Opinion Torchwood

Published on June 13th, 2014 | by Andy Frankham-Allen

Why There Is Something Inherently Wrong with Torchwood

[pullquote align=right]Children will want to watch Torchwood because it is a spin-off from Doctor Who and features a much-loved companion.[/pullquote]Let me make this perfectly clear to begin with; I love Doctor Who. So much so that I spent half a year watching every single available episode, listened to more audios than I care to mention and read more words than you’d believe possible in half a year — all to write the ultimate guide to the Doctor’s companions. This uber project is what led me to this article; studying the life of Captain Jack Harkness made me see a few things I didn’t like about Torchwood.

Actually, no. It’s even worse than that.

This is not a case of personal tastes. There are some great Torchwood episodes; episodes that I love but others hate. Children of Earth was phenomenal. This is something much worse, something inherent in the show. Something rotten at its core. But before I explore this, let me backtrack and put things in context.

When Doctor Who made its triumphant return to TV in 2005 a lot of care was taken by those who made it; all kinds of things were considered in an effort to make it the best kind of show. A true family televisual event. There was even proper discussions about whether or not they should show people dying on-screen (the recent Golden Age documentary on The Tenth Planet DVD shows this clearly, when comparing the Auton attacks of Spearhead from Space and Rose).

Spearhead from Space

Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson took this all very serious; they knew they were redefining a cultural icon. They could not get this wrong. And they didn’t. Regardless of personal taste (there are plenty who love the RTD era, and loads who heap derision upon it) it was a huge success — the biggest, most incredible comeback in the annals of television history. Still, nine years on, we’re riding the wave of success thanks to the hard work and commitment shown by these three people.

In 2006, the BBC were so impressed with the show they asked for a spin-off. Davies and Gardner were more than happy to oblige, and so while they spent time devising this new spin-off show, they used the second series of NuWho to path the way for it, with a mention of Torchwood in virtually every episode. Series 2 showed us how the Torchwood Institute was born, and the finale of that series fully introduced us to the institution. Only the Torchwood seen and heard about in Series 2 was a very different entity to the one that would form this new spin-off show. A decision was made to make an ‘adult’ show, something darker, more mature, than its parent show. As Davies said in an issue of SFX it was going to be “more visceral, more violent and more sexual,” and even claimed “it’s very teenage to indulge yourself in blood and gore. Torchwood is going to be smarter than that.”

Doctor Who can be mature, deal with real-world issues, and has done throughout its 50 years. Indeed, from 1991 to 2005 fans followed novels that were increasingly mature; Doctor Who grew with its audience (or readers in this case). Even the new series that we’ve all enjoyed for the last 9 years has approached some mature ground — and it’s fair to say it has, on occasion, crossed the line of what one can consider family entertainments; the ‘relationship with a paving slab’ scene at the end of Love & Monsters comes to mind, and nicely links to my main point…

Cyberwoman

Torchwood the entity, the secret organisation that fights alien threats, was established in Doctor Who, the family show that a new generation of children fell in love with. The lead star of Torchwood, Captain Jack Harkness, was a companion of the Doctor, and children loved him. Two very good reasons for children to, therefore, want to watch Torchwood. And therein lies the problem.

Children will want to watch Torchwood because it is a spin-off from Doctor Who and features a much-loved companion. Further to that, it’s featured and referenced many elements from the parent show. It’s had a Cybermen story (well, a Cyberwoman at any rate), another companion guest starred in three episodes, three Torchwood characters guest starred in Doctor Who (in the latter case, even if children had not been aware of Torchwood, having Jack tell the Doctor about Torchwood in The Sound of Drums will certainly make the children want to learn more). So many reasons for children to watch. And watch they will… and did!

It’s all very well the producers saying this is an ‘adult’ show, and have it on at a later time, but it is still a spin-off from Doctor Who. This point cannot be expressed enough. This reason alone is enough for children all over to find ways to watch Torchwood; and there are so many ways for them to get access to it, ways that parents cannot control.

Weevil

So, we have this ‘adult’ show that is a direct relation to the most popular family show on British television. The whole notion of an adult show spinning off from a family show is ludicrous at best, and irresponsible at worst. I’ve been trying to find a comparison, but I cannot think of another family show that has done this. Another show so loved by children that spawned a show that should never be watched by children.

[pullquote align=right]The BBC broadcast edited versions of Torchwood because they learned that the younger Doctor Who fans were watching the series. Like this was some kind of surprise?[/pullquote]Let’s me explain just a few of the reasons why.

Episode one, Everything Changes. They weren’t kidding with that title! In this episode we have people being shot in the head, mauled by monsters, blood spurting everywhere, and, worst of all, a joke about date rape in the guise of a pheromone spray. And that’s not even mentioning the puerile inclusion of swearing at every possible opportunity (except Jack, and latterly Martha, interestingly). This is not mature drama (neither is it clever, despite Davies’ claims of intent).

Episode two brings us an alien life form that feeds off orgasmic energies. Yes, feeds off people having sex. Again, this not mature drama.

That is merely how the series began. It continued throughout a very uneven first series. Series 2 toned it down a little, although the gore and swearing continued aplenty. They even started showing edited versions of the episodes because they learned that the younger Doctor Who fans were watching the series. Like this was some kind of surprise? Again, it makes one wonder just what they were thinking when they devised this series. Did they honestly believe children would not want to watch it? Even if the appearance of Jack in every episode was not enough of a pull, the continual reference to Doctor Who would be, and having a cliffhanger ending to Series 1 that leads directly into Doctor Who only added to the children’s desire to watch the series.

Martha in Torchwood

So, perhaps, they did learn their lesson a little for Series 2. Or did they? Martha Jones was brought into the series for a few episodes, thus the children followed. It seemed, on the surface, the producers realised that maybe they did have a responsibility to their audience after all (like this was some optional consideration when devising a spin-off from Doctor Who). Children of Earth was a vast improvement in every possible way — well, until the final moments when we see Jack, ex-companion of the Doctor and a man who is always trying to be Doctor-like, sacrifice his own grandson to stop the 456. The version shown was a lot less explicit than other filmed versions, but still it’s missing the point. Jack is a companion of the Doctor: he is a hero, a man who should, by definition, be the Doctor when the Doctor is not about. The Doctor has done some dodgy things in the past to defeat the monsters, but it is inconceivable that he would sacrifice the life of a child to save Earth. As a younger Doctor once said, ‘there should have been another way’.

And there really should have been.

Instead we see another example of the irresponsibility of the producers of Torchwood on display. Is this really something you’d want your child to watch? Because, you know, if they love Doctor Who they will almost certainly watch it. And the producers of Torchwood know this — they learned this after Series 1. But, hey, it gets worse…

We come to Miracle Day.

Miracle Day

[pullquote align=right]It is inconceivable that the Doctor would sacrifice the life of a child to save Earth. As a younger Doctor once said, ‘there should have been another way’.

And there really should have been.[/pullquote]There’s been a lot said about this ten-part series; some good, some bad. There are some amazing ideas in this one, but once again I have to look beyond that and see what’s really on display. A convicted paedophile as a lead character; sex scenes (not overly explicit, but certainly gratuitous to the story); blood and gore all over the place; people being incinerated alive; swearing aplenty. All this produced by the same people who went to such great lengths to not show people dying on-screen in Doctor Who. Once again, let me stress this, children will be watching. Miracle Day has countless references to Doctor Who, not least a reference to the Trickster Brigade (a character from The Sarah Jane Adventures, an actual children’s show) in an episode that shows some explicit sexual encounters between Jack and his partner in 1927, after which Jack talks about the Doctor and how the Doctor has companions — suggesting that Jack is trying to be like the Doctor and is selecting his own companion (with whom he’s sexually involved). Is this really what the young fans of Doctor Who should be watching?

With each series it moves further and further from Doctor Who, which may well be the intention, but it’s a pointless exercise. Regardless of the intention, regardless of the distance the producers try to create between the shows, Torchwood is a Doctor Who spin-off, and it will always be so. It will always be of interest to the children who love Doctor Who.

This is the inherent problem with Torchwood. It was badly conceived, a so-called mature show, but in truth usually a puerile and irresponsible show. A series where the producers are, knowingly (despite protestations to the contrary, they know children will watch), exposing the younger Doctor Who fans to sex, drugs, gore, humour of an adult nature, and so much else.

John Barrowman and Eve Myles in Torchwood: Miracle Day

Doctor Who is unlike any other television show out there. A true family show. One that has something for everybody. It is a fact that when children love something they will want to know everything about it, and watch everything related to it. If Torchwood were not connected to Doctor Who, it would be a good show (that is, if it ever made it past a first series, and I do feel that were it not connected to Doctor Who, Series 1 would have been the beginning and end of Torchwood), but it is connected to Doctor Who and is, thus, inherently a bad show.

It can no more be looked at as a separate entity than Deep Space Nine can be looked at as a separate entity to the original series of Star Trek. Both are part of the same fictional universe, and one will almost certainly attract the fans of the other. Torchwood is an intricate part of Doctor Who (although watching Miracle Day I sometimes found it hard to believe), and will appeal to the same core audience. And that core audience is, largely, children.

I, for one, will always feel uncomfortable when watching Torchwood because it will always be in the back of my mind—‘what the hell were they thinking when they made this?’ What about you?

About the Author

Andy Frankham-Allen. Editor of Untreed Reads’ ‘Space: 1889 & Beyond’ Victorian adventure series, and author of Candy Jar Books’ Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants. Andy is a long-time follower of Doctor Who, which is his second favourite show of all time. The first is Supernatural. Just in case you were wondering. Find him on Facebook.

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132 Responses to Why There Is Something Inherently Wrong with Torchwood


  1. I think it’s up to the parents to decide what their kids watch. Spin off or not. Many parents today don’t take that responsibility to figure out what their kids are watching. Whether it’s a spin off or not. For example… the first Batman movie was one I’d let my kids see. The last one, not so much. The first and even second Harry Potter movies would be ok for my kids but the later ones got very dark and they’d have to wait until they were older to watch. Just because a child wants to watch a spin off or sequel doesn’t mean they should be allowed to. Its up to the parents to monitor. And if they won’t it’s not the producers responsibility to do that job for them.

  2. avatar Hunith says:

    Well, it might surprise the author of the article that I know a whole bunch of people who see Torchwood as an entity different from Doctor Who, to the extent that they loved Torchwood but have never seen an episode of DW. It’s possible: in Germany, where there never was classic Who, and where the modern series flunked because the TV station showed it at a bad time and shortened episodes so they didn’t make sense anymore, and therefore wasn’t a great success at first. But Torchwood was. Since another broadcasting station has picked up Doctor Who, it’s much more of a success, not just among geeks, but the idea that Torchwood can’t stand alone is simply not true.


