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BBC Home Video presents
Torchwood: The Complete First Season (2006-2007)

"Torchwood - outside the government, beyond the police. Tracking down alien life on Earth. Arming the human race against the future. The 21st century is when everything changes. And you've got to be ready."
- Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: March 04, 2008

Stars: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Naoki Mori, Gareth David-Lloyd
Other Stars: Kai Owen, Murray Melvin, Tom Price, Paul Chequer, Louise Delamere, Olivia Hallinan, Mark Lewis Jones, Paul Kasey
Director: Brian Kelly, Colin Teague, James Strong, Alice Troughton, Andy Goddard, James Erskine, Ashley Way

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, violence, sexuality, nudity)
Run Time: 10h:50m:00s
Release Date: January 22, 2008
UPC: 794051420527
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BA- A-

DVD Review

Torchwood is a BBC spin-off of the popular Doctor Who series, with rugged man-out-of-time Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) as the connective link back to the everchanging original Time Lord. I was never much a Doctor Who fan, so I had no knowledge of the Harkness/Doctor connection going into this season set, and aside from some clever asides and a very special severed hand, it's possible to jump into this series without any background knowledge whatsoever.

Harkness is the head of the titular organization, an elite top-secret squad (naturally) that operates out of an elaborate underground high-tech headquarters, known as The Hub, that sits smack dab atop a rift in the space/time continuum in the middle of Cardiff in Wales. Their mission is to hunt down rogue alien entities on Earth, kind of like a slightly more comic-booky version of Scully and Mulder. Aiding Harkness is cocky doctor Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), electronics expert Toshiko Sato (Naoki Mori), faithful manservant Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), and troubled second-in-command Suzie Costello (Indira Varma). Inquisitive police officer Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) becomes the latest member of Torchwood by the end of episode one, and it is her initial wide-eyed wonder that allows a bit of expository dialogue to get new viewers up to speed.

Once this overall plot setup takes place, the series lurches somewhat during a couple of the early episodes, struggling a little too hard to establish the quirky boundaries the characters need to work within. The character of Ianto—who slowly becomes one of the more complex of the Torchwood team—is anchored with a real clunker in episode three's Cyberwoman. It's a dreadful bit of techno-romance, and though the details of the storyline are referenced a number of times during the course of this 13 episode season one set, it's hopelessly juvenile in its delivery. Thankfully the loyal Ianto is rewarded during the final two eps, with meatier, less silly actions.

The character of Gwen Cooper is our initial tether into the Torchwood universe. We see it first through her, and a charming performance from the charismatic Myles—with her enormous eyes and gap-toothed smile—is the real draw here. She causes a few catastrophic problems, such as accidentally releasing the orgasm-eating alien in Day One, but eventually falls in well with the group (perhaps a little too well), yet Myles continually gives Gwen the sort of edge that makes her so very essential to the success of the series. And I sense the eager Gwen-infatuated spirit of Random Shoes (easily the best ep of this first season run) is something of a nod to Myles' sweeping fanboy appeal.

The big mystery of Torchwood is Barrowman's Harkness, who is sort of like a taller, crankier Tom Cruise, swaggering around The Hub in his vintage military duster, barking orders, sneering and shooting at things. His past (or is it is future?) is unknown to the rest of the Torchwood team, and tiny tidbits are doled in teeny dollops, ranging from his ravenous, open-ended sexuality to the curious origins of his name. In episode 12 (Captain Jack Harkness) things become somewhat more in focus, and what occurs here is rather daring. It's not just the identity of Harkness that comes into question, and the storyline plays out a forbidden romance with a surprising display of gentleness and romance.

Don't be put off by some of the weak spots in the early episodes, because Torchwood quickly rights itself, delivering fun sci-fi adventure worthy of a graphic novel.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: All thirteen episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are bright and vivid, balanced by measurably decent black levels. The prints are clean and free of debris, with nice details on closeups, though edge details lack the definition to make these transfers anything better than average.

Nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and it's a very aggressive presentation, full of extensive surround cues that give a very immersive quality to the series. Voice quality is clean, and the score elements have a deep, rich texture throughout. Directional pans are not as pronounced, but periodically provide a sense of movement.

Excellent.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 78 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Justice League: A New Frontier, BBC America, Doctor Who: Series Three, MI-5 (two), The State Within, Doctor Who: Series Two
39 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
32 Featurette(s)
13 Feature/Episode commentaries by Judy Gardner, Russell T. Davies, Brian Kelly, Richard Stokes, Chris Chibnall, Eve Myles, Colin Teague, Burn Gorman, Helen Raynor, James Strong, Gareth David-Lloyd, Andy Goddard, Toby Whithouse, James Erskine, Paul Chequer, Brian Mincin, Ben Foster, J
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
7 Discs
7-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This 7-disc set is packaged in a book-style case adorned with brief episode summaries, with separate clear plastic "pages" for each disc, all housed in a side-open slipcase.

The first six discs contain the series, and there's quite a bit here—extras-wise—beginning with optional commentary tracks for each episode. Each feature an assorted trio of production and/or cast personnel, including Judy Gardner, Russell T. Davies, Brian Kelly, Richard Stokes, Chris Chibnall, Eve Myles, Colin Teague, Burn Gorman, Helen Raynor, James Strong, Gareth David-Lloyd, Andy Goddard, Toby Whithouse, James Erskine, Paul Chequer, Brian Mincin, Ben Foster and John Barrowman. Producers, writers, composers, directors get the majority of the content, with Naoki Mori as the only absent member of Torchwood.

Disc seven is entitled Torchwood: Declassified (02h:20m:10s) and consists of fourteen short segments viewable either separately or via the "Play All" option. There's an overview segment, and then one each that corresponds to a particular episode. This comprehensive assortment of material may be more than the average viewer needs to know about the series, but the bite-size chunks make picking and choosing easy enough.

Each of the first six discs contains extensive additional supplemental material (behind-the-scenes, character analysis, set design, deleted scenes, outtakes, even the sleek Torchwood SUV), typically relevant to the episodes on that particular disc. Much like the Torchwood: Declassified disc, the content generally runs about five minutes, with the longest, however, nearly hitting the 16 minute mark (Torchwood: Sex, Violence, Blood and Gore). Not all of it is especially revealing and there is occasional crossover, though key series moments such as what's covered in Officer And A Gentleman (05m:29s) is very well done, and shows Torchwood at one of its most unconventional sequences.

Each episode is cut into six chapters, and features optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

A couple of uneven eps early on give way to a ridiculously entertaining comic-book style sci-fi series that often pushes its main characters in unusual directions. The writing is sometimes littered with really awful dialogue and plot conveniences get tossed out somewhat liberally, but I came to like the Torchwood team quite a bit, regardless.

A whole lot of fun, and highly recommended.

 


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