Torchwood Season Two DVD review

By Stephen Cass | August 14, 2008 7:16 pm

DVD Box art for Torchwood: The Complete Second SeasonNext month, BBC Video is releasing the box set of Torchwood: The Complete Second Season. Available on September 16th, and retailing for $79.98, this series chronicles the further adventures of the staff of Torchwood, an organization set up to protect the Earth from any aliens or advanced artifacts that might wash up on our shores. Set in Cardiff, Wales, (the location of a rift in time and space) Torchwood is a spinoff of Doctor Who, and in this season it really finds its stride as its own show with its own sensibilities. Intended for older audiences than the family-friendly Doctor Who, Torchwood is darker and more introspective, themes which are counterbalanced by humor and a high quotient of action-adventure scenes, as well as a fair amount of sex, on- and off-screen.

Season Two was 13 episodes long, and while this may seem short in comparison to most U.S. programs, a hell of a lot of material gets packed in, and every character is developed in some depth. The series builds up to a shattering finale, and on the way manages to extract some terrific, and surprising, performances from guest stars like James Marsters (best known for playing the character of Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.)

Bonus features include a featurette that explains the complicated history of Captain Jack Harkness, the leader of the Torchwood team, who is played by the larger-than-life John Barrowman (warning: that link leads to some spoilers for anyone who hasn’t already seen season two on television). It’s nice to have the history all laid out in one piece because Captain Jack’s presence on both Doctor Who and Torchwood, plus a liberal dose of time traveling on both shows, has meant that, for example, on no less than two occasions during World War II, at least three Jack’s were knocking around. There are no audio commentaries to accompany episodes: instead there is a disc full of short “making-of” featurettes, one for each episode, with interviews with writers, producers, special-effects people and the actors.

There’s also a collection of outtakes and deleted scenes. The later is particularly worth watching, if only for an alternate version of a scene that played in the eighth episode. The scene revolves around a bedside exchange between Torchwood member Owen Harper and a dying millionaire who believes an alien artifact is keeping him alive. At about six and half minutes long, the scene that aired was already notable both for its length and for the quality of the performances that sustained it. On the DVD, there is a version of this scene that is some ten minutes long, an insane length for a 50 minute show. But it’s brilliant — as good as the the aired version was, the alternate is better, with a rawness that evokes the deft emotional honesty of Dennis Potter‘s unflinching screenplays. If you haven’t seen Torchwood, check out season two. If you have, this set will tide you over until season three airs in 2009.


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