Doctor Who: Looking Back At The Spin-Offs

Torchwood (BBC3, 2006 €“ 2008/BBC1, 2009 €“ 2011)

torchwood teamWhat's It About? The adventures of a team of alien investigators based in Cardiff and led by Captain Jack Harkness. Is It Any Good? When Torchwood made its debut on BBC3 in 2006, Russell T Davies and co were desperate to set it apart from Doctor Who and make it as blatantly adult as possible by filling it with gratuitous sex and violence, including a man having his throat ripped out in the first episode and the villain of the second episode being the now infamous Sex Gas alien. It made the series feel a little juvenile but after a shaky start, the sex and violence were less prominent and Torchwood began to find its feet as an adult sci-fi drama before moving to BBC1 for Series 3. And that is where Torchwood really came into its own. Instead of thirteen 45 minute episodes like the first two series, Torchwood: Children Of Earth was a five part miniseries broadcast over the course of a week that was incredibly tense and dark without pulling out the sex and violence card too much and had an excellent supporting cast including Paul Copley and Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi. Children Of Earth was followed by Torchwood: Miracle Day, a ten episode co-production with American cable network Starz that was pretty disappointing but still managed to pack in a few good moments with an inventive if overstretched premise. Torchwood is definitely a bit hit and miss but when an episode is on target, it works incredibly well. Especially when it comes to the more character focussed stories like Series One's Out Of Time, or more low-key and atmospheric episodes such as the second series' incredibly creepy From Out Of The Rain. The first two series are pretty shaky but there are quite a few hidden gems nestled amongst the more mediocre stuff and Children Of Earth is simply phenomenal. Miracle Day was considerably flawed but it had its moments and is worth watching if only once out of curiosity. If Doctor Who is just a bit too soft for you sometimes and you want something gorier and sexier, Torchwood should be right up your street. As a whole, it's far from perfect but it was the first half-decent Doctor Who spin-off and is definitely worth a watch.
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JG Moore is a writer and filmmaker from the south of England. He also works as an editor and VFX artist, and has a BA in Media Production from the University Of Winchester.