Noel Clarke and Chris Chibnall
Chris Chibnall: Whedonopolis, hooray!
Whedonopolis: We want to introduce Torchwood to an American audience who probably have never heard of it or are unfamiliar with it, so basically, what’s the premise of the show?
CC: The premise of the show is a group of, a rogue group of alien investigators who hunt down aliens and scavenge alien technology to arm the human race against the future in an underground base in Cardiff and they’re led by an omni-sexual 51st century ex-Time Agent called Captain Jack Harkness. Uh, that’s about the premise really. So it’s all about alien contact but also about what it means to be human, what it means to live in a city now, it’s a kind of, we use the sci-fi as kind of metaphors for 21st century life hopefully.
W: This is a spinoff of Doctor Who.
Noel Clark: Yes.
W: Basically, because of the airing schedules between what aired in the UK and what’s airing in the US, we’re getting Doctor Who season/series 3 before the first series of Torchwood.
CC: Oh yeah, you’re a little ahead.
W: Do viewers need to be familiar with Doctor Who? Are they going to be confused when they see Torchwood after the relevant events in Doctor Who series 3?
CC: No, I would say it’s absolutely a stand alone series. You can come to this if you’ve seen every episode of Doctor Who, if you’ve seen no episodes of Doctor Who, if you don’t even know what a TARDIS is, you can still come to Torchwood.
NC: Yeah, there you go. You can be a Torchwood fan only. We would like you to be both, but you could be a Torchwood fan only.
CC: Yes, absolutely.
NC: It’s a completely stand alone show, definitely.
W: Also, because of our time slots, schedules, and commercial breaks, when airing here, the show’s going to get cut down…
CC: Only a little. Only a couple of minutes. 2 minutes or something.
W: Is that going to affect the story in any way?
CC: No. They’re fast paced stories, but it’ll be OK. It’s 49 minutes in Britain and presumably it’ll cut to 44, 45 so you’re not going to lose too much, I don’t think. We can bear it. To be on BBC America, we can bear it.
W: This show takes place in the same universe as Doctor Who does but it’s kind of its own new thing. What kind of challenges did you face in basically creating a new story, new characters?
NC: I think it was less of a challenge and more fun actually. We weren’t limited by rules. We were setting the rules. In 50 years time when they bring back Torchwood they will have to go by the rules that we’ve set and that’s kind of –
CC: What do you mean “bring back?” We won’t be finished! We won’t be done! (laughs)
NC: (laughs) Yeah. Captain Jack, right? “I don’t age…” he’s got like, down by his knees…
CC: Oh, John Barrowman is so going to kill you!
W: Yeah, you’re not saddled with 40 years of backstory…
NC: No, not at all. We’ve created this brilliant thing and I think that’s the fun of it, that’s the thing it wasn’t a challenge at all. It was just fun, fun, fun.
CC: Yeah, and it was about following that character. Captain Jack had been such a big hit for British audiences in Doctor Who and then really thinking “Oh, there’s a show for him” where he can actually do even more outrageous stuff and have a great team and I think again the fun of it was there’s no real history of these sorts of shows in the last couple of decades in British science fiction, so we wanted to do a kind of investigative team show about extraterrestrial contact and have some fun with it as well and have a laugh, so it was a challenge because you’ve got to find the tone and there’s lots of stories you want to tell in different ways, so as Noel says it was actually…
NC: More fun than challenging.
CC: Huge, huge fun.
W: You’re the show runner.
CC: Yeah, yeah I am.
NC: Yes. The Boss.
CC: Yeah, right.
NC: He’s pinching me under the table right now.
CC: That’s just for fun though. (laughs all around)
W: How did you face the whole task of starting this show from scratch?
CC: Well it was… actually it was created by Russel T. Davies so the pilot script was there and the pilot script was so clear and set up the world and the characters and the tone was so brilliant it was really honoring that to be honest. It was making sure we had a variety of stories and made sure the characters had some interesting journeys, make sure it was fun and entertaining, also that we could provide the sort of thrill for adults that Doctor Who in the UK does for a kind of family audience. So, actually we could go and be scarier, we could go into more morally complex territories, and we can have a little more fun with the flirting and all that kind of stuff. Really, it was just about finding a set of stories. It was all about following the characters and seeing where they were going to take us really, so that was the big job [and] finding great writers like Noel, which was huge. He was on the doorstep and you know –
NC: I was next door filming Doctor Who and knocking on the door and was like, “can I write for Torchwood?”
