Captain Jack will get you by tonight
Torchwood 9.40pm, Ten
‘‘ IT’S like that CSI bollocks, CSI: Cardiff,’’ offers a disgruntled Welsh policeman in tonight’s debut of Torchwood, the bold new series from Russell T. Davies, mastermind of the revitalised Doctor Who. Indeed it does look like that at first. But then you meet the time travelling, genderbending and quite dashing American serviceman in the lead role.
Torchwood is a spin- off of Doctor Who, featuring the redoubtable Captain Jack Harkness ( John Barrowman), a rogue Time Agent of unspecified but probably alien origin who got quite close to Rose and the Doctor in the Christopher Eccleston incarnation. Naturally, tonight’s debut has a lot to set up. We’ve got to meet Captain Jack and his Torchwood team, and we’ve particularly got to understand the classic Doctor Whostyle naivety of the troupe’s newest recruit, Welsh Police Constable Gwen Cooper ( Eve Myles).
Poor Gwen cops an eyeful when she and the Welsh constabulary are ordered off a murder case to make way for Torchwood ( separate from the government, outside the police and beyond the UN). Curious, she climbs some stairs just in time to see the murdered man brought back to life for two minutes so Torchwood can interrogate him.
Unfortunately, because the poor man was stabbed in the back, he can’t tell them anything of value at all.
He is mighty unhappy to be dead and he is especially unhappy about being brought back to life, only to have to die again. To fill the time ( after all, he has two minutes) Captain Jack asks him what he saw when he was dead. ‘‘ I saw nothing. Oh my god, there’s nothing.’’
This is definitely not television, an impression children’s reinforced soon afterwards when an alien (‘‘ That’s a brilliant mask, mate’’) rips off a man’s head with one hand. There’s a lot of blood.
But inquisitive Gwen tracks down the elusive Torchwood team and gets the grand tour. Being a cop, she’s well aware she has compromised their secrecy. Captain Jack has a few tricks up his sleeve to deal with that. Very Men in Black.
Torchwood is sexier than Doctor Who has dared to be. In tonight’s episode there’s an alien sex potion that makes Torchwood member Owen Harper ( Burn Gorman) irresistibly attractive to absolutely anyone he chooses: first a girl in a bar, then her jealous and aggressive boyfriend, both of them lustily enraptured. The show is less camp, more serious, darker, team- based and features less gadding about the universe. They have a permanent office in Cardiff, for heaven’s sake. But CSI: Cardiff it most definitely is not.
Not one for the kids: Eve Myles and John Barrowman in Torchwood