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Torchwood: Everything Changes

Gwen: "I'm getting tired of following you."
Jack: "No, you're not. And you never will."

Everything changes for a young police constable named Gwen Cooper, when her natural curiosity puts her in the right place at the right time for a truly major career change.

This is a strong pilot episode. Not the best I've ever seen, but far from the worst. And it's a great premise for a sci-fi series. Yes, they're bound to Cardiff, no Tardis, but there's the Rift in time and space to bring the flotsam and jetsam of the universe right to them. Torchwood the organization, as established in Doctor Who, has changed a lot. Or is it just that Jack took over and changed a branch office in Wales? And how come Torchwood is a secret, but the cops know they exist?

The resurrection glove was tantalizing and weird. It was believable that Suzie would murder people in order to test it. Suzie was obsessed with immortality and cheating death, and never knew that it was always right under her nose in the form of Jack, who apparently can't die. When Rose brought Jack back to life in "The Parting of the Ways," it must have changed him pretty significantly.

(There was a reference to life after death, too. Or rather, that there is none. When Jack asked the young, murdered John Tucker -- good performance, there -- what he experienced when he died, he said, "Nothing. I saw nothing. Oh my god, there's nothing!")

Characters? Promising. I like Jack and Gwen in particular. I like them a lot.

Jack is almost too much. He's dashing and killer handsome like a movie star from the forties, with style and charm oozing out of his ears. There's a strangeness about Jack, though, like he doesn't belong where he is, like he's a law unto himself. John Barrowman is a charismatic actor, and I loved the character of Captain Jack in Doctor Who. Easy to see why they'd center a spin-off series around him.

Gwen is us, the audience, our entry into the strange world of Torchwood. She's a good cop: dedicated, tenacious, cares about people. She lies to her nice boyfriend -- not because she wants to keep things from him, but because she doesn't want to burden him with the awful things she sees in her job. She doesn't want him lying awake at night, like she does. And yet, she's compelled to help people, to strive for law and order, even though it upsets her. She's absolutely lovely, but in a girl-next-door sort of way. Gwen is accessible, and easy to like.

Not much yet about the rest of the cast. Just some character bits about the artifacts they chose to take home with them. Toshiko Sato used her purloined artifact to do research, implying that she's a good person even though she was disobeying orders. Dr. Owen Harper came off as a jerk, taking that spray that made him irresistible so he could have fast, meaningless sex. That was essentially a roofie, Owen. Roofies are criminal, Owen.

Suzie Costello, of course, was made evil by the resurrection glove. One assumes she wasn't evil before. (Killing someone we thought was a cast member in the pilot was good misdirection.) Ianto Jones, the office assistant, was cute and buttoned up, and joked with his boss Jack about sexual harassment. That was pretty much it for him.

The twenty-first century is when everything changes. How, exactly?

Doctor Who related stuff:

-- Torchwood can definitely be enjoyed without having first seen Doctor Who. I can say that because I indeed watched Torchwood first. Although I became so interested in Jack's origins that I started watching Who, too.

-- Captain Jack Harkness was first introduced in season one's "The Empty Child." The reason for his current condition was given in "The Parting of the Ways," when he was killed and revived for the first time.

-- Jack: "One day I'll find a doctor, the right sort of doctor, and maybe he can explain it." Jack is looking for the Doctor, and can't find him. That must be why he's hanging around the Rift; he knows the Doctor will have to show up sooner or later to refuel.

-- The Torchwood Institute was originally established by Queen Victoria after her experiences in "Tooth and Claw."

-- Jack mentioned "The Christmas Invasion" and the battle of Canary Wharf ("Doomsday"). Rhys believed they were drug-induced mass hallucinations, and apparently, a lot of population believed that, too.

-- Actress Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper) first appeared as a character named Gwyneth in "The Unquiet Dead."

-- One of the first things we saw in the Hub was a hand in a jar. Gee. Who do we know that recently lost a hand? Who?

