Torchwood 1 (2006)


Our rating: 2 out of 5

Rated: TVMA

reviewed by Charity Bishop

Introduced on the first season of the popular British sci-fi series Doctor Who was Captain Jack Harkness, a time-traveling American who resurfaced in later seasons with connections to "Torchwood," the super-secret elite alien-investigating branch of the government that is known for giving the Doctor so much trouble. Out of that character's popularity, the spin-off Torchwood was born.


It is raining cats and dogs, and the police have come to investigate the murder of a young man found bleeding to death in the street. Among them is Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), who is astounded when she and her fellow coppers are ordered off the scene by an American by the name of Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), who is the commanding officer of a mysterious organization by the name of Torchwood. Rather than backing off, she sneaks a look -- and is astonished to see Harkness and his associates, with the assistance of a rather sinister-looking metal glove, resurrect the dead man to inquire the name of his murderer. Even when Torchwood clears off the scene and returns the investigation to the local authorities in Cardiff, Gwen cannot forget the curious exchange or Jack, and determines to get to the bottom of it. Through further investigation, she stumbles into the midst of their organization and, fighting against the amnesia-inducing pill Jack slips her, is eventually recruited after proving herself on the field.


Torchwood specializes in cleaning up messes aliens have left behind, and investigating abnormal behavior. Filling out Jack's team is the brainy computer-whiz Toshiko (Naoko Mori), the specialist in medicine, Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), and the front-man, Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), who handles everything with the press and makes certain no one suspects their true purpose. Then there is the mystery of Jack, who is shot point blank in the forehead and lives to tell about it. He's not like any leader Gwen has ever seen before, nor are the events she will encounter within her wildest imaginings. It is aptly clear within twenty minutes that Torchwood is not a family-friendly continuation of Doctor Who. This is a much more adult-oriented series, indicated by the surprising amount of foul language (including f-words, and many uses of s**t), the gruesome violence (blood spurts four feet after a man is bitten in the throat by a monster; bullets do the same whenever they strike human flesh), and the graphic sexual content (which makes its first appearance in episode two, in a clothed but nevertheless gritty bathroom tryst between an alien and a human). Same-sex kisses are frequent on the show -- by the last episode, Gwen has shared a passionate lip lock with another woman (due to alien influence; "Day One"), Toshiko has embarked upon a brief but passionate lesbian love affair ("Greeks Bearing Gifts"), and Jack has not only kissed his namesake from the 1950's ("Captain Jack Harkness"), but Ianto as well ("End of Days"). 


"Out of Time" also depicts a fairly graphic sexual affair between Owen and a woman from the 50's, and it's implied that Gwen and Owen share a sexual relationship for several episodes, despite her being involved with another man. There is brief backside nudity on two occasions. All this is unfortunate, because Torchwood is highly addictive. Once I started watching, I couldn't stop, and therein lies the danger. It's tempting to overlook the graphic content just for the sake of the storylines, which range from the fantastical to the imaginative (in my favorite episode, "fairies" are at the root of a series of suspicious deaths). It's brilliantly written, the cast is fantastic, and the characters are all likable in their own ways, even though some of their behavior is questionable. While it contains none of the nuttiness of Doctor Who, there are enough tie-ins and references to it that you never really forget that Jack and the Doctor know one another. (The Doctor's severed hand from season two makes a prominent appearance.) However, its casual approach toward premarital sex, its indulgence in same sex lip locks, and its occasionally putrid language put something of a damper on its acceptableness. It is definitely not a family-friendly series, so don't make the mistake of assuming it is or you might be shuffling shocked children out of the room at odd moments.