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For the television show, see Torchwood
Torchwood Institute
Also known as: Torchwood

Affiliated with:

Homeland / Bases:
Appearances: List of Appearances
Notable Members: See below
"Her Majesty created the Torchwood Institute with the express intention of keeping Britain great and fighting the alien horde."
Yvonne Hartman.

The Torchwood Institute (or "Torchwood" for short) was an organisation founded in 1879 to protect Great Britain from extraterrestrial threat and to capture the Doctor (who Victoria regarded as a threat) and also to secure alien technology for Britain. Under the later leadership of Jack Harkness from 2007 onwards, it had a more ecumenical agenda of protecting the world.



"The Torchwood Institute has a motto. 'If it's alien, it's ours. Anything that comes from the sky, we strip it down and we use it, for the good of the British Empire."
―Yvonne Hartman

While Queen Victoria was grateful for the Doctor and Rose's assistance in defeating the werewolf, the incident also made her aware of otherworldly threats to the British Empire, and thus ordered that Torchwood be established in order to defend against them -- specifically from the Doctor. Seeing his power and knowledge, the Queen was wary of any possible threat he could cause to the Empire. The name of the Institute was drawn from the Torchwood Estate, where most of the adventure took place. (DW: Tooth and Claw)

Over time, the Institute accumulated much alien technology, reverse-engineering it and applying it to secret military projects within the British army. Within Torchwood an unofficial slogan evolved: "If it's alien, it's ours."

Hiding out in the open, what most of the British populace believed was a tower of banking offices was in fact Torchwood Tower, built to more readily access a weak point in spacetime. The Torchwood Tower was itself only part of a much larger plan involving free energy that backfired horribly, and resulted in the deaths of millions. According to the Torchwood website, this cell of the Institute was abandoned after the events of this story. (DW: Army of Ghosts)

Torchwood operates in cells, London being Torchwood 1, and Cardiff being the home to Torchwood 3, the maverick organisation led by Capt. Jack Harkness. At least two other Torchwood cells are known: Torchwood 2, based in Glasgow, Scotland, and a Torchwood 4, the nature of which is unknown except that it is "lost" (TW: Everything Changes). Torchwood 5 was based in India and led by the Duchess of Melrose.

The organisation considers itself above both Government and Police, existing under a Royal Charter. Torchwood is paid by the Crown (TW: Children of Earth: Day One) and the Queen closed down Torchwood 1 (WEB: However, Torchwood does not operate autonomously and often refers to the British Cabinet and to UNIT in both an advisory and operational capacity. (TW: Everything Changes) On at least one occasion an active member of UNIT (Martha Jones) was even assigned to work with Torchwood 3 for a time, though this may have been due to the friendly relations between Martha Jones and the current head of Torchwood 3, Captain Jack Harkness.

The amount of knowledge the general public have regarding Torchwood seems to vary depending upon the situation. By the 1950s, at least, it was known by police authorities (DW: The Idiot's Lantern); by the late 2000s, the name at least was known by the general public (TW: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang), to the extent where it could be cited with some authority in much the same way terms like FBI or Homeland Security (or UNIT) could also be cited (TW: Dead Man Walking), and people were even aware of the general location of the Torchwood 3 headquarters by Cardiff Bay (TW: Children of Earth: Day One). By the early 2010s, Torchwood was known enough to have the Battle of Canary Wharf become known as the Battle of Torchwood. (DW: Fear Her) Hundreds of thousands of years later, the Torchwood Institute had become the stuff of trivia questions. (DW: Bad Wolf)



19th century

Torchwood's origins date back to an incident involving the Doctor, Rose Tyler and Queen Victoria in the mid-19th century. At Torchwood House in Scotland, a monastic group called the brethren stored a Werewolf, which menanced the countryside, and the Queen. Ultimately, and with the monarch's assistance, the Doctor and Rose killed the werewolf. Victoria knighted the Doctor and Rose for their service, but then banished them from the kingdom, declaring the Doctor in particular a danger to the Empire. Now made aware of the reality of alien/supernatural life forms, Victoria ordered that an organization be created to protect the British Empire from both the Doctor and threats such as the werewolf. Victoria named the organization the Torchwood Institute, after the location of the werewolf encounter. (DW: Tooth and Claw). She issued a royal decree establishing the Institute on 31st December, 1879. (TW: Children of Earth)