CC: “Oh and by the way I have a movie out that I wrote and starred in!”
W: What is the name of the movie?
NC: Kidulthood. Like “adulthood” but you take out the “A” and add “K – I” so it says Kidulthood, yeah. And it did quite good in the UK and Europe and came in 9th out of the top 50 in British films.
CC: It was acclaimed. He’s being modest.
NC: Thank you.
W: I have actually seen “Combat,” your episode.
W: How did you go about writing an episode? Did you get some guidance from Chris?
NC: Most definitely. This guy’s not just the boss, he’s, you know&h
CC: All right, I’m leaving now. (laughs)
NC: Basically, the production office is kind of more or less the same place, really, so I wasn’t far away because I was filming Season 2?
CC: Yeah I think you just nearly… you pretty much finished, haven’t you when you started? You were just getting toward the end.
NC: Yeah, filming season 2 of Doctor Who and I’d heard that the Torchwood thing was coming up and my movie had come out in the UK and Europe and done all right. And then I kind of asked them if I could get a chance at something and they were very gracious and said yes, and because they really work on writer’s strengths and because of the movie, we decided that I would write something that would be a bit edgy and have moral dilemmas in there.
CC: And a big urban episode I remember from the start we had that kind of the underbelly of the city…
NC: Yeah and we had a briefing meeting where he said it was kind of going to be humans fighting aliens.
CC: Now go! Write, you fool! Off you go. (laughter all around)
NC: So, I’m writing and that’s what I came back with the guidance of Chris and so forth. It was a real learning experience for me and I enjoyed it. Going to have to go to Chris’s place and they go through it and stuff, but for me – a lot of people say, “oh the Fight Club one” yawn! – but for me it was really more about humanity, the moral code of humans. I think it says a lot about humanity in that episode because we all, not that we know factually that there are other races out there, but the human race is the race that would find an alien and fight it, do you know what I mean? Other aliens would be like, “Welcome aliens come and eat” and humans are, “An alien! Fight it!” We’re destroying our own planet… so if that did happen we would probably chain it up in our garage “Yeah (boom). Welcome to Earth (boom).” I really wanted to show that kind of complexity within humans.
CC: I also think that all these episodes, because we’re going out on a mainstream network in Britain you want big hooks for every episode. You want something to go “and this is where the humans fight the aliens.” The story goes off in a completely different direction, actually. That’s useful for us on a commercial level to get the viewers in.
W: Now, you’re currently in production with season 2.
CC: Yes. I wonder what possibly could be the next question? (laughs)
W displays a bag with a bunch of buttons of James Marsters as Spike
NC: Who’s that guy? I have no idea.
CC: Never seen him in my life.
NC: Do you recognize him? I don’t.
CC: He looks kind of familiar. (laughter all around)
W: We’ve seen the BBC press release.
CC: How much am I going to tell you?
W: Does James Marsters speak with a British accent?
CC: Oh! You’re going to get an exclusive on that, aren’t you? Yes, he does.
NC: That is an exclusive.
CC: That is an exclusive. Nobody’s asked us that. I don’t think that’s a spoiler. His British accent is brilliant! I’ve seen the rushes. I’ve seen the filming. I’ve seen an early assembly of the stuff. He is brilliant. He is so fantastic in this show. I can not even begin to say. Of course he is, ‘cause he’s a brilliant actor but he fits the show and he takes the character by the scruff of the neck. He’s playing a character who is a match for Captain Jack and it’s just wonderful to see, I have to say.
W: Is there any chance his character will come back in the future?
CC: I don’t know. I’m not going to tell you how the story ends, am I?
W: No! We’re just wondering ‘cause it’s your universe. You can do whatever you want.
CC: Yes! Ha, ha, ha, ha… I can’t really, I don’t know at this stage.
W: Well, it was very nice talking to the two of you and for you to take the time to speak to us.
NC: Lovely talking to you.
CC: No, thank you. It was very nice to meet you.
The first season of Torchwood airs on BBC America beginning September 8 at 9pm. The second season is currently in production and will air early next year in the UK.