channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 November, 2007, 12:00am

Apart from death and taxes, the only things you can rely on in this world are change and bizarre British television. Sometimes you will encounter them in the same show. Take the granddaddy of science-fiction programmes - Doctor Who. This perdurable series centres on the adventures of the Doctor, an eccentric alien traveller with the immortal ability of regeneration, who explores time and space in an unreliable time machine called the Tardis.

The show ran continuously from 1963 to 1989, thus earning itself a Guinness World Record as the longest-running science fiction TV show in the world. When, in 2005, the BBC successfully revived the good Doctor, the revamped show hit the galaxies running - with wins at various British TV award ceremonies and spin-off shows expanding the Who-niverse.

One such off-shoot is Torchwood (ATV World, Thursdays at 10pm). The show focuses on the goings-on at the eponymous covert agency (the name is an anagram of Doctor Who), which specialises in the safeguarding of alien technology found on Earth. At the head of the squad is Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), who previously caroused in space with the Doctor. Under his command are medical officer Dr Owen Harper (Burn Gorman, Layer Cake), computer specialist Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori, Spooks) and new recruit Gwen Cooper (Welsh actress Eve Myles, Doctor Who).

With jerry-built props and effects reminiscent of Doctor Who's first incarnation, it takes real gumption from the actors to convince us of anything - besides the need to switch channels. Luckily for Torchwood, Barrowman's smirking Captain America-esque Harkness is the perfect foil for Myles' grounded and thoughtful police constable Cooper.

Torchwood deviates from the Doctor-ship significantly in its raciness. Early in the season, we are treated to a girl-on-girl make-out session in the holding cells of Torchwood HQ.

The episode in question tracks an alien life form that takes over the body of a young woman in order to absorb the 'orgasmic energy' of male Earthlings, which - sorry guys - kills them. If that all sounds like a lot of fun, then you may also want to catch the real deal. Doctor Who is on BBC Entertainment (tomorrow at 9pm).

On your screens at the same time as Doctor Who is The Great Indian Wedding (above right; Discovery Travel & Living, tomorrow at 9pm), in which another venerable tradition gets the red-carpet overhaul. Actor-hotelier Vikram Chatwal and model Priya Sachdev tie the knot in a multi-venue, seven-day celebration, cheered on by guests such as Bill Clinton, Naomi Campbell and billionaire industrialist Lakshmi Mittal.

Expect a glittering mixture of old Indian rituals and new, international party glamour but no displays of wedding jitters or even genuine affection. One can only guess at the motives for such a high-profile marriage between a 'reformed' playboy and his young, media-hungry bride.

If nothing else, the opulent and manicured palaces, hotels and grounds of Mumbai and Udaipur will have you considering a change in your holiday plans and setting your Tardis for India.