Jack Harkness - John Barrowman
Gwen Cooper - Eve Myles
Ianto Jones - Gareth David Lloyd
Owen Harper - Burn Gorman
LI>Toshiko Sato - Naoko Mori
Rhys Williams - Kai Owen
OTHER TORCHWOOD SERIES
Children of Earth
OTHER JOHN BARROWMAN SHOWS
Doctor Who (Christopher Eccleston)
Doctor Who (David Tennant)
OTHER DOCTOR WHO PAGES
Doctor Who (Tom Baker)
Doctor Who (Sarah Jane Smith)
OTHER DOCTOR WHO SPIN OFFS
Sarah Jane Adventures
EVERYTHING CHANGES - First Transmitted 22nd October 2006
Gwen Cooper's a policewoman and underappreciated in her job. When the body of the third victm in a series of killings is found in an alleyway, she observes a small group of 'special ops' people reanimate the dead man for two minutes. In hospital later, she sees the same people tackle a beast that has just killed a porter and then disappear near the Millennium Monument. Posing as a pizza delivery girl, she gains access to TORCHWOOD, a place where aliens are captured and their technology recycled to help protect mankind.
DOCTOR WHO gets its first spin-off to last more than one episode. TORCHWOOD is darker, edgier and set more firmly in the real world of the here and now than its illustrious parent. Cardiff may look more like the flashy cities of American cop shows ('CSI Cardiff' as one copper comments), but it is recognisably a real place and the incidental characters are real people living real lives.
Which brings us to the TORCHWOOD team. Captain Jack Harkness may be the leader, but the first episode is based around Gwen Cooper and her induction into the team (any similarities to the plot of MEN IN BLACK are incidental and easily ignored). Eve Myles shoulders the burden easily, mainly by being really likeable from the first scene as a copper caught in a downpour. John Barrowman, as the main man and the link between this and DOCTOR WHO is the other character to really make a mark, being dark and mysterious and (in a brilliant shock moment) indestructible. John Barrowman is effortlessly charming, but a lot darker and more severe than the character was when appearing in DOCTOR WHO.
The other characters are going to have to work harder to make more of an impact.
The rest of the show is excellent, with some brilliant makeup work on the weevil, Gwen's first alien, smart writing (as ever) from Russell T Davis and a pacy story. Using the rift in time and space that was set up in DOCTOR WHO as a sort of Hellmouth routine (from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER with strange energies bringing aliens to the same place is brilliant.
TORCHWOOD is up and running at last and it shows a lot of promise.Top
DAY ONE - First Transmitted 22nd October 2006
Gwen's joined the TORCHWOOD team and her first day sees a meteorite crash to earth. During the investigation, she accidentally cracks open the rock and releases a gaseous alien which sets off to inhabit the body of a young girl who has sex in a nightclub toilet and turns the man to dust in the process. The team set about tracking her down, but they can't kill it without killing the girl. The only solution lies in Gwen offering herself up as an alternative host.
Now we're down to the real stuff after the introductions have been made. The story is a bit SPECIES, but it sets out the intent of the new series straight away. The sexual content is certainly nothing that you'd see in DOCTOR WHO and the body count is a bit high as well, albeit as little piles of dust.
Eve Myles and John Barrowman are still the central focus and it seems likely that it is their relationship that is going to form the core of the emotional content of the show. She is the heart that is going to bring back some of the humanity that he has lost. Mind you, he has picked up a few other things along the way.
The other characters remain a bit in the background, throwing out the technobabble when and as needed to move the plot along.
A little bit derivative then, but thoroughly entertaining and with a leading couple eminently capable of taking the show forwards wherever it chooses to go.Top
THE GHOST MACHINE - First Transmitted 29th October 2006
The team get hold of an alien machine that shows echoes of the past, the ghosts of the title. Gwen sees a little boy evacuated from London, Owen a woman being murdered. They track down the thief who stole the machine only to learn that the other half shows the future and Gwen sees herself with a knife in her hands and blood all over.
After last week's dose of sex, we get down to some serious murder, albeit carried out in the past. Owen Harper comes out from the background a bit and Burn Gorman handles the spotlight pretty well. Eve Myles is still carrying the show and just keeps on getting better.
The story delves into the evil that men do and there aren't a lot of likeable characters about either. It is a shock to see Gareth Thomas (Blake from BLAKE'S SEVEN) as a drunk and shattered murderer.
Can you change the future? Should you try? That's the crux of the plot and no real answer is given.
The tone is as far from DOCTOR WHO as it could be, the promise of a half-built cyberwoman in the end credits guarantees we'll be back for the next episode.Top
CYBERWOMAN - First Transmitted 5th November 2006
Ianto Jones has a secret. Locked, deep down in the bowels of Torchwood there is a woman strapped to an operating table. She is half-human, half cyberman caught halfway through the conversion process. When an esteemed cyberneticist manages to free her from the constraints of the table's life support systems, it becomes time to find out which half of her psyche will take control.