    • I am not saying it can’t be watched as a stand alone show, rather it doesn’t exist as one because it is not a stand alone show. It’s a spin-off. Yes, you can watch it without knowledge of Doctor Who, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about it’s relationship with Doctor Who, and thus with a family audience. Also, I honestly do not believe that series one would have been successful without its Doctor Who connection (and by this I am talking of it’s first transmission, not any subsequent showings) because, really, series one is not, by any means, a strong season.

      • avatar vortexter says:

        Great article. I am 41 and cannot bring myself to watch this show because ‘Adult’ is not deemed mature or balanced in the writing style but is represented by crude matter and explicit material. If the parent show went this way I would bin my collection and sever all connection with a programme I’ve been associated with and loved for over 30 years. Take stories like Kinda which is deep and dark yet appropriate for all to watch. Classic Who was mature in a way adult shows could learn from.
        I suspect this is the route the writers would like Dr Who to have taken but were rightly afraid to take.
        A superb article in fact.

        • avatar Ardwen says:

          As a huge Who fan, I did watch all of Torchwood. Most of season 1 and parts of season 2 were really hard to get through. I too didn’t appreciate the crude and explicit material. The only reason I watched beyond season 2 was the inclusion of Martha, and I actually liked Children of Earth, I even let my 8 year old son watch it.

          Then Miracle Day went way beyond everything I disliked about seasons 1 and 2. That whole series lost me forever. If they do bring back Torchwood in some other iteration, I don’t know if I’ll bother giving it another shot.

          Thanks for your comment, Vortexter. And Thanks for the article, Andy.


  3. I agree with what david tennant’s 10th doctor said to jack harkness on an episode of dr who: “there’s something wrong with you, jack. You aren’t right.”

  4. avatar Mark Lenton says:

    Very well argued and very valid points.

    But I must just point out, as a parent of two Dr Who loving kids, they were both aware of Torchwood, but made aware that it wasn’t suitable for them and that’s where it ended. The youngest has just turned 15 and I asked her if she’d like to watch it as part of a DW SJA rewatch and she was pleased to do so – and hve never seen any of it before or after. The DW stories gave them as much information about it as they needed.

    I know kids have access to more avenues to view in the last few years – but it’s not that long ago. Any my bosets etc have been on clear view for them to sneek a peek at if they were obsessed with it – but they haven’t.

    Can only conclude that if you parent your kids correctly then they trust you to know what’s best for them at the right ages.

    Who want’s the nanny state?


    • I like your point about parenting the children correctly, and I do agree. However, it doesn’t take away from the lack of discernment the makers of Torchwood showed when they developed the series.

      • avatar Al says:

        The only place on the planet that looks upon Doctor Who as a kid’s show is Great Britain. Everywhere else the key demo for the show is seen as teens and adults (which kids tuning in too). Torchwood was made not for the children in the audience but for the majority of viewers who are in their teens and older. Ironically Sarah Jane got criticized by some for being too juvenile. And as for things like swearing, etc. It’s a sad fact but it is still a fact, that in 2006 when Torchwood started most kids had been exposed to worse violence watching Youtube videos and worse language in the schoolyard than Torchwood could ever provide. And move ahead a few years and you had kid-friendly shows like Glee with very sexual content. TW was mild by comparison. And I applauded the ending of Children of Earth because sometimes awful decisions need to be made by heroes. For everything to work out all the time isn’t realistic. In other words sometimes there simply isn’t “any other way.” The ending of CoE in my opinion fulfilled RTD’s #1 mandate of TW; that it would tell stories in a way DW would never be allowed to. On that score, it succeeded.

  5. avatar TonyS says:

    Thank you, Andy: an excellent and thought-provoking article. I too have worried about the “mature” direction that Torchwood took from day one. I would also add “Greeks Bearing Gifts” and Jack’s relationship with Ianto. Not (I stress) because they show homosexual relationships, but because they show or hint at (with all the refined subtlety of a bull in a china shop) at sexual activity

    This is not grown-up: it is schoolboy smut.

    I would argue (and in fact am arguing now) that when Whodom’s archetypal schoolboy, Mr Moff, took over as “showrunner” (grrr!) the puerile and smutty humour increased. There has been a lenghty debate about whether the programmes is, or ever has been, sexist. This is not the place to state my view on that. But I do say that it got very (change of adjective) infantile in it’s allusions to sex. “A Good Man Goes To War”; “Space/Time”; the extra scen before “Vampires of Venice”. These allusions happened beofre Mr Moff took over running the show and I am not accusing him of every crime from the sinking of the Lusitania to the Second World War. But they are there.

    There mmay be comments that the programme is not, abd has nevre been, a children’s show. I agree. But it is a family show. It should be a show that children are able to watch without their parents having to explain what relationship a man can have with a paving slab, or why a Victorian parlour maid should love a lizard-woman with an exceptionally long tongue.

    I want to finish by saying that I love the prpgramme (now and in the classic era) and am not saying anything remotely resembling that it should not be made. But I hope that season 8 will mark the start of a new responsibility to all sectors of its audience and fan-base.

    Oh, one last thing, the anti-Torchwood came in the form of “Sarah Jane Adventures”

    • avatar Mark Lenton says:

      Sorry Tony I don’t agree that Doctor Who itself has shown anything unsuitable for kids. Watch the offending scenes from the RTD era again and you will see that, like Mrs Slocombes pussy, they are all very much jokes on two levels – the kind of things the mums and Dads can chortle at while the kids are oblivious. I’m not so certain about the Moffs time and I was uncomfortable with the scene at the end of the Angels two parter. But the ‘lovelife’ of a paving slab is absolutely nothing about sex, when you’re a kid… it’s just a boring bit.

      • avatar TonyS says:

        Fair enough, Mark. We all have our different views. It’s something on which we can disagree, while respecting the other point of view.

        • avatar Mark Lenton says:

          Absoltely mate, and I’m not entirely disagreeing. I don’t think there is a defence for Space/Time for example… I can’t really bring myself to a rewatch of the offending Moff era material…


    • Thank you, Tony. I should say, though, I think ‘Children of Earth’ was quite mature for the most part. I remember watching it thinking ‘now this is what Torchwood should be’. Still not necessarily something I’d let young children watch, though, but the stupid smut and nonsense had largely been removed. Then ‘Miracle Day’ came along…

      • avatar TonyS says:

        Oh “Children of Earth” is an excellent piece of drama. And yes it is mature. It stands out from the rest because of it.


    • I find it interesting that you picked out Jack/Ianto relationship to criticize in terms of the show’s sexual content, a relationship that almost exclusively existed off screen especially in s1 and not say Gwen’s affair with Owen, Owen’s affair with Diane, even Gwen’s relationship with Rhys all of which had far more explicit and far less subtle sexual content than anything we ever saw between Jack and Ianto in the three seasons they were together.


      • Interesting indeed. Please tell me where I mentioned Ianto at all?

        • avatar TonyS says:

          Do you think some contributors have attributed my first comment to you?

          If so, I apologise. But they have also misread it.


          • It is possible. But it’s also possible, as tends to happen with such articles, that people read into it what they wish to see. You complain about sexual content, and they immediately assume you mean ‘gay’ content. It’s fine. Just interesting. Everybody has an agenda of some sort and a bias. There’s been a lot of side issues raised in various discussions on here, which is also fine, and a lot of them have nothing to do with what I said in the article. Again this is fine, as long as I’m not misquoted. :)

            I have MANY issues with Torchwood, but those are down to preference, etc. The article is about one particular point; it’s connection to Who and the affect that has on Torchwood and the audience that it’s connection to Who will bring to it.


        • I wasn’t responding to you. I was responding to the comment by Tony S which specifically singled out the Jack/Ianto relationship for its explicit sexual content even though it’s one of the only relationships where the sex is very firmly played off-screen. Or at least I thought I was.


          • I refer you to a scene early in season two wherein Gwen ‘disturbs’ Jack and Ianto.

          • avatar TonyS says:

            Read my comment again, Norma R. I talk about allusions to sexual activity. I do NOT single that relationship (or that between Tosh and Mary in “Greeks Bearing Gifts” to which I also refer) for explicit sexual activity.


          • Also Tony did say; ” I would also add “Greeks Bearing Gifts” and Jack’s relationship with Ianto. Not (I stress) because they show homosexual relationships, but because they show or hint at (with all the refined subtlety of a bull in a china shop) at sexual activity”, so it’s unfair to use only a part of that in your most without acknowledging the rest.


    • Sorry if I misquoted you, but I still kind of disagree. I don’t think the sex scenes were always well done, but I can say that about a lot of things on the show and while there were certainly moments when the show was puerile about it I don’t think that means any and all sex on the show (and I guess this includes kissing scenes since there aren’t exactly all that many sex scenes) were pointless or plotless. I’d say most of it did serve a point, whether it was showing a character’s vulnerability and isolation or losing their way or even just the idea that this was their way, not always healthily, of coping with what they had to deal. I don’t think just because the writing could be poor means that the sex needed to eradicated or that even sex was the issue with the show. Even without the sex scenes a lot of Torchwood episodes would have been bad. I think kissing and sex has just as much of a place in the Whoverse as the violence and death do and if children are expected to handle one they can certainly handle the other.


      • “I think kissing and sex has just as much of a place in the Whoverse as the violence and death do and if children are expected to handle one they can certainly handle the other.”

        That’s a bit… erm.

        There’s a big difference between children playing at Cowboys & Indians and Doctors & Nurses.

  6. avatar Responsible parent says:

    Wow. You couldn’t be more wrong. Way to take every scrap of responsibility away from anyone. There are ratings, warning, and standards of viewing set for a reason. Guess what, my kids ADORE all things Doctor Who. Guess what else. They’ve never seen a single second of Torchwood. You know why? I’m a responsible parent. I’ve told them Torchwood isn’t for kids, it’s not appropriate for them and I monitor what they watch.

    This argument of yours is exactly the same as the ones where people want to blame Mature rated video games and movies for the violent actions of teenagers. Those games weren’t designed for kids! Just like Torchwood wasn’t designed for or intended to be watched by children!

    Kids want a lot of things they can’t have, and yes sometimes some of those kids will find a way to get those things regardless. But that’s not the fault of the games or the shows. Misplaced blame is lazy and ridiculous. Step up, be a parent. It’s pretty simple. Your issues with Torchwood are not the fault of Davies or anyone else. They did what was required of them to make sure it was known this wasn’t a children’s show, after that it’s out of their hands.

  7. avatar DonnaM says:

    What a very well-reasoned, readable article. I thank you, sir!

    I started watching Torchwood expecting a grown-up sci fi show. I gave up midway through series one because what I was getting was a fourteen-year-old’s view of what “adult” means. Hey, look, this is adult! That means we can swear and have sex and everything!!!

