Russell T. Davies not only brought DOCTOR WHO back to our screens in 2005, the show-runner/writer also spun off the concept of an alien-fighting secret organization called TORCHWOOD (hint: scramble those letters and see what you come up with) that debuted in Series 2 of the new WHO into its own series.

After two regular series, the show morphed into a single story for its third series, TORCHWOOD: CHILDREN OF EARTH, aired in five parts during one week. Possibly one of the greatest achievements in modern sci-fi television, the third series saga set the bar pretty high, but now TORCHWOOD returns as a co-production between the BBC and Starz, with an international cast and a ten-part fourth series that once again tells one complete story.

Will TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY live up to the promise? It just might, but first here’s everything you need to know about this once Cardiff-based group and its clandestine adventures (and be warned, there are spoilers here for past TORCHWOOD stories through the end of CHILDREN OF EARTH).

1. Torchwood Was Established by Queen Victoria (who might be a werewolf!)

 

Pauline Collins in DOCTOR WHO - Series 2 - "Tooth and Claw" | ©2006 BBC

Pauline Collins in DOCTOR WHO - Series 2 - "Tooth and Claw" | ©2006 BBC

In the series 2 DOCTOR WHO episode “Tooth and Claw,” Victoria (Pauline Collins) was terrified by the Doctor as much as she was by an alien lycanthrope that just might have left her with a genetic abnormality. She conceived an organization that would work behind the scenes to collect alien technology and safeguard humanity from extraterrestrial threats. Torchwood was born.

2. The Cardiff Torchwood Base Was Built Over a Space/Time Rift

 

The Cardiff location for the Torchwood base in TORCHWOOD | ©2006 BBC

The Cardiff location for the Torchwood base in TORCHWOOD | ©2006 BBC

Part of the reason the early series of TORCHWOOD focused on Cardiff was that there was a peculiar rift that often allowed all manner of creatures to rampage through the UK from other worlds, dimensions and time zones. The rift was also a source of TARDIS power, but it’s gone now, sealed up with all the other similar cracks from Series 5 of DOCTOR WHO. And the base? Read on…

3. Torchwood Has Been Through Hell

 

Naoko Mori and Burn Gorman in TORCHWOOD - Series 2 | ©2008 BBC

Naoko Mori and Burn Gorman in TORCHWOOD - Series 2 | ©2008 BBC

As we rejoin the team, there isn’t much of one left. Originally comprised of leader Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman, more on him later), Toshiko “Tosh” Sato (Naoko Mori), Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), and newcomer (and initial audience identification figure), policewoman Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), Torchwood has suffered heavy losses with only Jack and Gwen – plus her husband Rhys (Kai Owen) – surviving to this day. Gwen is a plucky fighter, but Jack does have an edge; he’s immortal. Oh yeah, about that…

4. Captain Jack’s Debut

 

John Barrowman in DOCTOR WHO - Series 1 - "The Empty Child" | ©2005 BBC

John Barrowman in DOCTOR WHO - Series 1 - "The Empty Child" | ©2005 BBC

Captain Jack first appeared in Series 1 of DOCTOR WHO as a Han Solo-ish rogue Time Agent and con artist. After traveling with the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose (Billie Piper) for a while, Jack was killed during a Dalek invasion but was resurrected when Rose acquired godlike powers from the heart of the TARDIS. Ever since, Jack can no longer die, and has traveled back in time to live for centuries through Earth’s past up to the present day. But he keeps busy, which brings us to another important point.

5. Jack Has No Boundaries (Part One)

 

John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd in TORCHWOOD - Series 2 - "To the Last Man" | ©2008 BBC

John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd in TORCHWOOD - Series 2 - "To the Last Man" | ©2008 BBC

Once described as an “omnisexual,” and apparently similar to many other human beings from his home century (the 51st), Jack doesn’t see gender as a barrier to physical or romantic involvement. He’s had relationships with women, men and alien creatures of all shapes and sizes…sometimes all at once. But one of the great loves of his life was Ianto, who died in Jack’s arms during the events of CHILDREN OF EARTH. He probably still hasn’t gotten over it, and neither have a lot of Ianto fans in the real world (let it go, people, he’s gone).

