The Torchwood Institute (also known as Torchwood) is a top secret covert organisation established by Queen Victoria in 1879 and disbanded in September 2009, after the British Goverment turned against them. Torchwood's main goal is is to defend the Empire (later Earth) against extraterrestrial threats, particularly the alian known as The Doctor. Torchwood would later become known in the 42nd Century as The Torchwood Archives
While described as "beyond the United Nations",The Torchwood Institute is seen to cooperate with UNIT (the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, formerly known as the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) to some extent. There appears to have been some rapport with the Prime Minister, although it is noted by Harriet Jones in The Christmas Invasion that she is not meant to know of Torchwood. Those who have come in contact with Torchwood primarily believe it to be a special forces team. They appear to maintain this illusion by using false witnesses, or by sectioning any journalists who threaten to expose the truth and via the use of memory altering drugs.Following a major incident which led to the destruction of Torchwood One, Jack Harkness rebuilds Torchwood to become less confrontational and more secretive in honour of The Doctor.
Torchwood's origins date back to an incident involving the Tenth 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)
In 1889, agents Eliza Cooper and Robert Lewis attempted to capture the the Doctor when they realised he had been stranded in London. They came across H. G. Wells with the Doctor, and interrogated him about all he knew about the man. Wells leads them to the TARDIS, which disappears, apparently leaving the Doctor behind for them to apprehend. (IDW: The Time Machination) The man was however revealed not to be the Doctor when he was dissected. (IDW: Final Sacrifice)
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: torchwood.org.uk) 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).
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 27AD 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 (torchwood.co.uk).
In 1906 Eliza Cooper and Robert Lewis used a machine they commissioned Professor Alexander Hugh to build to travel to another planet thousands of years into the future. Neither Cooper nor Lewis returned; the former remained on the planet while the latter was killed. Professor Hugh was returned home by the Doctor. (IDW: Final Sacrifice)
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 artefact that revealed the events of the coming years. (TW: Fragments)
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 artefact 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 Tenth 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 Cybermen and Daleks, a rather sudden and uneasy truce began, with Torchwood militia men and the Preachers all fighting together against the Daleks and Cybermen. 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 Tenth 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, the reformation of Torchwood will obviously be chronicled.
The Institute still existed, as the Torchwood Archive, in the 42nd century. (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) In the same period (the year 200,100), Big Brother contestant Strood lists his home as "Torchwood", implying it to have grown into a sovereign state.
The Torchwood Institute is known to have four branches 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 Two, run from above a bank in Glasgow by a "very strange man" called Archie.
- Torchwood Three, in Cardiff, set above the Cardiff rift. Lead by Captain Jack Harkness since 2000. Cardiff headquarters destroyed on orders of the UK government circa 2009; status of the branch is unclear after the defeat of The 456 (TW: Children of Earth).
- 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, though the facility, and some of its members, continued to survive, unageing due to an alien artefact, until 2009. (TWA: Golden Age)
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).