October 22nd, 2006
So, Torchwood has arrived. Three years ago, who'd have thought that we'd be seeing a spin-off from a new version of Doctor Who, let alone one built around a character previously unknown to Who fans who featured in less than half the episodes from one season of the parent show?
Captain Jack made a big impression in those five episodes, and whilst John Barrowman is by no means a big TV star he has charisma aplenty and the support of Russell T Davies, who has surely earned the trust of the BBC's executives after the job he's done reviving one of their signature shows. It's tempting to draw parallels with what Joss Whedon did with Angel, and certainly nothing in the first two episodes of Torchwood renders that comparison invalid.
Torchwood's first two episodes introduced the supporting cast and set up the parameters for what's to come. Eve Myles' Gwen Cooper, who serves as the viewers' surrogate as the policewoman who stumbles into the middle of a Torchwood operation and finds herself recruited, is an appealing character and over time hopefully we'll get to know the other Torchwood staff better. (This is one area where Angel had an advantage, since as well as two main characters right from the start who we already knew well from Buffy there were also plenty of guest appearances over the first season to tie the show closely to its sibling.)
It's clearly no more a proper science fiction show than Doctor Who is, but the first two episodes of Torchwood did a decent job of giving us a British-based X-Files without the underlying conspiracy plot. The special effects were decent enough, the timeslot allows slightly more adult content than we get at 7pm on a Saturday, and all in all I can see this show developing a following.
It'll be interesting to see how far Torchwood stands free from Doctor Who; I fully expect to see at least a cameo appearance from Prime Minister Harriet Jones, and I gather that rumour has it that Captain Jack will show up in Who season 3, but I'd be surprised if we get a full-on crossover storyline. Perhaps Captain Jack will just disappear for a brief spell in the middle of a Torchwood episode only to return having spent three weeks with the Doctor; time travel is handy that way. (If we don't hear the sound of the Tardis engine at least once during Torchwood's first season – probably dropping Jack off after whatever adventure he has on the parent show – I'll be deeply disappointed.)