“I’ve done soap operas, I’ve done children’s dramas, I’ve done long-running series, I’ve done Doctor Who one-off episodes. So to tell a five hour story was a brilliant opportunity and I absolutely loved it,” Russell T. Davies tells TV Tonight.
Davies’ latest series of the Who spin-off, Torchwood, hits UK and Australian screens this week, as a five episode ‘mini-series event.’ The adventure starring the dashing John Barrowman, afford him opportunities he can’t explore in Doctor Who.
“Well, it’s an adult show for starters, it goes out at 9:00, whereas in Britain Doctor Who goes out at 7:00. Whilst Doctor Who isn’t completely unafraid of addressing stories about sexuality or whatever, it has a vocabulary and language that is couched in a show that has a very large children’s audience watching,” he says.
“Torchwood‘s more for adults. I can let rip a little bit more and have a little bit more fun.”
‘Children of Earth’ is the third instalment in the adventures of bisexual time traveller Captain Jack Harkness. It unfolds with Britain’s children seemingly frozen in time, signalling the arrival of extra-terrestrials. When Torchwood first started it was airing on BBC3. It then graduated to BBC2. Now as a slimmer five episodes it will air on the premium BBC1. While actor John Barrowman has been critical of the downsizing at the same time as a promotion, Davies is more diplomatic.
“It was simply a chance to get a whole different rhythm. What was nice about it was that in Britain it’s going out on five consecutive nights. So for me that was a new format. I’ve been writing for twenty years and it’s very rare for another format to come along.
“But it hasn’t transmitted yet so I suspect there are more lessons to be learned,” he notes.
Despite the mini-series format, Davies says there was no increase in the budget to allow for extra production values.
“In the middle of a recession I don’t think anyone gets a bigger budget these days!” he says.
“We had a very wise production team who spent it very well. Of course if it had been the old Torchwood the episodes would be very different. That’s where the money goes.”
With just three characters now at the heart of the Torchwood Institute, Davies insists he didn’t want to set about replacing former members, Owen or Toshiko.
“We lost two members at the end of the last series. I think it’s a little bit heartless when you simply replace two people. And they died horribly.”
Davies is a formidable writer in British television. In addition to creating Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, he revived the Doctor Who brand, and is still revered for the bold and acclaimed Queer as Folk, a series which not only was adapted in the US, but which enjoyed a longer life as a spin-off. Davies admits to being thrilled with what the Americans made of his characters.
“I was delighted, what a compliment! But I had nothing to do with it, it was all up to them and I had to let them run with it,” he says.
“But I’ll never forget being in America watching 200 channels and only on one channel was there two men kissing, and I realised it was Queer as Folk.”
Soon he will depart the Doctor Who franchise, leaving it in the hands of writer Steven Moffat.
“What’s next for me is a good rest and hopefully Torchwood 4. But then I am dying to go back to my own writing, and hopefully something gay. Something with gay men and women more at the forefront of the action. It’s been 10 years since Queer as Folk, the world has changed and I’ve got more things to say. So that’s the plan.
“Nothing is written, nothing’s commissioned but equally nothing can stop me.”
Torchwood screens 8:30pm Tuesday – Saturday on UK TV and BBC HD.