Monday, June 7, 2010

The Return of 'Torchwood': The Good, The Bad, and the Snuggly

Torchwood is returning. Captain Jack will be back. My TV-loving heart swells with happiness at the announcement, but I also have lots of questions now that I've read maybe 15 of the more than 100 articles crowding cyberspace with the news. In short, here's my "oh, joy!--hey, wait a minute" response to what's been reported thus far. [My responses to articles published later this evening are in brackets.]

The Good

Torchwood will be back with 10 new episodes to be broadcast in the U.S. and U.K. in summer 2011.

Jack and Gwen will be "appearing" in the new series. (Also see Q1 in The Bad.)

Starz set its most recent broadcast standards for nudity, sex, and violence with Spartacus. I take it that a little naked hide and seek won't be out of bounds, and Jack's lovely derriere won't need to be filmed in long shot or require anything to be pixilated.

A stable of writers with 10 episodes to develop suggests more stand-alone stories instead of one massive event, a la "Children of Earth."

[The Hollywood Reporter and Variety interviews/quotations indicate that one massive story will be the focus of the 10 episodes. Nevertheless, as Lost fans know, you can have an overarching story while still having individually themed episodes. Even with a singular main story, 10 hours provides ample time for character development and those little "quiet moments" that make Torchwood--or any good series--worth watching.]

BBC Wales is listed as one of the partners (BBC Worldwide and Starz being the other two). Even if the "global" stories and reported "filming in the U.S. and around the world" (according to The Guardian) indicate that Torchwood won't be exclusively a Welsh series, the continuing presence of Eve Myles and BBC Wales indicates that Cardiff may be at least a potential filming location.

[The latest U.S. reports, again from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, clearly state that the story will mostly take place in the U.S. Here's the part I'd love to have explained ad nauseum--let's just call me a stickler for detail--"A lot of this story takes place in the U.S. as well with several characters that are in the U.S. intelligence forces and end up teaming up with Gwen and Captain Jack to deal with the situation at hand." (Starz chief, Chris Albrecht, in The Hollywood Reporter). Will the story mostly revolve around those U.S. intelligence forces--presumably the new roles to be cast--with sporadic appearances by Jack and Gwen from Cardiff? Will Jack be a liaison with those special forces--presumably to have a bigger role in the U.S.-based series--while Gwen stays at home with Torchwood and the baby? In a post-CoE world, having Jack be absent from Cardiff most of the time would make sense, or at least as much sense as his feeling comfortable returning to Earth after that moving farewell speech.]

A U.S.-U.K. partnership can be an innovative collaboration that keeps our favorite SF series on the air without the creation of separate (but unlikely to be equal) series. (Have I mentioned that I'm nervous about a U.S. Being Human?)

[Still thinking that Torchwood back on BBC One (not Two or Three) is a good thing.]

Dark drama that surpasses Cardiff's Rift as the major source of conflict or action opens Torchwood to a multitude of adult stories that can allow characters to grow. Captain Jack traveled millenia of years and miles to get to Cardiff. I won't be upset if his road trips are expanded beyond London.

[Whatever you think of CoE, Torchwood really did need to be expanded beyond "alien/monster of the week" or "aliens come to Earth for sex" stories. I agree with RTD on that. Presumably writers can create compelling new stories that expand or create depth to lead characters' roles without killing off 60% of the regular cast.]

A few days ago Amazon listed two new Torchwood audio stories (new radio dramas?) with a 2011 release date, backed up almost a year from the original date. Possibly these stories will provide "filler" before the new TV episodes begin, much as the radio dramas leading up to CoE did in 2009. (Also see Q8 in The Bad.)

Did I mention that Torchwood is returning in a year?

The Bad

Let my fan paranoia come out to play for a few minutes. I withhold judgment until after the first episode is broadcast next summer, but I have a few questions which might not yet be able to be answered (pending casting and script development). I don't know that anything will be "Bad," but these are my concerns.

1. I worry about the word "appearing" that so far has been listed in lots of articles. Does that mean "starring"--or is it more along the lines of "getting the new series started and then disappearing for several episodes"?

[In light of more recent articles this evening, I'm not too sure how much we'll be seeing of Eve Myles. At least it seems like John Barrowman will have a potentially larger role in the new episodes--which, RTD insisted in The Hollywood Reporter--is not a reboot or a new version.'s not a Battlestar Galactica (or, shudder, a Bionic Woman) or a Caprica, but is it more of a CSI: Miami? After all, RTD's also quoted as saying "We're just moving countries." Still confused. Sorry.]

2. Where will Torchwood be based--in the U.S. or U.K.?


Is Torchwood still a Welsh series with a broader story base (and more money) to allow those international destinations?

[Maybe Cardiff can be one of the many international locations? Still holding on to that BBC Wales-as-partner concept.]

3. Just how many new cast members are we talking?

[Two regulars and some recurring supporting roles.]

Granted, after the last team's slaughter, Torchwood needs to do some serious recruitment, but I still hope that Captain Jack gets lots of air time. Convince me that I can get my Barrowman fix, Starz.

[Still waiting to be convinced.]

4. How much Earth time has elapsed since "Children of Earth"? A returning Torchwood might need to be set in a different time frame. (After all, filming of the latest season ended in late 2008, and it would seem that a summer 2011 target date indicates an early 2011 start date. I'm not suggesting that anyone is looking any older, but none of us is any younger, either.)

5. Starz brings more cash to the BBC table, but will it Americanize a British TV series or allow the returning creators to carry on as before?

[Perhaps the answer is "both."]

6. Are we saying goodbye to Torchwood's link, however peripheral in the Age of Moffat, to Doctor Who?

7. Do international filming locales indicate more than one new Hub, or in a post-CoE world, will Torchwood's higher profile simply allow its team to get involved in global events?

[Again, possibly both--or at least one major new "hub" of operations with all those American intelligence agents.]

8. Will the new audio stories involve only those actors who survived CoE? I'm selfish. I want more Ianto, and Gareth David-Lloyd has a fantastic radio/audio book voice.

The Snuggly

Sex doesn't seem to be a problem for Starz. Let's see how omnisexual Jack can really be.

[Still seems to be an emphasis in all the newer articles. "Adult" and "omnisexual" come up a lot. Unless other new characters are also omnisexual--always a possibility--it sounds like the good Captain won't have to say bi bye.]

I loved the relationships among Torchwood's original team. Here's hoping that a core group of characters we can care about are given the chance to develop friendships and romances. I vote for character development in addition to (not in lieu of) global plots with higher stakes. The people who createth and initially giveth also proved they can quite happily taketh away. I'm still hoping for snuggly and characters I'd like to snuggle with.

All in all, I'll have to say Good is winning

[but I'm still curious how much we'll see of Jack and Gwen, in or out of Cardiff].

I'm still a Torchwood fan,* and once I expand my cable to include Starz, I'll be watching in summer 2011. I just hope someone spoils us a little more about the direction the series will take. [Silly me. That didn't take long. But I still want more.] Like the Hub, I was gutted by CoE, but I'm glad Captain Jack's and Torchwood's story doesn't end there.

(*I was and always will be a Janto lover, too. I don't think those categories have to be mutually exclusive. I'm all for bringing the dead back to life, and SF can be a wonderfully mysterious place full of possibilities. After all, until an hour ago, I thought Torchwood was all but buried. My fondness for Jack doesn't exclude that for Janto or Ianto. I'm going to tune in for that first episode and go from there.)