Press Tour: ‘Torchwood’ on Starz gets a subtitle, a premise and some co-stars

Senior Television Writer
01.07.11 21 Comments


“Torchwood” has a new network, a new country and new castmembers, and on Friday at press tour, we learned that the new Starz version of the show has a different subtitle.

When Starz acquired the “Doctor Who” spin-off from the BBC, the new season (which is set to begin filming next week) was tentatively titled “Torchwood: The New World,” but creator Russell T. Davies explained that that was always a working title. The actual title will be “Torchwood: Miracle Day.”

After the jump, some explanation from Davies on what that title means, the plot of the new season, the roles for Mekhi Phifer and Bill Pullman, and other semi-spoilery things…

As Davies explained, “The premise is a miracle that happens to the world. That one day, on Earth, no one dies. Not a single person on Earth dies. The next day, no one dies. The next day, no one dies. And on and on and on. Now, the sick stay sick, the old keep getting older, the dying keep dying, but no one quite dies.”

And at first, this seems a wonderful thing, “But globally, it’s an instant overnight population boom. The Earth relies on people dying.”

Davies understandably didn’t want to offer too many details on how and why “Torchwood” hero Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman, who couldn’t appear at the press tour session because he was acting in a play in England) comes back to our planet after running away at the end of the “Torchwood: Children of Earth” miniseries. But he did say that the notion of a world where no one can die would prove very intriguing to a man who suffers from immortality.

Of course, death has visited “Torchwood” very frequently, with Captain Jack and Eve Myles’ Gwen Cooper the only original characters still extant at the start of the new season. That’s much to the consternation of fans of the bumped-off characters, but Davies says he always wanted that to be a key part of “Torchwood.”

On American network science fiction shows, he said, “You have a cast of 12 and they’re under contract and they stay together for 7 years… If you don’t know who will survive, that raises the stakes for everyone.”

Also, he joked of his new American co-stars, “I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll get Bill Pullman in the end; I just have to make room for it.”

Pullman will play a convicted murderer and pedophile named Oswald who, near the start of the 10-episode series, is due to be executed but, due to the miracle day, doesn’t die. Phifer will be CIA agent Rex Matheson, a cocky guy who doesn’t know much about Torchwood (and sounds very much like the role Phifer had on “Lie to Me”).

Phifer had never seen the show, but Davies’ people sent him the five episodes of “Children of Earth,” which he watched all in one sitting. “Reading the script,” he said, “was definitely a very exciting thing for me. It read like a film, felt like an action movie, and it was easy to want to be a part of it.”

Sci-fi veteran Pullman, meanwhile, “First heard about it from a Comp Lit professor. That’s a good credential, isn’t it? He was kind of slumming it with his love for ‘Torchwood.'”

I asked Davies what lessons he learned from “Children of Earth,” which was several orders of magnitude better than the first two seasons of “Torchwood,” and whether the Starz version would be built on those lessons.

“What we got rid of was the format of Monster of the Week,” he said. “It’s a great format, has worked on a lot of shows, but in Britain, it was slightly in ‘Doctor Who’s shadow as a result.. When we got to do ‘Children of Earth,’ it became what it is now: one story with a beginning, a middle and an end. By episode 10 (of ‘Miracle Day’), there’s a massive, shattering climax to the whole thing, you find out who lives, who dies, whether they can stop it or not. With ‘Children of Earth,’ ‘Torchwood’ found its legs. You get those pictures of things evolving, a hominid turning into a man standing erect. It feels like we’ve stood up tall now, and I can’t wait for you to see it. It’s a really rigorous premise. There’s some shocking episodes to come: not only shocking visuals, but some shocking things about people… It feels exciting, it feels new.”

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