Just in time for the five-part miniseries, “Children of Earth”, (also now available from BBC Worldwide on DVD and Blu-Ray), Torchwood’s second season (or, if you prefer the British parlance, “series”) has finally hit high-def and, if you’ve seen the series before, you should know that this is where it really, really gets good.
A spinoff (and anagram!) of “Doctor Who”, “Torchwood” goes for a decidedly more adult audience, but still manages to share a few characters, most notably in the series’ lead, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), who made his debut in the 2005 “Who” series. Leading a special task force assigned with protecting the Earth from fantastic threats, Harkness is joined by ex-policewoman Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), medic Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), computer expert Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori) and administrator Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd). “Torchwood” shares a pedigree with American shows like “The X-Files” and (the post-“Torchwood”) “Fringe”.
While I quite enjoy the first season, the second is where “Torchwood” really comes into its’ own. At only 13 episodes in the set, it’s sort of like an American season with the fat trimmed away. The following descriptions contain some very minor spoilers (far less than are featured in the packaging descriptions, but if you want to go in clean, just skip to the end).
“Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” introduces us to a fellow Time Agent (and former lover) of Harkness, Captain John Hart (James Marsters in a rather-amazing guest-role). Part of what makes “Torchwood” so original is its treatment of sexuality (which was actually a bit overdone in the first season); It’s rare and refreshing to have homosexual characters who still come off as badass.
“Sleeper” is about an everyday woman who, during a burglary, exhibits supernatural powers in killing the criminals responsible. Torchwood determines that she’s a sleeper agent for an invading alien force but, due to false memories, is truly unaware that she’s anything other than an ordinary human being.
“To the Last Man” has Torchwood reviving a young man kept in cryo-stasis for 90 years. Every year he’s awakened and checked on with the promise that one year he’ll serve a major role during a temporal crisis.
“Meat” is a real showcase for Rhys Williams (Kai Owen), Gwen’s fiancee who has been kept mostly in the dark about Torchwood and it’s secret operations. When he happens to catch Jack and Gwen at the scene of an accident, he begins to uncover a conspiracy involving the sale and transportation of mysterious blocks of unearthly meat
“Adam” is a really fun episode that probably owes a lot to the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan-favorite, “Superstar”. When a new member of Torchwood appears, everyone remembers him as if he’s always been there. What’s more, altered memories have everyone acting out of sorts, a glimpse into what their lives may have been like with different experiences.
“Reset” features the first “Torchwood” appearance of “Doctor Who” companion Martha Jones and investigation into a sinister medical corporation that is using human bodies to gestate alien fly-creatures.
“Dead Man Walking” deals with the resurrection of a major character and the implications that his death are going to have on the rest of his life.
“A Day in the Death” has said character coming to grips with his undeadness and trying to still serve a role on the Torchwood team.
“Something Borrowed” has Gwen becoming impregnated by an alien force on the eve of her wedding, forced to deal with the alien pregnancy while trying to explain to friends and family exactly what happened.
“From Out of the Rain” is a “monster of the week” type episode with creatures called “Night Travelers” who have traveling through century-old celluloid to steal human souls.
“Adrift”, perhaps the most chilling episode of the series, has Gwen going against Jack’s orders to investigate the mysterious disappearance of people over the years. One of them, a 17 year old boy, has been returned, aged 40 years and horribly disfigured, locked in a mental institution.
“Fragments” begins with the entire team facing an explosion and, on the edge of death, we’re treated to flashbacks of how everyone came to join the team. It’s a perfect companion piece to the season finale that expertly sets up the notion that things are about to get a lot worse for everyone.
“Exit Wounds” features the return of Marsters as Captain John and bad things for every single member of the “Torchwood” team. This could easily have served as a series finale (it does go out of its way to alienate quite a few fans) but, thankfully, fans still have “Children of Earth” to look forward to.
As far as extras go, there’s a featurette called “Torchwood: Declassified” accompanying every single episode, a surprisingly in-depth approach to behind-the-scenes video. A lot of feature films on DVD don’t get documentaries this comprehensive, let alone every single episode in a season set. Also included is nearly 20 minutes of deleted scenes, a blooper reel and an additional featurette called the “The Life and Deaths of Captain Jack”.
Of course, “Torchwood” Season Two already hit standard def last year and, at this price point, I can’t really argue for upgrading your set. That said, the image is nigh-perfect and, if you don’t already own the episodes in one format or another, I’m not really sure what you’re waiting for; This is probably the best sci-fi show currently on television.