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Comic-Con 2009 Today's Date:

Comic-Con 2009:
Torchwood - The Children of Earth Ain't Misbehavin' --
Well, Maybe Just A Little...

John Barrowman, Idol of Millions

Comic-Con 2009 closed its weekend with one final high-profile panel. After starting off the morning discussing Doctor Who with David Tennant, Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, and Euros Lyn returned to chat about the overwhelmingly successful Torchwood: Children of Earth — but this time the superstar who joined them was the always entertaining and flirtatious John Barrowman.

The panel started off with a discussion about the decision to follow a different format for the third series of Torchwood. Julie revealed that moving Torchwood onto BBC one, the mainstream channel in the UK, was what prompted the change from thirteen episodes to just five.

“Part of the discussion for that move was how to make it feel like a really big event. What type of story could we tell across one week of transmission?”

Russell, as head writer, said that making the story “darker” was never on the agenda. “We had to make it bigger. We had to make it stronger. We had to make it work [on primetime].” Little did he know that moving Torchwood to the primetime channel in the country would triple the show’s ratings.

Davies reflects with Barrowman.
Admittedly Russell didn’t set out to make it the number one show for five nights. He actually spent most of the production worrying and thinking “Oh, god, please let people watch it.” It seemed the intensity of the five episodes had come from the desperation to see the story succeed. “If it hadn’t worked, it would’ve been the end of Torchwood. So that’s where that strength came from.”

On the response in America to the show versus the response in the UK, John said both have been brilliant. “We found a second home, like I have. I’d do both countries.” Immediately lots of loud snickering erupted from the crowd. Russell let out a sigh while John just shook his head and smirked. “And there was no pun intended either!” I guess it’s sometimes difficult to be taken seriously when you’re known for frequently doubling the entendre.

John continued saying that Torchwood was very fortunate to find a place on BBC America, but he was completely unprepared for the intensity of the American audience’s reactions. “It’s been like a massive tidal wave that’s just overwhelmed us all a little bit. All I can say from the bottom of my heart is thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Euros Lyn talked about the challenge of directing a five-part series that would air on consecutive nights. He reiterated Russell’s point of aiming to put the show on a much bigger scale. Working on a fairly limited budget called for him to rely heavily on teamwork. Euros felt very lucky to have such a fantastic cast and crew, as well as a very supportive set of producers and executives. “I as a director turned to them and relied on their input to make the show work,” he concluded modestly.

Barrowman embarrases Lynn everywhere.
“Yeah, but you were pretty damn good yourself,” added John. “And he’s also very cute, isn’t he?”

Oh, John. Don’t you ever stop? Not that we’re asking you to; but you can’t prevent your fans from falling in the gutter as they howl with laughter when you mention how you tried your hardest to embarrass Euros on set.

“I’m trying to be really good here today!” he exclaimed, insisting that he’s trying to stay away from the double entendres because his Comic-Con name card warned of possible under-aged members in the audience. He then cheekily points out that Torchwood is very adult, “So get out… or stay and learn something.”

The moderator tried to restore some order to the panel, but not before John had his last say. “You know, you could laugh too! You don’t have to take things so seriously… because you’re also quite hot.” With one last round of shameless spanking and a shout of “Go gay!” John calmed down enough to continue the panel.

The next question concerned the 456 alien and the decision to not reveal the entire creature on screen. Russell explained that hiding the alien from view was the plan from the beginning. Since there were so many other creatures on film and television already, “you’re not going to top them. You’re not going to top what George Lucas or Peter Jackson is doing.”

Instead Russell opted for the shoe-string budget approach: “Let’s imagine it’s the 1960s and you can’t afford something.” He relied on people’s fear of the unknown to make the monster more sinister, and was very adamant about keeping the monster out of sight. Editing the footage with Euros had been a near nightmare because at times they would see too much of the creature. Russell did, however, confess to worrying about people saying “Well, that was cheap” at the end of the week.

What scares Captain Jack?
John agreed that the mystery surrounding the 456 was essential. “One of the most frightening bits was not being unable to see the monster, but when you saw the child hanging inside the cage.” Julie followed up with saying that the real horror in that tank is the child, and no prosthetic monster was going to be more horrible than that.

When asked if Lois Habiba, wonderfully played by Cush Jumbo, would be returning in any future episodes of Torchwood, Russell was rather ambiguous himself. He was very wary about calling her a replacement member on the Torchwood team. “With Tosh and Owen gone, I hate the thought of Lois taking Tosh’s place because that’s not like life. People just don’t replace people in life. You want to miss those gaps.” However, looking at the spectacular response her character has received from both viewers and creators of the show, Russell would definitely not hesitate to work with Cush Jumbo again.

