The spin-off Doctor Who TV series by Russell T Davies, Torchwood started off very strong. Following the adventures of an organization dating back to Queen Victoria, the once powerful operation utilizing alien technology to defend the planet from invasion, Torchwood was reduced to a humble operation running out of a ‘secret’ underground location in Cardiff, Wales. The team leader, Captain Jack, was a former traveling companion of the Doctors and also a former con man. During a Dalek attack, Jack lost his life but was revived by the Doctor’s companion Rose Tyler who had become fused with the Time Vortex. This somehow made Jack into an immortal, able to survive any form of death and injury. He also became the longest serving member of Torchwood after being somehow tossed through time into the past (if this was ever fully explained, it was off-screen to my knowledge).
While the mission of Torchwood was to defend the Earth from alien threats using the same technology that fell to the planet as weaponry, the appearance of a rift in space and time made things far simpler. Both threats and solutions popped out of the magic hole in reality with Torchwood acting as a kind of library and paramilitary group all at once.
Captain Jack led his Torchwood team of specialists and outcasts through a series of adventures that fended off numerous invasion attempts from the stars and the odd temporal anomaly. The series was envisioned as a post-watershed program that could delve into material that was inappropriate for its sister program, Doctor Who. The first series of Torchwood embraced this charge by including extreme violence, language and sexual conduct. RTD had hinted at similar material in Doctor Who, but in Torchwood, he went all out. Same sex relationships, profanity, gun play and other ‘adult’ situations proliferated Torchwood, a program that was hinted at throughout the 2006 series of Doctor Who.
In my opinion, the program worked as its own entity but as a spin-off to a children’s program it was a bizarre decision. The follow-up series was sub-par (aside from the Owen is a zombie story line and the PJ Hammond episode… how did Torchwood get the creator of Sapphire and Steel to submit 2 scripts for Torchwood but not one for Doctor Who???) and seemed to take all of the intense work of the first year as a gag. The third series, a five-part special called Children of Earth, was far too over-dramatic for my taste.
After wrapping up his monumental five year run on Doctor Who, developing both Torchwood and Sarah Jane Smith Adventures, Davies departed for America with stars in his eyes. After courting numerous possibilities, he finally found a home for what had started as a hopeful spin-off and later became a cult hit. The popularity of star John Barrowman and the tonal appeal to Buffy fans made the case for Davies and won his the support of cable station Starz.
The new series, entitled The New World, will premiere on the Starz cable TV station in the US and in the UK as well. Joining Gwen Cooper and Captain Jack Harkness are two new characters a CIA agent and an analyst. The usual 12 part series has been cut back to 10 stories with head writer and creator Russell T Davies at the helm as new writers from Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer join the writing team. A comic book series with a script by Captain Jack actor John Barrowman and art by Tommy Lee Edwards.
Torchwood comic video
It is still unclear when the new series will air and what the tonal approach will be. Given that the three series to date have been drastically different, I’m not sure what to expect. But there will surely bee cries of ‘squee’ across the world when Torchwood returns to the TV screens in 2011.