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DVD Review: Torchwood – The Complete Second Season

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The sister show to Doctor Who, Torchwood matured a great deal in its second season, boasting some truly great episodes.

This five-disc collection holds all 13 episodes, a few deleted scenes, and a disc of special features known as “Torchwood Declassified.”

Torchwood spun out from Doctor Who several years ago, and although it shares the same universe, it sports a very distinct feel. It has a larger cast, and a more standard format.

The show centers on the group Torchwood which is described as “outside the government , beyond the police…”. This has always been a problem for me because I can’t rationalize an organization in large part run by the government being somehow above it. It’s just a nitpick I have with the show, and an opening that I feel the show could do without.

In the group you have Captain Jack Harkness, the mysterious and charismatic leader who cannot stay dead; Owen, the doctor; Gwen, the forensics and general investigations specialist; Tosh, the computer wizard, and Ianto, the butler (although he gets to do a lot more this season). The standard episode runs about 50 minutes, usually following a specific formula, beginning withthe introduction of some alien or alien-induced problem. The rest of the episode is spent researching, and addressing it. This is usually balanced very lightly with the team’s lives (or lack thereof) outside the job.

The pacing although slow at times however it is an improvement over the first season mostly dull plot lines that would not get going until the 35-minute mark. The acting in season one season is just okay, with some actors giving poorly delivered lines, and unconvincing emotions. For instance Tosh’s squeamish flirting with Owen can be hard to watch at times, as the actress simply can’t pull off the emotions required for these moments. Jack, arguably the protagonist, sometimes has a hard time of selling his lines, with a drab monotone delivery. These fumbles are a very small issue when looking at the show as a whole, but it does distract from the viewing experience.  

That said, by the second season, the characters are written better with some real arcs in their storylines. The writers are good at showing the characters having fun, cracking jokes and doing secret agent speak, but they fall flat when it comes time for the really dramatic moments. The writers also work to give more depth and background to the characters with episodes like Gwen’s wedding. 
Rhys, Gwen’s boyfriend, gets a larger role this season after he learns about Torchwood. This creates a new, and more important a much more interesting dynamic to Gwen and Rhys’ relationship.

The series starts of with a tremendous first episode, bringing a character from Jack’s time agent days back to haunt him. This character, John (played by James Marsters of Buffy) plays wonderfully off Jack, and the episode, like the rest of the season throws in some surprises about Jack’s past.

Owen dies halfway through the season, but he comes back with a new twist on death, a theme that has permeated Torchwood since the first episode. This gives a chance for the character of Owen to really shine, and unsurprisingly it changes his relationship with the team.

Doctor Who‘s Martha Jones puts in an appearance in for a few episodes and takes over for Owen physician while he is unable to perform his duties. Her appearance is not especially notable; there are no new insights into her Doctor Who character. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but she doesn’t bring anything new to the team either so her appearance feels like a way to get Doctor Who viewers to try Torchwood.

The season finale is surprising and satisfying end to the season, that truly feels like an ending. Plus it made more sense then most Doctor Who finales.

Besides the first and last episodes, season two highlights include “Meat”, which puts humans (and not the aliens) in the bad guy role. “Adam” features a villain that can change the memories of people with a touch, and it is very frightening at points. “A Day in the Death” is a touching, optimistic look at death.

Of course you have a few cheesy and generally bad episodes namely “To the Last Man”, and “From Out of the Rain”.

The second season of Torchwood is a major improvement of the first, but it is still not a must-watch series. If you are a fan of Doctor Who and have wondered if Torchwood is worth a watch, I would skip the first season and move straight to this one to see if you like it. If the idea of aliens in a cop procedural type show sounds like fun to you, then this might be for you.


 

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