DVD
Torchwood
Complete First Series

Starring: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori and Gareth David Lloyd
BBC DVD
RRP: 54.99
BBCDVD2253
Certificate: 15
Available 19 November 2007


Separate from the government, outside the police, beyond the United Nations, Torchwood sets its own rules. Led by the enigmatic Captain Jack Harkness, Torchwood is made up of brilliant, passionate individuals, each bringing something unique to the team...

Series One of Torchwood gets off to a pretty impressive start. The opening episode, Everything Changes, sees us following police officer Gwen Cooper as she tries to discover what Torchwood is and where it's operatives are based. It starts off on a rainy night in Cardiff, when Cooper is part of a team of police officers that are sent to the crime scene of a murder. Within minutes of them arriving at the scene, a black SUV pulls up and four plain-clothed individually jump out. All they have to say is "Torchwood" and the police let them through to examine the body. With the rest of the police asked to clear the area, Gwen decides to enter a multi-storey car park that overlooks the crime scene, so she can get a better look. When she sees the Torchwood team briefly bring the dead man back to life, in order to ask him who attacked him, Gwen sets off on a quest to discover as much as she can about Torchwood.

The show, which is a spin-off of Doctor Who ("Torchwood" is also an anagram of "Doctor Who", for those who didn't already know), tackles more adult themes than Doctor Who. And, because it's screened after the 9pm watershed, the creators took the opportunity to include more gore, more sex and more swearing. Sadly, those three things alone don't make an adult drama.

The main characters in the series are, for the most part unbelievable. It could be because they are not dark enough. There's too much larking around, crying, and acting like immature children - screaming matches are not out of place. By far and away the worst offender is Captain Jack Harkness. Come on! A guy/alien/whatever who has been around for as long as he has - and who is heading up this kind of organisation - would be made of sterner stuff and certainly more focussed.

In fact, from episode to episode Harkness's character flips between being a no nonsense hard man (in the opening episode he lays down the law to Gwen that Torchwood is not there to solve crimes and help the human race when man turns against man) to being a big girly cry-baby (Captain Jack Harkness - come on please. Can you really get all Casablanca after chatting to a bloke for a few hours?)

And are we really to believe that every single member of Torchwood is bisexual? Because every single member has a bisexual encounter of some description - talking about ramming an issue down our throats. It just becomes embarrassingly funny in the end. In fact, what could have been a fantastically moving episode (Captain Jack Harkness) ends up being unintentionally funny and boring at the same time. It's not just the fact that we have another gay episode, but also the fact that Harkness falls for... er... himself!!! Er... kind of. Oh, please!

What makes this even worse is that at least two of the characters are strictly heterosexual (Gwen and Owen) I suspect that Toshika is too, but it's never really explored. So the only reason that they get jiggy with the opposite sex is because they are under the influence of some alien power or artefact (or in Owen's case because the boyfriend of a woman he's being ravaged by, will beat him black and blue)... Yes, great one! I'm sure all the homosexuals in the audience are applauding that one dimensional portrayal of their sexuality. Or is it simply that all aliens are either gay or have gay technology?

It could be that the reason why the characters seem to change so much from episode to episode is because there are a few too many writers and no one is really keeping them in check. It's such a shame that the greatness achieved in Russell T. Davis's first episode is never really matched again.

The second episode, Day One, is a cross between the Blob and Species, and the end result is a little disappointing. This is followed by the Ianto episode Cyberwoman. It's a shame more episodes don't feature Ianto a little more, as Gareth David Lloyd is a fantastic actor. However, there's a bit too much uncontrollable crying for my liking. And it was here that I started to realise that this is a UK show that has been designed to appeal more to an American audience. As the episodes progress there's far too many ideas that wouldn't look out of place in American shows, but are likely to leave a UK audience rolling their eyes and tutting: "Oh please!"

