Saturday, 13 June 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth preview, BFI

Unfortunately, I've always tended to find Torchwood a bit disappointing. On paper, it's exactly the sort of post-watershed British SF I've been waiting for. However, on screen, it rarely seemed to live up to its potential.

It drifted all over the place tonally, while seeming to rely too often on some bit of alien kit that someone suddenly remembered was gathering dust somewhere in a cupboard.

Anyway, after last night's BFI preview of the first episode of Children of Earth (a five-parter that will be stripped across a week later in the Summer), I'm delighted to report that the impending shift to BBC1 might have brought about a wond'rous thing - Torchwood done right.

It'd be criminal to give too much away, but telling a single story over five hours has clearly given Russell T Davies and his co-writers (John Fay and James Moran) the opportunity to create a work of real maturity and depth.

In the Q&A, RTD said that the move to BBC1 meant they had to make the story 'bigger', so it moves far beyond the range of things falling through the Rift and menacing Cardiff.

While the main story involves an apparently alien force manipulating the world's children, the mystery broadens out to include possible government complicity, dark deeds in the past and the arrival of a third party with its own seemingly destructive agenda.

However, the broader canvas also allows for some great scenes - including a couple of jaw-dropping revelations - involving the regulars and those close to them.

There was an air of mild hysteria at the screening, as there had been at Psychoville t'other week. The coked-up - or, at least, overexcited - gay couple next to me kept bouncing up and down on their seats throughout, so it felt like I was on a plane flying through a hurricane.

The hysteria seemed to extend to the Q&A, where John Barrowman and - particularly - Eve Myles could hardly get to the end of a sentence without dissolving into squalking laughter.

Most of the questions and discussion centred on the shift to BBC1 and the new format. RTD said he was thrilled about the opportunity to bring the show to a wider audience and create a real TV event, like Nigel Kneale's Quatermass serials.

Director Euros Lyn also said that working on the series from beginning to end (and being involved from the start of the creative process) enabled him, and the rest of the production team, to give the series a greater sense of unity - something the actors agreed with.

There was a bit more chat about the recent 'rehabilitation' of SF on TV (RTD - people who grew up loving comics and genre TV are now in charge), and the marked diversity of the Children of Earth cast - something that RTD insists upon, to reflect society.

That led to the surprising revelation that Torchwood is one of BNP leader Nick Griffin's favourite shows. (RTD admitted that the theme of 'defending the country against alien threats' could be hijacked from a right-wing perspective.)

He also confirmed that there are going to be three free-standing Torchwood radio plays - including one about Torchwood India that he's particularly excited about.

The scheduling of Children of Earth is being kept closely under wraps, but I'm sure you'll hear all about it when the BBC decides to show its hand. I'm excited!

1 comment:

Sparky said...

Sorry for being one of the constantly "squalking" members of the audience. Looking back on it, I think I was mainly caught up in the flow with my Torchwood obsessed friends.
I was originally a bit worried about what would happen to Torchwood without Owen and Tosh, but I am pleased to say this series looks like it's going to be a good one!