Torchwood

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Protecting Wales from the scum of the universe.

Torchwood is a Spin-Off of the British science fiction institution Doctor Who, and set in the Whoniverse. It's Darker and Edgier, Hotter and Sexier, Bloodier and Gorier, and very, very campy.

This page is for series 1 and 2 and the show in general. For tropes in the later seasons, please see their own trope pages:

The show follows a men in black-esque group of government agents who collect the Applied Phlebotinum left over from alien incursions and time-travel weirdness, and use it to defend Great Britain. They are not answerable to the elected government, or any other body (except, technically, the Queen herself).

The group's leader is the omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness, a former con man from the 51st century. In Doctor Who, he Came Back Wrong in the year 200100, unable to age (much), sleep or die. He subsequently travelled to the 19th century and, due to a broken time machine, got stuck on the The Slow Path. Jack hopes to be cured of his immortality by the Doctor, and patiently waits for him to turn up in Cardiff. Meanwhile, the series follows Naive Newcomer PC Gwen Cooper as she meets Jack, joins Torchwood, and learns to live with the idea of Aliens in Cardiff.

After the destruction of Torchwood London in Doctor Who, Jack incorporates its remains into his significantly smaller Cardiff branch. It's built on top of a spatio-temporal rift first seen in Doctor Who, through which aliens regularly stumble. They have an Elaborate Underground Base, complete with a pterodactyl. Although ostensibly a secret organisation, they're infamous with the local police. And their idea of secrecy involves driving around in a van with the word "Torchwood" in big yellow letters on it, and ordering pizza under the name "Torchwood" to be delivered at their unlocked front door.

Before the series aired, "Torchwood" was frequently mentioned or alluded to in Doctor Who. Tosh first shows up in "Aliens Of London". The word "Torchwood" was subsequently an Arc Word in (nearly) every episode of series 2. In the 2005 Christmas Special "The Christmas Invasion", Harriet Jones (Prime Minister) gives us our first look at Torchwood London, when she asks the organisation to shoot down an alien spaceship. Torchwood is earlier/later founded in the episode "Tooth and Claw", the secret organization's Victorian-era origin story. The two-part season finale "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday" finally revealed the inside of Torchwood London, which was then immediately destroyed in the Battle of Canary Wharf. Season 1 of Torchwood takes place not long after this, and from that point on, there are frequent crossovers between both shows.

Has a recap page. Its Ho Yay goes under Doctor Who's page.

For a full list of novelisations and audio dramas, see this page on The Other Wiki.


Torchwood is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in Torchwood include:
  • Aliens Are Bastards
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Let's see. We have Gwen, who does love Rhys, but not in the same way she loves Jack. Jack loves her, but stays away because she's taken, and he's also infatuated with the Doctor. He starts sleeping with, then seriously dating, Ianto, who is in love with him, but Jack has a tendency to avoid the subject of love until Torchwood: The Lost Files. Tosh is in love with Owen, who won't give her the time of day. (There is an episode when he does due to mind-altering aliens, but then she has no interest in him due to same.) Oh, and Andy used to date Gwen and would like her to stop being so happy with Rhys.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love:
    • Ianto to Jack. As the former is dying. Made only worse by the fact that it was the first time he ever said it. Not to mention that in spite of all development shown in the series so far, Jack couldn't say the same thing. Although given how many of his loved ones have died so far, Jack may intentionally be avoiding this because it simply hurts too much knowing that he will always outlive them.
    • Also, Owen to Tosh while they're brainwashed, and Tosh to Owen as Owen is briefly revived after dying. Which quickly turns embarrassing for everyone involved when their new revival method has unexpected side effects, and Owen can't go back to being dead.
  • Anticipatory Breath Spray
  • Anyone Can Die:
    • At this point, apart from Gwen, all of Torchwood 3. Although Jack obviously didn't stay dead.
    • Early on, it's mentioned that except for Jack, everyone at Torchwood is relatively young; due to the extremely dangerous nature of their work, few Torchwood employees live to see 35. Although many shows about troubleshooting elite teams make this sort of "everyone on our team dies young" claim, Torchwood is notable for actually making good on it.
    • Lampshaded in Children of Earth when Agent Johnson comments that for Alice Carter's mother, a former operative, to have died of old age was rare for Torchwood.
    • And then again in Miracle Day when it's stated all of Torchwood was declared dead, and that they all died young.
  • Artifact Collection Agency: Torchwood. Among other things.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Toshiko.
  • Author Appeal: For Russell T. Davies -- Wales, aliens and hot guys making out.
  • Back from the Dead: Jack Harkness. It's a law of the universe. It happens to others as well, with mixed results.
  • Bad Dreams: Jack, in "Small Worlds".
  • The Bad Guy Wins: "Small Worlds".
  • Big Damn Heroes: Jack saves the day in "Countrycide".
  • Black Comedy Rape: Owen's Establishing Character Moment in episode one includes him drugging a girl and her boyfriend for sex purposes.
  • Break the Cutie: Happens to Ianto in "Adam", happens to Tosh in "Greeks Bearing Gifts", happens to Gwen in "End of Days"...they all get more than their fair share of these moments, really.
  • Broken Masquerade:
    • Any shreds of secrecy probably evaporated somewhere between the episode where a psycho started writing TORCHWOOD in blood on walls and the episode where an Eldritch Abomination stomped around the Millennium Centre.

