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Torchwood is a British science fiction television programme created by Russell T Davies. The series is a spin-off from Davies' 2005 revival of the long-running science fiction programme Doctor Who. As a show, Torchwood has transitioned its broadcast channel every year since its inception, moving from BBC Three to BBC Two to BBC One, and acquiring US financing in its fourth series. In contrast to Doctor Who, whose target audience includes both adults and children, Torchwood is aimed at an older audience.
Torchwood follows the exploits of a small team of alien-hunters, who make up the Cardiff, Wales branch of the fictional Torchwood Institute, which deals mainly with incidents involving extraterrestrials. Its central character is Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), an immortal former con man from the distant future who has lived on Earth since the 19th century; Jack originally appeared in the 2005 series of Doctor Who. Under Jack's leadership, the formerly morally ambivalent organisation operates under a much more humanist ethos. Other than Barrowman, the series' initial main cast consisted of Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori and Gareth David-Lloyd.
Their characters are each specialists for the Torchwood team, often tracking down aliens and defending the planet from alien and nefarious human threats. In its first two series, the show uses a time rift in Cardiff as its primary plot generator, accounting for the unusual preponderance of alien beings in Cardiff. In the third and fourth series, Torchwood operate as fugitives. Gorman and Mori's characters were written out of the programme at the end of the second series. Recurring actor Kai Owen was promoted to the main cast in series three, in which David-Lloyd too was written out. Subsequently, American actors Mehki Phifer, Alexa Havins and Bill Pullman join the cast of the show for its fourth series.
The first series premiered on BBC Three and on BBC HD in 2006 to mixed reviews but viewing figures which broke records for the digital channel. Subsequently it returned in 2008 where it aired first on BBC Two, receiving a higher budget; criticisms of the first series, such as its uneven tone, were largely smoothed out, and the show attracted higher ratings and better reviews. The third series was given a larger per-episode budget and placed on the network's flagship channel, BBC One as a five episode serial, entitled Torchwood: Children of Earth. Despite airing in July evenings, typically a graveyard slot, stripped across five nights in one week, the show received unexpectedly high ratings at home and abroad and for the most part, reviews hailed it as excellent.
A fourth series, co-produced by BBC Wales, BBC Worldwide and US premium entertainment network Starz began airing on 8 July 2011 on Starz and 14 July 2011 on BBC One as Torchwood: Miracle Day, and is set both in Wales and in the United States.