Torchwood is a popular science-fiction award-winning drama created by Russell T. Davies. Torchwood, a spin-off from the popular sci-fi show Doctor Who, follows a group of investigators working for the secret organization of the same name. Set in Cardiff, Wales the team specialize in alien technology that has landed on Earth, and crime, whether it be alien or human. The mysterious Captain Jack Harkness is the leader of the equally mysterious Torchwood, and vows to guard humanity against alien threats. Curious PC Gwen Cooper accidentally discovers the group, and soon becomes entangled in a series of events. This leads up to her being hired, and becoming involved in the exciting affairs of the organization. Together with medic, Owen Harper, and the tech expert, Toshiko Sato, and the impressible Ianto Jones, the five explore the thrilling world of Torchwood.
Torchwood has aired for two seasons on British (BBC) and currently consists of thirteen episodes in first two complete seasons. Several Web sites tell of a new Torchwood mini-series will be coming soon. If you like aliens, adventure and excitement you might enjoy Torchwood. I am generally not into science fiction, either in literature or film, but I loved Torchwood.
In the second season the Torchwood team encounters alien terrorists, a stranded creature captured and abused by humans and a tragic soldier from the First World War. This soldier must go back in time and die in order to save the human race. (Think of the point here: offering oneself up in a singular redemptive act in order to save the human race!) In another episode there is a memory thief who exposes long-forgotten secrets in members of the team. And there is the wedding of a member of the team where an unexpected guest impregnates the bride with an alien embryo.
I borrowed the first season of Torchwood from my local library. The first few episodes didn’t grab me. Then, by episode four or five I was hooked. I soon understood why millions like Torchwood rating it one of the most popular series on television today. The basic premise took some getting used to but the script is genuinely well-written and the acting is quite superb throughout.
Torchwood is not only really good science fiction but it is genuinely post-modern science fiction. Issues of sexuality are pursued with a full-bore, no-holds barred, acceptance of anything goes. This includes several offensive surprises that are meant to have shocks value. I could have done without this element but then I realized I was watching a portrait of this genre written by twentieth century Europeans.
Torchwood’s premise is that time has a huge rift running through it and Cardiff sits on this rift. People, and aliens, can go back and forth through the rift so you never quite know who will show up or what century the series may visit. The most common theme of all, however, is that humans simply cease to exist when they die. Characters, who are brought back to life, speak of “darkness” and “total loss” on the other side. In Torchwood there is no heaven, but maybe a small dose of hell here and there. The way this theme is pursued reminds me of the actual view many post-moderns hold about the meaning of life and death.
But the remnants of our Christian past also show up in Torchwood now and then. In one episode, where a resurrection is discussed, a character says no one comes back to life unless there name is Jesus Christ! Right in the middle of a truly post-modern script a reference to the central claim of Christianity jumps out at the viewer. There are less direct references to life-after-death and Christian beliefs but most are likely lost on ordinary viewers who have no idea what the faith really teaches us.
I would only recommend Torchwood to serious adult viewers who want to get a sense of this old genre in modern form. It is gripping stuff. It is also troubling in the way that it underscores what many young people actually believe in the early 21st century. British culture is much further down the road to a complete removal of Christian influence and values but even Torchwood reveals the past cannot be entirely removed.
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