-- The word "Torchwood" is an anagram for "Doctor Who." I'm mentioning this because it had to be pointed out to me. Anagrams are not my strong suit.

Bits and pieces:

-- I liked the pterodactyl. Better than your average office pet. The weevil, not so much; it was pathetic. Better aliens, please.

-- Gwen's workmate Yvonne learned that Captain Jack Harkness, American volunteer RAF, 133 Squadron, disappeared on January 21, 1941. Same guy? It's unclear what happened to Jack after "The Parting of the Ways." Big hint that he wound up in Earth's past. How?

-- The Torchwood Hub is accessible via invisible lift beneath the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wales_Millennium_Centre

-- According to Jack, the Cardiff Hub is Torchwood 3. Torchwood 1 in London was destroyed in the battle of Canary Wharf. Torchwood 2 is in Glasgow, run by a "very strange man." Torchwood 4 is missing.

-- Jack seems to like standing on the top of big buildings. Maybe he thinks it gives him perspective. Maybe he has a god complex.

-- What if Gwen had made notes on paper instead of on her computer? It's what I would have done.

-- This week's Most Obvious Symbolism: The closed off floor in the hospital where Gwen encountered the Weevil. Secret stuff going on in a normal, open place, sort of up the stairs instead of down the rabbit hole. Why seal off a floor of the hospital? It was just plastic, too; it wouldn't have kept the weevil in or out. Didn't make sense.

-- Jack died in this episode; Suzie shot him in the head. Only Gwen has seen Jack die and revive.


Jack: "Contraceptives in the rain. I love this planet. Still, at least I won't get pregnant. Never doing that again."

Andy: "It's all DNA today, like that CSI bollocks. CSI Cardiff. I'd like to see that. They'd be measuring the velocity of a kebab."

Jack: "And this is Ianto Jones. Ianto cleans up after us and gets us everywhere on time."
Ianto: "I try my best."
Jack: "And he looks good in a suit."
Ianto: "Careful. That's harassment, sir."

Gwen: "So. You catch aliens?"
Jack: "Yep."
Gwen: "You catch aliens for a living."
Jack: "Yes, we do."
Gwen: "You're an alien catcher."
Jack: "Yes, I am."
Gwen: "Caught any good aliens?"
Jack: "Tons of them."
Gwen: "That's a hell of a job."

Jack: "It's an amnesia pill. My own recipe, with a touch of denial and a dash of retcon. Wake up tomorrow morning and you'll have forgotten everything about Torchwood. Worse still, you'll have forgotten me. Which is kind of tragic."

I tend not to rate pilots, but this was a good one. It certainly caught me and got me watching,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. So Torchwood season 1 should be watched after season 2 of Who, but simultaniously with season 3, or just like you did with the reviews, after season 3? :)

  2. Patryk: Well, ideally you should probably see the first season of Torchwood before the third season of Dr. Who, or at least before its finale, where Jack is already established as the leader of Torchwood in Cardiff. But mostly it doesn't matter because, like Billie has already mentioned, the shows are almost completely independent of each other.

  3. What Michal.Dvorak said. Season one of Torchwood ran at the same time as season three of Who -- I assume. And Jack crosses over to Who for the final three episodes of season three after the finale of Torchwood.

  4. A decent enough start to the series if not that spectacular. There were a few good twists with Suzie being the killer and Jack taking a bullet to the brain and living to flirt another day. The team, bar Jack, took some time to warm up to, even Gwen and Ianto.

    I’d forgotten all the stuff about Torchwood 2 and 4. If there ever is a 4th season (fingers crossed) I hope they bother to pick up one of those dangling plot threads.

  5. Season 1 of Torchwood ran from October 2006-January 2007 and Season 3 of DW ran from March-June 2007.

    Good opening review for the series. I liked this pilot a lot but I did think that there were times when Gwen got too much focus and Owen, Toshiko and Ianto were sidelined.

