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TV Review: Torchwood – Episode 1 “Everything Changes”

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Torchwood is the BBC’s new adult Doctor Who spin off. Created by Who producer Russell T. Davies, it deals with a secret organization that investigates extraterrestrial and paranormal activity.

Based in Cardiff (there’s a dimensional rift there that makes it a centre of otherworldly activity) is Torchwood 3, the homebase of our crack team of investigators. Torchwood 1 was in London until its destruction at the end of the second season of Doctor Who, Torchwood 2 is in Scotland and we’re informed that Torchwood 4 is currently missing. Whether any of this will play a part in future adventures is anyone’s guess, but it does give Torchwood a larger scope than just the one base staffed by five people that’s at the centre of this series.  

Russell T. Davies’s scripts for Doctor Who have, overall, been the weaker stories, so my high expectations were somewhat tempered before watching Torchwood. Thankfully, unencumbered by the restrictions of making a primetime family series, he’s created a first rate pilot episode.

Focusing on Gwen Cooper, a young police officer, gives the audience someone to identify with in much the same way as Rose Tyler did on Who. She starts the episode as an outsider, first encountering the group at a murder site. While her fellow officers are willing to just let things go when Torchwood arrive on the scene she decides to investigate further, eventually tracking them down to their secret headquarters.

Once inside, the group's leader, the enigmatic Captain Jack Harkness, introduces her to the team. Owen Harper is the group's resident genius, Toshiko Sato is the computer wiz (every group needs one), Suzie Costello is Jack’s right hand ‘man’ and Ianto Jones is the receptionist/file clerk/teaboy.

Even though the story spends more time on introducing Gwen to the group, and the group to the audience, it doesn’t neglect the murder mystery element of the plot.  It even manages to wrap things up with a nice little twist that this member of the audience didn’t see coming.  Still though, the main focus of the episode is on introducing the characters and from the evidence of this opening shot they seem a likeable bunch, although there is obviously much room for development.

John Barrowman is the star of the show as Captain Jack. By turns charismatic, funny, and mysterious, he’s very much The Doctor to Gwen’s companion role. Jack will be familiar to anyone who watched the first season of Doctor Who, but you don’t need to have seen it to understand what’s going on here. While there are plenty of Who references for the fanboys, there is also plenty for the layman to enjoy as well.

Eve Myles isn’t overshadowed by Barrowman; her Gwen is a sexy, intelligent, and sometimes overly inquisitive heroine. She previously appeared in the Doctor Who episode "The Unquiet Dead" as the heroic Gwyneth, and I think she’s a star in the making.

As the cocky, sex obsessed Owen Harper, Burn Gorman does a good job. It’s the kind of part that could easily grate, and it may end up doing so, but here he treads the fine line, managing to make Owen an amusing pain in the ass rather than an annoying one.

Like Eve Myles, Naoko Mori had previously worked on Who having a part in "Aliens of London" where she played…Dr Sato. Is this the same Dr Sato? Probably, and this will doubtless be one thing for the fans to discuss. Her character is the most underdeveloped, but I’m sure there are interesting things planned for her in the future.

Gareth David-Lloyd is very much an unknown quantity, both in himself and his character Ianto Jones. He does enough here though to suggest he could be one to watch.

The most experienced member of the cast is without doubt Indira Varma. She’s had role’s in major TV drama’s on both sides of the Atlantic. She appeared in the recent TV remake of The Quatermass Experiment, also had a part in the epic historical series Rome, and she’ll soon be seen in an adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s Comanche Moon. Her character certainly experiences some interesting developments and I’ll be very intrigued to see how her role continues.

A fine cast, a good story, and excellent special effects (for the BBC), including a very unpleasent alien. This is a splendid way to start the series and everything points to this being another big hit for the BBC.

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