Friday, April 23, 2010

Finding a New Home for Torchwood's Captain Jack

Is Fox’s loss ultimately viewers’ gain? Within the past 24 hours, BBC Worldwide announced that plans for 13 episodes of Torchwood on Fox have been scrapped. According to the press release, other networks may still pick up the series for production in the U.S.

So, Torchwood fans, should we rejoice that the Big Bad Americanized TW may be dead? Fans feared that the Fox version would strip Captain Jack of, well, stripping, or having sex, or making sexual innuendo inappropriate for conservative audiences. Is it good news that this network now won’t get their claws into our beloved Captain Jack? Or should we mourn the loss of a series that’s made the news as much for its controversy as its intriguing characters?

As a cynic reading the news this morning, I believe the U.S. version is deader than Ianto. Although a new (or re-imagined) series technically can be pitched, piloted, and produced at any time of the year, the reality is that U.S. mainstream networks still tend to follow the old mindset of a spring pilot season leading to autumn premieres, with January as a backup plan against fall misfires. That’s not a good mindset for a U.S. Torchwood series looking for a new home in 2010. By the time another network can pick up the series, the momentum created by “Children of Earth” will be even longer gone.

Of course, maybe this latest announcement will quickly lead to a follow-up by another network that has already agreed to produce the series—or would be willing to do so. Perhaps. But was Fox really BBC Worldwide’s first choice if there was a queue?

Fans who still want the series to go on, even with a new cast, worry that BBC Wales has teased forthcoming plans for Torchwood but then left the series off its roster of big-name programming planned for continuing production in Cardiff. Let’s face it—if BBC really loved Torchwood as much as we do, they likely would have commissioned more episodes sooner after last summer’s miniseries. Budget issues, Russell T Davies’ cross-planet move, and probably many other factors we’ll never know compound the conundrum about when or if Torchwood should return.

As a long-time Torchwood fan, yes, I would love to see the series return, but I want at least 50 percent of the original cast. (Considering that only two original characters survive, that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.) I want to see Cardiff, even if it masquerades as London sometimes. I want to see Captain Jack in action, every way imaginable, and if writers want to broaden my imagination, that’s OK with me.

Sadly, I doubt if a new Torchwood will provide all that on screen in the next year. I haven’t given up hope yet for a series, but I’m becoming more cynical (realistic?) that it may not happen.

Torchwood is still an interesting premise for a series, but I hope it doesn’t take nearly 30 years to re-imagine it in a viable on-screen format (think BSG). If it doesn’t go to series, here’s hoping that others will rescue Captain Jack and convince him to revisit Earth by 2011. As fanfiction and conventions have shown, there’s an international Torchwood fandom waiting for new stories—in print or on screen. Perhaps someone will realize that and creatively find an answer to the question of what to do with Torchwood.


  1. Torchwood belongs in Cardiff with Captain Jack. And of course with the Hub, the tacky SUV and all the rest of the cast. I think they overreached hoping for that big slice of American money pie.

    Now they're left with nothing. Good going BBC & RTD. I agree for now TW is dead. RIP

  2. I think it felt clear that it was being destroyed in the mini series. I think there is a lot to come back from. Although it could work to do some more previous adventures, maybe even more of the radio plays. I still want to see the things that made it fun, including the cast, and the set, and the creatures, all whom are basically gone. The Beeb has no money, Dr Who now looks much cheaper, so I agree, I suspect dead is an accurate diagnosis.

  3. The Beeb has always suffered alongside the kind of money even average producers in the US can bring to bear. As a consequence the 'cheap' criticism is all too easy to fling. However my experience would suggest the budget limitations forces the writing to be tighter, the significance of the series to be valued -rather than just eternally trotted out- here I am thinking that the US was raping Logan's Run about the same time as the BBC was putting out Survivors and while my memory may be faulty the relative values of the texts speaks for itself. The constant cultural imperialism of producers in the US taking over English speaking TV and changing them makes me cringe, there's no need for it- better to try for the co-prod and allow the show to retain its place in the world while opening up the world to American audiences. I speak as one who has grown up with a TV filled with British and American shows, sprinkled with our own shows (budget again) and an awareness of the wonderful product of the non-English speaking world of the cinema.
    Torchwood may have played its end out- it will live on in DVD and we can move on, happy in the knowledge that great show-runners will continue to stimulate us with new material. Most BBC material has been great because it leaves us wanting more. I look forward to what is to come next rather than wishing for my favourite programmes to be thrashed into inconsequence.