Torchwood Season One
Jack Harkness is an enigma. We first met him in Doctor Who. He was introduced as an omni-sexual con artist/time agent; but he was also good, heroic, and cleaver. He wasn’t so much a ‘reformed bad boy,’ as he wasn’t that bad to start with, but he had that kind of vibe. At the end of his Who story, Jack is killed, then resurrected and subsequently left behind in the future.
The next thing we know, he’s in Cardiff, Wales, leading a secret team of alien investigators. But Jack Harkness has changed. Outwardly he’s just as playful, witty, and impulsive as ever, except now it feels like it’s just an act. We find that his resurrection was not a one time thing, he’s now immortal, and his trip from the future to the present was a very long and painful one. John Barrowman, who plays Jack, does a great job of expressing the two faces of Jack, the comedy and the Drama, but season one gives virtually none of his back story directly, and if you hadn’t seen Doctor Who, you’d be hard pressed to understand what was going on with him at all. The character is portrayed very clearly, but the plot does not flesh him out.
Our introduction into the Torchwood world comes though Gwen Cooper, a police officer who stumbles onto their work, and is soon recruited. Gwen is the most normal of the group, she’s well adjusted, has a boyfriend, and has the human empathy and professionalism that came from her police training. JAck warns her to not let the job change her, implying that the others in the group were once less jaded.
With the other characters, you get the feeling that Torchwood was their only option. Toshiko Sato is the computer expert who has devoted her entire life to her work and finds it very difficult to make connections with others. This is the subject of a great episode titled, ‘Greeks Barring Gifts,’ about an alien woman who gives Toshiko a device which enables her to read minds. On using it, she finds out that her worst fears of what people think of her are true.
Owen Harper, the doctor, is young and skilled, but has a reckless immaturity. It’s hard to believe he’d be taken seriously as a doctor anywhere. He, too, is unable to make real connections with people, though unlike Toshiko, Owen is merely unwilling, not incapable. The few times he does express genuine emotion, such as in the episodes ‘Ghost Machine,’ and ‘Combat,’ he tends to go overboard, and do very stupid things.
Ianto Jones is the secretary/personal assistant of the group. He’s very good at his job, which by its nature means he is very helpful and accommodating. ‘Cyberwoman’ is his starring episode. It seems like a departure from the character he had displayed up to that point, but his actions in the episode are really just an extension of his loyalty, as misplaced as it may be.
Russell T Davies, who created the series (and rebooted Doctor Who) always includes season-long story arcs, but wasn’t always the greatest at integrating them. He basically just inserts a cryptic line into two or three episodes that are referred back to in the season finale, it kind of just feels tacked on.
The series is episodic, with a wide variety of story lines and styles present. Some episodes are better than others, but none are bad. The show sort of sets itself up as a more mature Doctor Who, and that’s essentially what it is. The characters are interesting, though with the lack of back story, you have to put more work into figuring them out, which isn’t a bad thing.
The Blu Rays are incredible, with very clear video. There are two mini-docs for each episode.