    I am neither a teeanger or a prude; I don’t swear much myself but have no issue with swearing on TV (The Thick Of It being a case in point – it’s hysterically funny, bad language and crude sexual references and all). When the swearing, sex and gore is thrown in for a strong narrative purpose, I’m fine with it. When it’s chucked in for the sake of it, I switch off. Context, for me, is everything.

    Were kids going to want to watch the show with Captain Jack in? Yes. Were they allowed to in my family? No. Did they bleat, whinge and complain? Of course, but it made no difference.

    I gave Torchwood another chance for Children of Earth, hoping the change in format might make a difference, and for the most part it did. Miracle Day was a bitter disappointment thereafter.

    I’d concur with TonyS as well to a point – there’s a fair bit of puerile smut implicit in modern Doctor Who, RTD and Moff eras alike. However, it’s not yet reached the level that my eight-year-old niece can detect it (although her sixteen-year-old brother’s been known to snigger and blush a few times). I’d like to see it cut back all the same!


    • Thank you, Donna. And kudos for raising children who know to mind their parent when they’re told no. :)

    • avatar Lola Lockhart says:

      Excuse me! I’m 14, and didn’t enjoy series 1 either, as it was often unnecessarily sexual and in that sense quite childish, but I loved Children of Earth and thought that some of Miracle Day was really quite fascinating

  8. avatar Terry Cooper says:

    I’ve always felt the same about Torchwood: While I welcomed the idea of a DW spinoff that was more ‘serious’ and less PG rated, I watched Series 1 and was gobsmacked at how bad it was – shocking and sweary for the sake of it. Because that’s (apparently) what sets ‘mature’ sci fi apart from the parent show – plenty of sex and cussing. Series 2 was an improvement – less of a mixed bag of acting now that the writers had a handle on the characters, but still the same pointless stuff designed ot raise eyebrows. and all through it, I thought – “but kids will want to watch this – it’s a spinoff of Doctor Who! What WERE they thinking???”

  9. avatar Jessica says:

    Whereas I do agree with most of the points made here, there is one point that I disagree with – Jack is NOT the Doctor, he will never BE the Doctor, and part of the appeal of his character is that he is not like the Doctor or his other companions, Jack is a lot darker and a lot more complex in his moral values. And no matter how the producers decided to make Torchwood, children would always follow across from DW, so while they were trying to appeal to a different audience there would always be children watching, but does that mean they should have just made an exact replica of Doctor Who because children would ignore the warnings and ratings? No. They made Torchwood to attract an older audience, and that was what they focused on, and rightly so.

  10. avatar Mark Lenton says:

    I agree with all the comments about hating the tone of series 1, but starangely, after rewatching it recently, after a couple of years watching True Blood, Game of Thrones and similar, it now seems much better, and very tame. I’m obviously desensitised … as standards have slipped…


    • Ah, but neither True Blood nor Games of Thrones are spun-off from a family show.

      • avatar Mark Lenton says:

        Yeah I get the point, but no one ever tried to tell us it was suitable for the kids who watch the family show. It was emphasised in the strongest possible terms that it was adults only.

  11. avatar Phil Jones says:

    You are absolutely spot on! In addition to your observation, I believe Capt. Jack’s lack of “Doctor nobility” was visible in what parts of series 1 I was able to watch. I stopped watching after a few episodes.

  12. avatar J W says:

    You hit the nail on the head with this article. You’ve stated every reason why Torchwood failed, at least in my eyes. The only other thing about the show that bothered me was Davies constant need to beat viewers over the head with the fact that the show includes gay characters. I didn’t mind that the series included gay characters….I just didn’t need it to be so in your face all the time which Davies consistently seemed to make it. It got tedious after awhile.


    • This is a fair point. Jack was never gay in Doctor Who; indeed it’s quite clear that he’s attracted to all kinds. This is also mostly true in Torchwood. He’s deeply in love with Gwen, and only doesn’t advance on that feeling because of her relationship with Rhys. It’s only in ‘Miracle Day’ (usually in the episodes written by Jane Espenson) that he’s ‘gay’.


  13. I completely agree! We should deny the existence of sex, swear words and violence! Children should never learn the context behind these things and should never be given the resources to make up their own mind about these things!

    PS nice work only complaining about the homosexual love scenes, I especially liked that.

    • avatar DonnaM says:

      I rather thought the lack of context in which the sex, violence and swearing was portrayed was the issue. Certainly it was, apart from some pretty shoddy storytelling, my beef with the show!


    • I most certainly did not ‘only complain about the homosexual love scenes’. Quite the contrary. I never singled out sexual preference one way or another. I

    • avatar Philip Bates says:

      “Episode two brings us an alien life form that feeds off orgasmic energies. Yes, feeds off people having sex. Again, this not mature drama.”

      No mention of of sexual orientation. Please don’t turn this into a “he must be homophobic” argument. It’s unnecessary.


      • Yes, it would be incredibly stupid to do, too, since to read anything homophobic in my article is… well, laughable, since I am actually gay.

  14. avatar synamingirl says:

    First and foremost, if children are watching it is the fault of the parents and no one else. Stupid parents. The show was fantastic and ended way too soon. I keep waiting for a come back. Captain Jack in Dr. Who professess his attraction “sexually” for all species…. Hello? and many many things in Dr. Who really should not be for children but we let them watch anyway because those of us who love Dr. Who want to pass the torch…(no pun intended). Again. I come back to the responsiblity of the parent not the writers. Tone down in Dr. Who, yes, certainly…. in Torchwood…. NO WAY!!! There was only one episode in Torchwood that I despised and that was the creepy guy that they encounter after being stranded on the road with all these kidnapped people. Other than that the show was phenomenal and God I wish they would bring it back. If we had a mute button for stupid irressponssible parents that would be priceless.


    • I think Andy’s point about children watching is really about the mixed signals from the BBC. On one hand they promote Torchwood as an adult spinoff, while at the same time featuring a star of Doctor Who in the cast as the same character – also a popular Saturday evening personality beyond Doctor Who – and then in the next series bring in another companion. Then you’ve got the Stolen Earth/Journey’s End situation

      Perhaps what we need to do is define “children” here. For instance, 13 year olds watching Torchwood might find themselves wide eyed and amazed at the end but escape – probably – relatively unharmed. If the parents let them get away with it then yes, stupid parents.

      But how do you explain to an eight year old that they can’t watch the new show with Captain Jack in? It’s a tricky one, that can only end in tears and confusion.


      • Exactly my point. :)

        • avatar Mark Lenton says:

          It was perfectly easy to tell an eight year old they couldn’t watch as show with Captain Jack in it. You tell them and they accept it. Job Done. I know, I did it. It’s totally 100% down to Parents. The only exception is if a show is promoted as ok for kids then has something innapropriate in it. Torchwood never did this.

          And Journeys end is completely understandable to anyone who has never seen any Torchwood (or Sarah Jane for that matter). I know becuase my kids understood it.

          It’s kind of like saying School Reunion is not understandable without watching Classic Who. It’s fine, you just accept it as back story.


      • Telling an 8 year old that a show is meant for adults and that s/he therefore cannot watch it “can only end in tears and confusion”??? My kid was about 8 when Torchwood premiered. There was nothing tricky about telling her she’d have to wait until she was older to watch because it wasn’t meant for her age group.

  15. avatar jddunsany says:

    A very well-argued article. My wife and I stopped watching after ‘Children of Earth’ precisely because that ending was so unpalatable and, for want of a better word, non-Whoish (there really should be a better word, but oh, well…).

  16. avatar Gareth Kavanagh says:

    A few points.

    First of all, the BBC repeated cut down versions on BBC2 as I recall that were suitable for a younger audience so they understood and embraced the two audiences.

    Secondly, Jack does fall short of the Doctor’s standards but that’s the point of his character. He’s there to learn, evolve and fail. he’s imperfect, but he’s the best we have. A little like the at time ruthless, but retconned as the cuddly Brigadier that has prevailed in most people’s memories.

    Thirdly, there’s a lot of squeamishness in there about sex and sexuality as I read it. This seems to be very prevalent amongst Doctor Who fans and critics of RTDs era and Torchwood cops it in particular on that score, and yet it’s a core part of RTD’s philosophy for the show that sexual relationships will exist. Jack in a same sex relationship doesn’t bother me at all, although I agree losing the omnisexual angle was a shame.

    Finally, yes there were elements that were puerile, but it was trying to do something different, to consider that there is a grubby, doctorless universe with politicians and people making tough and morally suspect decisions. Learning this and to question them, is surely the most Doctorish lesson of all.

    Torchwood does have problems (the ludicrous Scooby gang set up, the fact Barrowman is not the strongest of leads, the fact the Gwen and Jack sexual tension is never worked out), but the pretext of “protecting children from harm” feels quite invidious. It’s the kind of thinking that sees ET and Raiders of the Lost Ark butchered, or Robocop dumbed down. When I was a kid, I always wanted to watch the 18′s in the video shop. It was natural and exciting. Torchwood, after all was a post watershed piece of entertainment with a PG cut transmitted for the kiddies.

    All very pragmatic.

    • avatar James Mclean says:

      Gareth has hit it on the proverbial cyber-head for me. Every point there is very much where I stand. Brilliant post.

      I can get behind the point Torchwood was a very miss and hit attempt to hit an adult market, in part I think getting lost to the BBC Three young adult remit that ultimately too it close to another planky product, Hollyoaks. See what I did there?

      I liked Captain Jack, I grew to like Ianto, but ultimately Torchwood was a confused mess, probably as it was a more “serious” project that was trying to tick too many boxes. As Gareth said, it still had a kid’s remit, so far as a sanitsed version would be televised, so you’ve got RTD’s great kid model – the Hub is a Batcave, the Torchomobile is a Batmobile. Then you have a menagerie or Whoish monsters – woot. Stuff kids love, but ultimately don’t sell the realism to an adult. Then you’ve got the BBC Three model, so sexuality, relationships and all those silly things young adults focus on on television has to be chucked in. So by the time you’re looking at an adult show, you’ve got a real baggage load that will dilute it, and sadly that’s what happened. Chuck in some rather charmless, whiny characters and you’ve got a problem.

      Funnily enough, when TW went adult, they destroyed the HUB, lost the monsters and the Torchomobile. The took a step back from the BBC Three format (not being a BBC Three model anymore) and you get an adult show. Not that it was always a great adult show. While Children of Earth was astounding adult television, Miracle Day was very hit-and-miss.

      So for me TW’s problem is probably that while we all laud it for being a failed adult show, it was never allowed to really find its root in mature fiction because it was still tied to Who and BBC Three.