It really helps to have see the last series of DOCTOR WHO when watching Cyberwoman. Sure, they mention the battle in Torchwod London and that the cybermen were created in an alternate reality, but it's all thrown away with such speed that it might leave new viewers a bit lost. In the meantime, the disturbingly sexy cyberwoman is locked up in Torchwood, but then so is the team and its a struggle of the fittest to stay alive. Not to mention that it's not clear whose side Ianto is on.
The story is reminiscent of Dalek from the Doctor's triumphal return, a single monster locked in a vault and wreaking havoc, but it's still very entertaining, although the pterodactyl defence pushes the effects budget past its straining point.Top
SMALL WORLDS - First Transmitted 12th November 2006
Jack's away with the fairies, literally. Fairies have been spotted by an old lady who turns out to have been an old flame of Jack's during the war, but are these pretty litte light beings or something altogether more dangerous and deadly? And what do they want with the young daughter of the seemingly normal Pierce family?
Small Worlds is a bit of an oddity. It follows the normal story arc of learning about a danger, tracking down the danger and then, well then doing nothing. True, the Torchwood team can't always be expected to win and certainly not without price, but this time it seems they are completely outmatched to the point of not even fighting. It's also strange how these creatures have remained hidden from view, been seen from the corner of the eye, etc and then choose to show up in all their nasty CGI glory at an anniversary party. And why did they leave Jack alone the last time that he encountered them when they killed everyone else?
Still, it's brave for a show to have such a downbeat ending.Top
COUNTRYCIDE - First Transmitted 19th November 2006
The Torchwood team take to the hills following a rash of disappearances in the Brecon Beacons,fearing that the power of the rift may be spreading. What they find is a tiny village emptied of its folk, hideously mutilated bodies and a struggle for their very survival against a most down to earth foe.
OK, so it's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in Wales, but it's still pretty strong stuff for BBC2 on a Sunday night. Not only is there a fairly high gore quotient with a large number of dismembered bodies, but the brutality on show is beyond anything that the show has come up with yet. Every member of the team is put into deadly peril and it's a peril that is very, very real. The enemy, when finally revealed in all their unpleasant glory are more insidious than anything that the team have yet faced. Tension is kept high and this is more full on horror than science fiction. What's more, it's all handled with confidence and style. This is class stuff.
Gwen fears that she's losing her humanity only to find that there's less of that to go around than she thought.Top
GREEKS BEARING GIFTS - First Transmitted 26th November 2006
Tosh is the techno geek of the group and feels a bit of an outsider in the team. Even Gwen, the new arrival, seems to have bonded better than she has so when she is approached by an attractive woman in a bar with an alien artefact that turns out to be thought-sensing device, her world is turned upside down. She finds out what the team really think of her and is driven into the arms of the seductive stranger. But how does this girl know all about Torchwood, what is she really after and what is she willing to do to get it.
Step forward Naoki Mori, it's your time in the spotlight. We've done Owen and Ianto, so now it's your turn. That said, it's a pretty impressive and entertaining turn too. The actress is forced to do some pretty heavy thesping due to the emotional demands on the character and it's a bit of a thankless task as the guest star swipes all the glory. Daniela Denby-Ashe is given a dream role as the uninhibited and manipulative Mary and she grabs it with both hands. You never doubt for a second that Tosh could be seduced by this free spirit. Only the scenes with Jack fall flat. He is in danger of turning into a bystander in his own show at this rate. Nothing is added to his character and we just get information that we already had.
Still, this is a great episode and shows just what a curse telepathy really would be.Top
THEY KEEP KILLING SUZIE - First Transmitted 3rd December 2006
A series of murders is being carried out and the name 'Torchwood' is being painted on the walls in the victims' blood. The trail leads to a discussion group called Pilgrim and a former member, the ex second in command of Torchwood, Suzie Costello, now resident in the vaults. Forced to use the resurrection glove responsible for Suzie's death back in Everything Changes, the team bring her back to life to question her, but she stays alive and a plan of murder emerges that might cost Gwen's life.
Suzie Costello is a great character, the dark side of what Torchwood does to its team members. None of them are the lightest, brightest and most cheerful of folk. With Suzie it's gone very dark indeed and having her around would have been a recipe for some fun conflicts. The title, however, says it all and it's a race to save Gwen, which means the end for Suzie. Except, of course, that gloves come in pairs.
There are some very dark hints about what lies waiting for Jack after death (there's something in the dark and it's coming for him) as well as some comic sidelines when the team get locked inside their own base again. How many times does that have to happen before Jack builds in a failsafe of his own?Top
RANDOM SHOES - First Transmitted 10th December 2006
Eugene is a Torchwood groupie, most especially a big fan of Gwen. He is also the proud owner of an alien artefact, an eye in fact. The trouble is that Eugene is dead He's still very much around, though. Whilst the other members of the team write Eugene's death off as the end of a minor annoyance, Gwen sets about trying to figure out why he was alone on a remote road. It turns out that the story is a lot less dramatic than it might be.
