The Torchwood 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, Queen Victoria and members of her party were attacked by a werewolf, which was in reality an alien being that planned to infect her with its consciousness by biting her. The werewolf was ultimately killed, thanks to the efforts of The Doctor and the sacrifice of Sir Robert.

Having discovered that Great Britain had enemies “beyond imagination”, Queen Victoria decided to establish the Torchwood Institute at Torchwood House in memory of Sir Robert. She also decided that The Doctor was dangerous, and declared that if he ever returned, Torchwood would be waiting (one has to wonder if, in the past before 1879, The Doctor’s negative encounter with Queen Elizabeth seen in the Doctor Who episode The Shakespeare Code, might have played into Queen Victoria’s decision about The Doctor). The Doctor’s name was written into the Torchwood Foundation’s charter as an enemy of the Crown.

In 1882, Queen Victoria expanded Torchwood’s role to include the acquisition of alien technology, creating the policy that “if it is alien, then it is ours”. Furthermore, in 1888, Victoria reiterated the secrecy policy of the Torchwood Institute, protecting her subjects from the “evils that Torchwood fights”.

Not long after the foundation of the Torchwood 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 (this event revolves around the Doctor Who episode The Unquiet Dead).

The activities of the Torchwood Institute during the 20th century have not yet been revealed. It is known that the organization “flourished down the decades, becoming stronger” and grew “more arrogant”, sometimes even shooting down alien spaceships so the technology aboard could be studied and reverse engineered. 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 Doctor was exiled to Earth during the 1970s have yet to be revealed (although, since at that time The Doctor was a “scientific advisor” to the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, also known as UNIT, it is possible that UNIT might have issued a hands off policy concerning The Doctor directed toward Torchwood).

In the early part of the 21st century, knowledge of Torchwood was supposedly kept even from Prime Minister Harriet Jones. However, Harriet Jones did know about its existence, and ordered Major Richard Blake of UNIT to prepare Torchwood for the impending arrival of the Sycorax on Christmas Day of 2006 (as seen in the Doctor Who 2006 Christmas special, The Christmas Invasion).

In 2007 (as seen in the Doctor Who two parter Army of Ghosts / Doomsday), the main headquarters of Torchwood (known as Torchwood One, located in the Canary Wharf Tower in London) came under attack by Cybermen from a parallel universe, as well as from an army of Daleks. In the attack, most of the Torchwood personnel in Torchwood One were killed as a result of the attack. Shortly afterward, the British government ordered the closing of Torchwood One, and as a result, Torchwood operations were halted, at least for the time being.

Former 51st century time agent Captain Jack Harkness was recruited into Torchwood in 1899. Captain Jack accepted the position as the best place to find news of and to wait for his opportunity to meet up with the Doctor once again. The Doctor and Captain Jack had first met during WW2 in London. Captain Jack later travelled with the Doctor and his then companion Rose Tyler. Captain Jack was left behind on Satelitte 5 (See episodes Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways) in the year 200,100. It is unclear how Captain Jack travelled back into Earth’s past after these events.  

Later in 2007, Captain Jack Harkness rebuilt what was left of Torchwood, and turned Torchwood into a smaller organization with a less aggressive stance than Torchwood had known in the past, while also making Torchwood far less arrogant than it had been in the past.

As of 2007, Torchwood is made up of the following operations: 

  • Torchwood One (London): now closed, only remaining in name only. 
  • Torchwood Two (Glasgow): all that is known about the Glasgow division of Torchwood is that somebody 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 Torchwood One in London staffed hundreds of individuals, Torchwood Three in Cardiff is considerably smaller and only staffs a small team of experts, hired by Captain Jack Harkness and described as a “renegade outpost”. It is located beneath Roald Dahl Plaza, and may be entered via an invisible lift in the Plaza, or through a run-down Tourist Information Center nearby. 
  • Torchwood Four (location unknown): Torchwood Four is described as “missing”. It is not specified how this happened or where it may previously have been located before its disappearance.

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