Let us praise James Marsters as the bubbly
demi-god of genre television. But don't tell John Barrowman.
We give the title to Marsters for striding from Buffy
the Vampire Slayer to Smallville before teleporting
into the second season of Torchwood.
It's the perfect way to cross the Atlantic
into the Doctor Who universe, just in case you've
got someone still balking at it. Marsters' fun Captain John
Hart will get new fans into Torchwood, but it is,
of course, Barrowman's Captain Jack who will make them stay.
Credit should also go to the mind of series
two producer Chris Chibnall, who began the season with such
a burst of energy. Heck, the Captains don't even go at it
until after a high-speed chase pursuing an anthropomorphic
alien koi. It makes a lot more sense in context.
The series takes its somber turns, too,
and you can experience them in one good weekend with the
release on DVD. In some ways, Torchwood follows in
the footsteps of American shows like The X-Files,
but without the confusing and often contradictory mythology.
If you need to catch up, this BBC release
includes supplementary material in the form of Torchwood
Confidential, a behind-the-scenes look for every episode.
For new viewers, the most important one would be found on
Disc Four, "The Life and Deaths of Captain Jack," which
traces the entire (revealed) history of Barrowman's roguish
from our distant future (and our distant past -- you'll
get there), Jack leads a team of investigators into things
well beyond fringe science. This season delves into unresolved
business from his past, after he spent some time over in
Doctor Who Season Three righting our present. Over
in that series, Jack gets written as merely charming and
heroic, but in his own show, Barrowman gets to portray a
more complex character.
Along the way, Chibnall and his writers
explore some intriguing ideas - an alien that can exist
only in altered memories, the perils of an otherworldly
food source and some of the most effectively logical time-travel
stories on television. Even the episodes that don't quite
gel, such as a dark carnival springing to life from old
film footage, still beg further exploration down the line,
as the writers work to set up long-term adversaries for
Jack to equal those of the Doctor.
tamer, too, than its first series, which pushed the envelope
a bit in terms of sexual content (especially if you came
there from the more family-oriented Doctor Who),
this series is well worth a second, third, what have you
viewing. The only quibble you might have is with the price
- BBC disc sets are usually higher in cost than American
shows. Still, if you're a fan or about to become one, this
is the way to do it.
stay for the upcoming Doctor Who Season Four, out
in November, with more Jack and just a heck of a lot of
fun. It's already on our Christmas lists.)