Torchwood is a British television science fiction and crime drama created by Russell T. Davies and starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles dealing with the machinations and activities of the fictional Torchwood Institute. An initial 13-part series was commissioned by the BBC as a spin-off from the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who.
An in-house BBC Wales production for digital television station BBC Three, it is the first television spin-off from Doctor Who since the undeveloped K-9 and Company series (of which only a 1981 pilot exists) and the first to be commissioned for a full series. The Canadian network CBC is co-producer of the series, with exclusive rights to broadcast the North American premiere of the show. BBC Wales Head of Drama Julie Gardner serves as executive producer alongside Davies.
The title "Torchwood" is an anagram of "Doctor Who". The name was used as the "codename" for the new series of Who while filming its first few episodes and on the 'rushes' tapes to ensure they were not intercepted. Davies connected the name of Torchwood to an idea for a modern British telefantasy programme in the style of American dramas like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel that he had been developing before he began work on Doctor Who. The name was subsequently used in the series, leading to this spin-off.
The first two episodes of Torchwood premiered on October 22, 2006 at 9pm on BBC Three and BBC HD with all subsequent episodes scheduled to be shown at 10pm every Sunday evening. Each episode is repeated on BBC Two every Wednesday at 9pm.
Torchwood is set in Cardiff, some time after the Doctor Who series 2 finale Doomsday, making it sometime in 2007. It follows the Wales branch of a covert agency called Torchwood which investigates extra-terrestrial incidents on Earth and also scavenges alien technology for human use. To paraphrase Torchwood's commander-in-chief, Captain Jack
Harkness, the organisation is beyond the government, the police and the United Nations. The public simply knows them as 'special ops' and nothing more.
The Doctor Who episode Tooth and Claw establishes that the Torchwood Institute was founded in 1879 by Queen Victoria, following her harrowing experiences with a werewolf in Scotland. The episode Army of Ghosts introduces the modern-day Torchwood Institute in Canary Wharf, London. The first episode of Torchwood, Everything Changes, explains that the Cardiff branch is Torchwood Three; the Torchwood Institute in London, destroyed during the Dalek/Cybermen invasion, was Torchwood One, the second is a small office in Glasgow staffed by a "very strange man", and that the fourth is simply missing.
The main writer alongside Davies is Chris Chibnall, creator of the BBC light drama series Born and Bred. Other writers include P.J. Hammond, creator of the cult 1980s ATV series Sapphire & Steel, Toby Whithouse (writer of the Doctor Who episode School Reunion and creator of No Angels), Doctor Who script editor Helen Raynor, Cath Tregenna, Andrew Rattenbury, and Doctor Who cast member Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), who gained acclaim for his screenplay for the film Kidulthood. Russell T. Davies wrote just the first episode.
In the announcement, on October 17, 2005, BBC Three controller Stuart Murphy said, "Torchwood is sinister and psychological... as well as being very British and modern and real." Davies was quoted as describing the series as "a British sci-fi paranoid thriller, a cop show with a sense of humour... dark, wild and sexy, it's The X-Files meets This Life." Davies has since denied ever making this comparison, instead describing the show as "alleyways, rain, the city". As Torchwood is a post-watershed show ó that is, after 9.00 pm ó it has more mature content than Doctor Who. Davies told SFX:
"We can be a bit more visceral, more violent, and more sexual, if we want to. Though bear in mind that itís very teenage to indulge yourself in blood and gore, and Torchwood is going to be smarter than that. But itís the essential difference between BBC One at 7pm, and BBC Three at say, 9pm. That says it all ó instinctively, every viewer can see the huge difference there."
According to Barrowman:
"We can have sexual situations, swearing and nudity...I don't do any nude scenes in series one; they're saving that for the next series! I don't have a problem with getting my kit off. As long as they pay me the right money, I'm ready to reveal all."
Davies also joked to a BBC Radio Wales interviewer that he was "not allowed" to refer to the series as "Doctor Who for grown-ups".
BBC Three has described Torchwood as the "centrepiece" of their autumn 2006 schedule.