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David Hines [userpic]

my theory on TORCHWOOD AMERICA

January 21st, 2010 (10:20 am)
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The news has broken that TORCHWOOD is coming to American TV, with Russell T. Davies very actively involved. There's been some fannish concern and speculation about this, much of it in a "what the heck is going on here?" vein. Admittedly, RTD has a lot more time on his hands now that he's not showrunning DOCTOR WHO, but why is he doing this particular thing?

Russell T. Davies is a propagandist. This is not a pejorative statement: propaganda is an essential part of politics, and every civil society has and at some level needs its own propaganda (as is true of any cohesive group, but the larger the group the more it needs it). The irony is that, of course, the word "propaganda" is so nyekulturny these days that the chief way people in civil societies target their enemies' propaganda is to dismiss it out of hand *as* propaganda. But propaganda has real and valid uses, as Davies, a dedicated activist and propagandist for gay rights, clearly knows. He doesn't just limit it to his writing; in interviews, he takes care to mention the fact that he's gay, and talk about gay issues, just in case there's anybody hasn't heard about it. In his email exchanges with Benjamin Cook, collected in DOCTOR WHO: THE WRITER'S TALE, Davies explains that this is a deliberate strategy, part of his personal activism. Davies is looking for ways to increase gay visibility everywhere, by means implicit and explicit.

My bet is that that's why he's doing the American TORCHWOOD, and that John Barrowman is going to be heavily, heavily involved. Why? Because Russell T. Davies sees his chance to put a sexually active bisexual man, played by an openly gay man, into American prime time as a starring hero, and he's going for it. My guess is that TORCHWOOD AMERICA or whatever they wind up calling it (my bet: it'll be straight-up TORCHWOOD, and a coproduction) will be a short-form series for American television, with the intent of having a queer male action hero who actually gets laid in prime time on American TV.

It is an irresistable propaganda opportunity, and I can't blame RTD for wanting to do it on those grounds -- hell, yeah, Rusty! Go for it! My only question is what kind of stories Uncle Rusty is going to do, because the real problem facing this particular Big Step Forward is that TORCHWOOD is a mostly unmitigated pile of shit. Its plots are moronic, its heroes are completely incompetent, and its storylines have been, until "Children of Earth," so staggeringly stupid that one comes away feeling dumber for the viewing. ("Children of Earth" had its flaws, but it was so much better than TORCHWOOD in general that it was like watching two completely different shows, as if TORCHWOOD's characters had somehow gotten lost and blundered into the wrong show by mistake, which they're absolutely stupid enough to do.) But Davies, though he unquestionably peaked with DOCTOR WHO to the point that he was writing a fair bit of crud toward the end, turned in some remarkably strong work in "Children of Earth." Like Joss Whedon, when he's on his game he's garking amazing; when he's off it, he's a car wreck. The question about the American TORCHWOOD is: which RTD is going to show up? The answer is likely to have implications for when we see the second queer male action hero in prime time on American TV.

Comments

Posted by: soundingsea (soundingsea)
Posted at: January 21st, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
dw - ten/martha - distant

Your theory makes a heckuva lot of sense. Here's hoping the storylines are actually driven by something other than character stupidity this time.

Posted by: Elspeth (elspethdixon)
Posted at: January 21st, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC)

The best prediction I've seen vis a vis Torchwood: USA has been that RTD will write thirteen episode that already have mild-to-significant plotholes in them, and then Fox will air all thirteen of them out of order while moving the show through three different timeslots, making it completely impossibe for any but the most dedicated of viewers to follow it. Then Fox will announce that not enough people are watching it and cancel it.

I've heard lots of fear that Fox will insist on straightifying Jack Harkness, but I can't see John Barrowman agreeing to that. I think they'll either have Captain Jack and keep him bisexual/pansexual (but with significantly fewer onscreen guy/guy liplocks), or they'll have to go with a different actor and character.

Posted by: Grey Bard (grey_bard)
Posted at: January 22nd, 2010 06:24 am (UTC)

THIS. I... approve of his propaganda's agenda, heaven knows I do, and some of his stories and characters are quite charming. But then again, some of them kick you in the crotch with their gawdawfulness. (Sparkly Tinkerbell Jesus Doctor? REALLY, RTD? REALLY?)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 28th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
Hi David

As a UK fan of Dr Who who loathed much of what Rusty did on Dr Who (Compare his episodes to Moffats and the brilliant Blink) and the huge mess that was the End of Time I am still scratching my head over what he did that got him a gig in the states in the first place. He is like the worst of Joss Whedon's writing but with out the good bits.

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