The Torchwood Institute is an organisation from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who and its spin-off series, Torchwood. It was formed to research and combat alien threats to Great Britain, and use their findings to make the British Empire great again. To those ends, it acquires and reverse engineers alien technology by any means deemed necessary. According to its director Yvonne Hartman, its nationalist attitude extends to refusing to use metric units.
While described as "beyond the United Nations", they are known to cooperate with UNIT to some extent. There appears at present to be some sort of rapport with the Prime Minister although historically this may not always have been the case. To those that have come in contact with Torchwood, they are primarily believed to be a special forces team.
The Institute was founded by Queen Victoria in 1879, following the events of the Doctor Who episode Tooth and Claw. While staying at Torchwood House, the Scottish estate of Sir Robert MacLeish, the Queen was attacked by a werewolf, in reality an alien intelligence that planned to infect her with its consciousness by biting her. The werewolf was ultimately dispelled, thanks to the efforts of the Tenth Doctor and the sacrifice of Sir Robert.
Having discovered that Great Britain had enemies "beyond imagination", Victoria decided to establish the Torchwood Institute in memory of Sir Robert. She also decided that the Doctor was dangerous, and declared that if he ever returned, Torchwood would be waiting. The Doctor's name was written into the Torchwood Foundation's charter as an enemy of the Crown. In 1882, Victoria expanded Torchwood's role to include the acquisition of alien technology, creating the policy that "if it is alien, then it is ours". In 1888, Victoria reiterated the secrecy policy of the Torchwood Institute, protecting her subjects from the "evils that [Torchwood] fight(s)".
Not long after the foundation of the Institute, a spacetime rift was identified in Cardiff and as a result, a smaller branch of the Institute was formed there to monitor and exploit the Rift.
The activities of the Torchwood Institute during the 20th century have not yet been revealed. It is known that the organisation "flourished down the decades, becoming stronger" and grew "more arrogant". Whilst the organisation was public enough in 1953, by 2006, the existence of Torchwood was apparently a secret known only to the British military and police. Torchwood's activities during the time the Third Doctor was exiled to earth (during either the 1970s or 1980s depending upon one's point of view) have yet to be revealed. Knowledge of Torchwood was supposedly kept even from Prime Minister Harriet Jones and the United Nations. However, Jones did know about its existence anyway, and ordered Major Richard Blake of UNIT to prepare Torchwood for the impending arrival of the Sycorax on Christmas Day.
In 1983, Torchwood became the sole proprietor of H.C. Clements, a security firm, while in 1996 a "Jathar Sunglider" flew into British airspace and was shot down by Torchwood. From its remains, an energy weapon was installed in London. On Jones's command, Torchwood used the weapon to destroy a Sycorax ship on Christmas Day 2006.
The Doctor discovered the existence of Torchwood in the 2006 series' two-part finale, Army of Ghosts and Doomsday set in 2007. At this time, Torchwood operated software which blocked access to Internet searches about UFO activity (School Reunion). The TARDISODE for Army of Ghosts showed Torchwood agents abducting a journalist who was investigating the Institute and arranging to admit him to a psychiatric institution.
While investigating the manifestation of "ghosts" on Earth, the Doctor traced their origin back to Torchwood Tower (known publicly as Canary Wharf Tower), where Hartman placed the Doctor in custody and confiscated the TARDIS. To Torchwood, the Doctor was a source of vast information and familiarity with alien technology which they could exploit to further the organisation's aims.
Torchwood Tower had been built to reach a spatial breach 660 feet above sea level. Unbeknownst to Torchwood, the breach had been caused by the entrance into the universe of a "void ship", a vessel designed to travel through the void between parallel universes. Torchwood had been conducting experiments on the breach, in an attempt to harness its energy and reduce Britain's reliance on Middle Eastern oil, but these experiments had caused the breach to widen. The "ghosts" turned out to be Cybermen from an alternate universe, which were using the widening breach to travel between universes.
A small advance force of Cybermen infiltrated Torchwood, upgrading or subverting Torchwood personnel, before eventually seizing control and opening the breach wide enough for ghost like creatures around the world to manifest fully as millions of Cybermen.
