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Feature: Torchwood

Saving everyone, probably…

Welcome to Torchwood. Open for business for all of your alien elimination needs. Our highly-trained staff are here to help in any way they can…

Historically, spin-off shows have rarely been as good as their parent programme. Usually a desperate cash-in on a successful premise, a spin-off will generally take secondary characters and try to make them the star but without using anything else that made the original show such a success. You can usually expect the format to last for a few episodes before viewers desert in their droves.

So what’s changed? Three letters: RTD. Not content with making the stereotypically geek-friendly Sci-Fi of Doctor Who the hottest thing since lava on toast, Russell T Davies has decided to take some of his Who crew and put them into a new, exciting spin-off show of their very own – the anagrammatically astounding Torchwood.

Initially described by RTD as “a dark, clever, wild, sexy British crime/Sci-Fi paranoid thriller cop show with a sense of humour – The X-Files meets This Life,” Torchwood is all set to brighten up those long winter nights when it comes to BBC Three this autumn. As Doctor Who’s first spin-off for a quarter of a century, hopes are high that it can keep the Who momentum going until The Runaway Bride this Christmas and series three (or 29, depending on your viewpoint!) early next year.

Starring new-Who character Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Torchwood is the continuing saga of the Torchwood Institute. First mentioned in The Christmas Invasion, this group of renegade agents uses alien technology to solve both Human and extraterrestrial crime.

The institute itself was created by none other than Her Majesty Queen Victoria. During her stay at Torchwood House in the Scottish Highlands in 1879 and, after a nasty incident with a werewolf, the Queen realized that the United Kingdom had enemies “beyond imagination”. Unfortunately, they included the Doctor, who found himself written into the Torchwood Foundation’s charter as an enemy of the Crown.

Although the group remained relatively quiet throughout the 20th Century, the British military was still more than prepared to utilize the top secret faction in times of real crisis, namely the Sycorax invasion of Earth. Indeed, it was later revealed that the technology used to shoot down the Sycorax ship was from a Jathaa sunglider that Torchwood had stripped down and modified to use itself.

In the early 21st Century, Torchwood Tower was the functioning headquarters of the group. Known to the general public as Canary Wharf, the tower had been built in order to reach a spatial breach 660 feet above sea level. The institute conducted experiments on the anomaly in an attempt to harness its energy and reduce Britain’s reliance on the Middle East. However, a small advance force of parallel universe Cybermen infiltrated Torchwood via the breach, and began planting the seeds of their invasion of Earth. The breach was caused by a Dalek void ship and the ensuing power struggle between Humans, Cybermen and Daleks destroyed much of Torchwood.

But other factions survived…

Find out more about Torchwood in
Cult Times #133

Torchwood © BBCtv
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

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Cult Times #133
October 2006
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