After discovering a spacetime Rift in Cardiff, Queen Victoria founded a third branch of Torchwood (after the first and second in London and Scotland), Torchwood Three. (WEB: In 1899 Cardiff Jack Harkness was recruited by two of this branch's operatives, Alice Guppy and Emily Holroyd to become a freelance agent for the Institute. His first mission was to apprehend an intelligent blowfish alien; he succeeded, but was greatly disturbed when Guppy summarily executed the creature before his eyes. He continued to work for Torchwood largely against his will, having been informed by a fortune-telling tarot card reader that he would have to wait more than a century before seeing the Doctor again, during which time he needed money to live. He continued to work for the organization over the decades that followed, although he remained disturbed by the Institute's callous disregard for alien life forms.(TW: Fragments) At some point, Victoria also established Torchwood India to collect all things alien in the British Raj (BBCR: Golden Age).

20th century

In 1901 Alice Guppy and Charles Gaskell dug up a future version of Jack Harkness that had been taken from the 21st century and buried in Cardiff. He told them to freeze him in the cryo-chambers so he could defeat his brother Gray. Subsequently, Jack's future self resided in the cryo-chambers even as his younger self continued to work nearby. Guppy reportedly died sometime thereafter (

In 1918, Torchwood Three investigated ghost sightings in a hospital in Cardiff. As present and future blended, they caught glimpses of 2009. At this time they had a team of 5, the leader being a man called Gerald Carter and, based on a photo, were very possibly already based out of the Hub. They already had equipment capable of detecting disturbances in Time. (TW: To the Last Man)

Circa 1919, Harriet Derbyshire, one of the investigators of the hospital sightings and in only her mid-20's, died in action. (TW: To the Last Man)

Harkness continued to work as an operative throughout the 20th century, For reasons unknown, he was put in charge of a group of soldiers in 1909 (TW: Small Worlds), and in the 1920s worked undercover with a travelling circus in pursuit of the Night Travellers (TW: From Out of the Rain), though it would appear the latter mission was unsuccessful as he never found them until 80 years later.

In 1923 Torchwood found evidence that an alien race called the Pyroviles invaded Earth at Pompeii in 79 AD This is because of a human professor called Livesy-Smythe (Captain Jack's Monster Files, referencing DW: The Fires of Pompeii)

In 1924, Torchwood sent Jack Harkness to India to close down the branch there before the fall of the Raj (BBCR: Golden Age).

By 1953 the London branch was influential enough that London Police feared its involvement when investigating the strange occurrences provoked by the activities of an alien entity known as The Wire (DW: The Idiot's Lantern)

In 1965 the government asked five highly ranked officers, including Jack Harkness, to give twelve children to the 456 as a gift. It was decided that the children would be taken from a Scottish orphanage as they wouldn't be missed. Despite eleven children being taken, Clement MacDonald managed to escape. (TW: Children of Earth: Day Three)

Circa 1996, Torchwood recovered a Jathaa sunglider and reverse-engineered weaponry from it. (DW: Army of Ghosts)

At the end of 1999, Harkness became the leader of Torchwood 3 when one of its members, Alex Hopkins, killed the rest of the team and himself after being driven insane by an alien artifact that revealed the events of the coming years. (TW: Fragments)

21st century

Over the next few years, Harkness rebuilt the Torchwood 3 team, recruiting Toshiko Sato and Owen Harper. Disapproving of the ethics of Torchwood 1, Harkness told Sato of his intent to reform the organization to be more benevolent. (TW: Fragments) Sato was also sent to London to investigate the alien lifeform recovered from a crashed spacecraft. (DW: Aliens of London)

