Wednesday, July 6, 2011

{alltv} 'Torchwood' is back, and it's going global USA, LLC
The fact that the BBC series Torchwood and its dashing sci-fi hero were successful in Great Britain seems a minor miracle — even to their biggest fan, series creator Russell T Davies.

When the Doctor Who spinoff premiered five years ago, it featured John Barrowman's Capt. Jack Harkness, an immortal, time-traveling former con artist who was also American, something alien to prime-time British television, Davies says.

And Harkness is bisexual, in a genre where handsome leading men are usually straight. Plus, Davies says, "he's cheeky and fun. An awful lot of heroes are very sober and strait-laced."

Torchwood not only survived but thrived for three seasons. Now it's gone global — the 10-episode fourth season, Torchwood: Miracle Day, kicks off Friday on Starz (10 ET/PT) as a co-production of the U.S. pay cable channel and BBC. For new fans, BBC is releasing the first three seasons on DVD and Blu-ray July 19.

In Miracle Day, the Welsh environment from past seasons shifts to Los Angeles. One day, the world's population stops dying, forcing the two surviving Torchwood team members — charismatic Captain Jack and cynical Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) — to team with two CIA agents and deal with the ramifications as well as a mysterious enemy.

"You see each person's reaction to it on a very simple scale. It's not big and flashy. It's based in the characters living in this moment and setting up a great story," says Alexa Havins, who plays innocent agent Esther Drummond.

Davies knows many viewers will have no idea what Torchwood is. (It's a secret British organization that defends the planet from alien and human threats.) That's why he has Esther act as the "American guide to Torchwood," Havins says, much like Myles' character was indoctrinated into the group in the first season in 2006.

"I will always bring those characters in because you share their point of view," Davies says. "You're wide-eyed, you're wondering what's going on, you're hoping it'll work out for the best. It's like going on a date."

Havins is joined by American actors Mekhi Phifer, as CIA agent Rex Matheson, and Bill Pullman, playing against type as a child rapist and murderer who lives through his execution.

Davies hopes the show's freewheeling sexuality and dark humor prove to be a draw for newer U.S. audiences, along with the fact that it makes serious statements about society instead of just focusing on starships and laser beams. "It's got very tough things to say about human nature and the human race," he says. "On top of that, it's got Wales. Nothing else has Wales in it."

Barrowman says that up to now, his character has been "omnisexual," having relationships with men, women and aliens, though he allows that viewers might think he's simply gay with the trysts he has in Miracle Day. But Davies says those love scenes are important to the character and, later in the season, will begin unraveling his back story.

Captain Jack has been lauded by the gay and lesbian community, and Barrowman — who, like Davies, is gay — wishes there were more characters like him when he was growing up than, say, Billy Crystal's on Soap. "I never saw a character on TV whom I could relate to, who was a guy who liked technology 'guy' things, cars and all that stuff," Barrowman says. "When Russell created Jack, it was like a breath of fresh air."

Seeing a sci-fi hero in intimate situations remains a pop-culture anomaly. Horror is "where all the sex is coming from. It's where True Blood (and) Twilight are," Davies says. "To get the full range of human experience into these shows — drama and life and death — it should involve sex and love and lust and passion. They're what you're fighting for, really, when you're fighting to save the world and the human race." USA, LLC

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