"Have you seen a blowfish driving a sports car?"
"...Bloody Torchwood."

    • Ask for Torchwood and people will point you in the right direction. They order pizza under the name.
    • The fact they drive around in large vehicles with flashing blue lights and "Torchwood" written along the side doesn't help much, either.
  • But Not Too Bi: Averted with Jack, who is continuously shown to like and love all sexes, genders and species equally. Despite that, he's still accused of this trope by some fans.
  • Came Back Wrong: Several characters, including Suzie and Owen, thanks to the Resurrection Gauntlet and its twin. This is also notably the reason behind Jack's immortality.
  • Cannibal Clan: "Countrycide".
  • Chekhov's Gun: Myfanwy, who appeared in the background several times, fights off the Cyberwoman.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The character Frobisher could have been named after a talking penguin companion from the Big Finish Doctor Who Audios.
    • Of course, there are plenty of these to Doctor Who, particularly while Martha shows up in series 2.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Captain Jack Harkness, who assumed the identity of a deceased American pilot while working as a con man during World War II (and still uses the name as his own).
  • Dead Star Walking: Suzie.
  • Death By Pragmatism: Turned on its edge.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Series 2 ends with Toshiko and Owen dying. Children of Earth (although it was downright happy compared to how hopeless things seemed for most of the final episode}. "Small Worlds", "Out of Time", "Sleeper", "Greeks Bearing Gifts" and "Cyberwoman" also had downer endings.
    • Jack's entire existence. No matter what he does, the people he loves will eventually die, while he remains exactly the same. Although "Gridlock" potentially gives him an awesome ending, if he indeed is the Face of Boe.
  • Driven to Suicide: Suzie.
  • Drugged Lipstick: Why you shouldn't kiss Captain John Hart.
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma:
    • Jack does this to Ianto in a very unprofessional Kiss of Life fashion in "Cyberwoman".
    • Played with in "End of Days" when Gwen kisses Jack's three-day-old dead body to say goodbye (though he then proceeds to revive).
  • Dungeonmaster's Girlfriend: Boyfriend/husband, actually -- Rhys.
  • Dysfunction Junction:
    • When a guy ends up sleeping with the man who killed his girlfriend and a girl pines after an undead man after dating a killer alien chick and a frozen WWI soldier, you know you've arrived safely at this trope.
    • It gets so bad in Children of Earth, that if you plan to watch all the episodes together, at least mix in something mildly uplifting between episodes or after viewing. Otherwise, prepare for a week of depression.
  • Easily Forgiven: Let's count 'em...
    • In "Cyberwoman", we find out Ianto's been hiding his girlfriend Lisa (turned into a dangerous Cyberman) in the basement. He endangers the whole planet, tells Jack he wants him dead after Jack kills Lisa, but is forgiven by the end of the episode. ... And starts sleeping with Jack.
    • Captain Jack is shot dead by Owen. Despite the fact Owen was unaware that Jack would resurrect, Jack easily forgives him.
    • In that same episode, the team mutinies against Jack and unintentionally releases a giant monster that steals the life force of anyone its giant shadow falls upon. Jack manages to destroy it by letting it feed of him. However, the effort leaves him dead for three days, which is the longest to date that he's ever stayed dead. He still forgives the team, minutes after reviving. It might be subverted, given that he ran off to find the Doctor a few scenes later.
    • In "Exit Wounds", Captain Jack forgives his brother, Grey, for burying him alive for almost exactly 1900 years. By 'alive' we mean that he suffocated to death and then revived every couple of minutes for nineteen centuries as the city of Cardiff is established above him. Mind you, this is after Grey has John Hart systematically blow up Cardiff, in addition to stabbing Jack in the back (literally!) when they're first reunited. To be fair, though, Jack blames his own failure to protect his brother for being the root cause of all this. And he didn't know what had happened to Owen and Tosh until after the forgiving.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Admit it, you want to kiss Captain Jack. It's okay. It's not all guys, just Jack...
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex
  • Everyone Is Bi: Or thereabouts.
  • Evil Counterpart: Captain John Hart to Captain Jack Harkness.
  • Explosive Leash
  • Expy:
  • Exposition of Immortality: Jack Harkness displays his immortality in anyway he can, baby. Between his Word War I meeting with faeries, a series of photos showing how much he hasn't aged over the years and him keeping around mementos from past times like his Webley revolver and his Army greatcoat, the only he doesn't do is talk with accent from the past.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: The city of Cardiff has a permanent Negative Space Wedgie running through it, which causes aliens to appear and people to disappear on a regular basis. The sewers are infested by monstrous humanoid "Weevils". Basically the entire city is a Weirdness Magnet. Just to top it all off, Torchwood takes place in the Whoniverse wherein the existence of aliens has become extremely public (due to multiple alien invasions). Yet in spite of this the populace of Cardiff seems to be in an amazingly deep state of denial about all the extraterrestrial goings on in their city, at least early on in the series.
  • Extreme Omnisexual:
  • The Fair Folk: In "Small Worlds", a very creepy episode, the "fairies" are depicted as unstoppable horrors.
  • Fake Memories: "Adam" and the Dan Abnett novel "Border Princes".
It's played VERY smooth in the case of Adam. Watch the intro sequence for that episode. Some of the otherwise "previously on"-style footage includes various shots of Adam. That don't happen in this episode. Or ever.

