Well once again I’m talking about a Russell T Davies TV show and an underrated one at that: Torchwood. Despite ending a decade ago, Torchwood still has a special place in many Doctor Who fans’ hearts and that’s probably down to John Barrowman’s charismatic flirting machine: Captain Jack Harkness. So, while we eagerly Russell T Davies’s return to Doctor Who, why not look back at the best episodes of Torchwood? And mostly because I’ve already made a list of the best Doctor Who episodes post 2005…. Anyway, here is some history about the show.
Torchwood first debuted in October 2006 on BBC 3 and ran for 4 seasons and 41 episodes until September 2011. If you hadn’t made the connection already, Torchwood is a Doctor Who spinoff centred around the alien hunting agency featured prominently in early David Tennant Doctor Who. More specifically, the show focuses on Captain Jack Harkness’s crew which features Ianto Jones, Gwen Cooper and Owen Harper amongst others. Oh, and it wouldn’t be a spinoff without appearances from Doctor Who characters. Case in point Martha Jones… The show received praise for its much more adult themes and I’m not just saying that because of everything surrounding John Barrowman. Anyway, with all the history out of the way, here are the best episodes of Torchwood ranked.
10. Sleeper (S2, E2)
Kicking off the list of the best Torchwood episodes is Sleeper. Now what makes this episode so good? Well, the fact it deals with the classic concept of sleeper agents within the organisation. And that has definitely not been overdone. Here’s looking at you Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Anyway, the episode does a great job at messing with your head as it highlights the paranoia and trust issues within Torchwood.
9. Fragments (S2, E12)
Ahh yes another common yet great sci-fi trope: The fragmented memory/flashbacks for key characters. While I’m joking, this is still a great episode as the audience gets to see the origins of the various Torchwood members. In this case, the audience is introduced to Jack, Ianto, Toshika and Owen’s origins via a series of flashbacks. This obviously shows the origins of each Torchwood team member, shedding light on their pasts and the events that led them to join the organisation. Overall, a very solid episode.
8. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (S2, E1)
Now that feels like the name of Jack Harkness’s sex tape. So with that image out of the way, what makes Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang so good? Well, it’s all about Captain Jack returning to Cardiff. Unfortunately he’s not returning along. This is because he brings along the charismatic and dangerous Captain John Hart. But this episode’s greatest strength is how it sets the stage for a thrilling and unpredictable storyline and gives the audience a great opening episode.
7. Adrift (S2, E11)
Now yes while Chris Chibnall had one of the most disastrous showrunning tenures of any showrunner in TV history with Doctor Who (slight hyperbole), he did have some good episodes of Torchwood. The perfect example of this is Adrift which is a sobering and slightly brutal story about the impact of a missing persons case on grieving relatives. So when Gwen investigates the cases of people who have gone missing but are not recorded as such she slowly realises the problem this could cause for Torchwood. I mean it’s not like she discovers a dark secret about Torchwood’s operations and the emotional toll it takes on people. So really, not much happens in this episode.
6. Day One (S1, E2)
It’s very hard to make these lists and not include the first episode because often they are the best indication about what the show would become. Case in point, Day One. And yes I know that they obviously appeared in Doctor Who first but this is Torchwood’s first full episode. And not only does it introduce the team and their unique mission but also their first case. A sex-addicted alien entity that preys on unsuspecting victims. So, maybe Russell T Davies was right when he said this was Doctor Who for adults….
5. Ghost Machine (S1, E3)
Ghost Machine aka Title of your next Marvel film… Anyway, what makes this episode so good? Well, it’s because of the fact that Torchwood discovers a device that can make the user experience memories. But when I say Torchwood I really mean Owen Harper. Now surely that’d just apply to actual people’s memories but not as the twist is the user experiences the memories and emotions attached to certain objects, leading to unexpected and haunting revelations. But that was probably to be expected….
4. Exit Wounds (S2, E13)
It’s pretty easy to make the case that Torchwood Series 2 was the show’s best series. Further proof if any is needed of this is Exit Wounds. So, besides it being the series finale, and an explosive series finale at that, what makes it so good? Well, Captain John Hart returns and wreaks havoc on Torchwood. Naturally, this leads to huge consequences for the team and a heart-wrenching sacrifice which definitely doesn’t still get me every time.
3. Countrycide (S1, E6)
Remember when I mentioned Russell T Davies saying Torchwood is basically Doctor Who for adults? Well, Countrycide sure proves that point. When the team investigates mysterious disappearances in the countryside, it leads them to a cannibalistic family. Already a horrifying twist… But the true highlight of this episode is how it showcases Torchwood’s darker and grittier side. And special shoutout to the horror elements which help to make it a standout episode. Honestly, an underrated episode all things considered.
2. Captain Jack Harkness (S1, E12)
I mean I couldn’t not feature this episode here given it properly delves into the complex and tragic love story of Captain Jack Harkness. Now anyone who’s seen Doctor Who knows how much this guy pops up across time so it’s no surprise that the episode focusing on his love story does so too. Oh and the fact the episode features a powerful connection to the Doctor Who universe makes it all the better for it.
1. Children of Earth (S3, E1-5)
And the best episode(s) of Torchwood are…. Children of the Earth. And yes I realise I’m cheating slightly by including a mini series but genuinely it’s impossible to rank one without the others. So why is this such an effective miniseries? Well it sees Torchwood facing a government conspiracy involving an alien race that demands the Earth’s children. Already that’s a fantastic hook to draw the audience in. And that’s before I take into consideration how gripping, intense, and emotionally devastating this storyline/miniseries is. Honestly this storyline is often regarded as the pinnacle of Torchwood storytelling and it’s not hard to see why.