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Torchwood: The Complete Second Season (DVD Review)

14 Sep, 2008 By: John Latchem

Torchwood Season 2

Street 9/16/08
BBC Video
$79.98 five-DVD set
Not rated.
Stars John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori, Gareth David-Lloyd.

When I reviewed the first season of “Torchwood,” I said its quirky examination of supernatural plots made it Britain’s answer to “The X-Files.” With one guest star, the show has taken on the aura of a different American cult hit.

“Torchwood” is still about a secret team investigating bizarre incidents and collecting alien technology to protect Earth from a hostile universe. The leader is still Capt. Jack Harkness (Barrowman), the former “Doctor Who” companion rendered immortal as a side effect of his time travel adventures.

But in the first episode of season two, Jack is locked in a struggle with a longtime partner/nemesis played by James Marsters. The vibe is unmistakably “Angel,” in which Marsters played the rebel vampire Spike locking horns with the title character, who was similarly long-lived and in charge of a supernatural investigation agency.

The comparison is fleeting, as “Torchwood” has no problem maintaining its identity. It’s much darker and adult-oriented than its predecessor series, the family friendly “Doctor Who” (another recent “Who” spinoff, “Sarah Jane Adventures,” is aimed at younger viewers). The trademark of the franchise is the strength of its characters, and the writing is always sharpest when focused on personalities and interactions. The emotions are real, even if the storylines and underlying sci-fi elements are absurd. Where American sci-fi would pay some lip-service to making techno-babble seem credible, “Torchwood” and its sister series see no point in trying.

As a result, the better moments of season two tend to occur when the focus is on the core cast, especially in episodes that explore the unrevealed past of the characters. Marsters as Capt. John Hart helps round out Jack’s resumé, and another episode gives all the characters their flashback moments.

The only real quibble with the DVD presentation is that all the behind-the-scenes featurettes are clustered on the final disc, rather than being dispersed throughout the set so each episode would be paired with its respective making-of special.

While this essentially creates a making-of documentary for the entire season, at a total of more than two hours, watching all these featurettes back-to-back in one sitting is quite a chore.

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