So you’re new to Torchwood. Perhaps you’re like me, never really into the whole Doctor Who Universe (although I do admit to having watched an episode or two back in the day), but have gotten emotionally entangled into the Starz/BBC series Torchwood: Miracle Day.
You must be curious about the whole Torchwood thing, and perhaps, also like me, you’ve gone back and watched the entire opus of Torchwood in all its incarnations: Series 1, Series 2, and Torchwood: Children of the Earth. If not, you should, and add to those, particular story arcs from both the Christopher Eccleston (the ninth Doctor) and David Tenant (the tenth Doctor) Doctor Who series. But that’s a lot of TV gazing.
So, as a service to my fellow newbies (and now that I’ve watched each episode two or three times—yes, I’m a hopeless nerd), I want to give you a bit of a guide to the Torchwood universe and suggest several episodes with which you might consider starting—especially those that might enlighten you to the characters of Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles).
“So, what the heck is Torchwood, anyway?” you might inquire. Torchwood was established by Queen Victoria to protect the earth from aliens. In the early days, when Jack was recruited, Torchwood agents were brutal towards them, preferring to shoot (to kill) first and ask questions later. Although Captain Jack found that distasteful (“Fragments,” Series 2), he went along because, frankly, he needed the money. The present-day Torchwood does not prefer to kill alien life forms unless they are particularly hostile, and Jack and the Torchwood team have saved their share of alien lives. In “Meat” (Series 2), having discovered a giant, benign alien tortured for its edible flesh, Jack is horrified at the treatment of this poor creature, comforting it as it dies (a mercy killing).
In the first two series of Torchwood, the team spends a lot of time hunting Weevils—humanoid creatures (but really ugly humanoid creatures with big deadly fang teeth) who slip through the time-space rift running through Cardiff, Wales. Oh. I forgot to mention the time-space rift thing. There is a rift in the time-space continuum that runs right through Cardiff.
If I’ve got this right, the rift is a tear in the fabric of time and space that allows beings and object from other times and places (and I don’t mean Chicago) to float through and appear in our time (and space). Beings from other galaxies, people from other times (past or future)—some hostile, some benevolent, some simply confused to be out of their own time and place—happen into the rift and find themselves in Cardiff. Torchwood tracks rift activity and addresses any problems caused, and in the bargain, has collected an array of alien technology that would make Fox Mulder swoon. The alien technology has come in very handy for the Torchwood team over the years, allowing them to escape from danger—and save the world a couple of times, at least.
Speaking of aliens, there is Captain Jack Harkness himself. Born in the 51st Century, he is from the Boeshane Peninsula—a place not of this earth. A “time agent” employed by the Time Agency, Jack’s special wristband enables him to travel through time and space at will on missions of a unspecified nature.
From what I understand, Jack’s home town is an Earth colony on a distant planet. And from the bits and pieces I’ve seen of it on Torchwood (“Adam” and “Exit Wounds,” Series 2), it reminds me a bit of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home planet. A desert-ish planet, it was attacked when Jack was a teenager. His father told him to run to safety with his brother Gray, but in the chaos, young Jack lost the grip on his brother’s hand, and by the time he’d realized that Gray had let go, the attack was underway. In the end, Jack’s father was killed and Gray had disappeared.