      As for Jack, I agree with Gareth, his failings to be the Doctor very much adds an identity to the character and prevents the Doctor being diluted by a carbon copy. One could argue this is something SJA failed at, as it did cast the same template “Doctor and companions” and by doing so the sheer uniqueness of the Doctor’s ability to fight the odds is lost a little (but it was a show for kids, so deal! lol). I think Jack saved Torchwood for me, being one of the few likable and interesting characters, even if often poorly implemented.

      In fact, you could turn this all around and say Doctor Who IS a family show, and ergo, SJA, a show with a diluted format for kids where Sarah rather unrealistically lets minors go up against monsters (what would people say if the Brig did that?) damages the balanced content of Doctor Who? I know some would (associate editor Brian Terranova! for instance!)

      I think the real issue here is twofold – it’s a dislike for the final product, and a slight disapproval of adult sexual themes in Doctor Who generally, which of course, Torchwood had in abundance. Personally, I don’t think kids really “get” a lot of the sexual in-jokes or even the obvious ones. I remember watching Ghostbusters at the cinema as a kid and the ghost unzipping Ray’s pants went WAY over my head. So I don’t think the issue by and large is the affect on kids, more the personal preferences of the adults. Some adults don’t like sexuality in Doctor Who. I remember when the Transit novel mentioned the taste of semen in a prostitutes mouth and fandom erupted with anger (a book by the writer of the classic Remembrance of the Daleks too!) – you couldn’t say that in Doctor Who!! Well, why not? Doctor Who is anti-establishment at its very core, should fans put such social barriers into what it should or should not explore? Is that not against the show’s ethos?

      Sexuality is part of our culture, our livelihoods – the only problem is when its handled in a way that is not invasive, just boring, and sadly, Torchwood often slipped into the latter.

      • avatar Gareth Kavanagh says:

        A very good collection of points James. I’d not considered the conflicting briefs from the core show and BBC3 getting in the way of the drama, but you’re right. It’s part Who, part Buffy, part Misfits and part two pints and therein lies the issue that sees it aim for too many audiences and arguably, miss all of them.

        It does though, miss the fact that the audiences are far more sophisticated for modern Who and TV in general. Oddly, it’s something RTD completely understands with Who which is rich and multilayered, approached as a modern piece of drama first and foremost as opposed to genre. With Torchwood the adult content feels a lot more forced, however. Perhaps if the Marvel movies had been in existence then, which I think hits the tone he was after (Avengers Assemble feels very Torchwood) they’d have got it right at the beginning.

        I did enjoy Miracle Day though, albeit a little too long and loved Children of Earth which lest we forget was appointment TV in a very innovative format, despite being clearly set up to fail shunted into a graveyard slot over a week in the Summer.

        Sadly, I feel we’ll never see Torchwood again which is a shame as it was definately a work in progress. But with the BBC not interested, Starz not interested (I was always left with the impression TW was little more than a trojan horse to land new RTD drama for their network) and the Moff not interested I think it’s game over.

        A shame.

  17. avatar TimeChaser says:

    An excellently written article. I’m in agreement, I watched the first two seasons of Torchwood but beyond that I didn’t feel any desire to continue. It utterly disappointed me because it was so much like everything else that tries to be ‘edgy’ and ‘sexy’ and ‘mature’, for whatever values those bywords hold now. I love Doctor Who because it is a wonderful oasis in today’s stinking sea of TV garbage, a haven where the characters and the adventures take precedent over cheap titillation.

    All this is beside the fact that Torchwood is a massive sore thumb in Who continuity that creates all sorts of problems. I think the article ‘Where Were Torchwood When All This Was Happening?’ in the updated 3rd Edition of About Time summed it up best.

  18. avatar Sarah says:

    The doctor wouldn’t sacrifice a child!? He sacrificed his entire planet!!! (or believed to). Jack was never meant to be The Doctor, I like that the show was different. And really, the argument that this isn’t a good show because it’s too mature for children is weak. It wasn’t meant for them, and parents should be monitoring what their kids are watching, but I’m not sure it’s that much worse than Buffy and I watched that at a quite young age.


    • Yes, the Doctor (believed he) sacrificed his entire world because he had no other option, and look what it did to him. It took him until the end of ‘Day of the Doctor’ to exorcise that particular demon and guilt. Jack? He sacrifices his grandson, runs away, and gets forgiven by the Doctor in ‘The End of Time’ with the Doctor introducing him to Alfonso. And when Jack does return, he doesn’t seem particularly damaged by the experience.

      And yes, on many levels, Jack was very much meant to be Doctor-like. Even to the point of Torchwood series one echoing series one of Doctor Who. The Doctor meets Rose and through her rediscovers himself. Jack meets Gwen, and through her rediscovers his joy of life that was hardened by a hundred years of Torchwood service. Jack starts wearing a costume (including flowing coat), he constantly name drops, picks ‘companions’ (although, as mentioned in the article above, these companions seem to be object of sexual desire, too), his vortex manipulator is basically the sonic screwdriver, and the list goes on.

  19. avatar Dannie Madsen says:

    I really think this is up to the parents. Let them decide it for heaven’s sake. I think it’s a brilliant show all the way through. I am so tired of things being bad just because it’s a little different. Let the PARENTS decide what the children can watch or not. I don’t care about the show being like it is. For heaven’s sake… 😒😞 Don’t you think they meet such stuff outside in the real world. You seriously can’t contain them in shells.

  20. avatar Philip Bates says:

    I was lucky enough to edit this article, Andy, and I’ve got to say, it was a pleasure. I won’t lie: if I weren’t editing it, I wouldn’t have read it, simply passing it off as someone else complaining about Doctor Who (or the Whoniverse, at any rate).

    But I’m really glad I did because I completely agree. Truth is, Torchwood never sat well with me. As a show, it’s fine – I, too, doubt it would’ve got past Series 1 if it weren’t for DW though. But as a Who spin-off, it left me uneasy.

    The thing is, it’s not just that kids might watch it. To me, whatever age you are, the Whoniverse brings with it a set of values, or expectations, if you will. I’m not saying the Whoniverse is innocent, just that it tells darker stories in a more clever way. Frankly, I don’t want to see sex or hear swearing in DW. And so, I don’t want to see or hear that sort of thing in the Whoniverse as a whole either. A little bit, I can live with; the amount Torchwood delivered was… well, just far too much.

    People can say, ‘but it’s a different show,’ and they’re right, of course, but the fact is, a spin-off is a spin-off for a reason. It’s an extension of the brand.

    By the way, this has nothing to do with me being ‘sheltered.’ I don’t have a problem with sex or swearing in other shows. I watched Die Hard when I was far too young, enjoyed it and it didn’t once make me say, “yippee-ki-yay, motherf****r” to anyone. This is simply because it’s DW, and that’s a very different show from anything else.

    My main problem, then, is that Torchwood never actually felt like part of the Whoniverse. It represented something entirely different and, frankly, unnecessary. As a premise, it works brilliantly. But in execution, it failed in my eyes. That’s not to say I didn’t watch it, and yes, I enjoyed quite a bit of it. Miracle Day had some incredible ideas threading through it, for instance.

    To be honest, to me, it tainted Captain Jack as well. When he came back in Utopia, he simply wasn’t as likeable as he was in Series 1 of DW.

    I just couldn’t imagine the TARDIS ever landing in Torchwood. It just wouldn’t feel right. And to me, that’s what a spin-off should be.


    • ‘I just couldn’t imagine the TARDIS ever landing in Torchwood. It just wouldn’t feel right. And to me, that’s what a spin-off should be.’

      Absolutely spot on. A spin-off show should ought to be able to co-exist and crossover with its parent show. Torchwood can not do so without bringing with it all kinds of problems. I’ll admit I enjoyed seeing Gwen pop up in Doctor Who, but I also saw the potential problem of this as it’d introduce more of the young fans to the existence of Torchwood and create even more of an interest in it for them.

      The Doctor could never appear in Torchwood; and I think that even Russell T Davies would agree on that one. To bring him over would absolutely mean that a whole horde of children would follow (regardless of parental control). Fortunately the other spin-off was accessible to every level of Who fandom.

      • avatar Ardwen says:

        Good point about the TARDIS not being able to land in Torchwood. However, Sarah Jane Adventures was a true spinoff, even if it did pander to a younger audience than DW’s general Family audience.

        I would like to hear your thoughts on The Sarah Jane Adventures, and ask if you see any shortcomings in that show, for not being adult enough, or maybe turning off some adults.


        • I do rather love SJA, although I think a lot of that is the nostalgia value because it IS Sarah, it’s more connected to the old series. There’s a good point to be made about Sarah taking children into all the danger, but I can overlook that in favour of the charm of the show. Although a kid’s show, it’s surprisingly mature and doesn’t talk down to the children watching. Indeed, in many ways, of all the shows produced since March 2005, I find SJA more in keeping with the original series.

          The strength of SJA over Torchwood is, for me, that all the family can watch it still and find lots to enjoy. The kids love the adventure, and the adults love the nostalgia value. The same cannot be said for a lot of Torchwood.

  21. avatar Peter B says:

    Well, I have to pretty much disagree with this entire article. There’s nothing really all that ‘adult’ about this show at all. I used to watch shows a lot more violent and sociologically disturbing than this growing up, and it had no detrimental effects on me what so ever. The only thing making shows like this ‘bad’ are over reactionary people who think that kids are going to break like fragile china if they see something scary on TV. Kids are tougher than you think. Honestly, I think adults, for the most part, forget what it was like to be children and all the crazy stuff we got up to.

    Hell, there are Disney cartoons (Fantasia rings a bell) that are more disturbing than Torchwood.

  22. avatar Rick says:

    The thing about Torchwood that bothers me, is not so much about kids not being able to watch it (although I thought that was kind of mean) but the suggestion that Doctor Who can’t be dark or mature. I think that was a problem throughout RTD’s run (I’m not bashing him, I think he did a lot of good work) . I’m not saying Doctor Who has to be a super serious drama, but look at the darkness and maturity of the Philip Hinchcliffe era. I also didn’t like the fact that Jack turned into Captain Scarlett. One thing the program doesn’t need, is companions with super-powers.


  23. I can’t say I agree with much of this article, well written as it is. If kids wind up watching, that’s on the parents. Stating it should not have been made is much the same to me as saying that if an actor does a mature role he can never do a role intended for children. I especially disagree with the part about Jack sacrificing his own grandson. Like Abraham, Jack is called to sacrifice his own blood, but for Jack there was no merciful God to stay his hand. And gripe about Miracle Day as you you may well, we see that in Miracle Day Jack has indeed NOT forgiven himself for this when he confronts Oswald Danes. Torchwood can be juvenile at times, that’s part of the fun of it for me, but then it can take a turn to the deep and the dark, asking depth-less questions about the human condition and our own moral choices. Which is exactly why some lighter moments are needed. I wish Torchwood would be brought back. Why? Because it forces us to ask all the right questions about the most horrific circumstances. It shows us that if you act the hero long enough, sooner or later you will do something monstrous. This is a theme found even in epic literature. So no, I caannot (and I think should not) agree.