6. Gwen’s Situation

 

Eve Myles and Kai Owen in TORCHWOOD | ©2008 BBC

Eve Myles and Kai Owen in TORCHWOOD | ©2008 BBC

Gwen once tried to shield Rhys from her double life as an alien hunter, but now Rhys is more or less part of the team (yeah, there isn’t one right now, I know). With a baby in the mix, Gwen has a lot to lose, so it will be interesting to see how her role plays out in this new story. Since she’s also shown a deep affection for Jack, she’ll surely be by his side no matter what, and Rhys will certainly be close behind. This is all the more interesting, especially since Jack did a pretty horrible thing last time they were together…

7. Jack Has No Boundaries (Part Two)

 

Bear McCausland in TORCHWOOD: CHILDREN OF EARTH | ©2009 BBC

Bear McCausland in TORCHWOOD: CHILDREN OF EARTH | ©2009 BBC

Jack sees the big picture, which sometimes means that he’s willing to make big sacrifices in order to win the day. In the conclusion of CHILDREN OF EARTH, Jack actually gave up the life of his own grandson – right in front of the child’s mother and Jack’s own daughter, no less – to save the rest of the world’s children. That isn’t an easy one to forgive, and it’s even more intriguing how Jack can even be perceived as a hero when he’s murdered one of his own family, but we’ll see.

8. So What Happened To That Cardiff Base?

 

The Cardiff location for the former Torchwood base in TORCHWOOD | ©2006 BBC

The Cardiff location for the former Torchwood base in TORCHWOOD | ©2006 BBC

It blew up back in CHILDREN OF EARTH when the government hunted down Torchwood rather than let them reveal the truth of a horrific human-alien conspiracy to the world. The remains of the Torchwood team were on the run for much of the rest of that story, and as we return Jack has been gone for some time and Gwen has moved on. So as we’ve already covered, there is no team anymore. But something is likely to rise from the ashes…

9. TORCHWOOD is not DOCTOR WHO

 

The cast of DOCTOR WHO - Series 4 | ©2008 BBC

The cast of DOCTOR WHO - Series 4 | ©2008 BBC

The show has always had a harder edge, although in the early shows that seemed to involve juvenile attempts at “adult” humor and sexuality rather than an actual darker mood. Nevertheless, TORCHWOOD stories often feature a greater slant toward the shadows compared to its parent show, and CHILDREN OF EARTH was apocalyptic in its tone and scope. The new series looks set to add an American component while still staying true to the balance of weird and down-to-Earth that TORCHWOOD can handle well.

10. If You Watch It, They Will Come

 

Eve Myles and John Barrowman in TORCHWOOD | ©2008 BBC

Eve Myles and John Barrowman in TORCHWOOD | ©2008 BBC

TORCHWOOD has been away for a couple years now, and as uneven as the show has been, it has a huge following with spectacular production value and storytelling in its last series. If MIRACLE DAY manages to keep that level of excitement and viewers tune in, TORCHWOOD is likely to continue. So tune in and see what happens when Jack and Gwen find themselves in the middle of a whole new mystery. But really, Ianto isn’t coming back. Ever.

Click on Link: Review of TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY – “The New World”

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Article: 10 Things About Torchwood You Need To Know

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Comments:

  1. Good. Ianto only died in Children of Time? I don’t believe that’s canon then. He lives! I don’t have to let it go! Er…you might want to fix those CoT references.

    OwenH
  2. What is that “Children of Time” you keep referring to? 😉

    Guest
  3. The dead, formerly undead commenter was faster. :)

    Guest
  4. Tune in? No
    Let Ianto go? No

    You are not in RTD’s head so you cannot know that Ianto will not come back

    Pat
  5. ARGH! Thanks for pointing it out, everybody. I must’ve been staring at that Series 4 “Children of Time” cast photo, no other excuse. :)

    ARNOLD T. BLUMBERG
  6. Primers are useful things. I’m a fan of them myself, however, FYI, the photo of Gwen and Jack you published under #10 is from the promo photos taken before Season 2, in 2007(?) when Torchwood was wholly control1ed by the BBC, so they’re not from Torchwood: Miracle Day and are not copyrighted 2011 by Starz.

