May 20, 2010

[TV] Torchwood: Season 1

Torchwood: Season 1The revival of the Doctor Who series in 2005 has led to a few other spin-off series as a result of the show. This is perfectly understandable given (1) the sheer diversity of characters present in the show, (2) how iconic and far-reaching the Doctor Who franchise is and (3) just how much the British TV-viewing public seems to enjoy science fiction a lot more than the rest of the world (I'm looking at you US network TV!).

The thing one has to appreciate about the highly controlled environment that is British national TV is the fact that the segmentation of shows based on time is highly regulated. And thus even for a national network, one can choose to create more targetted programming based on your target audience. Children's programs are more towards the day and more adult programming can be reserved for late night viewing.

And this is how this particular show really came to be.

Torchwood is the more adult-themed spin-off of Doctor Who as created by Russell T. Davies. The second season of Doctor Who really worked to setup the creation of Torchwood and it certainly remains to be one of the more enjoyable shows that I've encountered.

The Torchwood Institute was supposedly created by Queen Victoria to study extraterrestial phenomena and defend Britain against such incursions. They started out as somewhat antagonists to the Doctor but then eventually Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) eventually manages to become head of the Torchwood branch in Cardiff. Together with his team, Jack continues the fight against aliens just as the Doctor would, but firmly within the confines of Earth.

Eve Myles at The Rift, a Torchwood conventionImage via Wikipedia

His team is composed of a doctor named Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), technological wizard Toshiko Sato (Naoko Maori), all-around gopher Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) and initially Suzie Costello (Indira Varma). The first season centers around a new addition to the team, former policewoman Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), whom Doctor Who fans should remember from the season 1 episode The Unquiet Dead.

The show sort of seems like a play at something like The X-Files, but with a lot more action and a lot more adult banter. It probably doesn't help that Jack Harkness is an omnisexual who will get in bed with just about anything sentient, Owen is a big of a sex fiend as well and Gwen has a pretty healthy relationship with her boyfriend. This comes from the fact that Torchwood does get shown much later and thus it was free to explore these avenues a lot more than the main Doctor Who show ever could. I never felt it distracted from the main goals of the story in each episode and it certainly helped give it a unique character different from the others.

The show is rich with aliens, high tech wizardry and various supernatural phenomena, thus keeping the Torchwood crew pretty busy. I certainly enjoyed some of the concepts they explored through the course of the show plus the genuine interaction and camaraderie between the cast members is certainly something that keeps things going.

Torchwood is certainly a refreshing take on science fiction with a more mature tone and it gets 4 vile-looking Weevils out of a possible 5.


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