TV Review: This Capt. Jack has his own swagger

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TV critic confession time: I haven't watched much of Sci Fi Channel's new "Doctor Who," so I came to spin-off series "Torchwood" (9 p.m. Saturday, BBC America) with no preconceived notions about the show or its lead character, Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman, "Central Park West").

  • When: 9 p.m. Saturday, BBC America

Suffice it to say, if you're a fan of that other Capt. Jack, played with a fey swagger by Johnny Depp in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, you may be equally intrigued by the ambiguous Capt. Jack of "Torchwood."

He's a mystery to his team, which argues over whether he's gay or straight (evidently he's bisexual). He cannot die. And he keeps warning everyone that they must prepare for the 21st century when "everything changes."

In Saturday's premiere, viewers meet Jack through the eyes of Gwen (Eve Myles), a Welsh cop who gets recruited into Torchwood, a murky organization outside the police and beyond the United Nations that uses scavenged alien technology to solve crimes committed by aliens and humans.

There are a fair number of leaps of logic in the light-hearted "Torchwood" and mysteries abound. The special effects are generally decent and the writing and characterizations leaps and bounds better than in "Flash Gordon," "Eureka" or "The Dresden Files," to name just a few pathetic contemporary sci-fi shows.

Barrowman is especially appealing, playing Jack as a guy with a job to do, but not a care in the world because he's invincible.

"You know, strictly speaking, throttling the staff is my job," Jack says by way of objection to a squabble in an upcoming episode.

Sometimes violent (an alien chomps a bystander and blood squirts everywhere in the premiere), often sexual (an alien force possesses a human woman who kills through copulation) and occasionally profane, "Torchwood" is an adult sci-fi show with a sense of humor.

-- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV editor


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