"What...what is that!?"
"Pterodactyl. You coming?"
-Gwen Cooper and Captain Jack Harkness
Torchwood is a television show. It's a spin-off of Doctor Who - The New Series, and chronicles the adventures of a branch of The Torchwood Institute (Torchwood 3, to be precise) in present-day Cardiff, Wales. The Torchwood Institute, in turn, arises from the second episode of Season 2 of Doctor Who: TNS, Tooth and Claw. 'Torchwood,' of course, is an anagram for...oh, you can figure it out.
Warning: SPOILERS for that episode in the following paragraph.
In that episode, The Doctor and Rose Tyler travel to 1879 England, meeting Queen Victoria and retinue on the road on their way to a manor house, named (surprise!) Torchwood. While staying at the house, they interrupt an opportune moment of regicide plotted by an alien lycanthrope, assisted by a sect of scarlet-clad kung-fu monks (no, I'm not kidding). During the course of this adventure, however, the Queen, being the tough-minded old bitch that she was, comes to understand both the existence of alien life and its potential threat - and includes The Doctor firmly in that camp. After the Doctor and Rose depart, having been officially banished, she establishes The Torchwood Institute, named for the house, with a mandate to investigate and police alien activity on Earth with a specific mission of defending the Earth and Great Britain against any alien encroachment. The Institute survives through the years, and figures prominently in several episodes from the second season.
As for the television show, as of this writeup two episodes have aired ("Everything Changes" and "Day One"). The basic plot of the show is...well...is...hm. Remember Men in Black? Think Men in Mod. Er. No? Okay, try this. Remember Captain Jack Harkness? Well, he's back. In Cardiff. And he's running the local Torchwood office.
For those of you to whom that means nothing, here's the skinny. Torchwood 3 (1 was London, 2 is a solo operation in Glasgow, and 4 seems to have been lost but they'll find it one day), present day, is a collection of hyperfocused geeks who obsessively track and collect alien tech, police alien incursions, and in general keep tabs on any alien activity. They exist somewhere above and to the right of the Government's table of organization, have all the cool gadgets, and are led by a mysterious man with a sort-of-American accent named Captain Jack, about whom the other characters in the show know almost nothing- save that he wears retro military clothing and, as one of them puts it, "will shag anything if it's gorgeous enough."
(On arriving at a crash site, seeing the British Army) "Oh, great. The amateurs beat us here."
Oh, yes. There's lots of sex in this show. Episode two is about an alien cloud that comes to earth, finds a (cute brunette) host body, and starts shagging people until they reach orgasm at which point they fly apart into clouds of light and turn into dustpiles. Meanwhile, the Torchwood geeks, while really meaning to put a stop to this, have to really work hard to stop watching the surveillance videos of various incidents (and footage of their own cell block) and getting on with the...er...job. Caught with someone's girlfriend because of the misuse of a spray bottle of alien sex pheromones, one of the boffins from the team defuses the confrontation with the boyfriend by spraying himself again, disengaging from the resultant full-on liplock with the boyfriend, and dodging the catfight between the boyfriend and girlfriend over who's going to shag him first and yelling "TAXI!"
Sense of humor, firmly in place.
There's all manner of good potential story arcs for later. If you watched Doctor Who, you know some of Jack Harkness' back story. You know why he's hanging around Cardiff, 2006. You know why he has this issue with dying...er, never mind. The other protagonist, PC Gwen Cooper, who ends up joining the team (parallels to MiB abound, except she's cuter than Will Smith in my opinion, if not as, er, muscular) ends up starting to live a secret life with Torchwood, telling her old colleagues and her boyfriend she's been 'transferred to Special Ops.' We know nothing about the others on the crew save that they apparently have no life outside of work.
"What do you do for fun, then?"
"Me? I torment people with happy relationships."
-Gwen Cooper and Owen Harper
The Torchwood HQ looks like your typical supersecret abandoned and repurposed Underground/Tube/Subway station, complete with secret entrances and exits. It is chock full of all manner of strange gear, odd captive aliens who've misbehaved, strange creatures, and other potential plot devices. Despite being a secret organization that doesn't exist, and not having neuralyzers, they drive a totally tricked-out black-on-black Land Rover with cycling blue LED bars, strange turret-like protrusions and bitchin' internet connectivity, of which I totally must have one. It could be a fun, fun ride.
New Episodes of Torchwood are broadcast Sundays at 2200 (10:00pm) on BBC Three.
For those of you not in Blighty, BitTorrent is your friend here.