However, the void ship was nothing to do with the Cybermen, and had in fact been created by the Daleks, four of whom had used it to escape the Time War. Caught between warring Daleks and Cybermen, many Torchwood workers were either killed, or "upgraded" by the Cybermen (including Hartman herself - although she retained some semblance of her identity). It is known that in the wake of these events, referred to as the "Battle of Canary Wharf", the Institute feels it must "learn by heart" a lesson about its own arrogance. It was later revealed that the London branch of Torchwood, referred to as Torchwood One, lost 796 members of staff and was ultimately ordered to close by Queen Elizabeth.
In The Runaway Bride, it is revealed that the London-based security firm "H. C. Clements" (which employed secretary Donna Noble, who inexplicably materialised in the TARDIS just as she was about to get married) was a front company for the Torchwood Institute. On a restricted basement level of the company situated beneath the Thames Barrier was a secret laboratory which the Institute used to recreate ancient "Huon particles". Over a period of months, H. C. Clements' Human Resources Manager, Lance Bennett, had courted and poisoned Donna with Huon particles, intending to sacrifice her to the Empress of the Racnoss. It would appear that Lance was not acting on behalf of the Institute, and the lab was in disuse since the Battle of Canary Wharf and the Queen's official closure of Torchwood One.
In 2012, Torchwood is public enough to be mentioned in a television broadcast during the London 2012 Olympics.
By the 2002nd century, the Great Cobalt Pyramid has been built on the ruins of the Torchwood Institute. Furthermore, a Big Brother contestant of that era is described as working at a "telephone salon", but his home is described as "Torchwood", implying that in the future it has also possibly become a city, state or nation of some sort.
In the distant future, the Torchwood Archives sent a group of explorers to investigate a mysterious power source that kept a planet in stable orbit around a black hole.
In Rise of the Cybermen, a parallel Earth Torchwood Institute is referred to. It is public enough for a survey carried out by it to be reported in a news item, and for someone to be publicly asked about their work there. Prior to Army of Ghosts, a group led by Pete Tyler (and including Jake Simmonds and Mickey Smith), which worked for the alternate world's People's Republic, took over the parallel Earth Torchwood
In Doomsday, it is revealed that the parallel Earth Torchwood had also been conducting experiments on the spatial breach, which led (between The Age of Steel and Army of Ghosts) to it being infiltrated by the Cybermen, who used the breach to travel to Rose's universe. Following the events of Doomsday, Rose Tyler, confined to the alternate world, goes on to work for the reformed organization.
Torchwood One, London
Torchwood One was Torchwood's head office and operated out of Torchwood Tower, located within One Canada Square, the tallest of the three Canary Wharf skyscrapers, although it carried out operations across London, including beneath the Thames Barrier and through front organizations such as "H. C. Clements". The tower installations were destroyed during the events of "Doomsday". According to the Torchwood website, there were 823 members of staff, of which only 27 were known to have survived. In the wake of the "Battle of Canary Wharf", Her Majesty ordered the immediate closure of Torchwood One. Some notable employees included:
- Yvonne Hartman (director)†
- Dr. Rajesh Singh (scientist)†
- "Samuel" (scientist)*
- Lisa Hallett (Cyberwoman)†
- Adeola Oshodi (Martha's cousin, technician)†
- Ianto Jones (before relocating to Torchwood Three)
Torchwood Two, Glasgow
All that is known about the Glasgow division of the Torchwood Institute is that what is described as a "very strange man" works there and that it is presumably active.
Torchwood Three, Cardiff
Torchwood Three, also known as The Torchwood Hub, primarily serves as a monitoring station for the Cardiff spacetime Rift. Whereas the London branch staffed hundreds of individuals, the Cardiff branch is considerably smaller and only staffs a small team of experts, hired by Captain Jack and described as a "renegade outpost". It is located beneath Roald Dahl Plass, and may be entered via an "invisible lift" in the Plass, or through a run-down Tourist Information Centre nearby. Some notable employees include:
- Captain Jack Harkness (leader)*
- Gwen Cooper
- Dr. Owen Harper (medic & psychologist])
- Dr. Toshiko Sato (medic & computer specialist)*
- Ianto Jones (general support)
- Suzie Costello (weapons specialist)†
Torchwood Four, location unknown
Torchwood Four is described as "missing". Not specified in the series is how this happened or where it may previously have been located before its disappearance.
† denotes personnel confirmed as deceased.
* denotes personnel who have previously appeared in Doctor Who before being revealed as or joining as Torchwood personnel.