This is Eugene's story and right from the off you're left worrying that this is going to be another irrelevant format-bender like DOCTOR WHO's Love and Monsters. The resemblance between the two episodes is, at times, quite marked and since that was the only one of the episodes of the new-style DOCTOR WHO that we couldn't get on with, we feared the worst. Random Shoes isn't nearly as bad as that episode was. In fact, if you take away the awful voiceover then it fits in quite nicely with the TORCHWOOD style of being surprising, capricious and a little bit mischeivous. What other show, for example, would have Eugene dead and ghostly for the whole show before making him corporeal just before the end only to then take him away again.
When they make the inevitable DVD boxset of the series then perhaps one of the special features can be turning the voiceover off.Top
OUT OF TIME - First Transmitted 17th December 2006
A plane lands in Cardiff that set off in 1953. The female pilot and her two passengers, one a middle-aged shopowner and the other a young girl with no life experience, find themselves in a new world with no link to their pasts and the challenges of finding new lives.
No monsters, no alien technology, no special effects - just three lost people and more heart than the rest of the series to date put together. We learn more about three of the characters in the running time of this one episode than since the start of the first. Jack finds another soul lost in time with whom he can relate and share his story, bringing him to a terrible decision. Gwen takes the young girl under her wing, giving the funniest moments, but also putting her own relationship in profile. The scene where she tries to explain new attitudes about sex to her companion is priceless. And Owen falls in love and scares himself witless. The scene on the rooftop is a romantic marvel.
It's another abrupt change of gear for a show that is still trying to find its identity. The episode stands on its own as one of the strongest and makes its hackneyed tale (used in both STAR TREK shows THE NEXT GENERATION and VOYAGER) fresh and interesting. Most of all it is affecting. You care what happens and you care more about the Torchwood team as a result.
It just doesn't help define what the show is trying to be.Top
COMBAT - First Transmitted 24th December 2006
Weevils, the alien nasties that Gwen first encountered in the very first episode, are being stolen from the streets of Cardiff by masked men in a van. Owen is sent undercover to find out what he can and discovers an underworld of desperate men reasserting their masculinity by fighting with the alien killers.
TORCHWOOD has yet to truly find its identity and part of that is its insistence on ripping off plots from wherever it can. This is a pale copy of FIGHT CLUB with added aliens. There is interest in watching Owen's soul being seduced by the leader of this underground movement, but not enough to excuse the limp and see-through plot. Gwen's domestic spat with her boyfriend also doesn't add much to events.
At least the Weevils continue to look impressive and we get a bit more of Tosh and Jack because Owen's character is turning into pretty much what Gwen calls him.Top
CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS - First Transmitted 1st January 2007
Jack and Toshiko go to a hotel to investigate the sound of music from the 1940s. Inside, they slip through the time rift and find themselves back in the war years. Whilst Tosh tries to get a message to the future, Owen and Ianto disagree about opening the rift to get their friends back to the degree that one of them ends up with a bullet in him. Back in the past, Jack and Tosh come into contact with a man who introduces himself as Captain Jack Harkness.
This is an episode all about Jack, and not before time too. For once, he shows a spark of life, enthusiasm and actual happiness. It doesn't last long, of course, when he comes into contact with the man calling himself Captain Jack and Tosh learns a few new things about their illustrious leader.
The plot is, at least, original and the relationship that builds up between the modern day Jack and a man he knows to be doomed is actually quite touching. The modern day stuff is less affecting, being mainly running around an empty hotel and shouting a lot. At least, this is another example of what the show can be if it believes in itself.Top
END OF DAYS - First Transmitted 1st January 2007
Time is splintering as a result of Owen's partially opening the time rift in order to get Jack and Tosh back from the forties. People are falling into the modern day world, bringing with them death, disease and who knows what problems. The TORCHWOOD team have visions from people that they love saying that the rift must be wholly opened. Jack says no. A mutiny is staged, but fully opening the rift releases something that perhaps only Jack can stop at the expense of his own life.
The final episode and it was all going so well. The rift is splintering, the plot is rattling along, Gwen's boyfriend is dead and the team has revolted. Then comes the big beastie, the ravager of worlds, the devourer of life, the completely unconvincing special effect. It doesn't work, it looks silly and it devalues a lot of the work that the show had put in before it.
Then Jack talks about his beloved Doctor, there is the sound of the Tardis and Captain Jack Harkness is gone. This makes the next series of both TORCHWOOD and DOCTOR WHO all the more. This series still has a lot of work to do to find it's own identity, but it has shown enough promise and enough fine moments to ensure that we will be back.Top
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