In the Doctor Who universe, the Earth is protected by UNIT, which is a long-established organization that goes back decades of Doctor Who episodes. I'm curious why when Russell T Davies (RTD) et al. chose to create the Torchwood Institute when they chose to create a spin-off. After all, UNIT had been shown to protect Earth for an extremely long time, and has been used in modern Doctor Who. So Earth is protected by them already. But instead of making the spin-off be about UNIT, they made a new organization. This put the show Torchwood into an awkward position where UNIT shows up to assist on some threats, but doesn't show up for others. There's no explanation given in-universe for this. Has RTD or have any of the other Doctor Who or Torchwood show-runners explained this in interviews?


2 Answers 2


Davies has repeatedly said that he wants to move Torchwood farther and farther from Doctor Who. It's a much grittier, darker, and pessimistic series than Doctor Who and he has said that the two will continue to diverge over time.

In one recent interview, it mentions, "He also says that Torchwood is intended to be the opposite of Doctor Who, where you know the main characters won't be killed off. He hints that life is not going to get any easier (or less deadly) for the few characters who remain alive. Better get Rhys and PC Andy some bulletproof vests!" He has also stated elsewhere that regular characters would get killed off and replaced so there wasn't always a consistent and continuing cast throughout the entire show.

Since creating Torchwood and then creating a series about it is a writer's decision, you're not going to find an in-universe explanation for it.

Also, if they had used UNIT, then the choice would have been to either stop using UNIT in Doctor Who or to force the two to maintain a consistent continuity.

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    Also Torchwood was the code name for the the new Doctor Who, and is an anagram for Doctor Who.
    – geoffc
    Jul 21, 2011 at 2:41
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    "Since creating Torchwood and then creating a series about it is a writer's decision, you're not going to find an in-universe explanation for it." While this is correct, there should actually be an in-universe explanation about why did they in-universe create Torchwood since they already had UNIT, and how does it happen that some threats are detected by one and not by the other.
    – o0'.
    Mar 29, 2013 at 15:30
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    From an in-universe point of view, Torchwood has existed since 1879 whereas UNIT was founded in the 1970s. Also, Torchwood 3 is based in Cardiff to specifically deal with the Rift; UNIT is a more general organisation.
    – user14604
    May 15, 2013 at 22:45
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    Also UNIT being an United Nations organization would have to follow all rules and treaties that apply to the same, whereas Torchwood isn't beholden to anyone's rules or laws, and can exist to protect the United Kingdom's sole interests.
    – Monty129
    May 16, 2013 at 1:34
  • "Doctor Who, where you know the main characters won't be killed off" Yeah except the companions every two or so years. And, um, literally the main character every three or so years. WTG RTD Apr 10, 2016 at 18:09

Torchwood was controlled and operated by England for England to protect England from unknowns and exploit aliens. Peaceful aliens show up? Kill them take there stuff!

UNIT controlled by the United Nations. Peaceful aliens show up, keep guns on them make friends, protect the world but not steal there aliens' stuff. Stuff that is safe that they do get share with the world.

Warlike alien? Blow it up.

Basically UNIT tries to be good and Doctor works with them as a sort of adviser on all things alien and unofficial ambassador/mediator.

Torchwood are blackhats and are as likely to setup a alien alliance to sell Earth's children for technology (they did once) as they are to do anything good, Jack was trying to change them. But they're scum that will do anything to get the job done and know it and do not care who or what they hurt as long as it helps England remain a world power. The Doctor would like to see them stamped out of existence. As such there a darker show a different show, than Doctor Who. Where UNIT would be just anther Doctor Who.

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    Peaceful my bum. Unit does some dreadful things in torchwood, not least coordinating the mass kidnapping of children
    – Valorum
    Feb 2, 2014 at 10:06
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    What's the point with all these capital letters and missing spaces?
    – o0'.
    Feb 2, 2014 at 10:10
  • @Lohoris - Happy now?
    – Valorum
    Feb 2, 2014 at 10:21
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    Not "England"; the UK. The fact that the entire series was set in Wales and had a predominantly Welsh cast ought to be a clue, no? Apr 10, 2016 at 18:11

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