John Barrowman went on to talk about the darker side of Captain Jack Harkness. In the third series, we saw how much Captain Jack was burdened by his past actions, particularly his previous dealings with the 456. John feared that no one would like Jack anymore once Jack’s culpability was revealed, but he still defended the tough decisions Jack had to make in order to save humanity. “Captain Jack will do anything in his power to save the situation or humanity.” John concluded that “as an actor, your objective is the right one” — no matter how difficult it was to film certain scenes, especially the final scene with Jack’s grandchild.

Looking for fans NOT upset with Russell T. Davies...

Continuing the discussion of Captain Jack’s sacrifices, the moderator finally brought up the subject of Ianto, eliciting a chorus of boos aimed at Russell T. Davies. John quickly came to his defense: “You can’t blame anybody really. Remember it’s the excitement. And we always said in the beginning, people die young in Torchwood.”

For Julie Gardner, it was obvious that Ianto had to die at the end of Day Four because it just felt right for the story. There was no way he could have reached such a dark and heart-breaking place at the end of the fourth episode without having experienced a deep personal loss. “Captain Jack has to suffer… it’s the cost of making Captain Jack a hero.”

Still the heckling would not die down, which prompted Russell to firmly declare, “Nothing is going to change my mind. No one’s bringing him back. Blame me all you like. It’s my show.”


And with that last comment, it was finally time open up the panel to the audience. Someone asked the panel for their opinions on Comic-Con. Russell still felt overwhelmed by the massiveness of the con, while John found his second time very enjoyable as well as educational. “I learned a new word this year: Fangasm.” Euros and Julie loved being utterly surrounded by the fans’ enthusiasm and sharing with them the passion for the show.

Barrowman likes the concept of the Fangasm.
The next question was about fans’ reactions to "Children of Earth." John ashamedly admitted that once the episodes were over, he and his sister would go on Twitter. He remembered reading the Top Twitter Trends on the night of Ianto’s death and was astonished to find that Ianto actually beat out Michael Jackson.

“It’s great to see that you [the fans] have that kind of input and that you have the same passion about the show that we have about making it.” Even the BBC couldn’t predict that the fan reaction would be so positively magnificent.

There was a really great question on the differences between Captain Jack on Torchwood and Captain Jack on Doctor Who. John believed that Captain Jack was able to be more fancy-free on Who because he was part of a team where he’s not the leader: “The Doctor is there to call the shots—and Jack usually ends up firing them.”

In Torchwood Captain Jack had a lot more to carry on his shoulders and was often challenged by his own team members. As Russell put it, “Badly written television characters are always the same. Well-written television characters can be different in different circumstances—just like we all are in life.”

A fan thanked John for being so open about his sexuality. He confessed that he initially did not set out to become a role model for the gay community when he started working in the acting industry. “But it’s happened and there comes a point where you have to look at yourself and say ‘I can make a difference or I can sit back and let it all happen.’ And I’m not the type to sit back and let it all happen. [Captain Jack] represents who we all are.”

Oh, he SAYS there won't be a musical episode...
John then called for more characters like Captain Jack on television, though he acknowledged that more Barrowman might shake up an American network. He had already caused a little bit of a stir on BBC America. The censors had blurred out his naked behind in Day Two. “My bum was too hot for the TV over here.” Don’t worry, John. We’re mourning the loss, too.

What about a musical episode of Torchwood to shake up the networks? “Nope. As much as my musical side would love to do that,” John confessed. He did, however, reveal that he rewrote the lyrics of “The Wizard and I” (from Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked) to “The Doctor and I”. So maybe we don’t have to wait all that long for a few Torchwood/Doctor Who show tunes.

Following the musical tangent, John apparently played a joke on Eve Myles, who plays Gwen Cooper, during the mortuary scene with Jack and Ianto covered by red sheets. When Eve pulled back the sheet covering John, he had a big handlebar moustache and proceeded to sing “Let me entertain you! Let me make you smile!” Seriously, this guy never behaves, does he? Then again, all the more fun for us.

It’s possible that John Barrowman has infected his fans with a musical theatre bug because the last question of the panel was about his upcoming performance as Zaza in La Cage Aux Folles. He was also asked to answer in a Scottish accent. “If you want to see it, you better hurry because it’s selling out very quickly. And if I may say so myself, I look pretty damn good in a dress.”

And on that very lively note, the panel ended and so did Comic-Con 2009 — for me, at least. A bunch of people stayed in Ballroom 20 to watch the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which Russell had previously described as “unable to be topped” even by the likes of Torchwood.

Luckily for those of us who are still craving a little more Captain Jack and the Torchwood team (or what’s left of it), the DVD for "Children of Earth" has already been released in stores. So if you haven’t seen the third series yet, buy it now—and get ready to have your insides twisted. Because that is what Torchwood loves to do.

Steph Rodriguez

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