‘Bloody Torchwood.’ The pre-titles sequence signals a shift from Series One, with the team (sans Jack) functioning as a unit to hunt town an alien Blowfish, only to predictably mess it up until Jack arrives – freshly back from the Year That Never Was – to save their skins. It’s funny, fast and fresh, with a sort of swagger that wasn’t entirely earned during the previous series. Then, post titles, Jack has to deal with the fall-out of abandoning his dysfunctional kids – which turns out, they’ve grown closer in his absence and now treat him like an absentee dad trying to worm his way back into their lives.
Which begs the question: how long was Jack away? Everyone behaves like it was ages. True, it’s been a year since the end of Series One, but that finished with the sound of the TARDIS materialising – leading into the events of the Doctor Who Series Three finale, which concluded with the Doctor and Martha dropping Jack back in Cardiff and watching him walking back to the Hub. The possibilities? Jack was picked up months before election day and the victory of the Master, although the Vote Saxon posters in Captain Jack Harkness suggest that’s unlikely. Or the Doctor made a timing malfunction when returning Jack to Cardiff and left him a few months in the future, before returning to present-day London and Martha’s family. The latter explanation seems more likely, particularly given the Doctor’s previous casual abandonment of Jack.
Regardless, everyone is pissed off with him (although, beautifully, agree he’s fun to have around). And his protestations that he came back for them sound a bit hollow when another face from Jack’s mysterious past turns up casually walking out of the Rift. Captain John Hart is, let’s not beat about the bush, basically Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: amoral, casually murderous, sardonic and played by James Marsters. He’s also exactly the kick up the backside the show needs, giving Barrowman someone equally comic book to play against, and providing a little bit more backstory (Jack must be from around the year 5094, and the Time Agency has been shut down leaving only seven agents). They fight, kiss and fight.
In the meantime, the rest of the team don’t get masses to do, but they all seem a bit sharper than last series. Tosh is a bit more outspoken, Owen a bit less of a dick, Ianto’s deadpan humour is present and correct (‘You’re good on roofs’), Gwen and Rhys have decided to get married, PC Andy is still jealous of ‘another one of your spooky dos’. The overall impression is of a show that’s found its feet. Torchwood is ready, at last.
Next Time: Sleeper