As a fan of both procedural dramas and a sci-fi geek, Torchwood is practically the perfect show for me. And it comes with the super duper bonus of a lead character who is female and manages to be both strong and feminine without falling into any stereotype that I recognize. Yay!
In the beginning, Gwen Cooper is police officer who stumbles onto the secret of Torchwood (a secret organization that investigates alien technology and contact with Earth) by accident. Except it wasn’t really an accident- she saw the team showing up and after being told to leave the crime scene for no good reason and seeing they were up to something odd, she managed to see what was happening. Armed with only the names of Torchwood (which no one knows anything about) and Captain Jack Harkness (the only one on record died in 1941) she manages to track down their hidden offices and finds out what they were really doing. After having her memory wiped, she finds them again. They’re currently investigating a glove that has the ability to resurrect the dead for a minute or two, but the team was focused on figuring out how the glove worked and none of them seemed particularly interested in using it to track down the serial killer that was terrorizing Cardiff. These two things show the reasons that she will turn out to be so valuable- clearly she has the training of a police officer, the ability to work evidence that seems incidental into a coherent whole; but she also has the empathy to see the people involved and their importance as individuals without being blinded by the fantastic things they see every day.
The first quality isn’t one that’s usually given to women in procedurals but it’s not impressive that she can do these things because she’s a woman, but because she is unique to this setting. The rest of the team includes a time-traveller, a computer genius, doctors, and support guru- the ability to see the randomness of humanity and make it clear isn’t easy, and being trained to deal with people the way she has been is invaluable. The empathetic role does fall under the purview of the typical female character but Gwen is not trapped in that role by a soft heart, although she has one, it’s a general interest in humanity. When the team investigates something that turns out to have been caused by humans, not aliens, it’s not sympathy that makes her stop Jack from killing the leader but a desire to know why and how they could have done such things. That curiosity is definitely a trait I can get behind.
Despite being the conscience of the team, Gwen’s not a pushover. She can chase down a suspect with the best of them, is willing to use force, sticks to her convictions even when everybody with far more experience thinks she’s bonkers. Kindness and strength in one person. Kindness as strength. Gwen’s not a perfect person, but she’s a darn near perfect character.