The Bafta-winning sci-fi series was one of Russell T Davies’s triumphs. It’s basically Doctor Who for adults, and it broke viewing records with its first series on BBC3, with subsequent series continuing to grow in popularity.
It’s also sparked numerous spin-offs including radio plays and a magazine. That’s impressive, considering Torchwood itself started as a spin-off of the 2005 Doctor Who revival (and if you’re a fan of anagrams, you’ll spot the connection…).
Torchwood follows the adventures of a secret Cardiff-based team that protects Earth against extra-terrestrial threats in an operation founded by the British Crown. It has received praise for its mature portrayal of themes such as morality, sexual fluidity and drug use.
In series one, Captain Jack Harkness – a man with regenerative powers similar to the Doctor – transforms the Torchwood Three from an organisation that seeks to steal alien technology for human use and imprison the Doctor to one whose primary aim is to help other people.
Series two explores the monsters of Captain Jack’s past and present, featuring Doctor Who’s Martha Jones and the death of a main character (no spoilers!).
John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness using the vortex manipulator
Series three, also known as Children of Earth, reveals a secret government agreement to provide 12 human children for the aliens known as the 4-5-6 to exploit for chemicals that ‘feel good’. The Government and the Torchwood team face the difficult moral decision of choosing between giving up ten per cent of the world’s children to be used as drugs for these monsters, or facing total human destruction.
The forth and final series made for TV, Torchwood: Miracle Day explores what would happen if there was no death, featuring a controversial storyline that explores the morality and legal status of re-sentencing convicted paedophile and murderer, Oswald Danes (played by Bill Pullman), after he survives his own lethal injection.
The fifth series, Aliens among Us, continues the drama as an audio play broadcast on Big Finish.
Who’s in the cast of Torchwood?
John Barrowman stars as Jack Harkness, the boss of the alien-fighting team. Landing this role changed Barrowman’s life and Captain Jack will always have a special place in his heart.
Leading lady Gwen Cooper is played by Eve Myles, who previously played the role of the servant girl Gwyneth in the 2005 Doctor Who revival. More recently, Myles portrayed Mrs Jenkins in Victoria, Gwen Parry-Jones in A Very English Scandal and Faith Howells in Keeping Faith.
Other main roles are played by Burn Gorman (Owen Harper), Naoko Mori (Toshiko Sato) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd). The show also features the return of numerous Doctor Who characters include Martha Jones, played by Freema Agyeman.
Who’s the best character on Torchwood?
John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness in a Big Finish adventure (Big Finish)
John Barrowman’s character, Jack Harkness, has been voted as the modern Doctor Who character that fans most want to see return to the series. This may be because he captured the hearts of a more diverse range of viewers than more traditional sci-fi heroes, as he was the show’s first openly non-heterosexual character and at that, a main character that did not fit into the ‘best friend’ stereotype in which most other non-heterosexual male characters are pigeonholed.
However, Torchwood character Gwen Cooper wasn’t included in the poll, and so it’s hard to say whether her badass move of shooting aliens with one hand while holding her remarkably relaxed baby in the other in an iconic scene of Torchwood: Miracle Day would have given her the edge over Captain Jack.
Will Torchwood return to TV?
Recently, John Barrowman and Russell T Davies told RadioTimes.com that they’d be keen for a Torchwood on-screen revival, in the form of a movie that also stars David Tennant and Billie Piper in their iconic roles as The Doctor and Rose. Fantastic!
But sadly, not everyone agrees.
“I’m a big advocate for [a Torchwood revival], but I always seem to hit brick walls,” Barrowman said.“I’ve been shut down many times in the past. There comes a point where one just sits back and waits to see what happens. We’ll have to wait and see!”
But don’t worry too much. The TV series may be over, but Torchwood lives on in BBC Radio 4’s Torchwood: The Lost Files and The Lives of Captain Jack: Volume Two, released June 2019 on Big Finish, which explores what happens when the Sixth Doctor dies into Jack’s arms, leaving him responsible for fighting aliens in the trenches of World War I, followed by the equally vicious fake news of modern times.