Torchwood is a spin-off of the new Doctor Who television show. Throughout the first couple of seasons of the new Who we see pieces being put into place to create Torchwood, the organization as well as the idea. Clearly this spin-off was planned to some extent through the new show. Our main character Captain Jack Harkness has a memorable presence on the Doctor Who program as well.

Season 1 of Torchwood introduces us to the team. Without providing too many spoilers, Harkness is immortal as a result of some things that happen in Doctor Who. Harkness leads a team of paranormal alien investigators in a top secret organization known as Torchwood. The series plays out a bit like X-Files with the team tracking down aliens and working to contain them.

The first season starts off about like you would expect with a new member, Gwen Cooper stumbling her way onto the team. Soon after Gwen is introduced we start going on adventures. This show which was created by Russell T. Davies of Doctor Who fame and has many of his trademark stamps on it. From the first episode we can see that he’s planning a larger overall story arc. The theme appears to be “there’s something in the darkness… And it’s coming” which seems to recur over the course of the episode run.

There are a couple of real highlight episodes during Season 1. The team encounters a couple of non-aliens that turn into one of the more fascinating stories. There is also a great bit of science fiction throughout, while keeping the drama somewhat real worldly. One of the early complaints I read from people about Torchwood was that the characters were unlikable. In Season 1, I somewhat understand this.

Gwen is the character we most see through the eyes of, she’s relatively plain and the first season is mostly her struggle to deal with her previous life and how much it’s changed since coming to Torchwood. Her boyfriend Rhys (Reese) is along for the ride and doesn’t know the secrets of where Gwen works which becomes a recurring theme as well.

Captain Jack is the leader and we learn through Gwen that none of the team knows about Jack’s past or his immortality. They also don’t know why he insists on keeping that hand in the jar. The hand of course, ties into the Doctor Who story.

Owen Harper is the team’s medical expert and is mostly a prick during Season 1. He’s not a very likeable character but his snappy dialogue and sharp tongue made him a favorite of mine. Owen starts forming a relationship with Gwen which leads to one of the bigger breakdowns of the season and goes to show how much stress having a job like the one at Torchwood would have on anyone. It causes good people to behave in a nature they normally wouldn’t.

Ianto Jones does very little in Season 1, sans a early episode where he makes a big impact. Ianto is mostly an errand boy for the team although we do see him start to step it up a bit towards the end. Jones is mysterious and cold, though we do see hints that he has a relationship with the unisexual Jack Harkness.

Finally there is Toshiko Sato who is the team’s computer expert. If you’ve ever watched Smallville, Sato basically has the Chloe role. However Toshiko does have a few personality traits, she’s the loveable loser who is never comfortable in her own skin. She saves the day more often than not, but never seems to be respected by her peers. She loves Owen and he never even notices her.

The first season has it’s ups and downs. It’s fun to watch these members go on their adventures capturing aliens and encountering the weird. It’s never quite as good as Doctor Who, but it doesn’t always try to be. Some of the stories are much different and it’s vastly more violent and “adult”. Although I’m not one who really subscribes to the kids show belief of Doctor Who.

Regardless, Torchwood Season 1 is a fun science fiction romp and it’s basically everything you could have wanted out of X-Files without all the lameness. Season 1 builds to an interesting climax that unfortunately has one of Russell T. Davies patented deus ex machina endings. Still some of the earlier episodes and the fun ideas like the resurrection gauntlet and the retcon pills keep drawing you in and by the season’s close you definitely feel like you could want more.

Despite it’s shortcomings, Torchwood is an engaging and fun show.

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