    And dear God, I’m so sick and tired of people who bring up Ianto’s death for no apparent reason other than to use it as a sharp, pointy stick to poke the people who were upset about it. I can’t see that bringing his death up added anything to your article except to expose a childish desire to sneer at others who weren’t happy about his death, and to say “Nyaah! So there!” at them. He’s dead. As far as we know, he won’t appear in Torchwood: Miracle Day. Why are you still talking about him in that manner? (And if you need to mention him in that manner, in a primer for newbies, why don’t you explain *why* you’re mentioning Ianto’s death in that manner?)

    So, thanks for the primer, but not for the pokey stick. (Seriously, the “Ianto’s dead. So there!” people are every bit as obsessive and stuck in one place as the “Ianto’s dead. My life is blighted forever!” people. Quit flogging that dead horse and go find something new to talk about.)

    JThomas
  7. Thanks very much for the photo update, you’re right. All fixed.

    As for the “pokey stick,” sorry but sometimes you have to have a sense of humor about things. Maybe it’s because I move in circles where I’ve been subjected to near rabid, incessant “bring back Ianto” insanity more than you, but trust me when I say it seems impossible for some people to accept a fictional death sometimes more than a real one. And in this case, I’m just having fun with them. I rarely ever even think about Torchwood until this new show came along to review, so I need to get in my anti-bring back Ianto joke when I can! :) I promise I won’t do it again…for a while.

    ARNOLD T. BLUMBERG
  8. …And yes, you’re right, it was absolutely a “childish desire to sneer at others.” You nailed it. As someone wise and Doctorish once said, “there’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes.” :)

    ARNOLD T. BLUMBERG
  9. Pingback: The X List: The 10 Things About TORCHWOOD You Need to Know « What is happening on the world

  10. Which is it? You never think about Torchwood or you’re constantly bombarded by Ianto’s death “insanity”? (Oh, please. Is there really that much? I thought there were only 9 crazies out there last count?) Regardless of whether the Doctor says it’s OK, maybe the “professionals” should act less childish and stop insulting their audience. If you don’t like the “insanity” in your circles, then stop perpetuating it by taking potshots. People like you need to “let it go”, too.

    Guest
  11. Nope, much more than 9. In fact I just saw a huge discussion going on today about whether or not the “Miracle Day” story meant recently dead will return, including…yeah. :)

    I’m not insulting the audience at all, just needling a few very obsessed people in good humor (which is what more folks need, a sense of humor about things). I’ll take the “letting it go” under advisement though. Come back next week and I’ll try not to work in an Ianto joke in my next review. Betcha I succeed too. 😀

    ARNOLD T. BLUMBERG
  12. So, people aren’t allowed to have a discussion about the possibility of a beloved character coming back on a science FICTION show that currently has a story about the end of death without being branded as insane?? It’s a fandom. People are going to act FANatical about stuff and say all sorts of things. People have huge discussions about River Song actually being Jack, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen (although, wouldn’t that be quite the twist!). Telling people to “let it go” and reiterating the ‘fact’ that “Ianto isn’t coming back. Ever.” can be perceived as, whether you think so or not, somewhat insulting by poking at a whole segment of fans who already get it just to needle a few who don’t and won’t (again, is it “a few” or is it a “huge” amount?). Just because YOU see it as humor doesn’t mean others are lacking a funny bone if they don’t appreciate your comments. They could just be tired of hearing/seeing the same “joke” over and over again (it’s been a long two years).

    Anyway, other than that it was an enjoyable article. 😉

    Guest
  13. Who says they aren’t allowed? I’m certainly not stopping them. Let them have their fun. But I can comment on it too, it’s fair game. And if what I say is perceived as insulting, it’s only because for some folks it probably is. :) But trust me, it’s not meant maliciously. We’ve already talked about this far longer than any of us should even be thinking about it. And you’re right, it’s been a long two years…for everybody. Let’s let the wounds heal.

    I am very glad to hear you enjoyed the article otherwise. I’ll do my best not to go to Ianto territory again, which should be easy…because he’s never coming back. Oops! 😀

    ARNOLD T. BLUMBERG
  14. well I love Torchwood… But I’m quite disappointed with Miracle day, the last series 1, 2 & 3 left me wanting more every episode even if I had already seen them several times on DVD but Miracle Day isn’t like that and I’m lucky I have set Fox to record because I keep forgetting its even on. (Where are all the aliens? or are they still coming I hope its not just 10 episodes of what we have had so far and where is Martha she didn’t die so where is she)

    Kris

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