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Who Dunnt

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SEX, aliens and guns ... that's what Scots actor John Barrowman is promising with Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off which is about to put the sigh in sci-fi.

Torchwood, an anagram of Doctor Who, starts with a double bill on Sunday on BBC Three, which will be repeated on BBC2 on Wednesday.

The Record was the only Scots paper to be invited to a screening and I can reveal the show more than lives up to all the hype.

Writer Russell T. Davies has made a gritty British equivalent to America's The X-Files, but using more humour and sex.

While Mulder and Scully's relationship was always a "will they, won't they?", the Torchwood team's motto seems to be "we will ... with anyone".

Glasgow-born John, 38, who plays team leader Captain Jack Harkness, laughed: "It doesn't have to have a pulse for Jack to fancy it. And if it's got azip code, he'll sleep with it.

In the opening episode, one of the team, Owen Harper, played by Burn Gorman, sprays his face with a high-powered aphrodisiac which sees him being dragged home by a woman he meets in a bar - and her boyfriend.

However, for the first episode at least, don't expect any Queer As Folk-style threesomes, although the second episode has a sex-crazed alien parasite.

Certainly John has a twinkle in his eye as Captain Jack and is clearly enjoying the role.

He said: "I'm a grown man who gets to go to work every day and fight aliens, play with guns and kiss beautiful people. What more could I ask for?" When we last saw Captain Jack in Doctor Who last year, he was stranded on a satellite thousands of years in the future.

He'd heroically faced down a Dalek invasion to protect his new friends, The Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, and Rose, played by Billie Piper, but his fate was unknown.

Now the Time Agent, who appeared in wartime London and then became part of the Tardis team, is back heading up Torchwood, the institute set up by Queen Victoria to protect the earth from aliens, including Doctor Who.

Although Torchwood battles beings from other planets, it's quite happy to use their technology.

Captain Jack and his team may not have a Tardis, but they do have an underground base, the Hub, hidden in the middle of Cardiff and containing a pet pterodactyl. After John's family moved from Glasgow to Illinois when he was eight, he managed to watch Doctor Who when it starred John Pertwee and became a huge fan.

"It was a childhood dream to be a character in Doctor Who, so to have my own series is just unimaginable," he said.

The Hub is on a space-time rift that becomes a gateway to all kinds of aliens, including bloodthirsty Weevils who live in sewers, one of whom we meet in the first episode.

"Being a Time Agent not a time traveller, Jack can only travel through time with the assistance of someone such as The Doctor," said John.

"Cardiff has this rift in it and so is one of the places the Tardis is likely to return to, so Jack is just waiting. He never leaves. He never sleeps."

John loved making Torchwood in Cardiff so much he bought a house overlooking the bay, which he shares with his partner, architect Scott Gill.

They are going to cement their 13-year relationship with a civil partnership in December.

But in Torchwood it seems Jack is more interested in Gwen, a feisty policewoman, played by Eve Myles.

The first episode is almost seen through her eyes as tries to find out what Torchwood is.

But Eve laughed: "She really is a feisty chick and you wouldn't want to mess with her.

"She's a lot tougher than I am. The first sight of a Weevil and I would have gone home for a Chinese takeaway and a cup of tea. I certainly wouldn't have joined Torchwood."

Working in Cardiff was a fantastic opportunity for Eve, who is fiercely proud of her Welsh roots.

"I'm from a very small mining village called Ystradgynlais," she said.

"Gwen is the action hero I've always wanted to play and I've had a chance to play her in my own accent. I'm incredibly proud of that."

Torchwood is on BBC Three, Sunday, 9pm, and BBC2, Wednesday, 9pm.

REVIEW

TORCHWOOD starts with a dead body in the rain. So far so Taggart.

But this is no normal detective series. The police are suddenly ushered away as the Torchwood team arrive and bring the man back to life with a strange metal hand.

Welcome to the UK's new sci-fi dawn.

Fans brought up on X Files and Buffy have always hoped for a Brit equivalent, and Torchwood opens the door to this other world.

With its loud music, witty one-liners, gore and blatant sexuality there is almost nothing to fault.

Its basic storyline follows writer Russell T. Davies' similar reviving of Doctor Who. Once again he uses a girl - this time policewoman Gwen Cooper - as the way in for viewers. Gwen is inquisitive and won't back down, like the Doctor's Rose, and also has a so-so boyfriend.

John Barrowman stars as 'the new Doctor Who', Captain Jack Harkness. He has a long military-style coat, but isn't a loner and relies heavily on the team. He is also not sexless and even admits to being pregnant in the past.

There are some funny lines, but hopefully as the series progresses it won't dilute the darker storylines.

And wow is it Welsh. As well as being set in Cardiff, with Welsh accents everywhere, Gwen's police partner mutters, "I'd like to see CSI Cardiff - they'd be measuring the velocity of a kebab."

I was joined by Doctor Who fans at the Glasgow screening of Torchwood. Here's what some of then thought:

Joe McMahon, 50, from Glasgow said: "I liked The X Files and it's more techy, with lots of excuses for bringing out gadgets."

His son Joe Jnr, 19, said: "When he stands on buildings looking over the city, he looks like Superman."

Pamela Morris, 17, from East Kilbride, added: "It's so much better than Doctor Who. For a start you take it much more seriously. And the sex side of it will make it more realistic

'With its loud music, witty one-liners and gore, there's almost nothing to fault here'

WHO'S WHO

CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS

John Barrowman

The team know very little about this mysterious figure, who leads them through danger and temptation - only that someone with the same name disappeared in the middle of the Second World War. But that couldn't possibly be him, could it?

SUZIE COSTELLO

Indira Varma

An expert in alien hardware, Suzie is keen to understand the devices that come into the hands of Torchwood.

GWEN COOPER

Eve Myles

A passionate Cardiff girl, Gwen's life as a Police Officer and girlfriend to Rhys turns upside down when she encounters Torchwood.

Gwen shows Torchwood the human side to their work but will she be able to maintain her ordinary life as she becomes more drawn into Torchwood's world?

OWEN HARPER

Burn Gorman

Doctor Owen Harper is the medical expert. He knows he's good at what he does ... and thinks he's good at everything.

Owen knows that he doesn't need to follow the rules. He can be charming but he also has an arrogant and rather insolent streak that sometimes can lead him into fiery rows with the other members of the Torchwood team.

IANTO JONES

Gareth David-Lloyd

Ruthlessly efficient, Ianto holds Torchwood together with his polite and calm exterior, ensuring that the rest of the team have everything they need - and let's not forget he looks very good in a suit. Surely, no one could be that restrained all of the time? Could they?

TOSHIKO SATO

Naoko Mori

Quite simply, Tosh is a genius. She specialises in all things technical - from her computer terminal located in the Torchwood Hub she can even make it look as though you never existed. Her love of technology means that she is rarely parted from it. This dedication, however, does have consequences for her private life, which she ensures remains exactly that - private.

GRAPHIC: HEAVY HANDED: Indira Varma plays Jack's second in command' STAR MAN: Scot John Barrowman plays Captain Jack, a Time Agent, who battles alien invaders from the Hub, Torchwood's secret base in Cardiff PICTURES: BBC

Spelling correction: Jon Pertwee

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  • APA 6th ed.: Fulton, Rick (2006-10-20). Who Dunnt. Daily Record p. 25.
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