‘Torchwood: Miracle Day’ round-table interview highlights

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As Torchwood‘s return to our screens looms closer, the main players involved got together with some of the press at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden before Monday evening’s screening for a ‘round table’ natter about the hugely successful Doctor Who spin-off series. Present were John Barrowman, Julie Gardner, Russell T Davies, Eve Myles and Bill Pullman, complete with three boxes of fruit…

When asked about how Miracle Day relates to the style of previous Torchwood, showrunner Davies commented, “It’s similar in tone to Children Of Earth“, pausing to laugh whilst stating, “Only more so!” Exec producer Gardner added, “The US production adds hugely to the show, but it’s still definitely Torchwood.”

Miracle Day sees the inhabitants of the planet attain certain similar properties to Captain Jack Harkness (no one dies). Curiously, Barrowman referred to this as a “negative aspect” of his character though, through this reversal, the audience gains a better understanding of the dilemma involved. “He knows how to deal with it. Miracle Day is about how others deal with immortality; how society and governments respond. People still feel pain, they still age and this throws up more problems. Within days we would be overpopulated – it’s scary.”

Russell T Davies agreed: “We [with co-producer Gardner] researched heavily the actual ramifications – Miracle Day is about health care as much as it is science-fiction. The notion of ‘Death Takes A Holiday’ has been visited many times but here we get to fully explore it for ten hours, as opposed to a short story, a half hour show or film. We’re telling it for real.”

After the event we spoke to John Barrowman about Children Of Earth and how grim its story was. “Russell goes further here. I’m constantly amazed at how he keeps pushing if forward. I call him in the middle of the night and ask ‘How are you doing this?’ – it’s brilliant.” Eve Myles added: “This is even better than the last.”

Asked about the relationship between Bill Pullman’s character Oswald Danes and Harkness, the Independence Day actor said, “Jack is fascinated by me,” prompting the timid Barrowman to roar with laughter, “In more than one way!” Pullman continued, “Jack recognises Oswald’s journey. He’s free of guilt and speaks truthfully but the journey is unpredictable and their relationship takes many twists and turns.”

Jack admires Oswald (a convicted paedophile) and the criminal comes to the fore through television; becoming a cult figure during the difficult times, synonymous with ‘Miracle Day’. Barrowman comments that Oswald grows “a big set of balls” (cue more laughter) through his media manipulation of his unusual situation.

Russell T Davies also hinted at another relationship. “There is a connection between Torchwood and Oswald and all will be revealed in Episode 10. It’s a one-off story; everything will be resolved.”

Pullman explained why he committed to the project: “I was given three scripts but by the time I’d finished the first I’d said ‘yes’. I could smell it on the page – and I got the best part! A paedophile murderer! Oswald doesn’t feel the need to apologise; he was ready to go but doesn’t die [death by lethal injection fails]. He’s a Frankenstein who is not going to die.”

“Russell’s naughty, he tends to accommodate a lot of things,” Pullman continued. “Sci-fi used to about cardboard cut-out characters but Torchwood is so much different. Oswald reflects how celebs can be a nobody – plucked from nowhere. There’s a sense of truth in the overnight celebrity. Miracle Day is also about PR and alliances and how they keep him in the forefront. Trust and betrayal are key. Russell is clever to notice this.”

Pullman revealed that he was aware of both Davies’ sci-fi shows (despite “not being a TV watcher”) through friends who raved about Torchwood and his Alien Autopsy co-stars Ant and Dec. Russell giggled: “I couldn’t believe it when Bill turned around and mentioned that Doctor Who beat Saturday Night Takeaway in the ratings!”

Eve Myles spoke about her character Gwen and the bond shared with Captain Jack: “Gwen is in hiding with her family. Jack is somewhere on the planet, trying to keep Torchwood under the radar. The recognition of Gwen begins; Jack comes out of hiding and thus starts the snowball. He goes out of his way to help her – it’s a wonderful relationship.”

Barrowman added: “There’s an unspoken word between them. We see their past in a future episode which explores this explicitly. Russell said it was his gift to the both of us. It’s interesting because fans will know that it’s happened previously but new fans will think it’s happening now.”

“I’m so excited by it. I’m thrilled by the growth of the show. I love playing Captain Jack – one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Makes me proud to British too.” Regarding his character’s “omnisexuality”, the charismatic showman beamed, “New viewers will simply think he’s a big gay!”

Moving on to discuss the production, ex-Doctor Who showrunner Davies revealed that he was “thrilled” by the casting. “We got everyone we wanted, though it was strange hearing American accents at the auditions – quite the culture shock after years of English actors!” Barrowman chipped in: “It’s a global production and truly epic. It feels cinematic – every episode is like a mini-movie.”

And cliffhangers every week!” Davies interrupted, “with heroes and villains both trying to discover the mystery behind the ‘miracle’; though the delineation between good and bad changes with the plot at every turn. With alien fun to come… If anything it’s a zombie drama,” the writer chuckled. “People are coping with being dead and how to communicate when the normal avenues cannot be used.”

When probed about the future, Davies gave the impression that a second Starz series is entirely possible (with his involvement) though his exclamation of “Let’s make a movie!” perhaps suggests where his heart lies with regards to Torchwood post-Miracle Day.

As the session grew to a close, we couldn’t help but ask the only Doctor Who-related question of the day (and we had a few!). Would Russell like to return to the show he so successfully, not to mention brilliantly, ran for 5 years for its 50th Anniversary next year? Laughing, the charming Welshman told us, “Well, it’s not mine anymore, the BBC don’t want me! Haha!” After the laughs died down, sadly he confirmed that the answer was “No.” Well, of course, he would say that…

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