Why is Torchwood so popular?
By DJ Forrest
It’s been a while since the last series, and yet fans still post up their favourite clips, or photographs of their favourite scene or character. Ianto and Jack top many of those, with Gwen, Owen and Toshiko coming a close second and third.
We all have our favourite moments from the four seasons. We can all remember pretty much what we were doing when the series’ first aired, what we thought of the first episode, because up until it first aired 10 years ago, on October 22nd, we’d only had The X Files to keep us fed on alien and paranormal phenomenon. So, what could the BBC have to offer us, that would turn us away from Mulder and Scully, and have us tune in every week on BBC2, to a series that would have us coming back for more time and time again.
Say hello, to Wales’ own X Files, with a bigger cast, living under the city, and doing a job so secret, that nobody had ever heard of them until the second series, and when Children of Earth hit, even the ‘real’ world got to know about the Hub’s own Coffee Boy, Ianto Jones.
In a story that would have many fans reaching for the hankies, and some taking to their computers writing nine letters to Russell T Davies, the creator of the show, with their utter disgust for killing off one of the most charismatic characters in the series, one that had such a HUGE fan following. Why, oh why???
I was never a fan of Ianto Jones personally. He was the butler to the Fab Four, it was Thunderbirds Go, and he was only responsible for the cleaning up and the general running of the organisation from the ground up. Except Ianto Jones was so much more than that, and the novels really helped to give the man more credit, more worth, and so, my appreciation of the Welshman in the smart suit, became more apparent.
Of course, my heart lay with Captain Jack Harkness, the dashing, debonair, ‘World War Two’ officer with the matinee idol smile, and immortal. So, whatever was thrown at him, from a great height, he’d always come back. Except, with so many deaths on his hands, could he really keep bouncing back? Could he really still wear that dashing smile and carry on as normal? Could you?
Immortal or not, it’s a heavy burden to bear, and there’s not many mortals who could ‘keep buggering on’ as Winston Churchill always said.
The fourth season of Torchwood took us Stateside. It soon became apparent, when Torchwood fans discovered that their beloved double act, Gwen and Jack, were being controlled by the CIA. Torchwood were very much, not in control. It grew even more apparent that there was something more afoot when Rex Matheson became another immortal after syphoning his own blood in favour of Jack’s during the series, to keep it safe. What a clever trick that was.
Rex Matheson was not a popular character and many despised him. He wasn’t even properly evidenced in the novel ‘The Exodus Code.’ Why? Perhaps because there’s little interest in a CIA story. The fans want Torchwood. They want the alien surprise. They want Gwen Cooper and Captain Jack. They want the sex and the action and the nudity and the hot pursuits, and…. well ultimately, they want Torchwood.
The fans have always wanted to know when Torchwood is coming back. During every panel that every cast member appears on, the first question from any fan is – ‘When is Torchwood coming back?’ So, I suppose it’s of no surprise that Barrowman wants another series of Torchwood too. The question I have, is will one series be enough? And will this be the swansong of Captain Jack and Gwen Cooper. After all, Eve Myles has already hung up her boots on Gwen, hasn’t she?
Personally, I wish there were more novels, and novels of the Big Finish audios, which would mean that the fans with audio difficulties, could enjoy the series more if the books were readily available.
Doctor Who novels are turned out so often, new stories with the 11th and now the 12th. What would be so wrong about having novels now with Torchwood?
The things I miss about the show were the individual stories. Each one blended so well into the next, and the novels helped jolly them along, weaving in and out of the series, which worked so well. Novels are now in limbo. How can we continue after the Three Families, and the near end of days scenario with Exodus Code? There’s the comics, which are great. (I’ve only read one so far), but I prefer hardback novels, with shiny coloured images of the team on the front cover, designed by Lee Binding, written by the all too familiar writing team that brought us ‘Bay of the Dead’, ‘The House that Jack built’, ‘Skypoint’ and so on. These people knew Torchwood. They were there from the start. They’re back and with Big Finish, with audio stories that keep you glued till the end of the disk. But I want more. I want to physically see the cast. Want to see the action on the screen. Hear the roar of the SUV as it thunders along the quiet streets of Cardiff, as it always seemed to be relatively quiet when they were heading off in hot pursuit of a blowfish. OK, so the SUV is out of the running, but you get what I mean.
