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Torchwood: The Complete First Season (DVD Review)

16 Dec, 2007 By: John Latchem

Torchwood Season 1

Prebook 12/18/07; Street 1/22/08
BBC Video

$79.98 seven-DVD set
Not rated.
Stars John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori, Gareth David-Lloyd.

Outside the government, beyond the police, comes “Torchwood,” a spin-off of the “Doctor Who” revival series and Britain's answer to “The X-Files.”

As introduced on “Doctor Who,” the Torchwood Institute is a British agency dedicated to studying alien technology to prepare humanity to defend itself against a dangerous future. Most of Torchwood was wiped out during the second season of “Doctor Who,” but reappears here hidden under a plaza in Cardiff, which for those needing a geography lesson is the capital of Wales in western Britain (the show is produced by BBC Wales).

Leading this incarnation of Torchwood is Capt. Jack Harness (Barrowman), last seen in the first season of “Doctor Who” as a sexually ambiguous rogue agent from the 51st century. As a result of his last appearance, Jack is now immortal, which comes in handy in his line of work.

His crew includes computer specialist Tosh (Mori), sex-addict Dr. Owen Harper (Gorman), and aide Ianto Jones (David-Lloyd). Joining in the first episode is police officer Gwen Cooper (Myles), whose inexperience gives the audience an avenue into this strange world of alien artifacts. Indira Varma of “Rome” also appears, as the team's second-in-command.

The show is definitely darker than “Doctor Who,” while retaining the typical British absurdist attitude toward science-fiction. The show uses ‘R'-rated language and risqué sexual situations that push the boundaries of even BBC America (which trimmed some of the sex scenes and muted the harsher language).

The plot gimmicks are hardly original, but like “Doctor Who,” the focus is more on the interpersonal relationships. A key plot point is the team members having to keep the secret of their work, leaving only each other as outlets.

First-season cases include a glove that revives the dead, a gang of fairies who steal children from time, a mind-reading amulet, a cyborg woman, plane passengers from 1953, and a run-in with a sex-monster (a staple of sci-fi shows). The final episode leads directly into the three-part finale of the third season of “Doctor Who.”

The DVD includes all 13 episodes with insightful commentaries, plus a bonus disc of behind-the-scenes featurettes covering each episode.

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