Torchwood is a British science fiction television programme, created by Russell T Davies. The series is a spin-off from Davies' 2005 revival of the long-running science fiction programme Doctor Who, which has a family audience. Torchwood, however, is aimed exclusively at a mature audience.
It follows the exploits of a small team of alien-hunters, who make up the Cardiff branch of the fictional Torchwood Institute, which deals mainly with incidents involving extraterrestrials. Its central character is Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), an ex-con from the distant future who has lived on Earth since the 19th century. Originally a character in Doctor Who, under Jack's leadership, the formerly morally ambivalent organisation operates under a much more humanist ethos. Other than Barrowman, the series' initial main cast consisted of Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori and Gareth David-Lloyd. Their characters are each specialists for the Torchwood team, often tracking down aliens and defending the planet from alien and nefarious human threats. In its first two series, the show uses a time rift in Cardiff as its primary plot generator literary device, accounting for an unusually recurrent alien presence in Cardiff. Gorman and Mori left the programme after the second series, with Kai Owen promoted from a recurring role to the main cast in series three. After David-Lloyd's departure in series three, the fourth series will feature two new main cast members.
The first series premièred on BBC Three and on BBC HD in 2006 to mixed reviews but viewing figures which broke records for the digital channel. As such it returned in 2008 where it aired first on BBC Two, receiving a higher budget; criticisms of the first series, such as its uneven tone, were largely smoothed out, and the show received yet higher ratings and better reviews. The third series was given a larger per-episode budget and placed on the network's flagship channel, BBC One. BBC budget cuts in 2009 meant, however, that the show was limited to five episodes, which Davies elected to present as a serial, taking the title Torchwood: Children of Earth. Despite airing in July evenings, typically a graveyard slot, stripped across five nights in one week, the show received unexpectedly high ratings at home and abroad and for the most part, reviews hailed it as excellent. A fourth series, co-produced by BBC Cymru Wales, BBC Worldwide and US premium entertainment network Starz will air in 2011 as Torchwood: The New World. The show has transitioned its broadcast channel every year since its inception, moving from BBC Three to BBC Two to BBC One, and acquiring US financing in its fourth series.