Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Torching Torchwood?

Yesterday's news that Torchwood may be picked up by Fox, may go to pilot, and even may include John Barrowman in the cast quite naturally caused an uproar in Torchwood fandom. One LJer even included a countdown to fandom meltdown (which made me laugh, even as I knew it to be true--I remember those early post-"Children of Earth" days well). For the past 24 hours I've thought about this really quite unsurprising announcement and pondered directions where, were I given some power over programming, I would take the series.

Like many of you, at first I was simply horrified that the series would go to Fox, which hasn't the best track record with science fiction. Maybe I'm still crying over spilt Firefly, but I hold a viewership grudge.

After the horror came morbid fascination, perhaps the second stage in the grieving process when a series switches networks. If Torchwood ends up on Fox (and that announcement sounded like a carefully hedged if, given that the series hasn't even gone to pilot stage yet), I would expect an American Torchwood with a new cast as well as new location. I'm not even getting into speculation how Queen Victoria would fit into all this. I wouldn't be surprised if Captain Jack made a guest appearance at the beginning, or even periodically, but I'm not holding out any hope that Fox will endorse The John Barrowman Show. (I would, however, tune in if they did.)

Now that I'm over the shock of Fox--but not that Russell T. Davies opted to bring Torchwood to the U.S.--I'm already moving on to my major questions concerning this potential move:

What happens to Captain Jack?

How malleable can Torchwood be without becoming an entirely new series?

What happens to Captain Jack?

If Jack returned to Cardiff during Gwen's lifetime, I would be disappointed. After the events of "Children of Earth" and even "The End of Time, Part 2," Jack doesn't seem likely to head back to Wales, out of all the potential places in the universe he can travel. I respect that, and as a Ianto, Jack, and Janto fan, I don't want Jack to mourn or suffer forever, but I don't want to see him re-creating Torchwood 3 just as it was. Let sleeping (or smoldering) craters lie.

One reason I enjoyed Torchwood, even during Seasons 1 and 2, was the character of Jack Harkness, but let's face it, Jack is a much more interesting character when he doesn't have to be anybody's boss. Let's free him of that burden and send him traveling again--but without the Doctor. Surely the universe, if not the Whoniverse, is big enough for both of them.

Jack should be a hero at times, perhaps a mercenary at others, and maybe an increasingly sage wanderer most of all. Let's see how he reacts in a totally new environment, and keep him moving instead of stuck on some backwater planet for 13 episodes.

Now, granted, the BBC doesn't seem like it has a lot of money for travel expenses these days, but surely those about-to-be-constructed studios in Cardiff will have room for one more time traveler.

If Jack pops into 21st century Fox sometime, that's fine, but I hope his vortex manipulator stays fixed and he can leave when his hour is up.

I'd also like to see Jack at different ages--older, humbled Jack is a sexy guy, in or out of Mos Eisley.

And while I'm wishing, I'd like for anyone claiming copyright or intellectual property ownership over the character to allow the Barrowman siblings plenty of leeway to write novels. Hey, if the Beeb or Fox doesn't want Captain Jack, there are plenty of us who do. Let me read new adventures. I can visualize without a TV.

How malleable can Torchwood be without becoming an entirely new series?

I address this issue in much more detail in a chapter I've drafted about the possible future(s) of Torchwood after "Children of Earth," so I won't write another 36 pages about it here. However, the more important "TV issue" question revolves around the nature of a "series" and how flexible a creator can be, within or across networks.

A series like Battlestar Galactica can be re-imagined (30 years after the original) without the majority of viewers getting upset. Sure, there was the Starbuck-is-a-woman issue at first, but Moore and Eick had a lot of room to re-imagine. Even prequel Caprica has a lot of leeway to present information about Cylons and colonists; it's a new series, a spinoff--no one is expecting to see BSG as it was.

Even Lost re-invents itself each season--and the upcoming Season 6 might be the biggest re-invention of all. Yet fans keep watching because they know that at least some of the characters/themes/plot points they love remain in the series.

Torchwood 3: Cardiff died somewhen during "Children of Earth." The elements we knew and loved about that series are gone--at least in that location or format (or body).

So the question becomes Is Torchwood U.S.A. a completely new series? a spinoff of a spinoff? a re-imagining of the British Torchwood? a part of a franchise? If Torchwood 3 fans are going to embrace Torchwood 4, someone needs to establish some definitions.

The CSI franchise doesn't face much CSI fan backlash when a new city is added to the roster. CSI: Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Poughkeepsie--new cast (with opportunity for cross-overs), new location, no problem.

I see Torchwood U.S.A. as being that type of franchise. Just like a new CSI must establish its difference from its predecessors in order to be successful, a Fox version of Torchwood must look different--not necessarily better because or in spite of being Americanized--but it must offer something new. If Torchwood U.S.A. is a part of the Torchwood franchise, then the BBC could, theoretically, have its own Torchwood simultaneously (or that Captain Jack series I'd like to see).

If Torchwood U.S.A. is simply a remake of Torchwood Wales, then I can't see that it will succeed. If it's merely a continuation of Torchwood 3 in a new location, ditto. Torchwood 4 should stand for a brand new (or newly discovered) Torchwood, not the next season of the old series.

Now, just don't get me started on the little-mentioned note in The Hollywood Reporter about Doctor Who gaining U.S. citizenship.


  1. Even the CSI franchise doesn't face much CSI fan backlash when a new city is added to the roster. CSI: Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Poughkeepsie--new cast (with opportunity for cross-overs), new location, no problem.

    That's probably because CSI Las Vegas wasn't burned to the ground (figuratively speaking) in order to set up CSI Miami.

    Unlike you though, I enjoyed Torchwood seasons 1 & 2 because of Ianto Jones and Gareth David-Lloyd's portrayal of him. Without either of those two, Torchwood just isn't Torchwood and I have no desire to watch any 'remake'. Least of all if the same people behind Children of Earth are doing it.

  2. Good point about torching Vegas--I'd much rather that Torchwood 3 hadn't been destroyed in CoE, but I wonder if the networks or creators see Torchwood as a type of franchise.

    I mentioned Jack as a wonderful character from S1 & 2 in part because he's a continuing character and has been one of my main pleasures in watching the series. That also goes for Ianto and Gareth David-Lloyd's portrayal of him. As much as I enjoyed Ianto and mourned his loss in the series, I don't think he's coming back, which is the reason I left him out of my comments about the future. If Ianto turns up in Torchwood anywhere, I'll tune in, but I think that's another burned bridge.

  3. interesting! I'd not heard about this possible Torchwood adoption on Fox, and you have some lovely thoughts in your blog above. I, for one, think Torchwood may need to be totally reinvented for a US audience, perhaps taking an angle of one of the founding fathers as a catalyst (hey, maybe Lincoln was afraid of Aliens) and I'd be interested to see if they can integrate any of the Dr.Who universe without it being too much of a WTF kind of moment for non-indoctrinated (haha, got a kick out of my own pun there) audiences. Either way, it's intriguing and I'll watch after this story closely. I've been missing Torchwood lately, especially since I've just finished series 2 of Dr. Who and Torchwood was everywhere.