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Captain Jack, Captain John, and should Owen be on a charge? We dip into our no-holds-barred interview with the series’ lead writer Chris Chibnall
For its second season, Torchwood pulls off the coup of getting one of the stand-out actors from the series which revitalized TV Science Fiction during the late 1990s as a guest star, in the form of Buffy’s James Marsters.
“We had a character who we knew we’d bring into the show, nearly brought him in at the end of Season One, but didn’t feel right given the other stories that were jostling for position,” explains producer Chris Chibnall, who’s also the writer of the season opener that features Marsters as Captain John Hart, “and then James contacted Russell saying, ‘I love the show, I love the shows, if there’s any chance of being able to work with you, that would be great’. So we literally had a phone conversation where we went, ‘That character, if we had him played by James Marsters, that would be fantastic’. It was so simple, one of those rare moments of serendipity where you think it’s a gift, as a writer, enormous fun.”
As another rogue Time Agent, Captain John’s an obvious mirror to Torchwood’s lead, Captain Jack Harkness. “He’s an equal to Jack, he’s an ambiguous character in that sense as to whether he’s a hero or villain. But yes, he’s an equal to Jack and he and Jack have a history.” History relating to the missing years that have been erased from Jack’s memory? “I think we bear it in mind,” Chibnall says of that little bit of back plot, the time that Jack’s first writer Steven Moffat established had been erased from Jack’s memory by his former masters in the Time Agency. “We would never put it on screen - we have had discussions about it and that’s absolutely Steven [Moffat’s] story, so we don’t address that. But there is a story which delves into memory this year and there is literally a tiny half-line referencing Jack’s memory [loss], so it’s not something we would address, because for us it’s about moving the story forward.
“I love that concept, I think it’s amazing, but it’s not one for us in the show at the moment. Please, God, Steven will come and do that episode!”
Instead, Torchwood will be delving into Jack’s more recent past – recent as in the century or more he’s spent on Earth since his resurrection aboard the Gamestation – and in particular into how the rest of the Torchwood team came to work with him, which will be revealed in a later episode. Of course, we already know about Gwen, and also how he met the mid-season recruit to the team, Martha Jones…
“I think the interesting thing is, you automatically expect tension in the ranks when Martha comes in, and we’ve not done that, deliberately, and that’s probably a lesson we’ve learned from Season One to be honest,” Chibnall comments. “The first thing you do is look for conflict. The second, more interesting thing is ‘How do these people get along?’ because they’re all great at their job, and when you bring Martha in, you’ve got another level of expertise because they’ve got somebody coming in to help them out."
This article first appeared in TV Zone #224
by Anthony Brown
Read the full, double-length, interview in
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