Nowhere is this more evident than in the next episode Small Worlds. It's a shame, because there is so much potential here to make this a really spooky episode. But there's too much two-dimensional character development. The little girl's parents are terrible. When the step-dad, sick of his stepdaughter's weird behaviour, puts up a fence to stop her going down to the woods, he smiles and nods to himself as he is hammering in the nails. Obviously he's also a pantomime villain at the weekends. Then there's the mum... Now I know that what happens to her at the end of this episode is terrible, but please! Show a little restraint. That's right out of the Big Book of Ham Acting. There was also a chance to have a little sentimental moment between Jack and his old friend. But, despite their history, he only gives her a moment's attention in the closing act. And he seems more upset that the girl skips off to fairy land. Whereas in the later Captain Jack Harkness episode, Jack connects with... er Jack in about an hour.

I won't even mention the fact that Countryside has nothing at all to do with aliens (oops! Too late), so after Harkness's stand in the first episode, of only going after alien threats, it's surprising to see Torchwood involved. It's also a pretty naff episode.

Skipping over lesbian alien episode Greek Bearing Gifts (I know, I can hardly believe I'm missing the chance to talk about that either), we have They Keep Killing Suzie, which is one of the best episode in this series. Indira Varma, who plays Suzie Costello, is easily one of the best actors on the show and it's a crying shame that they killed her off in the first episode. Thankfully, she's brought back for her own episode. Interestingly enough (and this goes to show how anal I am) the ISBN number given in this episode is actually for The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

This episode is followed by another one of my favourite episodes. Random Shoes follows the ghost of Eugene, after he realised that he's been killed in a hit and run. Again, for reasons never fully explained, Torchwood are on the case - although to be fair it's Gwen that does most of the work against the team's wishes. This was a great episode with only two minor problems. Firstly, what on earth was Eugene's dad doing at the funeral? Sure turn up, but standing up to deliver a speech when he'd been absent for so long seemed a little odd. And finally what was that ending all about? It's never really explained.

This is followed by more run-of-the-mill episodes: Out of Time (a plane lands in Cardiff that is out of time - the passengers are from 1953); Combat (a rather poor alien Fight Club); and Captain Jack Harkness (a time travelling episode that sees Jack and Toshika getting pulled back and trapped in time).

The final episode, End of Days, follows on slightly from Captain Jack Harkness. It also sees people from all over history materialising in Cardiff as a hole in time has appeared. The conclusion will certainly leave you wanting more.

Extras, as you'd expect from a BBC DVD release, are plentiful. We get audio commentaries on all 13 episodes with cast and crew (Russell T. Davies gives out a few spoilers for Series Two accidentally in the commentary for the first episode); Deleted Scenes; and Outtakes (6 mins). There are loads of other short featurettes, but I'd totally ignore those and watch the Torchwood Declassified (2hr 20mins) a collection of featurette that looks at every episode. These can be played as one long featurette, or for each episode. The truth is that nearly all of the smaller featurettes have lifted material from the Declassified extras.

These episodes have been released previously by the BBC as three double disc collections. And what I want to know is is someone at the BBC extracting the urine? How on earth can they justify slapping 13 (50 min) episodes across seven discs while repeating the majority of the content of the extras, and then have the cheek to charge £55?!!?

All 13 episodes and their audio commentaries would have squeezed onto three DVDs (easily) with all of the extras) on a fourth disc. Yes, all of a sudden £55 starts to look like a rip-off doesn't it?

This series won't be to everyone's liking. And in all honesty it's not as slick or enjoyable as Doctor Who. If you enjoyed the series when it was originally broadcast on TV, then you might feel the need to add this to your collection. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't bother. It's too expensive, and there aren't nearly enough episodes that rise above average.

Nick Smithson

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cover
£41.24 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
cover
£41.99 (Play.com)
Play.com exclusive - contains set of 4 Torchwood Art Cards
   
£41.99 (HMV.co.uk)
   
£38.93 (Asda.co.uk)
   
£38.93 (Thehut.com)

All prices correct at time of going to press.