Torchwood Season 2
September 23, 2008

I’d tried watching the first season of Torchwood, but I couldn’t make it all the way through. I loved the character of Captain Jack Harkness, omnisexual space rogue played by John Barrowman, when he was introduced in the first season of the new Doctor Who. He was charming and funny and very easy on the eyes. When I heard there’d be a more adult spinoff series starring him, I was all for it. But it was so gloomy and muddy, with ridiculous barely science fiction plots (character who should REALLY know better rebuilds his girlfriend as a Cyberman in the basement, resulting in a robot whose costume was all breasts and bare skin!), that I quit.

Torchwood: The Complete Second Season cover
Torchwood: The Complete Second Season
Buy this DVD set

I gave it another try when this season started only because James Marsters was guest-starring as Captain John Hart, an unscrupulous ex-lover (!) of Jack’s who shows up to try and kill everyone out of jealousy in an episode called “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”. And it was better than I expected! It kept me watching the whole season. But before we get into that, here are the show’s basics.

Torchwood is a secret organization (only everyone seems to know them, so don’t think too hard about this part) in Wales whose job is to protect the earth from extraterrestrial problems. “The 21st century is when everything changes,” according to the opening narration, “and Torchwood is ready.”

It’s run by Jack, who’s now immortal. The team consists of Gwen (Eve Myles), the regular girl cop who provides the human perspective; Owen (Burn Gorman), the doctor; Toshiko (Naoko Mori), the technician/geek girl; and Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), the office boy, who’s my favorite. He’s always wearing a dashing suit and isn’t afraid to talk back to or flirt with Jack.

Torchwood cast photo

Overall, it’s more like the X-Files than Doctor Who. “Adult” in this case means both violence and plenty of sexual innuendo. This season, the plots still have holes in them, and there’s too much of a tendency to put the team in jeopardy of death all the time (much like superhero comics, they’ve turned the threat up so high that there’s often nowhere else to go), but the characters are more intriguing to me now. My favorite episodes are those that play up their interaction.

The John/Jack pairing did not disappoint, with them kissing and punching each other in a glorious fight. This first episode follows on from the end of the first season, where Jack leaves his Torchwood team to try to find answers about his immortal state and participate in the final three episodes of the third season of Doctor Who. The group is feeling deserted but trying to soldier on. The plot is kind of a sexy, playful sci-fi caper.

Captain John Hart

Captain John later returns for the final two episodes of this thirteen-episode season in a storyline involving Jack’s long-lost younger brother. Before then, there are several stand-alone episodes:

  • “Sleeper”, about unknowing alien secret agents hiding as humans.
  • “To the Last Man”, a great focus on Toshiko and her relationship with a frozen time traveler, originally a soldier from WWI, where we see the 1918 version of Torchwood.
  • “Meat” has a space whale being harvested for food and Gwen’s fiance finding out about her secret work life.
  • “Adam”, best of the lot, in which the team is infiltrated by someone who can alter their memories, and the viewers learn more about everyone’s background.

And then an arc of episodes six through eight, “Reset”, “Dead Man Walking”, and “A Day in the Death”, which guest star Freema Agyeman as Dr. Martha Jones, the new Doctor’s second companion and a terrific personality. The story focuses on some unusual changes for Owen.

Torchwood with Martha Jones

After that comes “Something Borrowed”, in which Gwen tries to get married but is infected with an alien bug that makes her pregnant; “From Out of the Rain”, a creepy tale involving a film about a traveling carnival that captures people (eerie, but not really alien); and “Adrift”, worst of the set, about Gwen finding out that Torchwood hides victims aged by the Rift, their local “explanation for everything mystical”. The season concludes with “Fragments”, which puts the entire team in mortal danger and then flashes back to how they each joined, and “Exit Wounds”, the season finale, with several shocks of its own.

