The final episode of Doctor Who until fall, A Good Man Goes To War, aired this weekend on BBC America. My review of the episode, after it aired on the BBC, previously appeared here. We now know who River Song is, but don’t really all that much more about how she fits into the Doctor’s life. Mysteries from the opening episodes of the season also remain to be answered.
Wired has video answers to some questions from fans answered by Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and producer Beth Willis.
The Guardian reports that Doctor Who has been renewed for fourteen episodes (following the six episodes still to air this season). There is no official word, but it is assumed that this will mean a Christmas episode and a thirteen episode season (possibly in two parts again). Matt Smith will be returning. There is no official word regarding Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, but between the history of limited stays for companions and their commitments with other projects, it is assumed this is their final season
Companions sometimes do come back. John Borrowman, currently staring in Torchwood, has said he would be willing to return to Doctor Who as Captain Jack Harkness.
Torchwood begins a ten episode series on July 8. (Comments here include some spoilers which have been included in interviews with cast and crew.) This season, Torchwood will also be shown in the United States on Starz. The series has been set up to make it easy for American viewers who have not watched Torchwood in the past to start here. The series started as a spin off of Doctor Who.
The premise is pretty simple with Torchwood having been an agency to fight threats from aliens and other unknown entities. It was initially formed by Queen Victoria in 1879 to protect us against the Doctor. In recent years, Captain Jack Harkness, a former companion of the Doctor who is immortal, has run a newer version of the organization. The first season started with the recruitment of policewoman Gwen Cooper (played by Eve Myles).
The first two seasons of Torchwood were comparable to stand-alone episodes of shows such as The X Files and Fringe while the third season contained a single story, Children of Earth. By the end of Children of Earth, Torchwood’s facilities were destroyed and only Jack and Gwen remained alive, leaving them open to reinvent the show for American audiences.
Changing the format to season long stories helps solve one of the problems of shows such as X-Files. A continuing mythology is more interesting, but if drawn out too long, as on X-Files, can get to the point where it no longer makes sense. Changing to stories with five to ten episodes provides the benefits of a continuing story line, but allows for resolution before it goes on too long.
Torchwood: Miracle Day is about a miracle happening on earth–nobody dies. There is also one twist. Captain Jack, who is normally immortal, can die. SFX interviewed show runner Russel T. Davies. Here is a portion:
SFX: The basic concept of Miracle Day – the end of death – is massive. It changes religion, economics… You could run with that in a hundred different directions!
“You’re right, and we sat in a room for a long time all talking about those consequences.”
SFX: No death means no consequences, so I could imagine a three-minute-warning scenario where everyone’s looting and having sex in the streets!
“Well, in episode three there’s a great scene where Gwen and [CIA analyst] Esther walk through Washington at night, and it’s kind of a wild atmosphere, because half of the world is out drinking and the other half are at home praying, so we are acknowledging that sort of stuff. But at the same time, I think you should never forget that during the greatest national crises people just go to work, and go home, and get on with it. If this really happened, you and I would just carry on as normal. If something conceptual and huge has happened, nonetheless, you’ve got a deadline tomorrow, and I need to go to work and write a script tomorrow, and if our granddad is ill in bed, he’s still ill. So it’s a very unusual concept, in that it’s hard to dramatise in many ways. That’s why I like it. It’s a very powerful concept, because it takes hold subtly, and you have to find ways to dramatise it, because it’s not immediately obvious. The overpopulation isn’t obvious – it’s not like an extra 200 million people land on Earth today. So it’s unusual in that sense, and it’s been fun to dramatise and really challenging. And we’re still telling a great big rattling thriller, so you find ways to dramatise that.”
SFX: How long is the mystery about what’s caused it all sustained?
“It’s not one of those things that’ll annoy you! Round about episode six you start to get concrete answers, and episodes nine and ten finally explain it all properly. But all the way through Jack’s kinda ahead of the game in working out what’s going on. It’s a mystery, but in a way it’s not that mysterious. Obviously something’s happened to the world, but the most fascinating thing about what happens in terms of science fiction plotting is that it happens instantaneously. It’s not a virus, it hasn’t spread, it didn’t take a day for it to travel from the North pole to the South pole; it’s literally a flick of the switch and it’s happened. To Jack, that instantly suggests what has happened, and that takes a few episodes to evolve. It’s more about explaining what has happened to society while this has happened, that’s the real meat of the story. But it is explained in the end, and finding it out… this story goes back in history as well. We’ve got episodes that go back to 1927, so it’s a broad story covering continents and covering time as well; it’s one of those stories with a plot that’s been planned for decades, so there’s a lot of expanse and muscle in the story. The 1927 stuff is beautiful. I’m giving away too much!”
There are a few other things which newcomers to the show should be aware of. Gwen recently had a baby. She married the father of the baby, Rhys Williams, during the second season. Jack Harkness wound up sacrificing his grandson last season on Torchwood: Children of Earth, which affects his relationship with one of the characters this season.
Jack Harkness, played by gay actor John Borrowman, will sleep with pretty much anyone of any species or sex. Fortunately, to make it easy to remain true to the show’s history, the series will appear in the United States on pay cable, where pretty much anything goes. Entertainment Weekly reports that they will not shy away from the sexual aspect of the show:
According to the show’s cast and showrunner, the new series doesn’t hold back. “I knew they would be true to the show and not change drastically,” says star John Barrowman. “If it was watered down, I wouldn’t have done it. For those people who are our stanch fans, it’s going to have the heart and soul of Torchwood which we’ve always had, plus the energy and excitement of a show that’s bigger and better.”
As for his character’s love life, Barrowman says Capt. Jack “gets to have full-on boy-sex a couple of times. On those days going to work I’d wake up and Scott my partner would say, ‘What are you filming today?’ And I’d say, ‘Oh it’s going to be a tough day, I get to have sex with a 24 year old.’”
For Americans checking out Torchwood for the first time, a TV action hero who beats up bad guys, saves the world, and wins the boy is likely a new experience. But showrunner Russell T Davies says that, contrary to what Americans might assume about all European countries, our primetime lineup is more progressive about showing gay characters. “The portrayal of gay, bisexual, and lesbian characters [in America] is currently way ahead of Britain,” Davies says. “The kids on Glee, the beauty and detail of that couple on Modern Family. We’ve got nothing like that. Even a nice Republican sitcom like $#*! My Dad Says, a show I quite liked, was stacked with intelligent gay-friendly stories, and that’s in a corner you’d never expect to find them. If course, it’s all the gay men and women sitting on writing teams pushing their stories forward, which I think is wonderful.”
The real difference between British shows and American network television is what can be shown. American shows, even network shows, have no problem with gay characters. Shows from the U.K. have had openly gay characters, but can be less open about their homosexuality. They have had a gay hero on Torchwood. On the other hand, Stacey (Joanna Page) on Gavin and Stacey had an openly gay brother but her Uncle Bryn’s (Rob Brydon) implied homosexuality is never openly mentioned.
The BBC is not going to be as upset with a minor “wardrobe malfunction” or brief nudity which could never be shown on American network television. In contrast, pay cable frequently has nudity. For example, Starz has had nudity on shows such as Camelot. While I don’t expect them to go as far on Torchwood, Starz should not have any problems with scenes which could appear on the BBC but not American broadcast networks.