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Feature: Torchwood

Lighting the Torchwood

The Torchwood team

We track down executive producer Julie Gardner to chat about the Doctor Who spin-off and fighing alien forces in Wales!

This is what is known about Torchwood: set in Cardiff, the Doctor Who spin-off centres on a unique team of agents who investigate domestic and alien crime. It stars John Barrowman, reprising his role as Captain Jack Harkness, alongside Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori, Indira Varma and Gareth David-Lloyd. The series premières at the end of October, it will air on BBC3 and repeat on BBC1, there are 13 episodes… and did we mention that it’s set in Cardiff?

As previews go, that’s not much to go on. One thing Russell T Davies is very skilled at, aside from creating ratings-grabbing, award-winning television, is keeping his projects highly secretive – until they erupt in a blaze of publicity just as transmission looms. Clearly, these two things are closely interconnected. But now Torchwood is here, and Starburst is lucky to have executive producer Julie Gardner to expose some of the mysteries surrounding the production…

“I think the primary thing about Torchwood is that it’s a way for Russell T Davies to write Sci-Fi in a very different way to how he tackles it in Doctor Who,” says Gardner. “When he first talked about the show he said it was a kind of British X-Files meets This Life: we’ve moved slightly away from that, but it kind of gives a sense of what the show is. There is a lot of psychological danger in it, as well as extraterrestrial surprise.”

Torchwood was announced to the press a year ago, and then its foundations were laid throughout the stories of Doctor Who’s second season. Yet the show’s journey to the screen has actually taken much longer than that, as Gardner exclusively reveals for the first time that the idea goes back some years…

“Actually, Torchwood itself was an idea that Russell had way before either of us worked on Doctor Who. The show was initially called ‘Excalibur’ and it wasn’t connected to Doctor Who at all. When Russell and I were working together developing Casanova we were watching a lot of American Sci-Fi shows like Angel, Smallville and Buffy. We were talking about them every week, and what a UK show would be like in that vein.

“Russell pitched me the idea for ‘Excalibur’ and the starting point was there’s an alleyway at night which is a crime scene. What’s unusual about it is the police are the wrong side of the crime tape because a very sexy team of people stride onto the scene and begin to investigate using alien technology.”

Evidently, the initial concept did not include Captain Jack, Toshiko Sato (introduced in Doctor Who’s Aliens of London) or the spatial rift in Cardiff Bay.

“At the end of the first season of Doctor Who, Russell and I were talking how much we were enjoying the work and how we’d loved working with John Barrowman,” continues Gardner. “It was Russell’s idea at that point to use the basis of ‘Excalibur’, have Captain Jack as the leader and then create this 13-part series.”

by David Richardson

Read the full interview in
Starburst #343

Photo © BBCtv
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

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Starburst #343
November 2006
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