Is it too Late to Jump on the TORCHWOOD Bandwagon?

John Barrowman and the TV Addict, Summer 2008

After being swept up by the deluge of positive praise for the upcoming BBC miniseries TORCHWOOD: CHILDREN OF EARTH, coupled with the always unwelcome hole in our television viewing schedule courtesy of the network’s continued insistence on a summer strategy that features an endless barrage of reruns and reality, this TV Addict finds himself right now wishing we could jump on the TORCHWOOD bandwagon… and fast.

Unfortunately, there’s a slight problem. Namely, we don’t know our Torchwood from a Tardis and quite literally know next to nothing about the series outside of the fact that it stars Aaron Spelling’s once favorite British import John Barrowman (see the trash-tacular: TITANS and CENTRAL PARK WEST).

Naturally begging the question: Can one simply jump on board the TORCHWOOD bandwagon? Or is it one of those shows like LOST or BATTLESTAR GALACTICA where you’re really cheating yourself having not watched every single episode from the beginning.

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  • Nina

    This is made as a stand alone…mostly. But having seen the previous seasons will definitely help you feel more for the relationships in CoE, which are an integral part of the story.

  • Krystal

    I think you can start with Children of Earth since it is a contained story. But it’s much more fun watching it from the beginning. :)

  • Marggy

    In theory, you could start from Children of Earth, but you really would be cheating yourself. There’s just so much depth to the relationships between the characters and you’d be missing that aspect. I don’t think it would be as meaningful if you just start from this point. I’d highly advise you to start from the beginning.

  • ewanspotter

    Actually, after watching “Children of Earth,” a lot of my Tourchwood watching friends are so pissed off with a certain development they’re jumping ship.

  • Chris

    It’s more than Torchwood, Captain Jack’s back story is weaved into Doctor Who as well as the recent TW radio series – and it’s definitely worth going back and exploring at least a couple of the Jack/Who epsiodes and the original Torchwood before watching CoE. It’ll explain some of the decisions made and make it easier to accept why.

  • Margaret

    ‘Children of Earth’ was made as a standalone – just research Captain Jack and you’ll be fine. Excellent mini-series – far superior this time around.

  • Matthew

    The first episode quite cleverly reintroduces the core concepts of the series, so there’s no need to watch any of the previous seasons. Also, those seasons came in for quite a lot of flak from some quarters (I like them a lot, but they are flawed) whereas Children of Earth has received a lot of praise, even from people who didn’t like the previous seasons.

    Around six million people watched in the UK which is more than twice the number who had seen it before (this time it was on the main BBC channel, BBC1, before it had been on BBC2 and BBC3). They had no problem getting into it with ratings remaining high throughout the week and spectacular Audience Appreciation scores.

    If you did want to do a bare bones overview of the background to Torchwood, here are some Torchwood episodes you could check out:

    S1E01: Everything Changes
    S1E12: Captain Jack Harkness
    S1E13: End of Days
    S2E01: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
    S2E12: Fragments
    S2E13: Exit Wounds

    For a bit more context, you could also watch:

    S1E08: They Keep Killing Suzie
    S1E10: Out of Time
    S2E06: Reset
    S2E07: Dead Man Walking
    S2E08: A Day in the Death

    Torchwood is a spin off from Doctor Who, with some crossovers, so there a few episodes which give further background. Here’s a list of those in seasons one and two that you could watch before the first season of Torchwood, if you wanted some more background. I’ve added some optional extra Doctor Who episodes in parentheses, they aren’t that relevant to Torchwood but they make more sense of the episodes that are relevant.

    (S1E01 Rose)
    (S1E02 The End of the World)
    S1E03 The Unquiet Dead
    (S1E06 Dalek)
    (S1E07 The Long Game)
    (S1E08 Father’s Day)
    S1E09 The Empty Child
    S1E10 The Doctor Dances
    S1E11 Boomtown
    S1E12 Bad Wolf
    S1E13 The Parting of the Waves

    S2E00: The Christmas Invasion
    (S2E01: New Earth)
    S2E02: Tooth and Claw
    (S2E03 School Reunion)
    (S2E05 Rise of the Cybermen)
    (S2E06 The Age of Steel)
    S2E12 Army of Ghosts
    S2E13 Doomsday

    The events of Torchwood season one follow on from this. Season three of Doctor Who follows after season one of Torchwood. Again there are a few episodes that tie in somewhat (with optional extras in parentheses, again)

    (S3E00 The Runaway Bride)
    (S3E01 Smith and Jones)
    (S3E03 Gridlock)
    (S3E07 The Lazarus Experiment)
    (S3E08 Human Nature)
    (S3E09 The Family of Blood)
    S3E11 Utopia
    S3E12 The Sound of Drums
    S3E13 Last of the Time Lords

    Torchwood season two starts off where Doctor Who season three finishes and is followed by Doctor Who season four. Again here are a few episodes from that which you could watch:

    (S3E01 Partners in Crime)
    (S3E11 Turn Left)
    S3E12 The Stolen Earth
    S3E13 Journey’s End

    After that, it is Torchwood: Children of Earth.

    Just to reiterate, though, none of this is really necessary – it just puts a few minor elements in context and adds to the overall experience. There’s no need to see anything before Children of Earth, but the above list might be a good starting point if you want to go back and see where it came from.

