The Complete First Season
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All photos © BBC
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
orchwood” harkens back to a type of sci-fi TV that’s been absent from screens for some time now – fare like “The X-Files” and “Dark Skies.” The title of the show refers to the name of a covert organization that seemingly operates above and outside the law in Cardiff, Wales. See, there’s a time and space rift in Cardiff through which alien debris enters our world, and it’s Torchwood’s mission to scavenge and protect. Their fearless leader is the charismatic Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), a character introduced in the first season of the new “Doctor Who” series. Jack’s actually from the 51st century, but is stranded on present-day Earth. He’s appropriately omnisexual: a futuristic hero who’s slept around with men, women, aliens – a real “anything with a pulse” sort of fellow. He’s also got a few secrets, and a major one is revealed in the final moments of the first episode, “Everything Changes.”
The show’s world is introduced to the viewer through the eyes of Gwen Cooper (the deliciously appealing Eve Myles), a police officer who joins Team Torchwood in the first episode. Her worldview will be altered forever before the season is over, but if she’s strong enough she may just retain her humanity, which isn’t an easy thing to do when vicious aliens, evil fairies, crazed cannibals and horny co-workers are around every corner. Yes, alongside the monsters, “Torchwood” manages to also be a sexy and often wickedly humorous program.
The first season has maybe three or four incredible episodes (“Countrycide” and “Out of Time” are both exceptional) and a couple that just don’t work at all (“Cyberwoman” is MST3K bad). The other half dozen or so fall somewhere in between. To say that the show’s all over the place wouldn’t be at all incorrect, yet it’s clearly a case of the creators trying as many things as possible so they can figure out what does and doesn’t work. What keeps the momentum building is that “Torchwood” never fails to demonstrate potential, even when it’s stumbling. It’s aimed squarely at an adult audience, replete with f-bombs, screwing and plenty of gore, and feels like the sort of thing HBO might produce if only they did sci-fi shows.
Even if you’re not a “Doctor Who” fan, you shouldn’t dismiss this series; likewise, there are probably people who enjoy “Who” who won’t care for this material. “Torchwood” is as different in tone, style and execution from its parent series as “Lou Grant” was from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and it stands on its own in terms of narrative. It’s bold, ballsy sci-fi that pushes boundaries, and for that alone it’s a no-brainer of a recommendation.
This seven-disc box set has been released here in the States to coincide with the Season Two premiere. If you’ve never watched the series and want to get caught up, you better hurry: The second season kicks off on Jan. 26 on BBC America and also on HDNet on Feb. 11.
Special Features: The box is set up similar to the “Doctor Who” season sets and is jam-packed with extras. Every episode has its own commentary track with various members of the cast and crew taking turns gabbing over the course of the 13 episodes. There are loads of behind-the-scenes featurettes as well as several sections of deleted scenes and an outtake reel that mostly consists of the actors goofing around on the set. Disc seven features all 14 installments of “Torchwood: Declassified,” a documentary series devoted to exploring each individual episode of the season.