# The Sound of Drums (23 June 2007)
# Last of the Time Lords (30 June 2007)
# The Stolen Earth (28 June 2008)
# Journey's End
And these episodes of Doctor Who to learn more about Torchwood:
# Tooth and Claw
# Army of Ghosts