Cap­tain Jack will get you by tonight

Torch­wood 9.40pm, Ten

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

‘‘ 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.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

Not one for the kids: Eve Myles and John Bar­row­man in Torch­wood

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