BBC’s Torchwood begins when Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), a cop, encounters Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). Jack is the leader of Torchwood, a shadowy government organization, that is actually a group helping defend Earth from aliens, centered near a spatial rift in Cardiff, Wales. Team member Suzie (Indira Varma) betrays her friends, testing a glove that can bring bodies back from the dead. Suzie kills Jack, who can come back to life, and then dies herself. Gwen takes Suzie’s place, joining Torchwood full-time.
Torchwood is technically a spin-off of the reboot of Doctor Who, but no prior knowledge of Doctor Who is necessary to jump into the Torchwood adventure. It can completely stand on its own.
In series one, Gwen, Jack, and the rest of the team tackle a number of mostly stand-alone cases. Suzie returns, and the glove is explored more fully. Torchwood takes on enemies such as a purple cloud, a cyberwoman that Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) keeps in the basement, a dealer in alien artifacts, and Weevils. There are also time travel and flashbacks, expanding the world beyond there and now. Gwen doesn’t deal too well with her immersion into this world, acting out in an affair with Owen (Burn Gorman). Perhaps because she can’t tell her boyfriend, Rhys (Kai Owen), what exactly she does. At the end of the season, they must do battle with Abaddon, a giant demon, and Jack leaves.
Series two finds Jack back, with former lover and partner Captain John (James Marsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) not far behind. Later, another old acquaintance of Jack’s, Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) visits. Jack relives his tragic past; Rhys learns all about Gwen’s job, to his horror. Yet, he marries her anyway. Tosh (Naoko Mori) looks for love, and sees Owen with fresh eyes. Unfortunately, Owen is killed. He continues to exist, but can no longer heal from injuries, and his permanent demise becomes a threat hanging over his every action. Jack’s brother is the real threat, though, and his actions lead to not only the end of Owen, but Tosh, as well.
With the third series, Torchwood presents a miniseries entitled “Children of Earth.” Aliens arrive and want a large percentage of the planet’s young. Government officials consider the threat, and begin preparing to deliver just that. Jack and Ianto have personal reasons that they do not want this to happen, as well as the general save-the-world mission. With Gwen, they manage to put a stop to the madness, and save kids everywhere. But there is a steep cost, with Jack’s lover, Ianto, paying a fatal price in this go-round.
Now all three series are available in one box set, Torchwood The Complete Original UK Series. This fourteen disc DVD collection contains not only the episodes, but also a ton of special features. Torchwood lives on in an American continuation, airing on Starz this past summer, but this set will allow viewers in the States to catch up on the original run. It’s the perfect Christmas present.
The most exciting bonus is the popular Torchwood Declassified entries, a look behind the scenes of the show. Other featurettes delve into everything from certain alien life forms, to technology shown on screen, to character development. Most are short, but informative. “The Team and their Troubles” and “Moments in the Making” are recurring themes. Series one has, by far, the most of these extras, which really gets the ball rolling.
There are also the standard deleted scenes, outtakes and audio commentaries. Again, its series one with the lion’s share, featuring a commentary track for every single episode. It’s too bad this level of care doesn’t go into all three series. But since series one is the least interesting on its own, and also sets up many of the things that come later, it is the smart one to focus on.
The packaging for Torchwood The Complete Original UK Series is quite nice. A booklet of discs pulls out of the case, and there are lots of graphics illustrating some of the best moments. Those flipping through the set will see exactly what they are in for before even popping a DVD into the player, which should entice new fans along.
Torchwood is an excellent sci-fi series, with lots of great adventure, but also some serious character development. With wreckless, witty Jack and determined, fearless Gwen leading the way, the team tackles many a challenge in an entertaining way. Death looms heavily, and emotional strings are tugged. For any viewer looking for the best the UK has to offer, Torchwood is a great place to start.
I highly recommend Torchwood The Complete Original UK Series.