10 years of Torchwood

John Barrowman in 2014
John Barrowman in 2014

On October 22, 2006 the TV show “Torchwood” made its debut. It’s a “Doctor Who” spin-off.

The producer Russell T Davies started developing an idea concerning a science fiction TV show before he even started working on the new “Doctor Who” series. The term “Torchwood” was originally used for “Doctor Who” – of which is an anagram – during the filming of the first episodes to avoid unwanted attention. When Russell T Davies started thinking about his idea again, he decided to make it a “Doctor Who” spin-off and to use “Torchwood” as its title.

The new show was developed with the idea that it was aimed at a more adult audience than its mother show but several connections were built to give an idea of the Torchwood Institute functions. In the episode “Tooth and Claw” its origin is explained, decided by Queen Victoria after she met the Doctor and discovered the existence of alien threats.

“Torchwood” cast consists of:

  • John Barrowman (photo ©Eva Rinaldi) as Jack Harkness
  • Eve Myles (photo ©Eva Rinaldi) as Gwen Cooper
  • Burn Gorman as Owen Harper (seasons 1-2)
  • Naoko Mori as Toshiko Sato(seasons 1-2)
  • Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto Jones (seasons 1-3)
  • Kai Owen (photo ©Eva Rinaldi) as Rhys Williams
  • Mekhi Phifer as Rex Matheson (season 4)
  • Alexa Havins as Esther Drummond (season 4)
  • Bill Pullman as Oswald Danes (season 4)

Captain Jack Harkness, who commands Torchwood 3 based in Cardiff, was introduced in the first season of the new “Doctor Who” series, where he becomes the Doctor’s companion before getting killed and resurrected. At the beginning of the series “Torchwood” his team gets introduced and in the first episode Gwen Cooper gets added after getting involved in a Torchwood team operation during an investigation as a police officer.

The first “Torchwood” season quickly shows issues aimed at the audience more mature than that of “Doctor Who” with sexual and violent contents possible after watershed with tones that are darker than those of its parent series. The cases of Captain Harkness team concern not only alien presences but are also connected to the space-time rift existing in Cardiff.

The second season expands the themes of the first one deepening the relationships among the Torchwood Cardiff team’s members. Some plots concern Captain Jack Harkness with important connections with his past and in particular to his old colleague, Captain John Hart, and his brother Gray, whom he believed to be dead.

After two 13-episode seasons in which different stories were told, a third was produced made up only 5 episodes broadcast in 5 consecutive days that told one single story. Titled “Children of Earth”, it’s widely considered the masterpiece of the entire show but is also the most dramatic for the terrible consequences of the events on the protagonists and not just on them.

Torchwood as an organization is over and its surviving former members live using false identities. However, the event called “Miracle Day” gives its name to the fourth season, consisting of 10 episodes, which show the consequences of death cessation. The involvement of two CIA agents leads to a sort of refoundation of Torchwood.

“Miracle Day” received many negative reviews but officially “Torchwood” has never been canceled. With British shows that have a good active fandom it’s always possible that new episodes get produced even after years. The BBC had published a number of novels and broadcast some radio plays but it’s Big Finish that’s been keeping the show alive by producing several audio adventures, even if they were set at the time of the first TV seasons.

It’s hard to say what might be the future of “Torchwood”. On the occasion of this anniversary there will be the debut of “Class”, the new “Doctor Who” spin-off: this could mean that the BBC still remembers “Torchwood” but also a symbolic replacement of the old show with the new one.

Eve Myles and Kai Owen in 2013
Eve Myles and Kai Owen in 2013

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