BBC’s ‘Torchwood’ returns with darker tone
Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on July 19, 2009
Aliens have possessed the Earth’s children and all of humanity is under threat. There’s a planet to save, a government conspiracy to defeat and some tangled relationship dilemmas to sort out.
Sounds like a job for Torchwood.
The BBC’s top-secret team of alien hunters is back for a third series, led by Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), an immortal, omnisexual adventurer with a cheeky grin and a World War II military overcoat. “Torchwood: Children of Earth” aims to provide an intense burst of adrenaline to viewers hooked on the show’s distinctive blend of action, humor, sci-fi and sex. The new series, which already has been shown in London, runs over five nights starting Monday on BBC America and Canada’s Space channel, and is coming out on DVD in Europe this week and in North America later in July.
This series takes on a darker tone than previous ones, with the team reeling from the deaths of two members, cynical medic Owen Harper and tech genius Toshiko Sato. That’s just the start of their problems: The world’s children are being used as conduits for messages from a sinister alien force, and civilization itself is under threat. On top of that, Barrowman said, “Someone is hunting Torchwood down to destroy us. And it turns out to be the government.”
“It’s a double-edged sword: We’re trying to save ourselves and the planet,” said the 42-year-old Barrowman, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and raised in Illinois. “Torchwood” began in 2006 as a spinoff from the long-running British sci-fi series “Doctor Who” – its name is an anagram of the parent show’s title – but aimed at a more adult audience.
When not guarding an alien-spewing rift in the Earth beneath the rain-slick streets of Cardiff, Wales, team members fight, flirt and form relationships of both the same- and opposite-sex variety. Over the first two series, viewers have seen Jack start an affair with quipping office administrator Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), while emotional anchor Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) struggles to balance battling aliens with marriage to Rhys (Kai Owen), a down-to-earth trucker now promoted to unofficial member of the team.
Owen is reveling in the bigger role for Rhys, an “average Welsh boy” who spent much of the first two series believing Gwen was a police officer until a truckload of alien manatee meat led him to discover the truth. “He didn’t quite believe Gwen when she blurted out, ‘I catch aliens,”‘ said Owen in an interview on the “Torchwood” set in Wales, 150 miles (240 kilometers) west of London. “By God, he’s seen some things now he has, the poor boy.
“Gwen’s lucky, really. She goes to work to see Capt. Jack Harkness, then she finishes a hard day of killing aliens, she comes home and there’s dinner on the table and a bottle of wine.” For “Torchwood” fans, those dollops of domestic drama and romance amid the action are part of the show’s appeal. “The characters are given just as much room to breathe as the science fiction,” said David-Lloyd.
“In a science-fiction show it’s weird to have so many characters with real human flaws, the sort of problems at home you’d find more in a soap or a drama.” The matter-of-fact depiction of a same-sex relationship also sets “Torchwood” apart from much mainstream science fiction. It’s an aspect of the show that the openly gay Barrowman is particularly proud of.
“I think it’s really great and important, because not many shows play that with two male or two female characters,” he said. “We always see the boy and the girl having the romance and the courting and the relationship dilemma. We never see it with the other side, which is a perfectly normal thing for us in the ‘Torchwood’ world – and in my world.” “Torchwood” is BBC America’s biggest-ever hit, and its stars are hot properties on the sci-fi convention circuit – something that continues to surprise and delight them, Myles said.
“If somebody had told me, ‘It’s going to be huge in the States, huge in Australia. … There’s going to be action figures, there’s going to be magazines, there’s going to be books, there’s going to be conventions where people dress up as you’ – I would have gone, ‘Yeah, sure. I think I’ve had too much caffeine,”‘ she said. Some fans have expressed disappointment that the new series has only five episodes compared with 13 for the first two seasons. Barrowman is sympathetic.
“I think it’s ridiculous they’ve cut it down,” he said. “It’s like we’re being punished, because they’re taking away episodes.” Producers bet that the intense, condensed format would help draw in new viewers in Britain, where “Torchwood” moved from the BBC2 channel to BBC1, home of the network’s biggest, highest-rated shows.
The gamble paid off – “Children of Earth” doubled the show’s previous ratings, although the plot’s twists dismayed as well as delighted longtime “Torchwood” fans. There’s no word yet on whether there will be a fourth series. Barrowman says he’d be happy to appear in “Torchwood” forever – as long as the immortal Capt. Jack is allowed to age. “There is,” he said, “only so much Botox in the world.”