    I loved Suzie as a character and it's a shame that she wasn't set up as a recurring villain in the long run. Still good acting from Indira Varma in the role.

    Jack not being able to die was a fantastic shock. I loved that reveal and I loved the pterodactyl. She's called Myfanwy as well.

  6. The timing is pretty solid:

    Doctor Who S2: 04-2006 to 07-2006
    Torchwood S1: 10-2006 to 01-2007
    Doctor Who S3: 03-2007 to 11-2007
    Torchwood S2: 01-2008 to 04-2008
    Doctor Who S4: 04-2008 to 01-2010!

    The Christmas special of Who S2 was obviously during Christmas, and thus during Torchwood.

    Who's 4th season runs a bit long, and intersects with the Torchwood 5-part special in 07-2009, which you might call Torchwood S3.

    Got this from MyEpisodes, which manages my TODO and DONE list of shows.

  7. The previous post may be confusing to readers of billiedoux.com. I consider the Christmas specials as the ending of the previous season, while billiedoux.com lists them as the start of the new season.

  8. But... DVD sets are my guide, especially when it comes to British shows, and the Christmas specials are at the *beginning* of the seasons. I have the first disc of season four in my player right this moment, and it contains "Timecrash" and "Voyage of the Damned." Aren't the DVDs official?

  9. I guess that's the most official you can get.

    I find it helpful not to use the 'season' definition to watch shows when they are related. Buffy and Angel I watched alternating between them as they had been aired (except during the 6th/4th season). With Star Trek TNG/DS9 and DS9/VOY I did the same thing. This helps against spoilage from reviews of another show. And it gives you the same perspective as the rest of the world. So if they say: "DS9 had a similar plot this week", you know what they are talking about.

  10. So Im having the inevitable (and sort of double-banked with the Doctor) Torchwood rewatch. I, too, became a fan of Torchwood first and only then started watching Doctor Who. And even though you can absolutely watch Torchwood without having seen Doctor Who, I did enjoy knowing what all the references were about when I first rewatched Torchwood as a fan of both Torchwood and Doctor Who. I said Torchwood and Doctor Who an awful lot of times just then.

    Pretty much agree with your review. Good pilot. Liked the plot. Its interesting to see how different Jack is from the Jack that first appeared on Doctor Who. So much potential (need even) for character development already. I liked Gwen and the way Torchwood was introduced to us through her. Really liked the pterodactyl (when shes in the Hub that is, the last scene when she is flying around outside always feels kind of wrong to me). And thought the scene were Suzie is searching for the gun in her bag all awkwardly and shaky was a nice touch.

    One scene Ive always liked in particular is the one with Jack and Gwens little dialogue about the invisible lift. 'But theres a bloody big hole in the floor' - 'That is so Welsh, I show you something fantastic and you find fault.' I thought it was great, kind of showed how they were approaching things with the series at the time.

  11. Hey so i just watched 'everything changes' from tw season 1, it was awesome but where does Gwen first see the knife?? Obv at tw hub but where? n when? Or do we not see that so we don't figure it out before she remembers but we just gotta assume it was there somewhere? If we dont see it thats cool bt it's driving me mad cause i just can't find it!! Thanks ldzz 4 any help

  12. I assumed the 1941 reference was to when he disappeared at the end of "The Doctor Dances." I didn't expect Gwen's note to get erased - it didn't look like she was typing an email, just a document, so they had to hack directly into her computer. Many people can type faster than they can write longhand; I assume that's why she was typing. What I can't understand - why didn't she try to vomit up some of the drug? How long were they talking at the bar?

    I figured they got wind of the Weevil being at the hospital and ordered the floor sealed off while they were on their way. Would explain the sloppy job and why the Torchwood agents came from so many different directions - they were searching the floor for the Weevil.

    The glove reminded me of that Buffy episode with Gwendolyn Post, and the two-minute timetable was very Pushing Daisies-esque.


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