  24. avatar RedPanda says:

    Torchwood has always been a bit of an odd show in my mind. For starters, I never felt like it knew who it was supposed to be aiming at. Initially, from the start of series 1 I assumed the ridiculous and unnecessary amount of violence, sex and swearing was just to reiterate the fact that it was grown-up Who and “okay to watch” (You know, in the same way that the Harry Potter books are sold with alternative covers to avoid the embarrassment of being seen with a children’s book). After that, however, I started to see it as aiming at (in the producers’ minds) teenagers who wanted to see loads of blood and violence cause that makes it cool. Obviously.

    Except, when Children of Earth came along, I was legitimately amazed at how engaging, well-written and incredibly well executed Torchwood became. (If you discount the last 15 or so minutes. I’m not saying that Jack shouldn’t have done what he did, but rather, that was kind of a let down, considering the incredible build up)

    Miracle Day takes a lot of hate, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. I don’t think it was perfect at all, and I can see why people dislike it, but for me it played with some interesting concepts and it was a welcome relief to have actual Americans in the cast, as opposed to some of the more… questionable accents that have appeared throughout the Whoniverse.

    Basically, I think the main problem Torchwood had was that it initially tried to be grown up, then tried to be edgy, then stopped trying to be grown up and by doing so succeeded in being grown up. If Children of Earth started the series off, I think it could have gone further.

    Basically, because I don’t have kids I can’t comment on the actual points the article is making. Sorry about that. I watched the first two episodes when I was about 11 or 12, and then realised it wasn’t something I wanted to watch. I just made up the Torchwood stories in my head when they were mentioned in Doctor Who, until I was old enough to watch them comfortably. And even then I still made them up to make up for how poor several of the episodes of series 1 and 2 were.

  25. avatar lozzer says:

    I thought Mary Whitehouse was dead… No seriously I know what you mean, but kids will watch what they want to watch regardless – I know I did. In the world we live in Torchwood is not really anything to worry about.


  26. Namby pamby article. Adults want entertainment appropriate for adults and not have to watch childish entertainment all the time.

  27. avatar That Guy says:

    Here we go another parent that refuses to accept responsibility for their childs’ viewing habits. Grow a sack, and don’t blame tv for your own failures as a parent.


    • An interesting assumption based on no evidence at all. Kudos. :)


  28. Usually I’m much more tolerant of other people’s opinions. This article just seems, well – pointless. It is a different show, designed for a different audience. That’s the prerogative of the production team. Torchwood was designed for adults, The Sarah Jane Adventures for kids. There is nothing inherently wrong with Torchwood. It is what it is. Sure, there might be some kids who want to watch it. Big deal. Parents can say no. End of story on that front at least.

    I’m wondering if the author’s real issue is that the tone of Torchwood feels threatening towards the tone of Doctor Who – and like shippers whose ship gets destroyed by new canon, the author feels that Torchwood ruins the sanctity of Doctor Who for them?

    I really like the fact that Torchwood goes places that Doctor Who can’t. I think it gives even more depth to the Whoniverse and gives the distinct impression that much more “real” stuff goes on off-camera. What better way than to engage larger audiences! The kids get to see the onscreen stuff. The adults get more out of the emotional story lines because they know that the stakes are higher. This isn’t just some children’s fairytale anymore (although obvious parallels can be drawn). The themes of Doctor Who have evolved to give much more weight to grief, loss, loneliness and mortality. In recent series, the Doctor’s sexuality is hinted at with River Song. We could argue all day about the merits of that choice. But that has nothing to do with Torchwood.

    • avatar James Mclean says:

      In fairness, agree or not, it is an opinion article, so it will be largely subjective and there to open debate rather than tell anyone what is fact/fiction.

      Not that I disagree with a lot of what you say: for me there should be no quantification of what Doctor Who should be, or who it should be for – so far as a remit. Doctor Who has always been about experimentation, TW was very hit and miss for me, both narratively and in tone, but hey, it’s good to see the franchise try different things, that to me is quintessentially what Doctor Who is about.

  29. avatar SMW says:

    I am in agreement. We stopped watching after the first season. Our family is a Dr. Who family, going back to the 1960s, but felt Torchwood was the bastardized child of a beloved show. Our daughter could not watch after the first episode because it was just not appropriate. We stopped watching because it moved away from what we thought it was supposed to be about and became very raunchy. Good riddance.

  30. avatar mrjohnm says:

    I’ve often wondered if RTD’s original plan was for a series like ‘Children of Earth,’ but the BBC wouldn’t commission it. He then revitalized Dr. Who simply to introduce us to Captain Jack, the hero of COE. If this is true, then Torchwood isn’t really a spin-off as it is the series RTD wanted to tell from the start.

    • avatar Mark Lenton says:

      There is some truth here – it was called ‘Excalibur’ and was an idea for a show long before DW’s revival was on the scene.

      Maybe the argument should be that you shouldn’t make a family sequel to an adult show – even if the sequel actually comes first….

  31. avatar The 2.5th Doctor says:

    The Doctor appearing in Torchwood would be awesome, but it would highlight the fact that Torchwood goes against everything that Doctor Who is about.

  32. avatar David says:

    I will start off with saying I enjoyed the article, and thank you for writing it. You have hit upon a similar opinion to TW as myself. I am a huge fan of the show, but have often felt it was flawed previous to children of earth, the worst offender being series 1. I disagree that the flaw was not making it a family show. There are many adults who watch DW who don’t have children, and those that do seem to care enough about their kids to be involved in what shows they watch to be in the position in the first place. There is room for an adult centered spin off in my opinion. Adult themes where hard choices need be made and there isn’t always a happy ending, sign me up. The problem seems almost to be that the creators of TW tried too hard to make it adult. They have pointless adult content, almost taking a Hollywood approach to it by shotguning sex, violence, and cursing every which way. This is where they made the mistake, they forgot their audience. They had a show that people were watching that did not have pointless sex, violence and language. Instead of coming to the conclusion that that could be one of the very reasons for the shows success they came to the conclusion that including those things would make it even better. As a childless adult I have never once watched an episode of DW and thought, I wish the Dr. would drop the f-bomb more often. I have watched it and thought that some of the happy endings seemed a bit forced.

  33. avatar Juan Diego says:

    Agree at everything except one thing: I loved the ending of Children of Earth. If all the childrens would be saved without a sacrifice, it would be very disappointing.

  34. avatar hyncharas says:

    In terms of whether kids will keep watching Torchwood as it is part of Doctor Who, maybe that’s true, but kids will usually watch adult content largely because it’s forbidden – simply being told what they can and can’t see is reason enough for them to defy their parents, which is a story told by older generations of fans to this day. As for Jack’s personality, there are episodes in both shows that demonstrate; when not in The Doctor’s company and returned to human society, such companions revisit old habits and cannot be expected to rely on his beckon call during every crisis, particularly those created by other humans.

    I think the real issue with Torchwood was the creation of a protagonist being forced into the same mould as The Doctor, but was destined to break it. Just because something is set in the world of Doctor Who doesn’t mean people should expect every aspect of it to adhere to The Doctor’s rules. Every character given the right to evolve should have the opportunity.


  35. Maybe we solve this “problem” by deciding to stop censoring what children can read and watch. Let them decide for themselves what they’re ready to handle.

    • avatar Geoff says:

      Terrible idea. You seriously think allowing immature and inexperienced minds complete control is the way forward? Self regulation works very poorly as anyone who’s ever been standing in front of the open fridge door at 11pm looking at the last slice of pie will know.

  36. avatar Chronomalix says:

    Honestly, I just want to know what happened to Gray when the Torchwood Hub blew up.

  37. avatar Bobbert says:

    I agree with pretty much everything here, but I would like to make one point. You mention that it is “inconceivable that the Doctor would sacrifice a child to save Earth” – but he did (or, as we found out on the 50th, was prepared to). 4.6 billion children. Yes, he regretted it, but at the same time he admitted – again, until Day – that it was the only available option. Also, kindly remember that he had a granddaughter (Susan, the first companion) and when asked if he was a parent, 11 replied “not anymore” (this was while he still thought he had destroyed Gallifrey). It is very likely be had family on Gallifrey – if not his own (grand)children, then parents, siblings, cousins. He (almost) sacrificed them for the sake of the universe – Earth included.

    • avatar Rick says:

      I agree. The main reason the Doctor’s never been shown to do anything like that, is less to do with his character, and more to do with the age range of the audience.

  38. avatar Howard Railton says:

    It’s good to see the arguments being considered in a well-written article. There has to be responsibility on the part of programme makers, it’s just not acceptable to do anything under the so called ‘adult’ rating.

    • avatar Terry Cooper says:

      Indeed. I think the main thing for me with TW was that it just felt a bit weak and a bit puerile. When Children Of Earth and Miracle Day arrived, it was a little better – less F words being casually dropped into dialogue just to keep it at the 9pm slot etc. It grew up a bit. But shows like Orphan Black, Agents Of SHIELD and Angel are ‘adult ‘ enough without being blatant. Channel 4′s ‘Utopia’ had sex, language and violence in it but they seemed to handle it far better than TW.


  39. Just want to say, thanks for all the comments so far. But please do stop making assumptions about me based on the article. There is nothing in the article to infer about any element of my personal life. Just remember, any such assumption made says more about you than it does about me.

    Please do keep the comments coming, though. Even those that do not necessarily agree with the points I put forward. This article is my view, and the view of many, many others, and one that needed to be raised openly for discussion and consideration. Even if not all agree with me, that is fine, the article has done what it was designed to do. Raise the questions and have people discussing them openly. :)

  40. avatar dinnatouch says:

    I watched the first seven or eight episodes of series 1 before giving up. It seemed to me that the producers of Doctor Who had decided to make a spin off into which they could throw everything that they weren’t allowed to put in DW – no matter how distasteful.

    I avoided series 2 altogether, but watched – and loved – Children of Earth. The ending was brutal, and if the producers hadn’t been hell bent on extracting the maximum shock value, there should have been a better way. I think though they planned to end the series there, with Jack leaving never to be seen again. If only.

    Miracle Day was a mistake from start to finish. I started watching it because I had good memories of CoE. After two episodes I was bored with it, but decided to give it one more episode before giving up. Unfortunately for me, the series picked up a wee bit, and continued to be a reasonably watchable drama for most of the rest of the series.

    That last episode though… I can’t believe I sat through almost ten hours just for that. The Blood Line? I was spitting blood at the end, feeling totally let down by one of the lamest dénouements I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. If there is ever a series 5, it will join series 2 in being totally ignored by me.

