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The Complete
Second Season

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 hero.

An immortal 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.

Slightly 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.

(Then 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.)

Derek McCaw

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