Jack: You people and your quaint little categories.

    • Taken even further by John Hart. He admits to finding a poodle attractive.
  • A Friend in Need
  • Giant Flyer: Myfanwy the pterodactyl.
  • Going to Give It More Energy: The mere shadow of Abbadon instantly drains the life from anyone unlucky enough to be touched by it. The solution? Jack Harkness, the man who keeps resurrecting due to an "overabundance of life energy", forces Abbadon to gorge until it falls over dead.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal:
    • Jack's job title has gone from "captain" to "meat shield."
    • Subverted in series 2 with Owen, after his return from the dead, who loses the ability to heal completely, making the slightest injury potentially crippling.
  • Guarding the Portal: The Cardiff Rift, that is.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky:
    • Jack, of course, but even more so -- Captain John Hart.

Hart: That's bloody gorgeous.
Gwen: That's a poodle.

Blowfish: [looks at Gwen] The Carer, with her oh-so beating heart.

Lampshaded pretty painfully by Ianto's death.

"Don't forget me."

Jack: (nonchalant) We could've used you half an hour ago for naked hide-and-seek.
Ianto: (doing up his pants) He cheats. He always cheats.

  • The Nothing After Death: Comes up several times throughout the series. The general consensus is that there is nothing but a black void or even a Cessation of Existence, however several people have claimed that there is something moving in the void and that it's coming for Jack.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Post-Series 2, the whole format of the show has changed. The "monster of the week"-style storytelling has been abandoned in favour of single-story serials. Cardiff is no longer the fixed setting, and only two of the original cast of five remains.
  • The Not-Secret:
    • Torchwood, secret agency that everyone knows about.
    • Series 2 opener: "Bloody Torchwood!"
    • "Ask about Torchwood, and most people point towards the bay."
    • Also, the team would regularly order pizza deliveries to the shop that acted as a disguised entrance to their hidden base. These were charged to an account named "Torchwood" that one of the agents had set up with the pizza company. And they leave the front door open. At least one pizza delivery girl ends up dead this way.
  • Not So Different:
    • John Hart. Who is essentially as amoral as Jack was in his first appearance.
    • Jack is repeatedly showing traits of the Doctor. Like the Doctor, he seems to be partially aware that he needs someone with him to keep him grounded and to stop succumbing to his darker impulses.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Jack can ramble at length about where he's been and who he slept with while there. This isn't always because he's the Handsome Lech.
  • Oddly Small Organization:
    • "We're outside the government and beyond the police, arming the Earth against the future. The twenty-first century is when everything changes, and we gotta be ready. All five of us."

Jack: This is Torchwood 3. Torchwood 1 was London -- destroyed in the battle. Torchwood 2 is an office in Glasgow. A very strange man. Torchwood 3, Cardiff. Torchwood 4 has kinda gone missing but we'll find it one day.