  41. avatar TimeChaser says:

    I just now realized that ‘Cybermwoman’ makes no sense. The parallel universe Cybermen converted people by taking their brains out and inserting them into the Cyber shells. By Ianto’s girlfriend’s whole body is partially converted, more like this universe’s classic Cybermen (think Lytton in ‘Attack’). Obviously the writers did it that way to evoke the emotional horror of someone’s body being violated in such a manner, but technically it flies in the face of what we already know established in Doctor Who.


    • Yup. Loads of continuity issues between Torchwood and ‘Doomsday’. And, indeed, between Doctor Who and Torchwood.

      One I spotted the other day. In ‘Utopia’ (after Jack had lived on Earth for almost 150 years) he discovers from the Doctor he’s a fixed point in time. Following this, due to the actions of Gray in series two, Jack is older than the Doctor when they next meet in ‘Journey’s End’. Now, in ‘Miracle Day’ episode seven, set in 1927, Jack mentioned he’s lived for hundreds of years (not true, he’s only been on Earth since 1869 after escaping the Game Station after being abandoned there by the Ninth Doctor) and he tells Angelo that he’s a ‘fixed point’, information he does not learn for another eighty-one years.

      • avatar TimeChaser says:

        I haven’t seen Miracle Day so I wasn’t aware of this. But that’s another good example for sure. I mean, how hard would it have been fro them to do the tiny amount of back-checking to make sure they didn’t tie continuity all into knots?


        • It’s not even about checking. RTD wrote the Doctor Who scripts that explained Jack’s survival. And he is the producer of Torchwood. He really should knew these things.

          Reminds me of Moffat completely messing up the crash of the Byzantium and how it doesn’t tie up at all, even though he wrote the episode it was mentioned in, and the episodes in which it was seen.

          • avatar James Mclean says:

            Could be an argument that Miracle Day being a beast for US television hoping to spin off into more programmes, he was using the opportunity to hammer home the character mythos for new viewers at the expense of a few continuity errors for older ones.
            Or could be a mistake, a lot of messy threads in Doctor Who and Torchwood, when you’re overseeing and running a whole series and story, with the pressures of deadlines and production issues, I could imagine it would be very easy to let a few things slip.

    • avatar Mark Lenton says:

      It is explained in Cyberwoman that the cybermen have started cybernising humans rather than just transplanting brains.


      • Yes, but that’s clearly nonsense. All you need to do is watch ‘Doomsday’ to see that this did not happen. We saw the beginning, middle and end of the battle (which wasn’t half as big and long as Torchwood and later Who episodes like to suggest), and at no point did the Cybermen start to upgrade humans into Cybermen in them more classic way.

        • avatar TonyS says:

          Possibly. But Doomsday showed the workings in ONE cyber-conversion plant. We are given strong hints that there are other factories across the world. Maybe London had more than one too…


          • Were we? We saw many Cybermen in battles all across the globe, certainly, but the only time we saw them upgrade any were the people at Torchwood One. I don’t recall any implication that this happened elsewhere? Besides which, Lisa worked at Torchwood One and there was no such full body conversions going on there.

          • avatar TonyS says:

            Lisa having worked at Torchwood One is a strong and possibly conclusive rebuttal of my comment :)


  42. Let me put this to you all. The only series I can think of that’s a ‘family’ friendly as Doctor Who, is the Harry Potter films (which also comes across as something of a Junior Doctor Who series to me)… Now, supposing they decided to make an ‘adult’ spin-off filming based in the HP universe but with same kind of content you’d find in ‘Games of Thrones’? How would you respond to that? Because, as surely as with Torchwood, the children who love Harry Potter would absolutely want to watch that, too.

    • avatar TimeChaser says:

      Hopefully parents would exercise their common sense and not allow their young children to watch it, but what I think some people commenting here are not realizing is that you are very right that something with explicit ties to another series that’s more family friendly would still attract the kid audience. That is a given. The rest is entirely up to supposedly responsible adults – though I do question the responsibility of anyone who wants to take elements of a family show and spin them off into something that is built on sex, violence and swearing.

      • avatar TimeChaser says:

        Oh, and another mark against Torchwood: the second episode is so completely a rip-off of the second episode of Angel, where a sex-craving demon jumped from person to person. All Torchwood did was substitute ‘alien’ for ‘demon’.


        • Ah, but in that episode of Angel the demon wasn’t about the sex, so much as just trying to find the perfect host and used a singles club as a place to find new hosts.

          Of course, in many ways Torchwood tries to emulate Angel (all the aerial shots of Cardiff/LA, and the flash cuts between scenes).


          • Actually, let’s go further and say that RTD (and Chibnall especially) love to emulate/rip off Joss Whedon. Note the lipstick used in Torchwood: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Firefly: Mrs Reynolds.

            I watched that with Gary Russell and boy I groaned as soon as Jack told Gwen not to kiss John. I looked at Gary and said ‘this is so ripped off Firefly’.

          • avatar TimeChaser says:

            Ah, well its been a long time since I last watched Angel. But by the same token, you have a similar idea in the second episode of both series. That’s like double rip-off.

    • avatar Mark Lenton says:

      How many times do we have to say that children are fine when you tell them no! Just bring them up properly!

      Actually the Harry Potter films are a bit of a case. I remember being off put that the films contained swearing, when the books had not. But it wasn’t flagged that the films would be more adult. Torchwood was advertised as more adult from day one. So no problem.

  43. avatar Sabrina P says:

    There’s a precedent for stories set in the Doctor Who universe with an adult audience in mind in the official Virgin novels. Their slogan was “stories to broad and too deep for the small screen”. And also completely inappropriate for a family show! In the same vein, there’s the reams of Doctor Who fan fiction on the Internet rated for teen or above.
    While I understand your point, I think it’s OK to explore the corners of the Whoniverse that the series can’t show, but nevertheless must exist if we are to treat it as though it’s real, as long as this grown-up material is clearly delineated as such, as Torchwood was.

    • avatar Sabrina P says:

      Oh, and another thing. Torchwood was careful not to tarnish the pure good Doctor Who stuff. There was no nonsense like revealing Martha Jones’ alcoholism, or that the TARDIS creates deadly cracks in the Universe every time it materialises, and so on.


    • In regards the New Adventures; they soon realised the mistake of their initial excesses (note that after Transit the explicit material was curtailed), and the readership was by and large young adults. I think it’s fair to say that the only people following the novels (and latterly Big Finish audios) were the die-hard fans. Whereas Nu Who was targeted at the entire family and not the die-hard fans.

      • avatar TimeChaser says:

        The New Adventures came out when I was in my pre-teens, and I do remember reading those early books and being put off by how adult they’d made it. A couple of years later though, on the cusp of my teens, I gave it another try starting with The Highest Science. I think a bit of time and the strong desire to explore something new with the series overcame my initial dislike of it. But it was certainly a shock for someone who’d only read Target novelizations up to that point.

  44. avatar Rick says:

    I think Torchwood isn’t in the same continuity as Doctor Who anymore. I remember a review noting that none of the events of Miracle Day affected Amy or Rory, even though they would have lived through them. Now, we could say it happened to them in between episodes, but if it did, they would have called The Doctor.

    • avatar TimeChaser says:

      I’m always saying this exact thing. The longer Torchwood went on, the further it diverged in continuity from Who. No one on Earth in Who now ever mentions any of the major Torchwood plots from the last two seasons that affected the entire world.

  45. avatar Geoff says:

    I didn’t like any of Torchwood at all, that said I only watched a few on and off after coming to that decision fairly early on. It just didn’t hold any charm as far as I could see.

    The fact I never watched Torchwood never spoilt my enjoyment of Dr Who even when Jack came back and I’m sure that if you liked Torchwood it was possible to enjoy it without following Dr Who so I don’t think there’s an inherent problem with the programme. If people choose to let their young children watch it then that’s their issue not the programme makers.

  46. avatar docwhom says:

    The sex in TW is summed up for me by the coconut shell kissing between Jack and Ianto.
    My reaction to TW1 and TW2 was that, having promised us a more mature version of Doctor Who, RTD ended up giving us a more immature version. So, I don’t see that the question of maturity is even relevant here unless we redefine the word to mean saying “fuck” and getting your cock out.

    It’s become slightly predictable these days to deride fans who have a problem with sex in DW. I’m quite happy for DW to deal with sex if, by that, we’re talking about adult relationships. The sex I want kept out of DW is that of immature relationships. Every female companion falling for the Doctor is sex as understood at the early-teen level of fantasy infatuations. The nadir of the Tenth Doctor’s era when he boasts of having shagged a virgin is sex as understood by the most annoying prick in your local pub. The whole complexity of adult relationships reduced to the level of a smutty joke.

    I want sex kept out of DW for as long as the show is being run and written by the sort of people whose hinterland when it comes to adult relationships consists of owning the complete box-sets of Coupling and Sex in the City.

    Turning the Doctor into the sort of sexual being in which RTD and Steven Moffat seem to specialise, far from making him a more interesting character, actually makes him a more ordinary and banal character. Why else would the writers present Amy as someone who would try to jump the Doctor on her own wedding night unless they get all their ideas about adult relationships from cheesy, faux-glitzy soap opera? Unless they actually believe that the narcissistic insecurities of the characters in Coupling and Sex in the City (which were already tired stereotypes even before those shows aired) constitute genuine adult relationships?

  47. avatar Geoff says:

    I think Coupling was one of they most laboured and terrible TV shows ever made. In terms of comedy it’s right at the bottom of the barrel and the characters are very one dimensional. I remember it aired around the same time as The Office (on the same night I think) and I couldn’t believe a show like this was still being made when right next door Ricky Gervais was doing something so modern and right.

    I didn’t find out Steven Moffat wrote it until quite a few years after Dr Who came back and I was astounded at that fact. Personally I really rate Steven Moffats creative ideas and his writing so I still find it amazing that he wrote that show.

  48. avatar Revenant says:

    I think I was about 9 or 10 when Torchwood first aired and as a massive Doctor Who fan I really wanted to watch it. After watching the first episode with my dad I think we realised it wasn’t for me, and from then on I has to sneakily watch the ‘highlights’ that went up on the website after each episode. I didn’t come away scarred or anything, but having watched Series 1 properly a couple of years ago I appreciate my parent’s decision to not let me watch it properly. By the time Series 2 came I around I was allowed to stay up and watch it, and again it didn’t really affect me, but I suppose that kind of thing is subjective for each child.

