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Outside the Government, beyond the Police, fighting for the future on behalf of the human race is Torchwood. The 21st century is when everything changes and Torchwood is ready. This time the team encounter alien terrorists, a stranded creature threatened by humans, a tragic soldier from the First World War, as well as a memory thief who exposes long-forgotten secrets in members of the team and a wedding with an unexpected guest...
SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
There can be few Who fans who do not have an opinion on Torchwood, the most successful spin off show from Doctor Who. Its depiction of fluid sexual roles delighted some and distracted many. Prior to the Blu-ray edition of Series One, which is out later this year, Auntie Beeb has seen fit to deliver Series Two in a five disc DVD set.
For the few that are unaware Torchwood (an anagram of Doctor Who) is a secret organisation set up to combat alien incursion from the Cardiff rift, which was initially established in the new run of Doctor Who. By season two the main characters of Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Gwen (Eve Myles), Owen (Burn Gorman), Tosh (Naoko Mori), and Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) have become well established, with both Ianto and Gwen getting more central parts in the stories.
To strengthen the Doctor Who crossover Freema Agyeman appears as Martha Jones in three of the stories. A show's success can usually be judged by the quality of guest stars that it can attract and this year the show went up more than a single notch with the inclusion of James Masters (Spike from Buffy) as another time agent as well as Alan Dale, Richard Briers and Ruth Jones.
Series Two consists of thirteen stories of varying quality and was originally aired between January and April 2008. All the discs have the option for English subtitles, though in such a high profile show it seems a shame that none of the episodes have a commentary.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and the show starts off with its trademark of mixing action and humour when the team find themselves in pursuit of a car driving Blowfish; this though is just a device to reintroduce Captain Jack, who disappeared at the end of the first series, to pop up in the Doctor Who story Utopia. No sooner has Jack returned than his Time Agent wrist band emits a signal. Intrigued, Jack meets up with an old lover and partner John. Jack is distrustful of John’s motives and, as he informs them that there are bombs scattered throughout Cardiff, Jack's worst nightmares appear to be coming true.
This was a good opening episode, made all the better by including James Masters as John. The show contains a nice teaser, which will not come to fruition until the last episode, when John, just before he leaves, informs Jack that Gray, his long lost brother is still alive.
Sleeper sees Torchwood confronting an alien infiltration soldier who has spent so long as a human that she no longer realises her origins. Torchwood must either kill or convert the agent before the planned invasion can commence.
To the Last Man is a more elaborate story, as Tommy Brockless turns out to be the necessary glue to fix a time rift between contemporary Torchwood and 1918. Complications set in when he falls in love with Tosh and no longer wishes to loose her.
Meat is a story about the exploitation of an alien for cheap meat. It does see a shift in the show, away from stories which just revolve around Torchwood to stories which involve more of the various characters personal lives. Gwen’s decision at the finish of the episode, not to give Rhys the amnesia pill, has the consequence of also increasing Eve Myles role - possibly so that the show can continue should John Barrowman leave. She certainly starts to take more of an active role in leading the team.
Adam revolves around an alien who can manipulate memories, a trick he uses to gain access to Torchwood. He uses his abilities to affect the team even to the level of love, when Ianto realises that Adam does not appear in his diaries things start to unravel for the charming alien.
Reset and we see the reintroduction of Martha Jones, now working for UNIT as a medical specialist. Following a series of murders, Torchwood discovers that the Pharm has been using aliens to produce cures to any conditions. Exploiting aliens? Didn’t we see this theme already in Meat? The show does have some good points especially the unexpected killing of Owen, who as a central figure you would have thought that his position was relatively secure.
Dead Man Walking and Jack is unwilling to accept Owen's death so uses The Glove to bring him back to life. This does not make Death very happy, who then goes on to take further victims until Owen intercedes.
The nice thing about Owen's return is the way that they handle the practicalities; it would have been too much for the show to have two immortals. So whilst Owen is dead he can still be broken and once broken his body can no longer fix itself. Burn Gorman really comes into his element as an actor as he portrays the less than happy reanimated Owen. All the pains of living have been removed from him but then again so have all the pleasures.
A Day in the Death opens with Owen talking to a girl who is about to jump to her death, using a flashback to a mission he tells her about his life, the girl eventually decides that her life isn’t so bad and decides not to jump. This is another good episode for Burn Gorman, who is able to engage the audience’s empathy towards Owen's plight of being undead.
Something Borrowed and we have alien eggs incubating inside an unwilling host - in this case poor old Gwen, who is having enough problems trying to get to her wedding day.
From Out of the Rain and Torchwood have to deal with ghosts of a long lost carnival who have been trapped in old film, now released they steal breath in order to reanimate their brethren.
Adrift: So what does happen to anyone who disappears into the rift? Gwen thinks that Jack is hiding a secret and, with the stupidity of the morally righteous, sets out to prove that he is holding Johan Bevan, whose mother has never stopped looking for him, however you need to be careful what you wish for just in case you get it.
Eve Myles is simply magnificent in this story; the ending actually brought a tear to my jaded eyes and showed that should John Barrowman actually leave the show Eve is a more than capable actress to take over the mantle.
Fragments represent the calm before the storm when the team investigate an abandoned warehouse only to discover that bombs have been planted which detonate burying most of the team. During the lengthy rescue, spearheaded by Gwen who was not with them, the survivors remember how they came to join Torchwood.
Exit Wounds and it's difficult not to spoil what is the show's high point, so I wont. Let us just say that Jack's brother Gray finally makes a showing, James Masters reprises his role and two members of Torchwood die.
Disc four also contains some extras. The Life and Deaths of Captain Jack (22 min 8 sec) is a look at the show's central character narrated by Freema Agyeman, with contributions from John Barrowman and David Tennant amongst others. There are a number of Outtakes (8 min 42 sec) which are amusing in parts and 17 min 19 sec of deleted scenes. Disc five consists of the complete declassifieds for all thirteen episodes.
Although the show had a slow start it still delivered some powerful stories. The extras are Okay, but it would have been nice to have some commentaries from the cast and crew.
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