If you’re a North American fan of Torchwood, then you’re already well aware that Captain Jack Harkness and his team will return to television tonight after more than a year’s absence. The third season, a five-part miniseries that will run on consecutive weeknights, was originally broadcast during the week of July 6th-10th in the UK, but this is the first chance American and Canadian viewers have to see it on air.
Set in Cardiff, the series follows Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), a character introduced in the Doctor Who episode “The Empty Child”, as he investigates extraterrestrial and supernatural threats with a team known as Torchwood. Harkness is a 51st century “omnisexual” con-man who cannot die or age, and Cardiff just happens to be the location of the Whoverse equivalent of the Hellmouth, a rift. This rift in time and space has resulted in Cardiff becoming a hotspot for paranormal activity, and the Torchwood Institute, an agency “outside the government, beyond the police,” protects mankind from alien threats.
Creator Russell T. Davies has said that Torchwood was inspired by American Sci-Fi dramas like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. This link was especially apparent when James Marsters (who played Spike on Buffy and Angel) guest-starred last season as the roguish Captain John Hurt.
Initially a spin-off of Doctor Who with more mature content than plot, Torchwood has evolved into a dark but involving sci-fi series in its own right. The second season finale left the team devastated and down two members, as Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori) and Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) died protecting Cardiff from destruction. Torchwood: Children of Earth focuses on the remaining team members Harkness, former Police Officer Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), who started as the “teaboy”, grew into a witty, full-fledged team member and eventually began a relationship with Captain Jack. Gwen’s husband Rhys (Kai Owen) also plays a major role.
Tonight, Torchwood finds itself dealing with an alien threat once more as all the children on earth freeze at the exact same moment in time. Unfortunately, they must not only protect the rest of the human race but also themselves, as the government puts a hit on the Torchwood team members.
A fourth series of the drama has not yet been commissioned, but creator Russell T. Davies previously stated that a fourth season was ready to go, its airing dependent on the ratings of the third season. Given the good numbers for the UK third season (the final episode pulled in 5.8 million viewers and won its timeslot), and largely positive reviews, I imagine that a fourth season is likely.
I have been spoiled for the series, oddly enough through a twitter trending topic., and as a Canadian fan I’ll warn other Canadians to avoid twitter for the nine to ten PM hour these five nights. BBC America is airing the series earlier than the Canadian channel Space and you might accidently be spoiled.
Without spoiling anything though, the key word here is dark, as the series severely tests the Captain Jack voiceover that precedes each episode, telling viewers that “Torchwood is ready”. As one reviewer remarked, “the recognizable intro is noticeably missing from the new miniseries, Torchwood: Children of Earth, letting viewers know right from the start that everything is about to change.” Let’s just hope it’s still recognizable at the end of the series.
Torchwood: Children of Earth airs July 20th-24th at 8:00 PM on BBC America and at 10:00 PM on Space.
It will be released on DVD on July 28th.