  49. avatar Christine says:

    A good point is made, namely that children would like to watch anything that is associated with their beloved Doctor. Another good point was made by quite a few respondents: parent’s responsibility. I have always found that children can handle both violence and sex very well, as long as the consequences are shown – and naturally responsible adults close to them to explain and to comfort if necessary. It is all right to show violence if you also show that people are hurt, killed or what not and that the survivors grieve. I remember the A-team, a series with lots of violence but nobody really got hurt or died. That may give children the wrong idea of what violence can cause. The same applies to sex.And that of course is where Torchwood sometimes went wrong in series 1 and in MD, though not in series 2 or COE. Sometimes more of an ideal of teenagers than as a part of relationships. Although I liked TW very much, I agree with many others that the way sex was dealt with wasn’t very mature. Having said that there were also many examples to the contrary. And I certainly feel it is a bonus that gay, straight and bi- or even omnisexual relations are considered as being part of everyday life (although one can debate whether the last is even remotely possible, and the idea of the poodle in one of the TW episodes does raise the eye brows somewhat). In TW but even in the mother show DW. However, the level of explicitness should vary according to the intended audience, which I feel has been done.


  50. I think Torchwood was a great idea with poor execution for the most part. It had a lot of good ideas and characters, but the writing often let it down. I agree it didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be, but I disagree that it’s sexual content, outside of episode 2 of the first season, was what made it seem so juvenile. In fact for all the complaints about Torchwood’s sexual content, most of it didn’t really go beyond kissing, especially with regards to the non-heterosexual relations, although I notice whenever people complain about the sexual content it’s almost always about the homosexual content never about the much more explicit heterosexual scenes.

    If anything I’d say it’s belief that being dark and dreary and constantly downbeat equaled being adult, poor character development and continuity were far bigger issues than the occasional sex scene or swear word. Even in s4 I’d say the far more explicit sex scenes we got were the least of the show’s problems.

    As for the think of the children issue. I don’t think s3 or s4 were anymore child friendly than the first two seasons so if kids could theoretically watch s3 with its level of violence, or a Torchwood show that was its equivalent, I’m not sure why they couldn’t watch the bulk of s1 and s2 episodes to be honest. But if parents aren’t monitoring what their children watch that’s on them not the producers, who made it clear that they were aiming for a more adult audience even if that aim wasn’t always a successful one.


    • It’s always interesting, reading the response to articles such as these. Regardless of the fact that the author of the piece doesn’t single out any specific type of sexuality, the readers seem to think he does. There is nothing in the article that says anything about any specific sexual preference; simply the level of sexual content and the context it is used in. So many of the responses seem to say I made a point of picking on the gay relationship when it’s it there is black and white that I most certainly did not.

      As a gay man, and a man who has no issue with anyone’s sexual preference, or gender identity, I would never single out any specific preference in a TV show. Relationships between people, romantic or sexual, do not need a ‘preference’ classification. To me they’re all the same. Man and man, woman and man, woman and woman… Who care? As long as they’re portrayed realistically and maturely. Which Torchwood seldom does – except in the case of Gwen and Rhys, who are without doubt the heart of Torchwood and the most honest and truthful part of the show.


      • You don’t, but I notice some of the comments do and that’s what I was responding to with that comment and because I’ve noticed this trend elsewhere and it tends to make me roll my eyes at this point. I find them especially absurd in the case of Jack and Ianto because the closest they ever come to an actual sex scene is a blink and you’ll miss it moment in Adrift, despite supposedly being in a relationship and a mostly sexual one for three seasons. Otherwise the relationship largely existed off screen. But, honestly, the fact that men (and women) were allowed to kiss on the show for pretty much the same reason heterosexual characters are always allowed to kiss on shows i.e to establish their attraction for one another is probably one of the few reasons why I would let children watch this show. As far I’m concerned that was always one of the big positives of Torchwood.

        But I also tend to think the level of sexual content also tends to be greatly exaggerated, which was my larger point. Even if you include the kissing its still a pretty tiny aspect of the show and purely in terms of the actual acts of sex it’s also in the end makes up a very small fraction of the show and mostly pretty tame. If anything this being sold as a “sexy” show is pretty much an oversell.

        I’d also argue that execution and development rather than context is a far bigger issue. I think it makes perfect sense that a group as isolated as the Torchwood team supposedly are, in a high pressured, secretive job that very few people understand outside of themselves might use sex as both a way of coping with the horrors of their job and as a way of connecting to other people. I also get why they might turn to each other in that way, that’s a common trope in these kind of “secret service” dramas, but it’s also pretty realistic and I think the sexual content on the show seems to be largely about showing that and, the uneven quality of the writing/ character and plot development aside, does actually make sense in that context. Tosh turning to a woman she meets in a bar because she feels isolated even from her teammates, Owen and his barhopping, Gwen turning to Owen at a low point. And yes, even the Jack and Ianto relationship since it’s established in the pilot there’s a potential attraction there in the pilot. There’s also the fact that Jack, as constructed, is a character for whom sex in all its forms supposedly holds no stigma and, if anything I find it weirder that they give his own show only to essentially sanitize him. A few kisses aside, Jack is probably the least sexual character on the show for the bulk of Torchwood’s run.

        If anything I think your opening paragraphs get more to the heart of the problems with Torchwood. Doctor Who was a show the producers put a lot of thought and care into with all aspect of its construction, but they seemed to take a completely opposite approach when producing Torchwood and that, for me, is the heart of the show’s problems not in its sexual context or swearing or lack of consideration for the children in its audience. In fact I would still very much love a show based around the humans that deal with the alien threats when the Doctor can’t be around and the Torchwood Institution, that allows for relationship between heterosexual and non-heterosexual characters as part of the natural, everyday fabric of its world. I think that trying to turn Jack into the Doctor, complete with longevity and the endless brooding and tragedy and ‘I can’t love anyone because they all die’ lamenting was probably my least favourite aspect of Jack. That pretty much sucked out all the fun out of Jack and what made him unique. Not that he shouldn’t have darker moments, but him being allowed to enjoy life or even his relationships (or really anyone on this show besides Gwen, really,) once in a while might have been nice too. I think the Whoverse had and still has the space to accommodate both a more family oriented show and a more adult oriented show, even a more child focused show and I’d say your comments about s3 proves that since there’s nothing any more child appropriate about that season than there is about most of the other episodes of Torchwood. S3 has Jack being gratuitously murdered and tortured and a man murdering his entire family, not to mention, an alien enemy that “feeds” off prepubescent children that are literally strapped to them, not to mention the seemingly endless stream of killing so if you’re fine with children watching that I don’t think that’s more child appropriate than episodes like Ghost Machine, Out of Time or Captain Jack Harkness or even episodes like Greeks Bearing Gift.


        • Thanks for clearing that up.

          And I’m not saying ALL episodes of Torchwood are immature, just a lot of them. As is the general sense of the show.

          The concept of Torchwood is a good one, and I was looking forward to it, but the execution was a bit of a disaster and very sloppy.

      • avatar Coopergreg says:

        Norma is talking generally about peoples attitude to Torchwood’s sexual content, not your article.


  51. Finally, someone who has said what I have thought of Torchwood for a long time. Great article, sir. My problems with Torchwood, as yours was the supposed “adult” nature of it ie the swearing, the “edginess”, the seemingly endless sex … preferably with members of the same sex … because that’s really “adult” that is. It was terrible from pretty much the beginning. Self-conscious, very cheap looking, and just not very well made ie trying too hard to be adult, and trying waaay too hard to be … “American”.

    But I have had a similar problem as regards Dr Who since it came back in 2005. The endless juvenile innuendo, terrible characters like the Paternoster lot, paving slabs … the list goes on and on.

    Like DW, TW unfortunately made me groan time and time again, and made me like Captain Jack less and less. In fact, to tell you the truth, I’m still not entirely sure that we really know much more about him now than when he first entered the Dr Who universe. I’ve not watched it for quite a while but I seem to have a feeling that the writers barely wrote in much of his character at all. As for Gwen, and … Rhys … and well … all the other characters to me were barely likeable. I think the exception to the rule really was Ianto who I think was becoming a rather good character until they unceremoniously bumped him off. Looked a bit like a butler though in that waistcoat, I have to say.

    Anyhow, I have been watching some old tv series recently like Callan and The Prisoner (neither really sci-fi in any respect but they are great tv series anyway, so there …) which manage to be pretty adult without any swearing or sex … and this was in the late 60s/early 70s. A number of American sci-fi tv series still do this, today, without really breaking a sweat. Look at the X-Files or Millenium (I know … both a bit old now but the argument still applies), Supernatural, Fringe etc. Pretty adult stuff but not even a whisker of a swear word nor naked bodies getting unnecessarily sweaty in a really in-your-face fashion.

    So why does British tv think that swearing and endless sexual cavorting means “adult”, now? I think its something to do with the writers. And truth to be told, I don’t think we have that many really good tv writers at the moment. British tv used to have some really great tv writers: Dennis Potter, Nigel Kneale, Alan Bleasdale etc … but now … as far as I can see there is a complete wasteland in British TV writing (maybe I’m being a bit harsh because I live in New Zealand and hardly watch any tv now since its all pretty terrible to my jaded eyes) …but I just don’t see any great writing happening in the UK at the moment.

    In my (extremely humble) opinion, Russell Davies and Stephen Moffat et al are just not good enough writers. They try to do too much with the 45 minute format: pacing is completely off; characters are not filled in; there are too many cop-outs; there are supposedly epic sequences which turn out to be damp squibs (see cop-outs), the juvenile innuendo; unlikeable characters (see River Song .. would the Doctor really be attracted to a smug psycho like her with such atrocious hair??). The list goes on and on.

    And most sadly of all, to me, the Doctor’s heroic character has been greatly tarnished and diluted, recently, and has seemed to me to be rather too … genocidal for comfort (see River Song, above) …

    I still think that Doctor Who (and maybe a future series of Torchwood) can be great, and be pulled back from the brink of “oh not again”-ness (see the “Dr Who” thing that Moffat keeps throwing in because that’s funny, that is … missus) … but the writing really has to get better, and the budget has to be increased as well (another problem I think with both series. That pic of the Cyberwoman was atrocious. Look at all the cheap plastic …).

    Anyway, just some bits and pieces I thought I would lob in and see what explodes …

    Best wishes

    Harvey Price, Palmerston North, NZ

    ps I wouldn’t mind kids watching TW if it was any good, and had gotten rid of all the needless swearing and sexual content, or didn’t have any of it to begin with … but it isn’t any good, unfortunately … and therein lies the rub …

    • avatar James Mclean says:

      Interesting comments, I agree with some, less so with others :)

      I think one problem here (and one we’ll discuss in the podkast on the back of these comments) is that while adult can mean mature writing, does it have to? Are we derogatory to different forms of adult writing or work? Torchwood was made for the young adult BBC Three market primarily, and 18 years tend to be exploring adulthood in a more superficial sense via freedoms, sexuality and of course, vices. So shows aimed at that market do resonate with that market. Problem is Doctor Who fans perhaps, and this could be a generalisation, aren’t always in tune with that adult nature and perhaps to suggest Torchwood would be adult themed was a little miscommunication to that market.

