So after loving four seasons of the new Doctor Who, I went ahead and got the first season of Torchwood for Christmas. (Thank you, Santa.) We’ve watched the first three episodes. I’m not sure how best to say this, but … well, if the show doesn’t improve, I guess I can always use the DVDs as backup air hockey pucks.

I knew going in that Torchwood was darker than Doctor Who. And I know it often takes a while for a new series to figure itself out (see Star Trek: TNG). So I’m going to keep watching. But it’s like someone took Doctor Who and sucked out everything that makes me love it, and I’m watching what was left over.

The very first episode introduces Torchwood, the super-secret agency dedicated to protecting London from aliens and alien technology. The Torchwood team is frankly unlikeable and annoying. Our standout asshole would be Owen, happily swiping and using alien date rape drugs. (This is one of the “good guys.”) But everyone on the team is blissfully ignoring the rules and swiping alien tech for their own purposes, and none of them strike me as particularly pleasant.[1. Random character note: I did like the twist in ep. 3 where Owen, who’s been set up as the vengeful one, immediately begins performing CPR and trying to save the life of the bad guy.]

And then there’s Captain Jack. Oh, Jack … I like you so much more when you’re not the leader babysitter. When you can be fun and sexy and impulsive.

Gwen is the most likeable, as the cop who first investigates and then joins Torchwood. But she’s not working for me either. I think it’s partly because she keeps screwing up, whether it’s breaking the alien rock with a chisel (who throws rock-piercing tools around at an alien landing site?), pressing random buttons on alien technology, or just sneaking that tech home with her — despite having seen what happened in the very first episode.

I have no idea why Jack keeps them around. Are these people really the best he could do? The Doctor picks up better partners just running down a street.

All of this I could forgive as the stumbling of a new show, but this is supposed to be a spinoff of Doctor Who, and it has none of the wonder of that show. Doctor Who can get pretty dark too, but it never loses that sense of wonder. And Torchwood, at least in the first three episodes, doesn’t have it.

I’m hoping it gets better, and I’ll continue watching. But so far, I am less than impressed.