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Published:January 24th, 2008 11:21 EST
Torchwood on DVD:  Enter at Your Own Risk

Torchwood on DVD: Enter at Your Own Risk

By Garrett Godwin

Torchwood: outside the government, beyond the police.  Tracking down alien life on Earth, and arming the human race against the future.  The 21st century is where everything changes, and you got to be ready.  --Captain Jack Harkness

 John Barrowman reprises his role as Jack Harkness, the charming and rogue captain from the 51st century in Doctor Who's first ever spin-off, Torchwood, whose first season is finally released on DVD this week.  Barrowman debuted on Who in the final episodes of 2005, where his character was originally a conman.  However, throughout his adventures with the Doctor, Jack slowly reformed as more of a hero, and becomes a fan favorite.

In Torchwood, Jack is now the leader of a secret government agency that consists of Gwen Cooper, Owen Harper, Ianto Jones, and Toshiko Sato.  Playing by their own rules, there is a rift in the space-time continuum in Cardiff, and it is up to Captain Harkness and his team of operatives to save the planet Earth from things to goes bump in the night.        

The series is the brain child for executive producer Julie Gardner and writer Russell T. Davies, both of whom have written for Doctor Who, which Torchwood is an anagram of.  The reason behind this ambitious spin-off is they were inspired by American shows such as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Smallville.    


“That was a great year for American sci-fi, if I’m getting this right”, Gardner said.  “We were watching the last season of Buffy.  We were probably into, like, the third season of Angel.  Smallville was either in season one or season two.  And so every week, Russell and I would talk about those shows.  We would talk about why isn’t there a British sci-fi show that is paced in the same way as American sci-fi shows, has emotion and the kind of bigness of character and the excitement of those shows.  And in one of those conservations, Russell told me about a show he wanted to write, which at that point was called Excalibur.  It was very much Episode 1 of Torchwood.”    


Since its debut last fall in the United States, Torchwood has become BBC America’s biggest hit ever, and now its first season is here on DVD.  Featuring all 13 episodes that include extras such as deleted scenes and Torchwood Declassified, a behind-the-scenes look of the series of each episode from the cast and crew.        

Each member of the Torchwood team had its own arc throughout the first season in these episodes:

  • “Everything Changes”: Then a police officer, Gwen witnessed the resurrection of a murder victim, leading her to the intriguing yet dangerous of Torchwood, as she and viewers discovered Jack’s hidden secret.


  • “Cyberwoman”: Called as the “Alfred” of the team, Ianto must choose love and duty when Torchwood discovers that he has hid his half-human, half-robot girlfriend inside their headquarters. 


  • “Greek Bearing Gifts”: The quiet and reserved Toshiko receives a gift that allows her to read the minds of everyone around her – including her teammates, but soon learns that some things are better left unknown.


  • “They Keep Killing Susie”: Original member Susie Costello comes back from the dead when murders are being linked to Torchwood.


  • “Combat”: Heart-broken and distraught Owen goes undercover and uncovers a Fight Club involving men taking their frustrations out against aliens called Weevils.


  • “Captain Jack Harkness”: Due to the space-time continuum, Jack is transported to 1944 with Toshiko.  “He goes back to World War II and meets the man he took his name from.  He meets the real Captain Jack” stated Gardner.  “So there is a bit of an interrogation, an examination of our character Captain Jack and what his past was.  And he falls in love with him.  And it’s very, very moving.  … It’s done very lightly, but it’s important.”

Like Firefly, there is moral ambiguity within each of the team members, both professionally and personally, struggling to do what’s right in their job to protect humanity, while maintaining their sanity.  They protect people, but at what cost? And who protects them at the end of the day?  You don’t have to be a fan of Doctor Who to like Torchwood, which is dark, sexy, and addictive, and all mostly due to John Barrowman in his breakout role as handsome and charmastic Captain Jack Harkness.  Equal parts Han Solo and Buck Rogers, Jack is both a bad boy gone good and a tragic, reluctant hero cursed with a secret ability.  The first ever male bisexual hero ever shown on mainstream television, Jack Harkness gets by through his looks and wits, but always able to look out for his team, as he steps up to kick butt and save the day.        

Save the planet with the first season of Torchwood, available this week on DVD.