It’s the UK sci-fi show that really pushes the TV envelope with its all-action pan-sexual hero.
The brand new batch of Torchwood episodes were filmed in America, but actor John Barrowman tells Same Same there’s no way his character Captain Jack’s getting watered down.
Separate from the government, outside the police, and beyond the United Nations, the modern-day alien-hunters at Torchwood have always set their own rules. Since 2005, the Doctor Who spin-off has featured some unforgettably terrifying scenes, punctuating its hard-hitting storylines.
Led by the enigmatic Captain Jack Harkness (Barrowman), the Torchwood crew delve into the unknown and fight the impossible. A rouge time-agent from the future, Jack flirts and liaises with anyone he fancies, regardless of gender and planetary origin.
The out gay actor says he’s proud of the show’s most recent episodes, in which he slowly built a full-on relationship with male Torchwood team member Ianto Jones, who later died in Jack’s arms saving the world from extra-terrestrial nasties.
“So many people were passionate about them as a couple, and I love that,” says Barrowman. “Russell T. Davies [the series creator, who also created Queer as Folk and revived Doctor Who] says Ianto’s ‘gone for good’. We’re a drama – we have to change.”
WELCOME TO AMERICA
The formally Welsh-made show’s ten new episodes were filmed in the US as a result of a deal with sci-fi aficionados at the Starz network, worrying Torchwood’s fans who feared the ‘Americanisation’ of their beloved show. Will it still retain its Welshness? Will it still feel like Torchwood? And will Captain Jack now turn straight?
Barrowman baulks at the suspicions. “I’m a bit miffed… I’m surprised at the comments, that people think we’d be watered down in any way with our new episodes. We just wanted it to be bigger and better for the fans. Why would you think we’d want to do something different? We’re the same team making it. Otherwise I wouldn’t want to be part of it.”
On Captain Jack’s sexuality in the new series, Barrowman is surprisingly candid, though conscious of not wanting to give too much of the storyline away. “Jack’s still omnisexual,” he assures us, “but people will watch this series and think he’s completely gay. There’s man-on-man action in this one. I think it really reflects the progressiveness on TV at the moment, there are lots of gay characters around on different shows right now.
“I’m pleased. I didn’t want Jack to change, and I’m proud to be representing an LGBT character on TV.”
The newest Torchwood story, a ten-episode adventure called Miracle Day, premiers on July 8 in the US, July 14 in the UK, and Saturday July 9 on the pay-to-view UKTV here in Australia.
Same Same got a sneak peek at the first episode and was quickly enthralled by the story, involving a sudden ‘miracle’ which means people across the world have stopped dying. The population is about to soar, leading to all sorts of complicated problems.
Opening scenes filmed in Wales reintroduce Torchwood survivor Gwen Cooper and her long-suffering husband, who are reluctantly drawn back into supernatural escapades as the heat goes on them from the CIA. Then Captain Jack drops in:
The bigger budget is immediately obvious on screen. An eye-popping action stunt with a helicopter looks particularly amazing. “I had a great time with the stunts,” Barrowman says. “I do as many as possible. Those scenes are tricky to do, but very exciting.
“We were ready to make Torchwood bigger and more international,” he adds of the slicker-looking series, “and we needed that bigger budget to tell our stories.”
As a household name on TV in the UK plus a talented singer and dancer, Barrowman is busy with Torchwood and several other projects – including a new album, and more telly talent extravaganzas including a new ‘making dreams come true’ show in which he surprises a little girl who loves showbiz. “And, all being well, I’m set to be filming more Torchwood in January,” he reveals.
But Doctor Who fans often ask if his Captain jack will ever reappear in the show which spawned him. “I would love to,” the actor replies. “That’s up to the BBC. I think it would be a good idea to team Jack with the dynamic new Doctor Matt Smith. Jack might even take a shine to him,” he chuckles.
In Torchwood: Miracle Day the stakes a higher than ever – and a cruel twist revealed mid-way through the first episode shows that Captain Jack is particularly vulnerable. If the hero’s time runs out, Same Same asked Barrowman how he’d like his iconic character to be remembered.
“I don’t really want him to go anywhere, so I’m not sure about that one,” he considers. “I guess I’d want him to go out in the way he’s always lived. Helping humanity and the greater good. Saving the world in the most heroic way possible.
“One big, loving, omni-sexual, man-loving, hero.”