After spending some weeks reviewing The Sarah Jane Adventures, it was only natural to consider returning to Torchwood next. And my first reaction is: boy am I glad I did. That’s not to say it’s flawless, because I hated Captain Jack’s first lines about “estrogen” and “contraceptives in the rain”. It’s about as classless as you can get for an opening line from such an otherwise outstanding character. As if trying to put the viewer off (years before Black Mirror would open with a far more repulsive first episode), Jack goes on to say that at least he won’t get pregnant. “Never doing that again!” Yeah… that agenda does feel suspiciously like it’s lingering over another BBC icon, doesn’t it?
But after some obligatory gender weirdness, the story starts to get really interesting. What makes it stand out is that this is an introductory episode so they don’t give us a sweeping story but a gradual intro through the very beautiful eyes of Gwen Cooper. (I was about 5 people away from meeting Eve Myles one day and that was a depressingly missed opportunity…) Gwen is smart. She observes and thinks and pieces things together. She investigates and probes and it’s inevitable that Jack is going to want to get to know her. When she’s allowed into the Torchwood hub, it’s hilarious but even then her brain is working, aware that she’s seen too much. Thankfully, these are not the bad guys. Well, at least not most of them.
The episode does a ton of things right. The introduction of the weevil is surprisingly scary. The way it stands there, almost confused that someone is talking to it, is eerie and Gwen’s reaction is one of reserved incredulity. The scene with Gwen looking at the Weevil behind the glass is beautifully shot; beauty and the beast, reflected in the glass. The introduction of the glove that actually stops the rain while resurrecting the dead is well done and Jack’s awareness of Gwen gives us an idea about his observation abilities too.
Then there’s the team. Jack, Ianto, Owen, Tosh, and Suzie. Owen is a know-it-all who I find intensely strange looking. He’s going to help “the agenda” along when he takes home a spray that makes him irresistible sexually to anyone he’s near. He picks up a lovely blonde… and then her boyfriend. (I roll my eyes. Did it have to go there at all? I don’t mean the guy, I mean both of them!) Tosh is a tech geek who takes home a device to instantly scan and download any and all books. (I applaud her and invite her over to help shrink my library down to a disk.) Ianto is the chap who drives people around and drops them off outside the Cardiff water tower. (I’ve got nothing…) And Jack… there’s a mystery around him. Could he be the same man who went missing on my sister’s birthday in 1941? We knew the character in Doctor Who, but we never really knew where he was from. Will we find out?
Speaking of Doctor Who, I could high five Russell T. Davies for including the dismembered hand which I knew instantly was the Doctor’s, fallen from the sky in The Christmas Invasion. I also liked the references to Doomsday with the battle of Canary Wharf and The Christmas Invasion with the aforementioned invasion! Obviously fans of Doctor Who knew Torchwood was invented, but we didn’t know there were several locations. It makes sense when we see them target and destroy the Sycorax ship in The Christmas Invasion. (Oddly, Babylon 4 went missing just like Torchwood 4 has… I wonder if there’s a chap named Zathras around?)
Along with these introductions, we find that Torchwood has a secret door that for some reason people can’t see. A square where a dimensionally transcendental box with a chameleon circuit once stood allows the team access to their base without anyone noticing. (I stood on the very spot!) This also leaves us open to an outstanding scene where Suzie, the last member of the team, gets to shoot Jack in the head. Suzie has been experimenting with the resurrection glove. Everything about the way the scene is shot is amazing. Jack’s rise from the hole in the ground, Suzie’s reluctance to shoot Gwen, Gwen’s reaction and Jack’s resurrection… all amazing. (In fact, there are a few really great images in this episode including that of Jack standing atop a tower looking out over the city. The man who cannot die would not have the reservations about standing on a ledge like that.)
Overall, it’s a really well done introduction to a solid series. So we’ve established that Torchwood is the organization that scavenges alien tech from all over the world and Gwen is the new recruit. I look forward to seeing things through Gwen’s eyes as she learns more about them. And I guess we’ll see some of those amazing, alien things they’ve picked up in the coming episodes. ML