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This review is from: Torchwood: Complete BBC Series 2  [DVD] (DVD)
The Torchwood team spring into action once more, investigating alien activity in Cardiff and looking damn cool while they do it. Opening episode `Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' sees the team floundering without their charismatic and immortal leader, Captain Jack Harkness; furthermore, Jack's old sparring partner Captain John (Buffy's James Marsters) is in town, and looking to humiliate his old mucker in any way possible. This fast-paced if slightly uneven story provides a brilliant introduction to the second series of the smash hit Doctor Who spin-off.
Second episode, `Sleeper' is arguably the weakest story here. A young woman finds herself committing acts she never thought she was capable of, and is horrified when she subsequently learns, with the help of Torchwood, that she is part of an alien invasion spearhead. The story has an interesting premise, but is too disjointed and contradictory to be really effective.
Next up is `To the Last Man', a poignant character-based yarn about a cryogenically frozen First World War Soldier, Tommy, who is woken up once a year in preparation for a future catastrophic event that only he can prevent. Providing the lovelorn Toshiko Sato with yet another doomed relationship gives actress Naoko Mori a chance to shine; and shine she does, with a powerful performance that foreshadows tragic events later in the series.
`Meat' has some good moments - not least when Gwen Cooper's dull fiancé Rhys inadvertently discovers what she really does for a living. The story is unfortunately let down by its CGI space creature, a giant whale of sorts, but there is pathos aplenty, Ianto gets some of his best lines, and Gwen's tangled relationship with Jack begins to rear its head once more.
Story five, `Adam', has a great premise: What if your memories had been tampered with; some removed and some new ones added? Adam has been part of the Torchwood team for three years, he's Toshiko's lover, Gwen's best mate, and Jack's closest confidante - or is he? A loose story arc, hinted at in episode one, begins to take shape here, as Jack's past comes back to haunt him, and he faces the biggest challenge of his life - all 180 or so years of it.
`Reset', `Dead Man Walking' and `A Day in the Death' are a trio of linked stories that deal with the death and resurrection of one of the team. `Reset' sees former Doctor Who companion, Martha Jones, arrive at The Hub as a member of UNIT; The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce; and represents a shift in tone from dark to even darker, whilst the other two stories see the team battle a manifestation of death and deal with their colleague's demise.
`Something Borrowed, Something Blue' is as droll an episode as this series will see. In some welcome respite from the doom and gloom of the preceding three stories, the team attend Gwen's wedding, however the blushing bride has to deal with being impregnated by an alien shape-shifter, subsuming her feelings for Jack, and nearly being ripped apart by her mother in law (Nerys Hughes as you've never seen her before!)
Attending the opening of a refurbished cinema in the episode entitled `From out of the Rain', Ianto is taken aback to see Jack appear on screen as part of a Nineteenth Century travelling circus. What's more, the nefarious `Night Travellers' have begun to escape from their celluloid prison and are determined to wreak vengeance on a society that consigned them to oblivion. Julian Bleach (Davros in Doctor Who) plays the sinister leader of the travellers, and is deliciously wicked, as he steals peoples' breath and leaves them for dead, so that he and his troupe may exist permanently once more.
`Adrift' has Gwen Cooper determined to uncover the truth behind a glut of missing persons in the Cardiff area. But why is Jack so insistent that she let it go, and what is going on underground on an insignificant island in the Bristol Channel? A powerful and emotive story, `Adrift' addressed the issue of what happens when the rift takes people rather than spewing them out, and successfully treads that fine line between pathos and mawkishness.
Penultimate story `Fragments' shows how the current Torchwood team came together, and offers some insight into the personalities and backgrounds of Tosh, Ianto and Owen. Meanwhile, the anarchic `Captain' John Hart returns to Cardiff to wreak more havoc, and Jack discovers that there is someone far more dangerous pulling John's strings.
Series Two climaxes with a story entitled `Exit Wounds'. In a typically end of season finale from writer Russell T Davies, the story arc reaches its conclusion and the Torchwood team are shattered as two of their members become history.
DVD extras include out-takes, deleted scenes, and a short feature on the character of Captain Jack Harkness.
Whilst Series Two certainly builds on its predecessor, there are some inconsistencies in tone and pacing, particularly early on in the run. However, from fifth story `Adam' onwards, Davies shows the audience exactly where he's going with the story, and the series is ultimately a triumph. It remains to be seen how the depleted team will cope with the loss of their friends, as Series Three looms.