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BOOK
Inside the Hub
The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Torchwood Series One

Author: Stephen James Walker
Telos Publishing
RRP: 12.99, US $24.95, Cdn $29.95
ISBN-13: 978 1 84583 013 7
ISBN-10: 1 8458 3013 X
Available 31 March 2007


Torchwood is protecting the Earth against alien threats in the 21st Century - the time when everything changes. Created by Russell T Davies
Torchwood's first series covered subjects as diverse as a sex-addicted alien mist, a powerful Cyberwoman, a telepathy-inducing pendant, an invisible man and alien Weevils. In this, the first factual book to be published on the series, noted TV historian Stephen James Walker charts the story of Torchwood, complete with character profiles, cast and production team information, behind-the-scenes details and a comprehensive guide to each of the 13 episodes, looking at the key elements and the many links to Doctor Who that permeate the show...

Following on from the highly-acclaimed Back to the Vortex and it's successor Second Flight (which have cemented their position as the definitive and essential guides to the new series of Doctor Who), Telos Publishing has now turned its unofficial and unauthorised eye towards Torchwood, the 'dark, wild and sexy' adult spin-off which made it's controversial debut on BBC3 in 2006, with record-breaking digital channel ratings, and wildly differing critical opinion.

For those of you expecting Inside The Hub to be of a similar hefty size to J Shaun Lyon's exhaustive Back to the Vortex books, you may initially be in for a disappointment. Stephen James Walker has presented us with a slimmed-down volume for this overview of Torchwood, but manages to instil a bit more human warmth into the potentially dry reference material. The result may seem a little lightweight in comparison, but makes for a much more accessible read. The actual format though, remains much the same. From a unique fan perspective, Walker guides us through the experience that was series one of Torchwood - from the initial announcement to the press, the fan speculation and Internet rumours, right through to the eventual transmission of the episodes and the somewhat mixed reception they received.

As I opened up this book, I was reminded just how little we know about the production of Torchwood. Considering that every new episode of Doctor Who was preceded by the inevitable hype, spoilers and general press frenzy, it's perhaps surprising that it's spin-off managed to shroud itself in so much secrecy. Details of upcoming episodes seemed scant at the time, and quite often we would only even get to know the title of an episode when it was finally flashed before us on the television screen. Inside The Hub goes some way to redressing the balance, although there's not quite as much production material as I had dared hope. There's still a fair bit of behind-the-scenes information, trivia and interview snippets which were completely new to me - I would have just liked to have seen a little more of it.

The main drive of the book is a critical analysis of each of the thirteen episodes, provided by the press, the fans, website reviews, and predominantly from Walker himself. The author is clearly and unashamedly a huge fan of this series, so Torchwood-haters hoping that the series would be ripped to shreds will have to look elsewhere to fuel their obsessive loathing of a show they were forced to tune into every week, presumably against their will.

Walker dishes up a fascinating, and thought-provoking critique which displays his obvious passion for the show, whilst not afraid to pick up on the odd flaw here and there. A couple of his comments did come close to bordering on the arrogant (in particular, his extensive analysis of one my favourite episodes concludes with "Small Worlds has in general been a very well-received episode amongst fans. This is rather surprising however as it is actually one of the weaker entries in Torchwood's first series.". there you go then, Stephen James Walker has spoken and we are all wrong!) but I'm nit-picking on choice of phrase here, Walker actually offers incredibly intelligent and fresh insight into these thirteen episodes, and while you may not always agree with his opinion, it makes enlightening reading.

Despite it's relatively small page count, Inside The Hub manages to cram an awful lot of other goodies between it's nicely designed covers. The major highlight for me was the first portion of the book which manages to perfectly recapture the sense of excitement that swept through fandom at the prospect of a proper Doctor Who spin-off series, as anguished memories of K-9 and Company thankfully began to disappear into the ether. We are given welcome features on the telefantasy forerunners of Torchwood, detailed profiles of the characters and cast members (who would have guessed that Burn Gorman (Owen Harper) was an expert breakdancer and a former Human Beatbox champion?) whilst Walker also covers such themes as concept and style, and the Torchwood timeline and history of the organisation with his usual immaculate style and attention to detail.

Maybe not all of the information and research gathered within these pages was strictly necessary (the Blood and Snogging sections are a little laughable - do we really need lengthy breakdowns of every scene in which a drop of blood was spilt or two characters dared to kiss each other? Come on, this is grown-up telly, we don't need to dwell on this!) but the book is to be commended for covering just about every possible angle - bloopers and continuity links, tie-in merchandise and original novels, and full coverage of the sister documentary series Torchwood Declassified.

Inside The Hub is hardly a revelatory warts-and-all account of the development of Torchwood (we may have to wait a couple of decades for The Russell T Davies Memoirs - and what a read that will be!) but is nevertheless a well-written and highly recommended mixture of reference material and in-depth critique.

The best news of all is that Stephen James Walker will be penning the third volume of Back to the Vortex, which will surely be the essential Doctor Who book for 2007. The future of these definitive works could not be in safer hands.

Danny Salter

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