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Torchwood: The Complete Second Season(TV) (2008)
Outside the Government, beyond the police, fighting for the future on behalf of the human race. The 21st century is when everything changes and Torchwood is ready.
For more about Torchwood: The Complete Second Season and the Torchwood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray release, see Torchwood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 3, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Gareth David-Lloyd, Mekhi Phifer, Lauren Ambrose
» See full cast & crew
Torchwood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review
A better, richer season in an unpredictable BBC series...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 3, 2009
Gone are the days when Star Trek was one of the only shows Asimov enthusiasts and bright-eyed futurists could cling to. Gone are the days of two-dollar special effects, flimsy sets, and industry scorn. Today's television landscape is quite different: it's tough to find a network that doesn't offer some sort of science fiction programming or, for that matter, impossible to miss entire channels that have been devoted to genre content. Dramas, comedies, animated series, action-adventurers... even dystopian cautionary tales have steadily infiltrated everything from the lowliest cable networks to the Big Four. In fact, genre addicts have proven themselves to be so hungry for the latest and greatest sci-fi treats that studios have imported standout series from across the pond. Enter Torchwood. With a decidedly different flavor, a unique perspective on the interstellar human condition, and plenty of drama, humor, and intrigue to go around, the acclaimed BBC Doctor Who spin-off has wormed its way into my brain and earned itself yet another eager international fan.
For anyone who isn't familiar with the series, Torchwood follows the tireless efforts of a ragtag group of specialists from the Cardiff branch of the Torchwood Institute -- Captain Jack Harkness (Chris Noth/Tom Cruise hybrid John Barrowman), the team's immortal, time-hopping, bisexual frontman; Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), their latest recruit (and, subsequently, our down-to-earth eyes and ears); Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), their womanizing medical officer; Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd, in a more integral season two role), the Cardiff branch administrator and Jack's sometimes-love interest; and Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori), a troubled secondary support agent -- tasked with investigating, containing, and policing an inner-city temporal rift prone to alien activity. Having survived several deadly encounters with an assortment of creatures, as well as overcoming many of their own interpersonal conflicts, the team was devastated by a shocking first season endgame that left them rudderless, wondering what their next mission would bring.
As season two opens, Cooper has been charged with leading the Cardiff branch and Jack is nowhere to be found. Over the course of its thirteen episodes, the good Captain returns, a new villain -- Captain John Hart (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville regular James Marsters), a rogue time agent and Jack's former lover -- manipulates the team, alien terrorists and technology continue to cause trouble in the region, and several familiar faces don't live to see the season finale. It's a darker, tighter, more engrossing outing that makes Torchwood's first season look like a dull warm-up. With far more twists and turns than I was expecting, the series' writers prove their willingness to sacrifice anything and anyone to keep the show fresh; they kill characters with indiscriminate abandon, drag fan-favorites through a gauntlet of betrayal and heartbreak and, when all is said and done, pack Torchwood with enough potential and power to see it through at least three more seasons.
Torchwood already had a reputation for pushing boundaries, but The Complete Second Season frequently exchanges the series' former gimmicks for legitimate character development. While the nature of sexuality is still an underlying theme, the resulting relationships and... ahem, inevitable encounters are presented far more naturally and believably than they once were. Even the at-times operatic tension between Jack and John is handled with greater subtlety than I imagine would have been afforded either character in season one. More importantly, each member of the Cardiff branch team is fleshed out ad nauseum, detailed backstories are revealed, and a variety of friendships and rivalries are brought to a head. Obviously, it's difficult to discuss the particulars without giving everything away (death isn't the only source of surprise... a pregnancy pops up as well) but, suffice to say, Torchwood's second season delivers more thrilling missions, harder gut-punches, sharper dialogue, and more satisfying storylines. I was already fairly impressed with the series' first season, but this followup is a more enjoyable, more infectious outing that left me looking forward to Children of Earth (a five-episode miniseries that takes place between seasons two and three) and beyond.
The 4-disc Blu-ray edition of Torchwood: The Complete Second Season features all thirteen broadcast episodes:
Torchwood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Torchwood: The Complete Second Season boasts a striking 1080i/VC-1 transfer that, despite its interlaced nature, looks great in high definition. Sure, the series' grainy aesthetic and unsteady action sequences may turn off some (as will the "i" in 1080i), but I found the entire presentation to be worth serious praise. Colors are bold and engrossing, skintones are exceedingly lifelike, and contrast is vivid. It helps that black levels, while a tad overwhelming at times, are deep and savory, blessing the image with solid depth and dimensionality. Even nighttime scenes deliver effective, well-delineated visuals, free of unintentional noise and crush. Did I mention fine detail is crisp and rewarding? Edges are nicely defined (without the help of any major edge enhancement) and textures are unexpectedly refined, production a thoroughly attractive presentation. Artifacts, banding, and aliasing are kept to a bare minimum (rarely making any appearances), the series' sometimes heavy grainfield is intact, and the set's four BD-50 discs give the episodes plenty of room to breathe. All things considered, this Second Season release looks fantastic and, negligible hiccups aside, should easily please fans and newcomers alike.
Torchwood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Complete Second Season's 2.0 Mbps DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 surround track (not to be confused with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix) is loud but slightly shallow, exchanging volume and bombast for proper sonic prowess. Unlike its video transfer, the audio track is at the mercy of the series' television roots and budgetary constraints. While it all sounds well and good, it lacks the absorbing immersiveness and nuanced rear speaker activity featured in other higher caliber TV releases. I'm sure casual listeners will be more forgiving, but many scenes are anchored to the front soundstage, injecting ambient atmosphere and acoustic properties into the mix only when they're absolutely necessary. Thankfully, dialogue is clean, warm, and intelligible (albeit occasionally thin), and LFE support is weighty and involving (especially when the pulsing score enters the arena). It's a solid track, to be sure, but one that will leave stringent audiophiles with a few nagging complaints.
Torchwood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
While Torchwood: The Complete First Season served up more than a dozen audio commentaries and nearly six hours of behind-the-scenes featurettes, The Complete Second Season arrives with a slimmer, more underwhelming supplemental package that doesn't include a single commentary. Don't get me wrong, the content on hand is a welcome addition to this release, but BBC Video missed an opportunity to give Torchwood fans some serious value for their Blu-ray buck.
Torchwood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Torchwood: The Complete Second Season is a remarkable little science fiction feat, one that gets better with each passing episode. More satisfying than its first season predecessor and more addictive than most genre series, Torchwood regulars will soak up every last storyline and character, newcomers will be hooked by the end of the first episode, and both camps will be biting their nails by the time the season reaches its conclusion. Better still, the Blu-ray edition delivers each episode in style with a surprisingly polished video transfer, a decent DTS-HD HR track, and three hours of special features. Granted, a stronger audio mix and some cast and crew commentaries would have gone a long way, but this is nevertheless an impressive Torchwood release.
Torchwood: Other Seasons
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BBC Home Entertainment in conjunction with Warner Home Video has announced that the Blu-ray release of 'Torchwood: Children of Earth' has been bumped up to a July 28th release date, day-and-date with the DVD release. Technical specs remain the same with a 1080p ...
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