Before Torchwood, though, we have Voyage of the Damned, aka The One With Kylie In, which is the first Christmas episode not freighted with Extra Special Significance (neither the first story with Tennant nor the first without Piper). It is weaker than I remembered. The good bits are largely Clive Swift, though the tantalising idea of Kylie going off with to travel with the Doctor is also quite an attractive one, and Bernard Cribbins is very vivid in his brief appearance. Geoffrey Palmer is rather wasted. (My Youtube video of him being killed three times on Doctor Who has had about twice as many views as all my other Youtube uploads combined.) And the episode seriously fumbles the last few minutes, where the Titanic swooping over Buckingham Palace is one of the less good visual effects (described as "nonsense" by none less than RTD), the Queen doesn't look or behave much like the Queen, and much more seriously, we skip blithely from the tragedy of Astrid's death and disintegration (a kind of reverse Tinkerbell effect) to Clive Swift trying to cheer us up. I think it only really could work if you were curled up after a heavy Christmas dinner.
And then three weeks later, Torchwood was back with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Of all New Whoniverse seasons, the second of Torchwood was the one that came closest to imitating Buffy; mostly not quite as good (though in one memorable case much better). And this gets signalled to us pretty early with the arrival of Spike as Captain John, and his insane plan to get Jack's attention by blowing up Cardiff except that he is faking it. This was actually better than most of the first season episodes of Torchwood, and one very much hoped at the time that we'd be seeing more of Marsters' Captain John (though alas it was only in the last two episodes as it turned out). Gwen's continuing unrequited attraction for Jack still grated a bit.
I had almost completely forgotten Sleeper, but it is also rather good - Nikki Amuka-Bird doing a great turn as the woman who discovers that she is actual an alien killer robot, part of a team tasked to Destroy Cardiff In A Nuclear Explosion. There is a minor plot discrepancy in that her character is for some reason less affected by her programming at crucial moments than were her fellow sleepers, just sufficiently to make the plot interesting. But it's rather original to make the monster-of-the-week unaware that it is in fact a monster.
My favourite story from the first season of Torchwood was the time-travel romance Out of Time. It's brave or maybe foolish to reheat the same concept only five episodes later (or indeed to have a doomed soldier romance only four episodes after Captain Jack Harkness), but To The Last Man plays it very differently, by making Toshiko the centre of the romance (Naoko Mori's best episode by far) and for my money a rather better take on the doomed soldier romance than last time - this isn't a one-night stand enabled and then disabled by a time-slip, this is something that feels like it is embedding Torchwood into a long institutional Cardiff history (and a great sense of it having always been a diverse and interesting place to work).
Meat is my least favourite of Catherine Tregenna's four Torchwood episodes, but it's not really her fault - the emotional content of the episode, Rhys finally getting to grips with what his fiancée is up to at work, is very good (as is Kai Owen, whose performance in the first season apparently reprieved his character for the rest of Torchwood's lifespan); the problem is with the alien giant döner kebab monster - both that the concept is fundamentally icky, and the execution is rather weak; and Jack is allowed to patronise Rhys rather nastily at the end-.
Adam, on the other hand, is very good. It's a retake on not only the great Buffy episode Superstar, but also (and I don't think I've seen many people mention this) on one of the excellent Torchwood novels, Border Princes by Dan Abnett, published just a year earlier. Bryan Dick is great as the infiltrating alien who has always been part of the team; Naoko Mori and Burn Gorman actually get called upon to act a bit; and it's the one Whoniverse episode in which nobody except for perhaps Rhys remembers what actually happened. (There are several of both Old and New Who where the viewers might have wished for that - actually one of them is coming up later in the season...)
I'm going to leave it there for now: eight more episodes to write up some time soon (not to mention Season 4 of the real show.)
< The Curse of Fatal Death | The Webcasts | Rose - Dalek | The Long Game - The Parting of the Ways | Comic Relief 2006 - The Girl in the Fireplace | Rise of the Cybermen - Doomsday | Everything Changes - They Keep Killing Suzie | Random Shoes - End of Days | Smith and Jones - 42 | Human Nature / The Family of Blood - Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords & The Infinite Quest | Revenge of the Slitheen - The Lost Boy & Time Crash | Voyage of the Damned - Adam | Reset - Exit Wounds