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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Torchwood: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
Torchwood: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // July 28, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $79.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted July 26, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:

The first season of Torchwood, a spin-off from Doctor Who, was pretty hit or miss, with more shows that just didn't work than ones that did.  The main problem was the horrific writing on several episodes and the idiotic plots.  I didn't have much hope for season two, but surprisingly the show takes a giant leap forward in terms of quality.  The stories are now well thought out, the sex isn't just thrown in for shock value the way it was in the first season, and the whole season holds together as a cohesive whole.  If you gave up on show after season one I wouldn't blame you, but you should give it another try. 

Series Background:

When PC Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) is taken off a murder investigation at the order of the mysterious organization Torchwood, she starts looking into the just who and what they are.  What she discovers is an organization that is "outside the government, beyond the police."  They're charged with finding alien technology and exploring its uses along with handling any extraterrestrial baddies who might happen to show up.  The group consists of computer specialist Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori), medical officer Dr. Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), and all around handyman Ianto Jones(Gareth David-Lloyd).  They are lead by Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), a mysterious man who can not die.  Impressed that Gwen was able to not only track down and infiltrate their headquarters but also that she's handy in an investigation, she's invited to join the group and now spends her days (and nights) tracking down aliens.

In this season Torchwood really found its voice, and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that series creator Russell T. Davies is no longer writing the episodes.  The first season spent a lot of time loudly proclaiming that it was okay to show homosexual sex on TV, and whatever story they were telling be damned.  This time around the homosexuality is still present, yes, guys still kiss, but it's more natural and actually fits in with the stories.  That's a great improvement.

The quality of the stories this season is much, much higher.  There are still a couple of missteps, but in general the writers know what to do with the characters and what type of tales work the best.  There's a lot more heart to this season, with several episodes that really tug at the heartstrings without going overboard.  One such episode deals with a soldier from 1918, Tommy.  He was taken from a hospital bed by the Torchwood of that era and frozen for the day that he'd be needed.  Every year he's thawed out and revived for a single day and over the past few days that he's been awake, Toshiko has become quite fond of the doughboy.  When a rift in time opens up however, Tommy is the only one who can close it, but that will mean going back to his own time.  Not only that, but it's determined that he'll be sent back to the front lines in France, suffer shell shock, and be executed for cowardice.  How can Toshiko convince him to go back, knowing all of this?

It's frequently mentioned that working for Torchwood is extremely dangerous, and they not only mention that fact but illustrate it this season.  People get hurt and killed, even sympathetic characters, in this season which really ratchets up the tension and suspense on the show.  Not only that, but it creates a moral dilemma for Captain Jack.  He can't die, which makes sending his friends into dangerous situations all the more difficult.  They're risking everything while he's not risking anything at all.

Bringing more emotional depth to the characters, telling tighter stories, and getting rid of the really stupid aspects that plagued the first season, this second season of Torchwood is a winner.

The Blu-ray Disc:



All 13 episodes that comprise the second season come on four Blu-ray discs.  These arrive in a nice book with one disc on each page.  The book is housed in an illustrated slipcase.

Audio:

The show comes with a DTS-HD 5.1 mix that is very good.  The surrounds are used to good effect throughout the show, not just during the action scenes.  When they're in "the hub" the sound of falling water can be heard from the rears, and in one episode people are leaving a room when music starts behind them.  Viewers can hear the music from the back of the room just as they turn around.  It's a simple effect but it works wonderfully.  The infrequent battle scenes have a good amount of bass and while it won't give your subwoofer a work out like the latest Hollywood action flick, the show has a good lower end.  The dialog is clear and clean and even though many people talk with British accents, it's never hard to understand what is being said.

Video:

The 1.78:1 VC-1 image is only encoded at 1080i, but the picture still looks good.  While it has more detail and finer lines than the DVD version of the series, there are still a couple of areas where the show (which was recorded in HD) falls a bit.  The aerial shots of Cardiff at night are unusually soft with the lights being very diffuse.  The daytime images don't have this problem so it may have been intentional though I can't imagine why.  There is some digital noise in dark areas, but this is minor, and banding was a small problem in a few places. 

Aside from those defects the image was clean and the level of detail was very good.  The skin tones were accurate and the colors were nice and solid.  While this isn't a reference level set, it still looks fine.

Extras:

There's a good amount of bonus material included with this set, though it is lacking the cast and crew commentaries on every episode that were included with the first season.  Still, each show is accompanied by an episode of "Torchwood:  Declassified" a behind the scenes BBC program that looks at each episodes that is a lot of fun.  There are also deleted scenes to several episodes running 18-minutes all told, and an outtake reel that runs about half that length.  The final bonus item is a nice overview of the main character:  The Life and Deaths of Captain Jack".  This last piece is narrated by
Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones.)


Final Thoughts:

I really didn't like the first season of Torchwood very much.  It was too silly and the stories were very sloppy.  Luckily it lasted though, and this second season is quite strong.  The stories are better, the characters are more fleshed out and real, and the whole show holds together nicely now.  There are a couple of surprising twists in this season (that I haven't revealed) that make the show even more surprising than ever.  If you wrote off the show after season one, go back and take another look.  Season two is quite good.  A very strong recommendation.

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