Torchwood Background for SavageCats
What’s up with the rift in Cardiff?
We first encounter the Cardiff Rift in “The Unquiet Dead” with the Ninth Doctor and Rose. Gwyneth1 is a servant girl in 1869 Cardiff who has a special connection to the rift. During “The Unquiet Dead,” she is responsible for both widening the rift, creating a universe bridge, and “closing” the rift. We find out later that closing the rift does not result in a “things are back to the way they were” kind of life, but rather that the rift is like a wound and the closing of it results in a scar. (And there were no stitches used. It’s an ugly scar.)
Wait, if it was closed at the end of “The Unquiet Dead” why is it open again?
The last remaining Slitheen (first met in “Aliens of London”) became Lord Mayor of Cardiff and was in the process of having a nuclear reactor constructed in “Boom Town.” Margaret2 intended the reactor to go boom3 when it was brought online so it would reopen the rift and she could set off on a pan-dimensional surfboard to get out of this backwater solar system. The nuclear reactor never went online, but as plan B, the pan-dimensional surfboard started sucking power from the TARDIS that was parked on the scar of the rift to refuel. This power sucking caused the rift to reopen, but only slightly, and when the pan-dimensional surfboard was disabled and Margaret was neutralized, the rift appeared to close back up. In reality (or as real as New Who gets…), the rift was still open, just a bit, and like a dike with a crack in it, the pressure eventually causes time/space stuff to seep through.4
Okay, that’s all well and good, but what’s with the hand in Series 1?
When the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) turned into the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) he underwent a process called ‘regeneration.’ This is why the Doctor doesn’t always have to be the same person. For a time after regeneration, bits can grow back. In “The Christmas Invasion” (the Doctor Who Christmas special between New Who Series 1 and 2), Ten challenged an invading alien race to a duel as champion of the Earth. Ten’s hand got lopped off and fell over the side of the mountain/spaceship that was floating above London. Captain Jack presumably found it and kept it hooked up to bibs and bobs to use it as a TARDIS early warning system.
So what’s Jack’s deal with the Doctor?
We first meet Captain Jack in New Who Series 1 in the two-part episode “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”. Early Jack was suave and dashing and a bit of a con man. But more than anything, he was remarkably carefree. While Nine (Series 1) was a bit of a cynical ass, Jack acted as his kind counterpart. Fast-forward about 200,000 years from the London Blitz, and we’re on Satellite 5. Satellite 5 has been converted from a gigantic news center to a game station. A game station run, as we later find out, by the daleks.5
In order to keep the daleks from taking over the universe6, Nine creates a delta wave generator and tricks Rose into going home. Jack is defending the upper levels of the Game Station in order to buy Nine the time he needs to complete the delta wave generator. Jack’s gallantry has the net result of making him dead. Rose, in the 21st century, looks into the heart of the TARDIS, sucks the time vortex into herself and returns to the future to help Nine. Rose, under the influence of the vortex breaks the daleks and their ships to their base atomic components. Realizing that she has the power over life and death, she brings Jack back to life. At the end of the episode, Jack hears the TARDIS leave without him. It’s not certain if Nine knew that Jack was alive again or not.
Yeah, that’s all well and good, but what’s up with the name of Torchwood?
We first encounter “Torchwood” in “Tooth and Claw” (Series 2) where Ten and Rose meet up with Queen Victoria. They stay at Torchwood Estate in Scotland, but the end of the episode has the Queen stating that she will establish the Torchwood Institute to keep people like the Doctor from invading her precious United Kingdom. Torchwood I7 did just that. They took alien tech and attempted to defend England from the scourge of aliens. Unfortunately hubris got the better of them and they released Cybermen (mandroids) and daleks into London. Ten and Rose got it sorted, and Rose now lives in a parallel universe.
Okay, so who’s this Martha chick?
Martha is Ten’s assistant/companion in New Who Series 3. She’s a medical student, and her entire series with Ten takes place in about 3 days ‘real time’ – the time between when she met Ten in her time frame and when she leaves Ten in her time frame. Martha-time is much longer. Martha meets Jack over the last three episodes of New Who 3, “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums,” and “Last of the Timelords.” “Utopia” comes directly after the final episode of Torchwood Series 1, "End of Days."
Is there anyone else I should know from the Doctor Who-niverse?
The woman who plays Toshiko (Naoko Mori) appeared in a New Who Series 1 episode, "Aliens of London." I’m not sure if they’re crossing anyone aside from Martha over.
As the series progresses, I’ll post more info and let you know.
1 Played by Eve Myles – Gwen in Torchwood.
2 Margaret is the name of the original owner – read: human – of the Slitheen’s skin suit.
3 “1000 times worse than Chernobyl."
4 Yeah, I like typing pan-dimensional surfboard. I love the visual.
5 The Doctor’s eternal enemy. Referenced in Coupling. Further Coupling connection – Steven Moffat wrote what I think is the best freaky ep of New Who – Blink. “The Angels have the phonebox.”
6 The daleks were supposed to have been destroyed in the Time War.
7 London branch, destroyed in the Battle of Canary Wharf during "Doomsday".