With “Torchwood: Miracle Day” burning up the ratings for cable outlet Starz, you can see where it all began in one high-def package with “Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series .” The 12-disc set compiles all three seasons of the BBC series, and the result is so heavy, you wouldn’t want to drop it on your foot.
In a secret base underneath Cardiff work the men and women of Torchwood, a beyond-the-government organization investigating unusual life-forms and other supernatural forces. They protect Great Britain from aliens who slip through the rift in time that exists locally, and there are plenty that do. A spin-off of “Doctor Who” (whose title, once scrambled, provides the name of this show), “Torchwood” produced 13 episodes in its blockbuster first season from 2006 to 2007.
Cocksure Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) leads the secret troupe, whose newest member is disbelieving cop Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles). Among their debut-year missions: executing a half-human female cyborg (who ends up fighting Torchwood’s resident pet pterodactyl); ridding a town of evil, bloodthirsty fairies; and stopping a “Species”-like alien who proves to be one horny little devil.
No sophomore slump existed in its 2008 second season, as lively and oft-lascivious as ever. Once more, Harkness stands tall as the fearless leader of this band of merry men and women. As commanding Barrowman is, he’s matched in this batch by Myles as Gwen, now comfortably a full-fledged Torchwood member.
Among these 13 episodes, an instant fan favorite exists in the first, in which the crew battles a time traveler (James Marsters, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) from Harkness’ past. (He returns in two more to exact revenge.) But the best one — perhaps among both seasons thus far — finds Gwen accepting her long-suffering boyfriend’s proposal of marriage, only to wake up the morning of their nuptials to find she’s “pregnant” with an alien baby.
There’s also an exceptional origins episode, and — shades of “The X-Files,” to which “Torchwood” has been compared — a freak-show-centric one, this one at a movie theater. Whether you’re an obsessive or a newcomer, this show’s easy to jump into at any time, and this season begins with the irresistible line, “Excuse me, have you seen a blowfish driving a sports car?”
Finally, there’s 2009 mini-season, “Children of Earth.” Comprised of a mere five episodes, it’s a real game-changer for the series — forming the bridge that beget “Miracle Day” — and, therefore, can’t really be discussed among the uninitiated without wholly spoiling its shake-ups. Let’s just say fans of episodes heretofore are sure to be riveted, especially when the series’ tone alters toward a darker path.
The fifth disc is comprised of more “Torchwood Declassified” mini-documentaries on various elements. This set is pricey, but worth it.
It’d be too easy to dub the show a British “X-Files,” although certainly the chemistry between Harkness and Gwen merits it, and that’s even considering the Captain’s same-team sexuality. While “Torchwood” certainly has the mix of sci-fi, horror and mystery down pat, it also benefits from the BBC’s lax attitude when it comes to sex and gore, making the prime-time series pleasantly adult, while still good-humored and never in poor taste.
Before my exposure to this A-level entertainment, Brit series normally never sat well with my Americanized tastes, but “Torchwood”’s amazing addictive nature won me over and opened my eyes, as did its feature-film-quality production values. The discs in this set are healthy, overflowing with “Torchwood Declassified” featurettes on each episode and their various elements, as well as the show’s mythology at large, ported over from the DVDs.
Admittedly, this set is pricey, but worth it. Those already owning the DVDs may want to consider the upgrade for the heightened audiovisual experience and the lessened shelf space. —Rod Lott