It’s late. The streets of Cardiff, Wales are empty, and shiny from a recent rain. One elderly woman totters to an intersection as a spicy red convertible pulls up. The driver – an alien with a spiny head – peers over the door.
The walk sign shifts from red to green. “Ehhhhhh” hisses the creature. It motions the woman safely across, then rips away.
Seconds later, a black SUV approaches. “Excuse me,” asks the passenger ever-so graciously, “have you seen a blowfish driving a sportscar?”
The elderly pedestrian silently points up the street and the SUV charges off into the night. “Bloody Torchwood!” grumbles the woman.
It’s the opening scene in BBC America’s season two Torchwood which premieres Saturday, January 26, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT. The launch is an action-packed, blazing hour of non-stop television fun.
A car chase, a shoot-out, and a bar brawl ensue – and that’s just the first fifteen minutes or so!
Torchwood is a spin-off of the reconstituted Dr. Who. It’s also the name of a Cardiff-based team led by Captain Jack Harkness, a time-traveler and former con man from the 51st Century. Cardiff (and the team’s underground headquarters) sits atop a time/space rift, a portal that admits all kinds of alien riff-raff. And it’s Torchwood’s job to combat the alien threats, including unruly blowfish with a penchant for hot cars.
Torchwood stars the HOT, and popular (in the U.K.) John Barrowman as Captain Jack. (See my write-up of his Summer ‘07 TCA panel.)
Captain Jack is an equal opportunity flirt in the omni-sexual style of Torchwood. In the season two opener, he’s uneasy, maybe a tad jealous, of Gwen’s engagement. He asks Mr. Ianto “I know everything” Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) - the genius butler/receptionist - out on a date. Ianto nervously accepts.
Time out for a short rant:
When I was mucking about the Internet to find out more about Ianto, I jumped to the BBC U.K. site and this message came up:
"Access to this site is restricted. If you are outside the UK you will not be able to use bbc.co.uk/torchwood for rights reasons."
BBC U.K. has closed their website off from the entire world? Seriously? In the meantime, fans across the globe have been linking up for years, distributing spoilers on forums and Yahoo Groups, posting and exchanging clips etc. I just have a THING about networks trying to moat themselves, an exercise in futility that discourages participation and crushes buzz.
Where was I….
The Torchwood team is young, all under the age of 35. “They’re pretty, but stupid,” says Captain John Hart. Hart is a rogue Time Agent played with over-the-top glee by guest star James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville) .
Writer Chris Chibnall is echoing, perhaps even acknowledging, some fan sentiments. Last July, one viewer named Froggatt – obviously not American because Torchwood season one hadn’t aired yet stateside – snarked here on TV Crush:
Viewers disliked and despised most of the Torchwood team apart from Cap’n Jack, and for good reason: they’re selfish, not very bright and terrifyingly unprofessional….Defenders of the Earth? Not a chance. You wouldn’t trust this bunch to valet park your car….”
Nevertheless, the team makes some headway in this season two launch. As they race to find Gwen, downed by the heartless Hart, they tap into their teamwork mojo - all without Jack’s help.
The scene that currently has fans squeeing is: the John Barrowman/James Marsters snog.
The writers inserted a bar brawl, except this brawl is instigated by a snog. Jack and John kiss passionately, then proceed to beat the cr*p out of one another. The juxtaposition – the gay western bar brawl (Gay!WBB) set to Blur’s "Song 2" - had me ROTFL.
Gay!WBB – now that’s a new twist on an old trope, for sure -with a little Star Wars thrown in.
In the second s2 episode, the pace recedes. The tone of the episode is weightier, more existential. The team must stop alien sleeper agents. Implanted with false memories, these creatures believe they’re fully human and they live quietly for years among the general population - until their switch is flipped. Of course, the cyborgs (and their families) overlook some curious facts: their skin cannot be punctured, and they’ve never once sought medical care. The writers skate over some pretty big plot holes to move the story along.
Think: Battlestar’s Cylons. It’s not like we haven’t seen all of this before, in some form or another - but, in spite of the obvious plot holes, it’s still entertaining.
Chibnall dropped a few teasers in the premiere ep. In particular, Hart makes a cryptic comment as he fades away at the conclusion.
And, of course, I want to stick around this season to see how Jack’s date with Ianto turns out.
BBC America’s Torchwood/Season Two Promo