On Christmas, circa 2006, the alien Sycorax attempted an invasion of Earth by blood control and a ship built out of an asteroid which hovered over London. (DW: The Christmas Invasion) Torchwood was preparing a weapon for just such a contingency, based on alien technology that they had scavenged from a Jathaa sun glider. At the same time, in Torchwood Tower, the Institute examined the Void Ship (though they did not call it by that name), to them an obviously alien artifact which they struggled to understand. Meanwhile, it was discovered that tapping into the resonance around it could provide massive amounts of what they believed was free energy. A side-effect of these experiments was the appearance of millions of "ghosts" all over the world; humanoid figures that seemed to glow with an unearthly light. (DW: Army of Ghosts)

It was at this point that the Doctor became involved, and explained to the then-administrator Yvonne Hartman that their experiments were in fact weakening the barrier between dimensions, which would eventually lead to dramatic problems in their own world, perhaps even resulting in the collapse of their dimension altogether. His warnings were not heeded, and the experiments continued. As a result, a massive invasion force from another dimension came through the 'hole', allowing the Earth to be conquered by the Cybermen for approximately an hour.

At the same time, the Void Ship opened, revealing a hidden cadre of Daleks. Four Daleks, members of the secret Cult of Skaro, had come to Earth to help restore the Dalek race using a stolen piece of Time Lord technology called the Genesis Ark. They promptly killed a Torchwood technician while stealing his knowledge of current events, and seeing the Cybermen as an impediment to their own return, they began a war against them, despite an offer from the Cyber-Leader to form an alliance.

The 'hole' in space time created by the Void Ship also allowed a resistance army from another dimension to cross over, initially with the intention of stopping the Cybermen. However with the advance of the Daleks, a rather sudden and uneasy truce began, with Torchwood militia men, the Preachers, and the Cybermen all fighting together against the Daleks. This turned the Torchwood Tower into a battleground, and the fighting did not stop until The Doctor found a way to intervene, reversing Torchwood's power machinery and sending the Daleks and Cybermen into the Void. (DW: Army of Ghosts / Doomsday)

With the vast majority of the Torchwood administration stationed in London and thus killed or 'upgraded' by the Cybermen, the organization was severely weakened. Jack Harkness worked to reform the remainder of Torchwood into a more humane organization, recruiting Canary Wharf survivor Ianto Jones and other members (including, ultimately, Gwen Cooper). (TW: Everything Changes,DW: The Sound of Drums) Meanwhile, Rose Tyler was recruited by the version of Torchwood that existed on the parallel Earth nicknamed Pete's World.

In 2008 a major event occurred with the opening of the Cardiff rift, resulting in massive temporal displacements and the release of the demon Abaddon. (TW: End of Days) Shortly thereafter team leader Captain Jack Harkness mysteriously disappeared. (DW: Utopia) Subsequently, The Master under the guise of Harold Saxon, sent the crew of Torchwood three on a wild goose chase in the Himalayas in order to look for him. Actually, the Master just wanted them out of the way. (DW: The Sound of Drums)

After a few months had passed for Torchwood Three (and about a year for Jack, who had lived through the Year That Never Was, Jack returned to Torchwood Three. Although Gwen Cooper had taken charge during his absence, Jack resumed command upon his return. (TW: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) Some months later, the Torchwood Three team was depleted by the deaths of two members (TW: Exit Wounds) and the survivors later became involved in assisting the Doctor restore the Earth to its original location after it was forceably moved by the Daleks to the Medusa Cascade. (DW: The Stolen Earth/Journey's End) Meanwhile, Rose Tyler, presumably using her Torchwood's resources (though this is unconfirmed) returned to her home Earth on several occasions, including once to an alternate timeline (DW: Turn Left) before rejoining the Doctor and fighting the Daleks once more. She eventually was returned to the alternate earth (DW: Journey's End).

Perhaps due to their frequent influence during alien invasion, by the late 2000s, Torchwood was beginning to be known by the public at large, although more by name and reputation than by their actual purpose. (TW: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang).

Near the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the Institute was left in disarray thanks to an intentional effort by the British Prime Minister to destroy Torchwood in order to prevent the revelation of previous dealings between the UK and the alien race known as The 456, in which Harkness was involved. The Cardiff Hub was destroyed by a paramilitary unit headed by Agent Johnson, and attempts were made on the lives of the surviving members of Torchwood 3 (TW: Children of Earth: Day One and Day Two). (The fate of Torchwood 2 is unclear.)

