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Wednesday 08 October 2008

Welcome to Torchwood

Posted in: Television
By Matt Akersten - 8th July 2008

Captain Jack: Ready for whatever gender comes his way
Separate from the government, outside the police, and beyond the United Nations, Torchwood sets its own rules.

At first glimpse, this Doctor Who spin-off from the UK may seem like a standard sci-fi mystery telly - but its sexually-fluid characters and existential themes make it much more ponderous and powerful than most other hours of drama on screen at the moment. This show makes Star Trek look kiddie and CSI look adolescent.

Led by the enigmatic Captain Jack Harkness (played by actor John Barrowman, who's openly-gay), the Torchwood crew delve into the unknown and fights the impossible. Captain Jack was first seen as a rouge time-agent from the future on Doctor Who, flirting with anyone he fancies, regardless of gender (and regardless of species, sometimes!).

His bold and passionate team is made up of charming medic Owen Harper, who's young and hedonistic, but utterly brilliant; reserved Toshiko Sato (she played Saffy's much-put-upon best friend in Absolutely Fabulous) who specialises in computers, surveillance and all things technical; the super-intelligent and intense Suzie Costello who has devoted her life to the strange alien artefacts under her control; and young Ianto Jones who is far more important than his receptionist's role suggests.

The Torchwood team (photos: TVNZ)
We also meet Police officer Gwen Cooper in the first episode. Initially an outsider, she witnesses Torchwood's resurrection of a murder victim, which sparks her burning curiosity to get to the truth. We start to experience Torchwood through her eyes… clear and instinctive, she understands people and is, at times, the group's conscience. But what she experiences will change her life forever.

Series creator Russell T. Davies, who's also openly gay, created Queer as Folk, and was recently honoured with an OBE for his services to television drama, says he set the LGBT agenda for Torchwood from the outset, hoping to defy audience expectations of monosexual characters. "Without making it political or dull, this is going to be a very bisexual programme. I want to knock down the barriers so we can't define which of the characters is gay. We need to start mixing things up, rather than thinking, 'This is a gay character and he'll only ever go off with men'."

As we'll see, Captain Jack can swing both ways: "He'll shag anything with a hole. Jack doesn't categorise people: if he fancies you, he'll do it with you," Davies smiles.

From their underground base built on a rift in time and space (in Wales, of all places), catch the Torchwood team as they respond to any alien threat - a meteorite crash landing; sightings of extra-terrestrial technology; an unusual autopsy report; or the spread of a deadly alien virus. It's also enjoyable for scenes like the one shown below - Captain Jack doing one of the things he does best. A same-sex smooch clip is always good to end a article with!

Your journey with Torchwood begins on TV2 this Wednesday 9 July at 10.30pm.

Matt Akersten - 8th July 2008