The past few weeks I have been working my way through Torchwood. Given my love of Doctor Who and Captain Jack Harkness as a character this is probably not surprising. Despite this love and the fact that Torchwood originally aired starting in 2006 what is probably most surprising is that this is the first time I’ve watched the spin-off. I saw some of the Torchwood: Miracle Day series when it aired originally and I’ve listened to a number of the Torchwood audiobooks but somehow missed watching the series proper.
“Everything Changes” is the first episode of the Torchwood series. It serves the standard pilot role of introducing all of the main characters, the general premise and setting up the show itself. The episode is setup from the perspective of Gwen Cooper (played by Eve Myles) who is a police officer who stumbles upon a Torchwood investigation, finds herself embroiled in the mystery of the alien filled world that is Torchwood, with the episode ultimately ending with Gwen joining the Torchwood team.
The placement of Gwen as an outsider in this episode works well. It provides an identification character for the audience and allows for the introduction of Torchwood to be done in a logical and easy to comprehend way. Plus you get to see Gwen’s police work and snooping skills in action. She is immediately established as someone who cares, who is inquisitive, and as someone who doesn’t take no for an answer. Gwen is presented as strong female character in this episode and that’s something that carries on throughout the series.
The tone of Torchwood was also beginning to be established in this episode – it’s witty, dark, and is being established as firmly ‘adult’ television – a marked step away from the family oriented Doctor Who.
One of the things I’ve grown to love about Torchwood as I’ve made my way through the series is the open challenging of sexual boundaries and identities. That being said, this opening episode had an uncomfortable segment in which Owen uses an alien perfume/glamour to make himself irresistible to the nearest person — removing free will and decision making powers of the impacted person. Some have likened this instance to date rape and heavily criticized the interaction. It made me uncomfortable. But it also did an excellent job of setting Owen up as a character with a huge range of sexual relationship related challenges and as someone who is that stereotypical ‘player’ archetype. It served it’s purpose but perhaps could have been frame with more sensitivity.
A solid introduction to the series. With more goodness to come.