    • The decline in team size is rather surprising. Much is made of the fact that Torchwood operatives have a high mortality rate, yet there seems to be no system of formal recruitment for new members, nor anyone in any kind of backup position for any of the existing team members. Jack recruits entirely at random, and despite the fact that Torchwood team members are "paid by the Crown" (according to Gwen), there is nothing even remotely resembling a recruitment, staffing or human resources organization.
    • The Torchwood Three Hub is a massive underground complex, several stories high, which is somehow maintained by a team of five or fewer people. It is also somehow expanded periodically. The "invisible lift" leading up to the Roald Dahl Plass had to have been installed sometime after the Doctor Who episode Boomtown, since the "perception filter" that conceals it did not exist until the Doctor parked his TARDIS there. Sometime during Jack's year-long absence, the remaining four members of the team performed extensive renovations in the Hub, including adding a large new conference room. The entire complex is apparently cleaned and maintained by Ianto, who also somehow finds time to make coffee, do various administrative work and staff the tourist office that conceals the Hub's other entrance. Then again, their xenobiologist and computer expert also find time to perform their jobs, go out to hunt aliens and somehow squeeze in a bit of time at home. They are all very good at multitasking it would appear.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Jack, despite being very very sexually active.
  • Older Than They Look: Jack. At the start of the series, he's been stranded on Earth since 1869. After the events of Exit Wounds, he's at least 2,000 years old.
  • One-Woman Wail: Gray's theme.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Justified with Jack (and even Lampshaded), not so much with everyone else. The people of Cardiff really like to shoot each other in the shoulder.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • James Marsters, who plays Fake Brit Captain John Hart, has a come-and-go American trace.
    • And while John Barrowman's American accent (though Jack's not born on Earth) is mostly flawless (he did grow up in the US for quite some time), he does have a British pronunciation to some of his words which reveals his spending most of his working life in Britain.
    • Which is completely realistic, considering how much time the character has spent in Britain.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: In Bay of the Dead. They may look, act, and smell like shambling reanimated corpses, but they're little more than malfunctioning protein-based search drones based on a human's memories from watching a zombie flick.
  • Out with a Bang: In Sleeper, when the The End of the World as We Know It seems imminent, Owen suggests that he, Tosh, and Ianto evoke this trope. The reply:

Ianto: And I thought the end of the world couldn't get any worse.

  • Pizza Boy Special Delivery: In the first episode, Gwen "sneaks" into the Hub by delivering pizza, but the team just can't restrain the giggles. Jack recites both halves of the script of this trope, stopping just before the bow-chicka-wow-wow.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Among other things mentioned in the first series, such as bottled pheromones.
  • Punch Clock Villain: They feature heavily in the series 3 and 4 miniseries, which concentrate more on "banality of evil"-type villains than "Monster of the Week" baddies.
  • Railing Kill: John Hart does this to Jack in "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."
  • Rape as Drama: In "Ghost Machine", when Owen experiences the feelings of a girl getting raped through telepathy, and does a total Heel Face Turn on the topic.
  • Reckless Gun Usage:
  • Retcon: In Doctor Who's "Aliens of London", Toshiko had a job of a doctor, rather than her usual job of computer specialist. This was resolved when she mentions in "Exit Wounds" that she was covering for Owen, who was hungover during the "space pig" case.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Despite the vast collection of modern Earth firearms and quite a few alien weapons available, Jack tends to stick with his officer's Webley unless the situation calls for something special.
  • Servile Snarker: Ianto
  • Sex Is Interesting: This works out better than most because sex is usually interesting for the sake of comedy, at least when Captain Jack is involved.
  • Shout-Out:
    • James Marsters in his first appearance shows up, kills a man by lifting him by his throat with super strength and says "Thirsty now." A very subtle reference to his most famous role as Spike.
      • In the bar he mentions that Torchwood needs a blonde. Considering that Spike had a thing for blondes it seemed...
    • The Torchwood novel Bay of the Dead contains a Shout-Out to Shaun of the Dead:

Ianto: It's crazy, Jack. It's horror-movie hokum. You know it is.
Jack: And you know what we're up against here, don't you?
Ianto: No, I don't. Don't say it, Jack. Don't use the-
Jack: Zombies!
Ianto: -zed word.

    • There are shout outs to other series and mediums, such as in the Torchwood Online Mission game...

