January 19th, 2010

Doctor Who

Fox Develops U.S. "Torchwood": John Barrowman Could Star

Sci-Fi Wire — Bad news with some good news: Fox – the TV network that killed Firefly and Dollhouse and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – is developing a U.S. version of the hit Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood. The good news is: Doctor Who revitalizer and Torchwood creator Russell T Davies is writing the script for the pilot. And Capt. Jack Harkness himself – John Barrowman  – might star! How bad can it be?

Where to even begin?

Russell T. Davies did a pretty good job of screwing up the original series, especially with the death of half the cast at the end of the second season, and Ianto Jones and the hub in the third… So the participation of RTD is not necessarily a good thing, although it beats turning the whole thing over to some American hacks. Remember the American pilots for Red Dwarf?
The presence of John Barrowman is a plus in any event. Hard to imagine any version of Torchwood without Captain Jack. Well, that's not true, there was Torchwood London with the ghost shift, void ship, and Cyberman invasion… and, yeah, that went well.
FOX?! Really?! Not only are they the kiss of death to sci-fi series – or, indeed, any series which doesn't grab an immediate audience share (although Torchwood USA might come with a built in fanbase from the original series) – doesn't anybody remember what they did to Doctor Who in the 90s? In partnership with the BBC, in one of the many attempts to revive the Doctor Who franchise, FOX made a Doctor Who movie featuring the eighth Doctor, Paul McGann. This is the only canon on-screen appearance ever made by the eighth Doctor (apart from a his sketch in John Smith's journal and his face in the montage of Doctors in "The Next Doctor"). The movie stunk on ice. Part of that is due to it being a regeneration story with a new Doctor (those are often weak), and the rest was due to it simply stinking on ice. I saw it again recently. It was as bad as I remembered.
If Torchwood moves to the USA, and is made by a completely different production team, that makes it harder to maintain continuity with the BBC productions of Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Adventures. But why America? Torchwood One in London was destroyed at the end of Tennant's first series of Doctor Who, and Torchwood Three in Cardiff was destroyed last year. Supposedly, Torchwood had other facilities in the UK such as Scotland – and according to at least one novel, there was a Torchwood India founded back when India was part of the Empire. However, the USA had been independent for quite some time before Victoria was born, much less before she founded Torchwood. So, logically, there could be Torchwood facilities in Canada, but why the USA? (Ironically, even if it is a US series, it'll probably be filmed in Canada anyway.)

Here's how The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed blog reported it: Unlike U.S. adaptations that have gone awry, Torchwood fans can take comfort that the original producing team is on board. In addition to Davies, exec producers include Davies' producing partner Julie Gardner (former head of drama at BBC Wales for the show's first season) and Jane Tranter (another BBC vet, now exec VP programming and production at BBC Worldwide Prods. in the U.S.). Also, some of the current cast – most likely John Barrowman, who plays the immortal Capt. Jack Harkness – might star if Fox orders Torchwood to pilot.

The story goes on to say that the U.S. version would be more globally focused, with stories that go beyond the more localized stories of the original, which centered on Cardiff, Wales, and the United Kingdom. Who's betting Fox soft-pedals Captain Jack's omnisexuality? Or his relationship with Ianto? Or any sex at all? And this raises the tantalizing question: Since Torchwood exists in Doctor Who's universe, would we eventually see an Americanized Doctor? Traveling in what, a Bell-Telephone-booth-shaped TARDIS?

Who wants to bet that Barrowman just appears in the pilot, for continuity, and then just as a recurring character if he appears at all? And even if they do keep him around, what kind of chemistry will he have with a totally new cast?
"His realtionship with Ianto"? One of the things that pissed off so many fans last year was Ianto's death, and he's not a fixed point in time like Jack. As for how they'll handle Jacks omnisexuality, that could (like Jack) go any number of ways. It's not like there aren't other gay characters on TV (although bisexuals are another matter, and they tend to be women on American TV when they do appear because it's more of a ratings boost). I wouldn't be surprised if he flirted and made innuendoes, but dodn't actually go anywhere with the other male castmembers.
"More globally focused" is nice. The whole world consists of more than Cardiff and a few gravel quarries – and Martha Jone's posting in New York in "The Stolen Earth" (and later scenes in Germany) have already demonstrated the global reach of UNIT.
"An Americanized Doctor … [in] a Bell-Telephone-both-shaped TARDIS"? That's just moronic. The new series would be placed in the same universe as the existing Doctor Who; presumably, if there was a crossover, it would involve Matt Smith (unless David Tennant stowed away in RTD's luggage).