I’d have loved to have seen ‘The Undertakers Gift’ as an episode. I could visualise it so perfectly in my head. I’m sure, like JK Rowling’s portrayal of the Dementors, I had the creatures pegged in the story just as good.
What makes Torchwood so popular though? It has to be the cast, the locations, the witty dialogue. Then there’s the aliens, and the personal dilemmas. I just wish it hadn’t been decided that as each series ended, we’d see a demise in the team. OK, Jack returned from the dead, but series 2 saw the loss of Toshiko and Owen, series 3 saw a sad farewell to Ianto Jones. By Series 4 it looked as if we’d come full circle and we would lose Jack again. Why is there a need to kill off the team?
Torchwood in Cardiff put Wales on the map – even though to be fair, Doctor Who’s return to our screens in 2005 had pretty much achieved that, but Torchwood kept it there. Aliens living and breathing on the streets of Cardiff. Weevils in the sewers. Blowfish driving Sports cars. It was all there.
We as a nation fell in love with the five team members living beneath the city, eating take out, and talking about Jack as if after all the years of working with him, none of them had ever had the courage to physically ask him about his life. As he seemed to know so much about theirs.
So why is Torchwood so popular, that after celebrating its 10th birthday almost a week ago, the fans want more?
I put the question out to Twitter tonight, and to Facebook fans. These are the answers that came back.
‘I think that it’s the issues it covers: sexuality, sacrifices, characters and their backgrounds. And the fact that it's a bit more realistic and normal than Doctor Who, cause it's focused on earth.’ Louise Westie
‘Well, the characters are real people with a real life, trauma, sad events, love. They are not perfect or superheroes. Plus, it is the idea of what Torchwood is, what it does, how they work. And the person of Captain Jack. :) Also, this show has an omnisexual main character, all its characters are queer at times. (Even Owen, after he sprayed himself with the sex perfume). And the ideas of the writing for the stories, the episodes are so extraordinary and sometimes creepy, it is just awesome.’ Claudia Lindner
‘I liked the quirky humour, the fact that our heroes are flawed human beings with some pretty awful habits... Gwen lies to Rhys in their first scene together. Owen uses date rape spray. Tosh is lonely and Ianto is pretty screwed too. Jack too has his moments of utter stupidity.
I loved the uniqueness of using Cardiff and the Welsh extras like Rhys and Andy. It's not glamorous and people make mistakes. The stories were odd and fun and sad and scary too sometimes all in one episode. I refer to seasons one and two. Whilst I enjoyed COE as a drama, it didn't retain the elements I loved most and MD was just utter rubbish.’ Ianto Tarrant
‘The characters just clicked with me: their struggles, the poignancy of their very flawed heroics - & humour.’ Alice Mary
‘It came across as a bunch of 'nice, normal' people just having a go at being brave.’ Cathy Harris Norman.
‘It’s because of the characters (and great actors) and how the whole story is built around them.’ Tiziana DF
‘It’s the Welshness, the quirky humour and Ianto, Tosh & Owen.’ Jann
‘Interesting characters and on the whole, great stories.’ Henry Charles Egglet.
‘That it set up an impossible premise, that made you go ‘no way, can they do that’ and then they did. Also, Captain Jack and Ianto Jones.’ Torchwood Pride.
So, there you have it. Torchwood encompasses so many things and it’s not just the fans who want it back. John Barrowman, a huge fan of the show himself, who has more Torchwood and Captain Jack memorabilia than the average fan, who loves his Captain as much as I’m sure the Captain loves John Barrowman; has set himself a quest; to bring Torchwood back to the television where it so rightly belongs. Whether it be for only specials, or a series, or a series of series’, it’ll be interesting to see if his goal is accomplished.
Torchwood lives on in all of us, even Daniele Favilli, who played Angelo Colasanto, in Miracle Day, has dreams of bringing another story of Angelo and Jack to the screens. We wish him every success with this, as much as we hope to see Torchwood itself, come to the big screen, with Captain Jack, bigger than ever, taking up the full screen…we can but dream.
Special thanks go to all who contributed to this article!