Friday, August 6, 2010

Torchwood's New Writers' Room

Interesting Torchwood news to break up a lazy Friday afternoon. Among the list of writers developing at least one script for the 10-episode Season Four is one of my favorite scriptwriters--Jane Espenson.

Whether you're a Torchwood fan who loves or loathes Russell T. Davies, you might be impressed with the other inhabitants of this year's writers' room. Among them are John Shiban, Doris Egan, and John Fay. If you're not familiar with these names, think of a few of the many series for which they've written at least one episode: Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, House, Supernatural, Buffy, and Torchwood.

I'll get back to Torchwood writer John Fay in just a moment.

One of the reasons I'm so impressed with Jane Espenson (beyond the fact that she was a great interview for the BSG book David Lavery, Hilary Robson, and I wrote a few years back, and I was so pleased she agreed to our request) is that she writes fantastic character-driven episodes. She also pays attention to detail. Although she still may be best known for her Buffy episodes, she wrote some of my favorite BSG episodes before moving on to Caprica (which is another reason why I wanted to include that series in my most recent book about SF TV heroes and villains).

In my research for the latter book, I came across an interesting quote from Espenson, who was discussing her love of Torchwood and the way that it compared with Caprica: "The way they own Jack's sexuality is very admirable and very much like what we're trying to do. The people around him have to be comfortable with it because he's comfortable with it. It's fantastic. Love Torchwood. Love it, love it, love it." That Espenson is part of Caprica, with its open and accepting take on same-sex marriage, bodes well for Captain Jack. It's a much more positive indicator than the "Starz' Spartacus" connection that his character may not fundamentally change.

It's also an indication that the dark nature of Torchwood will continue, as supported by Davies' recent comments about the story arc of Season Four being as dark as Children of Earth's. Espenson is a fan of darkness, as shown in Buffy and BSG, among others. However, her definition of drama is closer to mine. Bodies may indeed fall, but there's a good story reason for death and destruction.

Which brings me back to John Fay. When Torchwood Series One and Two or Janto fans realize he was a writer of Day Four, they may not be so happy with today's news. Fay's only Torchwood episodes are, indeed, two of CoE's five days. However, he also is the only current U.K. resident listed on the writers' room roster. With fan concerns that Season Four will be too Americanized, Fay's inclusion is especially important because he adds another British presence to the writers' room.

What struck me most from the list made public today is the combined strength of the writers' credits. I've liked much of these writers' previous work, and they create a highly experienced team. They seem to know their way around SF, especially dramatic, controversial plots and have helped flesh out some of the best SF characters on recent TV. I'm hopeful that they'll make the return of Captain Jack plausible, and while he may remain a very dark character, also might become even more layered and memorable, not merely more angst-ridden.

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