After the defeat of The 456, Torchwood was left with only two active operatives: Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper, the latter being pregnant. Torchwood's activities immediately following the incident are unknown, but six months later Harkness, having spent an unknown amount of time travelling the world on his own, made the decision to leave Earth, leaving Cooper -- now heavily pregnant -- as the last known Torchwood operative. Whether the Institute itself officially disbands at this time is as yet unknown, (TW: Children of Earth: Day Five), but when Joshua Naismith speaks about how he obtained the Immortality Gate, he sates that it was after "the fall of Torchwood" and speaks of the institute as if it no longer exists. (DW: The End of Time). By 2012, the name (if not necessarily the function) of Torchwood was widely known by the public, to the extent that the Battle of Canary Wharf had come to be known as the "Battle of Torchwood". (DW: Fear Her)

It would appear that Torchwood reformed or was reestablished at some point, because by the 2080s, Torchwood Three was capable of controlling the Rift. (BBCR: Asylum) Because Torchwood series 4 has been confirmed, Torchwood will most likely be reformed in early 2011 following Jack's involvent and presumed return to Earth DW: The End of Time.

Unknown date

By the early 21st century, when Gwen Cooper joined, Torchwood Four had disappeared. (TW: Everything Changes)

Later events

The Institute still existed, as the Torchwood Archive, in the 4100s. (DW: The Impossible Planet)

The Great Cobalt Pyramid was built on the ruins of Torchwood (although it's unclear which branch this refers to). (DW: Bad Wolf)

Torchwood branches

The Torchwood Institute is known to have four denominations across Britain and international one branch:

  • Torchwood One, in Canary Wharf, destroyed during the battle with the Cybermen, and consequently abandoned. Last director was Yvonne Hartman.
  • Torchwood Four, lost, but, in the words of Captain Jack Harkness, "we'll find it someday".
  • Torchwood India, operating in Delhi to collect all artefacts in the Raj. Closed in 1924 by Captain Jack Harkness.

Torchwood One also had a base under the Thames Barrier and owns the security firm "H.C. Clements" used to recreate Huon particles. (DW: The Runaway Bride)
The parallel Earth, Pete's World, also had a version of Torchwood. (DW: Doomsday).

Known administrators and staff

Yvonne Hartman
Ianto Jones

Torchwood 1 - (Closed)

  • Andrew (deceased circa 2006)
  • Rupert Howarth

Torchwood 2 - (status unknown)

Torchwood 3 - (status unclear)

  • Captain Jack Harkness (leader of Torchwood; de facto leader of the Torchwood Institute following the Battle of Canary Wharf, hired circa 1899; effectively resigned circa 2010)
  • Gwen Cooper, (liaison with regular police, temporary leader during Jack's absence, hired circa 2007. Status as of circa 2010 unclear.)
  • Llinos King (active circa 1941)
  • Greg Bishop (active, vanished circa 1941; returned, died circa 2009)
  • Rhydian (active circa 1941)
  • Several unidentified members of Torchwood 3 were killed by Hopkins on 31st December 1999.
  • Suzie Costello (weapons specialist, second-in-command prior to death, deceased circa 2007, though later temporarily revived.)
  • Toshiko Sato, (computer specialist, reverse engineering of alien artifacts; hired circa 2006, deceased circa 2009)
  • Ianto Jones, (administrator and general support, moved from Torchwood 1, hired circa 2007, deceased circa 2009)

Parallel Torchwood on Pete's World

  • Other individuals are known to have used the parallel Torchwood's facilities, including Pete Tyler and Mickey Smith, but Rose is the only confirmed Torchwood member.

Behind the Scenes

'Torchwood' was a code name for the new series of Doctor Who when it was in production, partly to keep it secret, partly to keep people from absconding with tapes of it before it was produced. The word 'Torchwood' itself is an anagram of 'Doctor Who'.

'Torchwood' is also the name of a spin-off series from the BBC set in Cardiff in the Doctor Who universe.

See also Torchwood.

External Links

  • In-universe Torchwood site
  • In-universe website for Torchwood House

This article uses material from the "Torchwood Institute" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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