Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hub Captain!

DWM recently spoke to Torchwood producer Richard Stokes to find out all the latest news from the series. The interview is re-printed in full here (with many thanks going to the DWM team)...

QUATERMASS - A GREAT INFLUENCE ON STOKES, AS YOU'LL SEE

Congratulations on your new job, Richard! How does it feel to be starting work on the first full Doctor Who spin-off series?
Thank you. To be honest it's a bit of a dream gig. I've been attached to the show now for a few weeks, and I still can't quite believe it's happening. Long night shoots will soon bring me back down to Earth though, I'm sure.

We already know that Torchwood will have its own very seperate identity away from Doctor Who. Without giving too much away - of course! - how would you describe the tone and feel of the series?
It's much darker - both in tone and in look. I'm discussing style with directors, the design team, Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner all the time and we keep talking about a noir style, lots of shadows. Doctor Who famously sends the kids round the back of the sofa; I went the grown-ups there too. The tradition of horror films - from Wes Craven to M Night Shyamalan - has filtered through to American television for many years and we should do a bit more of that here. People like being scared and a bit unsettled. Its themes are more adult - which is not about lots of swearing and gratuitous violence - it's about exploring more adult themes and sides of humanity you may not want your kids to watch. That's not to say we don't have a laugh on the way. Both Russell and our other lead writer - Chris Chibnall - have filled their scripts with great humour.

Despite the different audience demographic, would you say that Torchwood has any similarities with Doctor Who, beyond the character of Jack himself?
The Doctor Who team has injected an iconic series with great heart and compassion and that will certainly be the same - everyone on this show wants nothing short of the very best. Like all the most memorable shows in this genre it's about us; who we are and what we're doing to ourselves and each other. Doctor Who taps into a yearning for adventure in all of us and Torchwood will, similarly, touch on universal truths in the human condition.

Doctor Who fans are, of course, already familiar with John Barrowman's character, Captain Jack, from his episodes last year. What did you make of Jack in Doctor Who, and how are you looking forward to bringing him to Torchwood?
I thought he was a fantastic character - great fun and very charismatic. He was very deliberately there to mix up the relationship between the Doctor and Rose, whereas in this series he is the heroic lead and that requires some subtle changes.

Will your job be similar to Phil Collinson's? What sort of duties do you have on a day to day basis?
Yes - very similar. Producing is about plate-spinning; making sure nothing falls and breaks during the whole process. Day to day can be very different and that's part of the joy of the job but I have an overview on everything from scripts to directors to crew to cast to design to budget to sheduling and making sure everything is delivered to the channel for the money, on time and to the high standard everyone wants and expects. And then making sure all the different departments know what's going on so that when cameras start rolling everyone is making the same show.

If this first series of Torchwood is a success, is it hoped there may be a second? Or is this planned as a self-contained series of 13 episodes?
Hopefully - if all goes to plan and the audience enjoy it - there will be more.

As a former producer of Eastenders and Holby City, how do you think producing a sci-fi drama series will compare with the soaps?
It's all about storytelling. We all look for characters with whom we can emphathise as heroes or hate as villains and it's the combination of these things in a great story which made good drama. And that's true of anything, whether it's setin Albert Square or Andromeda.

Thanks to shows like Doctor Who and Life On Mars, it seems that the BBC is looking at more fantasy drama. What do you think about this recent interest in this sort of television? Are you a fan yourself - and if so, what sort of shows have influenced you?
It's about time. We were the best at this genre in the 1950's and 60's with Quatermass, Hammer productions and the original Doctor Who and the whole thing got hijacked by America doing it very well - and with a lot more money - and TV execsin this country thinking the genre was for kids. I am a fan - I was the perfect age when Star Wars came out to completely fall for it but writers like Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel and Firefly), J.J Abrams (Alias and Lost) and Chris Carter (The X-Files) have shown how these shows can appeal to an intelligent, adult audience. It's exciting...it feels like a genuine renaissance and to be part of that is incredibly exciting.

Finally, do you have any specific aims and ambitions for Torchwood as you enter production?
To be honest - my ambition is not to fall short of Russell's vision of the show. He generates a creative atmosphere which just makes everyone want to do their best. It's infectious and great fun. I don't want to let him down, but equally I want to make a series that fans talk about and which brings in a new audience that feels the show has something to say...so no pressure then!

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