Every Adventure Has A Beginning: An Appreciation of the World of TORCHWOOD

As a spin-off from the globally popular sci-fi series DOCTOR WHO, it seemed impossible to conceive that Russell T Davies could create two addictive universes. Yet upon the creation of Captain Jack Harkness in Series 1 of DOCTOR WHO, which starred Christopher Eccleston, that is exactly what happened. Creating a character larger than the multi-episode arc could contain, Russell T Davies did the unthinkable and with a wave of his magical wand – the writing pen – he dazzled fans once again by creating TORCHWOOD. Not only poaching one of the more flamboyant and captivating characters of the new series of DOCTOR WHO, Russell also chose to use an anagram of DOCTOR WHO and came up with the name TORCHWOOD.

Thus, one year after his successful debut as Captain Jack in DOCTOR WHO, John Barrowman debuted in his own television series as the infamous time-traveler now stuck on Earth. Being an earthbound extraterrestrial was not the entirety of Jack’s claim to fame. As viewers quickly found out, Jack is immortal. Even a bullet to the head at point blank range did little to phase Jack’s regenerative powers. Touched by the hand of god, or The Doctor in this case, Jack was not only abandoned on Earth, he had been cursed to live for eternity upon it. But a resourceful and resilient man, Jack ingratiated himself with the British government and was bestowed with his own secret government branch called Torchwood.

As seen through the eyes of a new recruit Gwen Cooper (fantastically portrayed by Eve Myles), who stumbled upon Torchwood as the series began, the entirety of the first three season of TORCHWOOD followed the star-crossed adventures and many loves of Gwen and Jack. Jack being an other-worldly being never felt constrained by our mere human relationship standards and continued to live his eternal life connecting romantically and physically with anyone and everything that struck his fancy. Gwen was also soon caught up in the no boundaries type of lifestyle and found herself connecting on all levels with other beings and humans of both persuasions.

But as the first series of TORCHWOOD wrapped, Jack found his ticket off Earth and vanished – leaving Gwen and the rest of the Torchwood crew all on their own. Fellow teammates Tosh, Owen and Ianto were just as hurt and chagrined by Jack’s abrupt departure. The weight of the responsibility of Torchwood fell on Gwen’s shoulders as she helped the remaining team continue with their daily tasks of saving the world. For who knew what would next fall through the cracks in the Rift – a wormhole in the existence of time itself which was allowing all kinds of alien life to be unleashed on Earth. When Jack finally returned in Series 2, it was not without repercussions and recriminations. No longer secure in knowing that Jack would always be there, the Torchwood team began to seek solace and security in themselves – and not relying on Jack who could live forever, but who would probably leave them again when given the chance.

So while Series 1 of TORCHWOOD introduced viewers into an amazing world of aliens, adventure and unexpected romance, Series 2 took a slightly darker turn as two of the team’s key members sacrificed their mortal lives. It was a noble, yet heart-wrenching loss to the already diminutive Torchwood team. A team of five suddenly became a team of three and their loss was understandably horrific. Series 2 left viewers as lost as the Torchwood team felt after Series 1. Whether by choice or by circumstance, the Torchwood team would never be whole again.

Then as Series 3 embraced the darkest hour ever known to the planet as its children were called upon to be sacrificed in order to save everyone else, a terrible choice had to be made. No human could have made it. But after sustaining yet another loss to their precious team, Captain Jack made the ultimate sacrifice – giving his grandson’s life in exchange for the rest of the children. Unable to bear his own grief and the horror of the faces around him over the impossible choice he made, Jack abandoned his team yet again. But this time, it was only Gwen that he left behind. There was literally no one else left. Fortunately for Gwen, she had already chosen her life path and her mate of choice stood steadfastly by her side. Married and with a child on the way, Gwen chose to live in hiding as Jack escaped to the stars.

The incredible journey of TORCHWOOD seems to have only just begun. With the financial backing of the American television network Starz, TORCHWOOD was picked up for a fourth season and debuted as TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY on July 8, 2011. To date, three adrenaline-pumping episodes have aired reintroducing Captain Jack and Gwen Cooper as the last surviving members of Torchwood reluctantly recruited by the CIA to aid with an event known as Miracle Day – the day that all humans stopped dying. (To read more, check out: “The Secret Horror of TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY”) With another seven episodes yet to air, the fate of the world hangs in the balance as Captain Jack now the last mortal man on Earth and Gwen and her family’s future remains uncertain. What is known is that this next leg of their continuing journey will be breath-taking, spine-tingling, and just as hair-raising as ever.

For fans that have not yet had the opportunity to discover and enjoy TORCHWOOD prior to the current season, or for those who simply want to revisit those amazing adventures, the BBC just released the entire DVD box set containing Series 1-3. Also included on the DVD set as a special treat are extras such as the “Torchwood Declassified” commentaries, outtakes, deleted scenes and other fun featurettes. Available as of July 19th, it is a wonderful way to discover or enjoy all over again the world of TORCHWOOD from the beginning.

It is also helpful for new fans who wonder at the innuendos and hidden meanings behind the Jack and Gwen relationship; for surely, there must have once been something between them for each to risk their lives so willingly for each other unto death. Not even Gwen’s darling daughter Anwen prevents her from being at Jack’s side the minute he needs her. There is, as hinted, more than meets the eye. The history of Jack, Gwen and Torchwood is a multi-layered story that was years in the making. It is time to rediscover what made TORCHWOOD the phenomenon that captured not only DOCTOR WHO fans’ hearts, but fans of its own. TORCHWOOD is a show now unto itself. The interwoven history of Captain Jack, Gwen, her loyal husband Rhys, and the fallen comrades Ianto, Tosh and Owen still echo throughout our memories and are engraved on our hearts.

As you continue to watch TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY, remember this: TORCHWOOD is just beginning. It is going to be a wild ride and you had better buckle up, it will be unlike anything you have experienced before. Take a deep breath and enjoy every second of it!

Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).

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  • Gerald Spencer

    Is it possible that Captain Jack, as in Arrow, will join the fight for truth, justice and the American way?