The Wildest, Most Progressive Sci-Fi Series You Probably Missed, Stream It Without Netflix

By Joshua Tyler | Published

Streaming Doctor Who Spinoff

There’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of Torchwood. Released in 2006, at the height of the new Doctor Who series’ popularity, the show started as a Doctor Who spinoff but somehow got little of the fanfare such a spinoff deserves.

Partly, this may have been because Doctor Who has a long history of terrible spinoffs. Most of them were for children, and most of them were terrible. But Torchwood was neither of those things.

Captain Jack Harkness on Torchwood

Torchwood was a more adult-themed approach to the sci-fi ideas of Doctor Who, and during its short run on BBC America, it was one of the best shows on television. What’s more it leaned heavily into exploring LGBTQ+ issues in an era where that still wasn’t acceptable on standard television.

The premise is familiar. A team of professionals work for an organization investigating alien activity on Earth. Their goal is to protect and prepare. You never know when some half-crazed, energy-based psycho from outer space might decide she’d like to dine on Earthlings by using intimate encounters to suck people dry.

A unique alien encounter on Torchwood
A unique alien encounter on Torchwood

From the premise, you’re probably ready to dismiss it as CSI meets the X-Files, but Torchwood is so much more than its find the paranormal clues premise. Network television of that era had never seen anything like this.

It stars a bi-sexual immortal named Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), who dresses like a dashing, off-duty Civil War cavalry officer. It tackles any and all issues with unflinching zeal and, when called for, isn’t afraid to drench them in sex just for the hell of it.

John Barrowman as Jack Harkness on Torchwood
John Barrowman as Jack Harkness on Torchwood

The show’s female cast members, for instance, regularly find themselves lured into lesbian make-out sessions, yet somehow, it’s never gratuitous. How can so much sex work in a sensible way within the context of a great plot? It just does. It works when an unusually attractive female alien and Torchwood’s awkward, straight female computer geek fall totally in love.

Most importantly, every episode has consequences and impact. Torchwood cuts right to the heart of the most bizarre and terrifying circumstances.

Torchwood sci-fi series
John Barrowman as Jack Harkness on Torchwood

A lesbian mind-reader who rips out hearts is someone you can, surprisingly, identify with. When people die, it hurts. When the cast gets in trouble, the danger feels real because you never know when one of them might end up really and truly dead.

There are victims. There is pain. There is no magic button at the end of every hour that someone pushes to put it all back to normal. Every moment has meaning, emotion, and tears are not uncommon. It’s science fiction for adults. When was the last time you saw something like that?

Doctor Who spinoff

Torchwood is sleek, it’s sexy, and it’s unlike anything else you’re wasting time with. It’s more than a Doctor Who spinoff. Do yourself a favor and try Torchwood. You may have missed some of the best science fiction ever to air on television.

Torchwood is available to stream on numerous platforms, and you don’t need a Netflix description to get it. Some of them will charge a rental fee, some will give it to you for free. Find it and start streaming.