      Again, I personally found Torchwood dull for that type of adult focus, same way I find Hollyoaks dull, but perhaps as much as SJA was aimed at kids and not me, perhaps TW was the same?

      As for writers, I disagree with RTD being a bad character writer, I think his Who characters were bang on. I think with TW he was very much a producer following a remit that would make TW the focus of BBC Three audiences (see above) and children for the santized version. When the show moved to BBC One late evening there’s a MASSIVE change of direction and tone as he refocuses the show, as a producer, to its new market. I think RTD is a very good writer and a damn fine producer, but I think he does focus on his catchment audiences heavily which can live other market groups feeling short changed.

      That being said, I think TW had a lot of issues with it, a lot, even if it was aimed at BBC Three. I think RTD would be the first to hold up his hands to that, and I suspect it’s one reason the show saw a fair bit of character culling as it tried to find its niche. I tend to believe TW was too hybrid a show to cater to too many groups to find its comfort zone. It was trying to be serious, sexy, comic book, Buffy book, fun for the kids, and naughty for the teens, and that doesn’t really gel unless you really hit the mark well. I suspect in retrospect maybe he’d have looked at a smaller cast for the first season and then expanded. Look at Buffy, a show which clearly TW took a lot of inspiration and tone from (another show for teens with similar adult tones), and the win comes from a cast that starts small and expands as the show finds its feet and good casting. TW’s other issue for me was casting, it wasn’t a cast that gelled or carried enough charm or vibrancy – probably as they were trapped in the “we’re serious and tragic – yet fun/zany”, so become neither!

      Fascinating topic. Lots to think on.


      • Torchwood certainly did have a lot of issues. I’ve discussed just one; the one that concerns me the most. I could probably write a book on Torchwood, and indeed my publisher has shown an interest on a book about Torchwood – critical essays looking at the various issues.

        In fact, if anybody is interested in contributing, then drop me a line. :)


      • Thanks for the replies, Andy, James et al.

        Nevertheless, I still believe that RTD just isn’t a good writer … certainly not for Dr Who, anyway. I mean … the paving slab incident for one thing. It is just so woefully misconceived, in my mind, to have that kind of thing in a family show. It opens up too many difficult areas no matter how funny it seemed on paper (at least I thought it was supposed to be a joke). And there have been a number of things (not as bad but in the same kind of frame) like that in Nu Who since. I just don’t think they are needed.

        Also the way that sexuality felt so crowbar-ed into the programme after years of it being fairly “non-sexual” (?) Suddenly, it felt to me that there were people fancying other people all over the place, vast great dollops of innuendo, lesbian lizards etc. I know the universe is a big place, and there are all sorts of people/genders etc out there but blimey … it just felt lazy, and misguided.

        The same goes for TW. I felt that it tried really too hard to be “adult”, and to be “controversial/edgy”. It became a sort of clearinghouse for the bad stuff that couldn’t be shown in the mother programme. It seems they went for every bad thing that you can have in the world: paedophiles, people cutting up giant whale things, the main character sacrificing his own grandchild, Owen/Gwen/Rhys …

        I don’t mind dark, adult and edgy stuff when its good, but this is all a bit … miserable really. Not a lot of fun to be had when that sort of thing is going on. There was no lightness of touch. No really fun characters or situations. And if you did get mildly attached to a character, he/she/it was suddenly bumped off in a thoroughly unpleasant manner.

        Maybe that’s the crux of it to me. It just wasn’t that fun. It tried too hard, and the writing just wasn’t good enough for me.

        Still … an indepth book on TW would be fascinating. Behind the scenes kind of books are always a fascinating read to me. I recently read a book on the goings on behind the making of Space:1999. It amazes me sometimes how some of these “classic” tv series actually get made at all with all the goings on behind the scenes.

        Anyhow, I hope the book gets written. It may answer some of my lingering questions and doubts about the series.

        Still interesting discussion. Lots of food for thought.

        Best wishes

        Harvey P.

  52. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    First, great article!

    Second, Torchwood is irresponsible and never had to be as adult as it was. Children of Earth was quality sci-fi that was head and shoulders about all the rest and what the show should have been all along.

    Third, jack’s a great character and a fun sidekick but he’s not a lead actor and cannot carry a show. He was shuffled to a supporting role in COE and worked a lot better. He’s the worst boss ever. He continually goes off mission to screw around. The show’s irresponsible nature seems to come directly from him.

    Fourth, Jack’s sexuality. When he was introduced back in Empty Child, he was omnisexual. Somehow, he eventually became only gay, or at least, only preferred men and it’s almost as if everyone forgot the original character details. I’m still waiting for the story that details some of what he did during this’d two missing years. Again, another detail missing. You’d think Moffat would fill that in, considering he wiry pet the first appearance of the character.


    • All point I absolutely agree with, and have discussed with many many times since 2007.

  53. avatar isara says:

    I liked TW (1 & 2 seasons), the Hub, the team, Cardiff, the rift…. I think Jack is a fantastic main character for the show (really charismatic), and the team in general, good (rude and good dr Owen, lovely and clever Tosh, and my favourite (with Jack), Ianto. I think the show was too much focused on Gwen, and she was good, but I would like to know much more about the life of Jack in Cardiff, where does Ianto live!, Owen and Tosh. Finally, I found COE really depressed (and wrong in some characteritacions and details of writing) to see. I saw once and it was enough for me (Jack wasn´t Jack, Ianto wasn´t Ianto…. ) I haven´t seen 4S (and I won´t), so i can´t say anything of it.

  54. avatar calliarcale says:

    I have a different problem with Torchwood. I enjoy it, and I think it’s perfectly fine to have a more adult spin-off (though I have to chuckle at what became of the “kiddie” spin-off, “The Sarah Jane Adventures” — it gravitated right back to the sort of thing Doctor Who always was, once the producers realized their child actors could really pull it off). That said, the first season, especially the first half of it, was trying too hard to be adult, focusing on the shock value so we’d know this Definitely Wasn’t A Kid’s Show. It settled in, though, and the stories improved dramatically (just as SJA improved dramatically as the producers and writers found their stride).

    No, what bothers me about Torchwood is something else, and that’s continuity. Now, Doctor Who has always had fairly dodgy continuity, but generally they at least *tried* to be in the same universe as previous episodes. If “Torchwood”, especially Miracle Day, were a fanfic series, I’d have to label it “AU”, for Alternate Universe, because I’m not sure it can still coexist with Doctor Who. Things too big have happened in it now, with nary a peep in the Whoniverse. Are we to believe the global immortality thing happened during Amy & Rory’s life together in the house the Doctor bought for them? And nobody thought to mention it to the Doctor? That’s extremely hard to believe. Certainly it would’ve occurred by the time we get to “The Day of the Doctor”, and surely UNIT would’ve had some questions they’d’ve wanted answering, to say nothing of the inquisitive Clara. Bottom line is that I don’t think Torchwood can fit within the Whoniverse anymore, and I think that’s sad. If more care had been taken, it could’ve stayed compatible with Who. Now, to fit back into Who, you have to pretend Miracle Day never happened. Heck, even Children of Earth is a serious stretch. That’s what I mourn with Torchwood. It’s drifted too far.

    That said, I still enjoy it. I liked Miracle Day quite a bit, and I hope they do get to do another someday. But somehow we’ll have to pretend that didn’t happen if we’re to ever cross them back into the Whoniverse.


    • I agree with the issue of fitting ‘Miracle Day’ in with series six of Who. Throughout that ten-part series thy constantly reference the Doctor and other Who elements, including the Racnoss and Silurians when Jack meets the Blessing, and the Trickster Brigade in the 1927 section of episode seven (thus linking it to, oddly, SJA), so it is still quite clearly part of Who. As you said, how can no-one (especially Amy and Rory, and by extension their families) have been affected by such a global event that took place over several months? CoE is definitely part of the ongoing Who narrative, and for the Doctor takes place at some point during the specials of 2009 as seen by the Doctor visiting Jack in the space bar at the end of ‘The End of Time’.

      I do think it would be silly to stop the narrative of any given Who episode just to have characters discuss a spin-off story that has no relevance to the adventure at hand, but a line or reference to ‘Miracle Day’ would not have gone amiss. I guess we’ll have to accept, until told otherwise, that such discussions happened off screen. Which is, I feel, a little rubbish.

      • avatar Rick says:

        But even if there was off screen discussions, I don’t see why Amy wouldn’t have called the Doctor to deal with it.


        • Agreed. It’s all very well this ‘what happens when the Doctor isn’t around to help us’, but in the narrative he now has a load of people on Earth who would call him in, especially with something as big as CoE and MD. Amy, Martha, Kate… Indeed, come to think of it, where was UNIT during these world-encompassing events? I can’t believe they were not involved.

  55. avatar Ranger says:

    My children were far too young to watch TW – though they expressed an interest. Funnily enough it wasn’t the sex that worried me – it was the violence. I think DW and TW are about the only shows that show gay relationships in a positive and mature way – and I approve of that as a role model for my daughters. (Though I do think the Cyberwoman episode was merely an excuse to show an attractive woman in a suggestive outfit – I mean look at her high cut bikini bottoms and enhanced breasts – they could have designed an outfit that was more technically correct as someone undergoing conversion.)

    Sorry, long diversion. Violence as shown in Countrycide and the one where they’re carving up a living animal worried me more as a mother and that’s why I stopped my daughters watching.

  56. avatar quigonj2014 says:

    Apparently I am a bit late to this party, but I agree with the article. Torchwood was advertised heavily through the Series 2 references in Who, and I remember getting pressure on fan boards that if I liked Who I had to like Torchwood.

    However, the first episode I saw was Cyberwoman. Storywise, the Cybermen converted Jackie in the other universe and she looked like any other Cyberman, showing that there are men and women under those shells, done as unisex. The character above took her cues from an old pinball machine called “Bride of Pinbot”.. the Cybermen did this in the heat of battle with the Daleks? And there was humor that was “adult” only in the sense that South Park is “adult.”

    Next one I saw had people eating other people because it was fun.

    This was not Doctor Who. It was just sick. I saw the ending of Children of Earth and was disgusted, and did not bother with the last series.

    One of my English professors, in a science fiction class, postulated the following: if you believe that art has the power to inspire and make you a better person, then you have to accept the converse is also true. Some things can harm you, and will make you a lesser person. This is despite progressive teachings the only thing wrong is saying there is right and wrong in the world. Of course there is right and wrong in the world, the sides of progressive and conservative only disagree as to what is on that list.


  57. We call Torchwood , Touchwood !

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