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TORCHWOOD: Five Of The Best

Dr. Moo celebrates the times Torchwood got it right.

After counting down five of the worst Torchwood installments to grace our screens, it's only right we look at the other end of the extreme with five examples of the best of Torchwood. Because when the show got it right, it got it really right.


5. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Plot: It starts with Torchwood hunting down a joyriding Blowfish in a sports car before Captain John Hart comes onto the scene and proceeds to cause trouble for Torchwood, much to the annoyance of his ex-lover Captain Jack.

Why it’s the best: Fresh from a three-part story on Doctor Who, Jack has got some closure on his immortality allowing the stage to be set for more of his history to be explored. In this series two premiere Captain John Hart bursts in with all the subtlety of a blizzard in August and proceeds to light up the screen, with actor James Marsters stealing the show. The criticism leveled at series one was that the show was taking itself too seriously, here Torchwood puts that to rest; Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is nothing but a fun romp where the cast and (more importantly) the audience are all having a great time. This is Torchwood at its most fun and entertaining.

4. Captain Jack Harkness
Plot: Jack and Tosh are sent back in time to WWII, where they encounter the original Captain Jack Harkness.

Why it’s the best: As we continue to learn more and more about the character we know as “Jack” we discover that this isn’t his true identity, picking up from hints left as early as the pilot episode, resulting in some intriguing scenarios with the two Jacks together. We’re also introduced to the main villain of series one, Bilis Manger, and learn that he is somehow able to travel through time with sinister motives, setting up the series finale in style as he forces the Torchwood crew to manipulate the rift. Plus it also serves as a prequel of sorts to The Empty Child, which is no bad thing.

3. Fragments
Plot: John Hart sets off a bomb to kill Jack, Ianto, Tosh and Owen. With all four of them being left for dead, we are treated to flashbacks as each in turn reflect on how they all came to be involved with The Torchwood Institute.

Why it’s the best: Waiting until the penultimate episode of its “main” run to give us an infodump was an unusual storytelling device, yet this works nicely. Each of these characters faces a genuine threat of death every single day so seeing why they do it provides a welcome insight to who these characters are and where they come from. This was especially necessary for the less developed characters of Tosh and Owen – then the show went and killed them both in the next episode. Typical!

2. Countrycide
Plot: Mysterious disappearances in the Brecon Beacons see the crew of Torchwood Three going out to the countryside to investigate. What they discover turns out to be a secret society of cannibals – and now Torchwood is on the menu!

Why it’s the best: This is far and away the best episode of the first season. An exercise in misdirection, we’re lead to believe that aliens are to blame for the deaths until the true villains are shown to be humans. It’s a genuinely creepy episode – we’re talking “bring a second pair of pants” here – filled with some fantastic horror elements and a heavy claustrophobic feel, all culminating in a heroic action-packed finale with Jack Harkness mowing down the villains with a tractor. This was the first proper proof that Torchwood could do more than just shove sexy alien antics down our throats.

1. Children of Earth
Plot: 44 years after their last visit, the malevolent alien race known as The 456 return to Earth. Their goal is to take one tenth of humanity’s children for themselves for use as a recreational drug, and if the humans refuse to comply they will all be wiped out.

Why it’s the best: Throwing the gratuitous sex and weird tonal shifts out the window, series three was when Torchwood finally grew up and became truly unmissable event television. There had been hints at it but this is when the true consequences of Jack’s actions are finally brought to the fore. When episode five comes to an end he has done things nobody should ever have to do and endured things nobody should ever have to endure. Peter Capaldi’s Frobisher (not the penguin) is a complicated villain with a bleak and memorable story arc, and you’ll never forget the final shot of him entering his children's bedroom and the implication of what he’s forced to do in there. Ianto’s death is heartbreaking because there were many chances for him to avoid that fate, and as he dies with Jack there isn’t a dry eye in the house as we know that only one of them will wake up. This miniseries is in a whole different league to everything that Torchwood had done up to this point, leaving audiences breathless and their minds blown. It’s a shame the follow-up was such a disappointment – but so would have been almost anything after this!

When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.

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