  • Matthew

    I’ll just add that if you do enjoy Children of Earth then it’s worth going back over Doctor Who and Torchwood because you’ll see a load of good stuff. It’s not just that some elements of Children of Earth will be easier to understand and become richer as a result of the context – these shows are also pretty great in their own right (although opinions do vary about some of the Torchwood episodes, especially in the first season when the were finding their feet a bit).

    Because of this, if you are going back (rather than trying to see a few episodes before Children of Earth starts) then you may as well watch everything. Also, give the other spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventure, a go. All but the most recent stuff is on DVDs and available via Netflix; episodes are also on iTunes.

    Try and avoid reading about the episodes in advance if you can, they’re much better without spoilers. Have fun exploring the whoniverse – it’s a brilliant place.

    To recap, the broadcast order of the various series is, roughly*:

    Doctor Who seasons 1 & 2
    Torchwood season 1
    Doctor Who season 3
    The Sarah Jane Adventures season 1
    Torchwood season 2
    Doctor Who season 4
    The Sarah Jane Adventures season 2**
    2 Doctor Who specials***
    Torchwood Radio Plays****
    Torchwood: Children of Earth
    The Sarah Jane Adventures season 3¬
    3 Doctor Who specials¬¬
    Doctor Who season 5¬¬¬

    *as near as makes no difference when viewing, although I’ve grouped some episodes together for convenience.
    **not out on DVD yet
    ***The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead – DVDs released already or planned for this year.
    ***Four plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4: Lost Souls; Asylum; The Golden Age; and The Dead Line. Lost Souls has been released on CD, the others were available as free downloads, but aren’t any more. May be on iTunes, certainly will be floating around on the Internet.
    ¬due for broadcast in the UK in September 2009
    ¬¬The Waters of Mars, due to be broadcast in the UK in November 2009; plus a two-part Christmas special. DVD releases to follow, possible a boxed set with The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead as well.
    ¬¬¬Due in the UK around April 2010.

  • Kaitlin

    As everyone else said, you can just watch this five-part series, but it’s more fun to start from the beginning and get to really know who the characters are.

  • Pattie

    It’s never too late to jump on the Torchwood bandwagon. Although I’ve been recording last season’s repeats for a refresher before Children of Earth starts up next week. Can’t wait for new Torchwood eps, although a full season would’ve been nice!

  • Matthew

    Pattie, the consensus of opinion so far is that the five-episode mini-series format works really well. People are generally glad that they tried it and are hoping for couple of mini-series in the same format next year.

  • Brenda647

    Yikes!!! What were you doing that kept you from checking out Torchwood by the time it hit the US, last year? It seemed they were talking about it everywhere. You may have to turn in your remote.

    Some of the previous posters have given you good advice on getting caught up. The episodes they’ve listed are a good survey of the series. They let you into the lives of the mian characters you meet in Children of Earth.

    CoE really is a stand alone series. It doesn’t tell you much about what happened in the previous two series, but, if you don’t want to know the history of Torchwood it’s a good jumping off place. Many changes occur in CoE and I’m sure it’s because of the move to BBC1.

    Like many people I watched the series because of John, Barrowman, but I also like the mission of Torchwood and if they can keep focused on that with a good cast and writing, it could continue to be a good series.

  • NikkiHolly

    okay, the show actually switched channels this season, so it was pretty much made to be easy for you to jump on board. So no, you don’t need to go back and buy the first two seasons (although it is highly recommended just because it’s a great show, but not necessary). Here’s the 5 things you need to know:

    1. Torchwood is above the government. They are above local law enforcement, national law enforcement, even above the UN.
    2. Torchwood hunts aliens. They try and keep aliens and alien technology away from the public. Hence, they have a lot of nifty gizmos. As of late, the whole ‘aliens exist’ thing has been getting a lot harder to keep under wraps.
    3. Because of the above points, the government doesn’t really love Torchwood. They’re kind of considered a pain.
    4. Captain Jack Harkness runs Torchwood. He’s immortal, omnisexual (girls, boys, aliens, anything with a postal code), and from the 51st century. He’s in our time because his time travel device broke down when he was in the 1800s. He’s been in the UK ever since. We don’t know much about him because he has such a long history.
    5. Gwen and Ianto help make up the team. They lost their other two team member’s in last year’s season finale (tragic, but details unimportant), so they’ve kinda been through a lot lately. There are also openings in the team for new members. Rhys, Gwen’s husband, is uninterested even though he often does get dragged into Torchwood’s business.

    I really don’t think there’s anything else that you need to know. Most of it is pretty easy to pick up on. I think you’ll really like it. It’s a fun show to watch. SO JUMP ON THE TORCHWOOD BANDWAGON!!! :)

  • Matthew

    BBC America are showing an hour-long introductory documentary, Torchwood: Inside the Hub, which should tell new viewers everything they need to know to not feel disorientated by Children of Earth (not that any disorientation would last long, the first part goes over the basics again). It’s on at 8pm Eastern on Monday, immediately before the first part of Children of Earth at 9pm.

    Unfortunately, Space aren’t showing it – but both channels are airing the episodes in 1hr15min slots, so there shouldn’t be any cuts (and certainly no major ones).