The set includes the thirteen episodes on four discs, several of which begin with an ad for another BBC series. I expect those kinds of trailers in an “extras” section instead of being forced to skip through them on a set they’re charging $80 for. The fourth disc has the special features, with nine minutes of outtakes, ten deleted scenes (which range in length from 15 seconds to ten minutes), and the 20-minute-or-so featurette “The Life and Deaths of Captain Jack Harkness”, narrated by Freema Agyeman. It’s mainly a history retrospective, helpful for those who haven’t watched or don’t remember his Doctor Who appearances, with comments by Barrowman, Russell T. Davies, and other writers and producers. No episode commentaries, though, a noticeable lack.

The bonus fifth disc contains all thirteen episodes of Torchwood Declassified, a supplemental series which goes behind the scenes of each main episode in 10-minute increments. Overall, Torchwood is an entertaining series best enjoyed by fans of shows like Angel, creative semi-supernatural adventure tales with an emphasis on an ensemble cast. (A complimentary copy of this DVD was provided by the studio.)

8 Responses  
John writes:  

I just started watching Season 2, and am enjoying it.

I love the show, but there are moments when you smack your forehead over the obvious stuff that these brilliant people are overlooking, and then there’s the opposite moments of when they pull something out of thin air to save the day at the last split second. I guess you have to live with those moments, because these shows are fairly fast paced.

What I find interesting about the show is how depressing it can be! They are often in situations where there is no obvious answer, and unlike other shows, miracles do not always appear to save the day. In this series so far, the sleeper agent, the soldier, and the space cow are all sacrificed for the greater good. Interestingly enough, the space cow seemed to be the most emotional moment of the three. :0)

By the way, I believe Torchwood declassified and Doctor Who declassified are shows that run over in England, along with the main episodes. You used to be able to download them from the websites, but the UK no longer allows outsiders to watch or download video.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Johanna writes:  

The depression and sacrifice is what gives this show a distinctly British feel, in my opinion. (Perhaps even Welsh feel, but I’m not able to distinguish at that level of detail.) The ending was a real shock as a result. (Although I feel they couldn’t have done much more with one of those characters.)

Paul O'Brien writes:  

TORCHWOOD DECLASSIFIED aired on BBC2 immediately after the regular show. It’s a filler item to round out the hour, because TORCHWOOD itself only runs fifty minutes, in order to leave space for foreign broadcasters to insert adverts.

DOCTOR WHO CONFIDENTIAL was a full-scale sister show that aired on BBC3, a digital station that will pretty much air anything that fills the time. (Perhaps the nadir of the BBC’s desperation to exploit the franchise is the airing of edited DVD commentary tracks on BBC Radio 7.)

John writes:  

“The depression and sacrifice is what gives this show a distinctly British feel”

These particular episodes make the show less predictable, but also give the viewer something to think about. The question “What would I do in this situation” is always there, and the answer is rarely easy, and keeps the show alive in your thoughts well after watching.

I admit that the Cyberwoman episode in Season 1 was awful in so many ways. My Wife couldn’t believe that outfit either, and fortunately we got past it because the rest of the series was great. (although the finale was not their finest moment)

At least go back to the episode “They’re Always Killing Suzie” if you haven’t seen it. It is another “What would I do” episode, and very intense and well done.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Johanna writes:  

Suzie… that was that terrific guest actress from the very first episode, right? I’ve heard about that one, and I think you’re right, I should watch that.

John writes:  

“Suzie… that was that terrific guest actress from the very first episode, right?”

Yes, Johanna. Honestly, her character would have rounded the show off better than some others, I think, and I cannot understand why she was only in the two episodes. Maybe she could not commit to a series? The Actress was in the Bones in London season opener of Bones recently.

Somewhere I saw a comment about Ianto being ‘the Butler’, and I thought that was funny. In retrospect, though, he really does seem to be an Alfred running the Torchwood Batcave. :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

odessa steps magazine writes:  

I think Torchwood is fine, but I think I like Primeval better, as modern British “x-filey” kind of shows.

Torchwood: Children of Earth » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] five-episode special series serves as the third season of the dark British science fiction show Torchwood. […]


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