Torchwood is the first successful spin-off from the popular, long-running BBC series Doctor Who (1981’s K-9 and Company was the first attempt). The show is billed as an adult spin-off. While Doctor Who dealt with matters in a family friendly way, Torchwood is darker and grimmer at times. The series is set in Cardiff and follows the Welsh branch of a covert agency called the Torchwood Institute which investigates extraterrestrial incidents on Earth and scavenges alien technology for its own use.
The team is led by Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), an omnisexual immortal from the 51st century who cannot die under any circumstances and who hits on anything male or female, human or otherwise. He and his team guard humanity against alien threats and watch over the space/time rift upon which their headquarters sits.
If you ask my wife, I am obsessed with all things Doctor Who, and she’s kind of right, but I was very disappointed when the Sci-Fi Channel passed on airing Torchwood and BBC America would be airing it instead, which sadly I don’t get. So when I received the second season DVD, I eagerly ripped into the discs.
When we last left Torchwood, Jack was pining for his doctor. In the last scene of the season one ender, we heard the distinctive sound of the TARDIS arriving, and then Jack seemingly disappeared. Fans of Doctor Who know what happened if they watched the last few episodes of Doctor Who, season three. When we rejoin Torchwood in “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”, the team are still doing their job but without Jack. When he reappears and is asked where he’s been, he simply states he found his doctor.
This episode sets up the majority of the season and guest stars James Marsters (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) as Captain John Hart, a former partner and lover of Jack’s who causes major trouble before leaving, including dropping the bombshell that he’s found Gray — Jack’s brother. During the season, Jack and Torchwood come across butchers who are carving up an alien entity that can regenerate, giving the butchers an endless supply of meat; an alien who can only live by altering the team’s memory to include him; pictures coming to life and not wanting to leave; and alien sleeper agents who have taken over human bodies but the humans won’t change until the planned invasion is about to start.
The characters are fleshed out and storylines improve upon last season's developments. Freema Agyeman guest stars as former Doctor Who companion Martha Jones for three episodes and her involvement with Torchwood leads to the death of a team member, but that member is brought back (thanks to the resurrection glove) with unforeseen complications.
“Fragments” is a great episode that shows how each member came to join Torchwood and leads right into the finale with Captain John returning and Jack having a reunion with his brother that will have dire consequences for the rest of the team with Jack having to avoid a time paradox.
When the dust settles and the finale ends, Torchwood has undergone some changes, which would spoil a lot so I won’t mention them. But when season three starts I will be curious to see what the changes will do to Torchwood. I’m slightly wary of the plans for season three, though. Both Doctor Who and Torchwood have had thirteen episode seasons run weekly. The plans for season three are to air just five episodes run nightly starting on January 1, 2009; hopefully the series will do well and more episodes will be commissioned.
Not as packed as last year's season one release, Torchwood: Season Two still has some good extras:
“The Life and Deaths of Captain Jack” – This featurette is narrated by Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones from Doctor Who series three) and goes over Captain Jack Harkness’s timeline from both Doctor Who and Torchwood. It features interviews with John Barrowman (Harkness), executive producer Russell T. Davies, producer Richard Stokes, writer/producer Chris Chibnall, Barrowman’s stunt double Curtis Rivers, music composer Ben Foster, and David Tennant (The Doctor). Here they regale us with tales of Jack, from his creation to his development and there’s a great story of what Harkness is revealed to become in the season three finale of Doctor Who. Tennant read it first and was blown away and eagerly awaited Barrowman’s reaction and the telling of this story is priceless.
“Outtakes” – This featurette contains more than 50 bloopers from the various actors throughout the season.
“Deleted Scenes” – Scenes that were trimmed or completely removed from the final airing. I can understand why most scenes were cut, but the scenes from “A Day in the Death” between Owen and a dying billionaire with an alien artifact should have been kept in. But even BBC shows have their time limits, and at least it can be viewed here.
Finally we have "Torchwood: Declassified". This is the behind-the-scenes documentary series that accompanied each episode on BBC broadcast. Interesting to watch, however I wish they had done some commentaries for the episodes like last year's release.
BBC America says that the second season of this show was the most watched in the history of the cable network. After viewing this season it’s easy to understand why. I eagerly and anxiously await season three when it airs starting on January 1, 2009.