Gwen: Oh my god. Ianto, do you realise everything just got broadcast right across Cardiff?
Ianto: Meh. No one will believe it's real. In 1938 the government convinced the entire world that an alien attack on New Jersey was just a radio play. Relax.

    • Possible Shout-Out to Babylon 5: Torchwood 4 has supposedly "gone missing" which, at the beginning of the series, was the status of Babylon 4
    • John Hart playing "Starship Trooper" when Jack comes to confront him at the end of series two. The same song was used for a funeral in Queer as Folk, Russell T. Davies breakout series
    • The notorious "Cyberwoman" costume was a blatant Shout Out to the work of the Japanese cyberfetish and BDSM erotic artist Hajime Sorayama.
  • Sinister Surveillance
  • Sleeps with Everyone but You: Owen will shag anything that moves, but spurns Tosh, who is madly in love with him.
  • Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration
  • The Slow Path:
    • The only one available to Jack. There's a possibility that Jack is destined to live for another five BILLION years.
    • Inverted in the case of Tommy, a doughboy Torchwood has kept in suspended animation since 1918. He's woken up for one day every year to check his health. To him WWI ended less than four months ago. He's a little bitter that from his point of view, WWII rolled around about three weeks after "the war to end all wars."
  • Strange Secret Entrance: The Hub could be entered by a lift next to the fountain in Roald Dahl Plass that was concealed by a perception filter. There was also a more mundane secret entrance in a tourism office.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: Lampshaded/Justified when Gwen wonders if the Doctor is looking down on Earth in shame as the events of Children of Earth unfold.
    • Word of God says that the Doctor will never appear in Torchwood, as it might encourage children to watch a show that really isn't aimed at them.
  • Take the Wheel: Owen makes Gwen do it in the opener of "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang".
  • There Are No Therapists:
    • In fact, Torchwood seems to thrive on damaged people.
    • According to the online material for the first series, Ianto Jones has a therapist, with whom he discusses losing his job and having "problems with his girlfriend". Unfortunately, he only does one session of therapy and never goes back, despite really needing it.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Gwen, Tosh, Owen and Ianto all take levels in the different series.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Owen during Series 2 proves to be unpalatable to various hungry aliens. On several occasions they sniff at him and turn away in disgust, leaving Owen looking unsure whether to be relieved or insulted.
  • Toyless Toyline Character: There have been weevils and blowfish and even two versions of Jack, but Owen is still the only member of the team to not have an action figure. Although, there was rumor of a briefly displayed prototype sculpture...
  • Ultimate Job Security:
    • Ianto, whose main function in the base appears to be making coffee, was allowed to keep his job after they discovered he was keeping a partially converted Cyber(wo)man in the Torchwood basement, which led to two deaths and directly endangered the entire planet. He showed little contrition over this, and after Jack insisted that she be destroyed threatened he would watch Jack die. Couldn't they just make their own coffee?
    • The entire group mutinies against Jack which results in him getting shot dead and an unholy demon being released to feast on the citizens of Cardiff.
  • Undeath Always Ends: Owen.
  • Unguided Lab Tour: Subverted
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Scattered in various places. Jack and Gwen are a nice example.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Gwen is this to series one's Suzie Costello.
  • Wham! Episode: "Exit Wounds", and "Day Four" and "Day Five" from the Children of Earth miniseries.
  • Wham! Line: "The hit." from Day Five. Day One gives us a Wham Word: "We are coming, we are coming, we are coming... back."
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Jack.
  • Xanatos Roulette:
    • In "They Kept Killing Suzie", and how! To overview, Suzie brainwashes a man into killing people: and writing 'TORCHWOOD' in their blood -- and, when captured, repeating a phrase that she had programmed months earlier to cause a full base lock-down. She apparently knew that Torchwood would revive her to get information, that specifically Gwen Cooper would use the alien glove and alien knife to revive her, and that the process would drain Gwen's life energy. It's foiled at the last minute, but comes damn close to working.
    • The plan didn't depend on Gwen being the person using the glove, although Suzie probably preferred it that way. All in all, it's more clever and convincing than many others.
  • What Exactly Is His Job?: Ianto, who is introduced by Jack to Gwen as being the person who "cleans up after us and gets us everywhere on time...and he looks good in a suit."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Outside of a flashback in "Fragments" (set before the first episode), the pterodactyl hasn't been seen since "Meat". Currently it's not known if it survived the events of Children of Earth.
  • Yaoi Guys: Jack and Ianto.
  • Your Head Asplode: Apparently, the mind probe in "Sleeper" once caused this offscreen, though the user did have high blood pressure.