“I propose an Institute to investigate these strange happenings and to fight them. I would call it Torchwood.”

victoriaAt the conclusion of ‘Tooth and Claw’ Queen Victoria forms the Torchwood institute. Its purpose is to investigate strange happenings and fight them, having recently been made aware of their existence.

She makes mention that the Doctor should beware if he returns for Torchwood will be waiting. This can be taken to mean that he will be an enemy of the organisation but it could also be interpreted as her vowing that Torchwood will be more adept at dealing with situations that are usually his providence.

It is clear that Queen Victoria doesn’t like the Doctor. Her contention that he deals with blasphemous things and finds them fun. Since Torchwood will deal in those very same matters it must be his attitude that she finds disagreeable. In short if he was more serious and didn’t treat the death and monsters with such amusement she may not have banished him.

The 9th, 10th and 11th Doctors have all shown this worrying tendency. They can treat a serious threat as amusing or fun until someone close to them is put in danger. This can rub people the wrong way, especially when their lives are on the line.

In your own games the attitude that PCs have for NPCs and the events that are affecting them can have a similar negative impact. This is an adventure for them, it is the NPCs lives. While no one would suggest they don’t have fun, if the PCs are obviously being entertained by the peril others are facing this can make them seem callous.

Queen Victoria’s words also reinforce the reoccurring theme of linking the Doctor with monsters. Just as Clive warned Rose that the Doctor brought death with him in ‘Rose’ or Madame de Pompadour came to the conclusion that you couldn’t have the Doctor without the monster.

In truth it is unfair to blame the Doctor for this. Only in rare cases such as ‘Human Nature/Family of Blood’ and other stories where he is specifically targeted could he be blamed for causing tragedy.

From the perspective of someone who can’t see the whole picture nor completely understand the elements involved it can be difficult to identify the cause and effect. It is telling that Victoria makes a link between the Doctor and magic.

It is a ceremony, elements of the universe that interact in an unknown manner to twist and turn what people accept as reality. To an outsider his presence summons the monsters, rather than just reveals them.

Given that Torchwood and UNIT perform the same function it could help to give them a different focus (or an additional one) as a result of the animosity towards the Doctor. It could be the very fact that he was a time traveller that set Queen Victoria against him.

She seemed to guess that he and Rose were treating her like a performer, trying to get her to say her famous line. If she understood that they were from the future then she may have realised that their presence had altered time.

Like Captain Adelaide Brooke she may have realised the terrible power that he held. That by saving her life he had irreversibly changed human history. That everything that followed wasn’t supposed to happen until he had willed it so.

In addition to fighting aliens Torchwood could have also made sure that it was protected by other time travellers. These entities would be mysterious beings, able to pass as human (and in fact might be) and able to come and go as they please. Anything they did could shift the fate of Britain.

Torchwood would have a difficult time locating and identifying time travellers. Unlike alien monsters they wouldn’t announce their presence or cause alarm. To find them the institute would have to be watchful for those who didn’t belong, those will advanced technology and those with knowledge of tomorrow.

They may send Torchwood agents to important events or disasters, in the hopes of catching sight seeing time travellers. This would require a quick response (difficult during the 19th century and to a lesser extent in the 20th century) and keen eyes.

This would be a good excuse to place Torchwood PCs during or after historical events. Not only must they cope with the current situation but they must keep an eye on the NPCs, as anyone of them could be a time traveller.

Inventors (especially mad scientists) and those who claim to be able to tell the future (from fortune tellers to psychics) would receive a visit from Torchwood agents to ascertain if they were native to the time period.

Once located the Torchwood agents would need to apprehend them, which could be difficult if the time traveller has a wrist mounted vortex manipulator, like the Time agents. They’d need surprise on their side.

This could leave agents in a morale quandary,  especially if the time traveller was there to prevent some disaster. By stopping them they’ll be responsible for letting that disaster happen, even if they need to in order to minimise the time traveller’s impact on history.

Prolonged exposure to time travellers could leave Torchwood agents second guessing themselves, wondering how their lives are different now they hunt time travellers. What would they be doing if they didn’t have their mission? What would their life be like?

In order to protect itself Torchwood would need to keep its secrets. Not only so that it can continue its mission without the interference of the government but to prevent time travellers from gaining enough information to target it in the past.

While their mission could set them at odds with the Doctor there are plenty of others who could prove ample opposition. The Time Meddler is perfectly suited to be their primary adversary. The Master and the Rani are also good candidates.

Criminals like Magnus Greel, fleeing from the future, would also make good villains for this type of campaign. The knowledge and technology they bring could spark events and they would the deadly skills to prove a threat to Torchwood.

Time Agents from the 51st century could be a reoccurring problem. Their mission might be to protect history but Torchwood wouldn’t see the distinction, apprehending them just as readily as they would other time travellers.

The worst nightmare for a Torchwood is finding that a time traveller is a future version of themselves or someone they know. What could possibly make them abandon their principles. This could cause suspicion on a current agent (and in fact be the reason they defect).

It could turn out that Torchwood realises that it has missed too many time travellers in the past. Using archival evidence they’ve identified the presence of travellers in the past and the only way to restore history is to send Torchwood agents into the past to apprehend them (without being caught by that era’s Torchwood).

In such a campaign time travellers are frightening beings with unknowable agendas. Players might know what will happen in the future but the PCs don’t. The future is a mysterious land, refuges and intruders spilling across the border into the present.

When UNIT comes into existence Torchwood can leave fighting aliens to them. They have their own special purpose that sets them apart.

This entry was posted in 10th Doctor, Setting, Tooth and Claw. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to “I propose an Institute to investigate these strange happenings and to fight them. I would call it Torchwood.”

  1. Hedgewick says:

    In my own campaign, I’m having fun playing a Doctor who behaves in precisely the opposite way. He has been so traumatized by recent losses that, deep down, he dreads the danger and death inevitably brought by confrontations with monsters. He is often overprotective of his companions and NPCs, and this has generated an interesting level of conflict, both internally and between characters. I’ve come to realize that his character is a reaction to the sort of brazen glee we’ve seen from the likes of Nine, Ten, and Eleven.

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