When it aired on BBC Three more than a month ago in the United Kingdom, the series premiere of the “Doctor Who” spinoff Torchwood made history by bringing in more viewers — 2.5 million of them — than any other show in the channels history. Led by the mysterious and enigmatic Capt. Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman) the elite unit of alien hunters stand guard over a rift in time and space, cannibalizing any alien technology that washes up on human shores.
The series has struck a chord with the British public with the series becoming an overnight success. But in truth no one was quite prepared for the reception Torchwood received when it launched.
We knew that we would have an audience, but we didnt realize we would have such a big audience, Barrowman told Airlock Alpha’s Alan Stanley Blair. We knew that we were doing something that was going to be very different than what had been done before like with Doctor Whobut when we saw the final product of it … we knew we were onto something that was really really good because it all just kind of came together and it looks good and people are enjoying it, which is the most important thing.
While some of the success could be attributed to “Doctor Who” itself, Barrowman admitted that the cast and crew of “Torchwood” received pressure from themselves to break into an older audience in the way their parent show never could.
There wasnt pressure, but there was pressure, he recalls. Because we are the spinoff of, you know, the mother ship — mother earth basically — so were under pressure to perform for the different audience and we did, I think we did but like I said we took some audience from Doctor Whoand we knew there would be an audience but weve gained our own audience in that sense because were so different from Doctor Who.Doctor Whowill always be our birth mother in a sense and we are different and will always be different.”
And the series has certainly accomplished its goal with the show being a top winner for the channel and rocketing Jack Harkness into a household name. But just how much of Capt. Jack Harkness originates from the writing team, and how much is from Barrowman himself?
There is about 90 percent of John Barrowman in Jack Harkness, and theres about 90 percent of Jack Harkness in John Barrowman, the actor said with a laugh. So you can go figure that out. Who wouldnt want 90 percent of Jack in you?
The character of Capt. Jack was written into the series by Steven Moffatt for his two-part adventure made up of The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, however he ended up continuing his escapades for a further three episodes before being left behind by the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) in the first season and eventually taking on a series of his own. But now that Jack has Torchwood, what are the odds fans will him aboard the Tardis in the future? According to Barrowman, the wheels are already in motion.
I will be in [season] three of Doctor Who, he said excitedly. I will be in the last three episodes of four episodes, and the scripts are being written as we speak because I just got a text from Russell [T. Davies] telling me that hes finishing the script that Jack returns to Doctor Who.
Although Jack will be stepping back into the mother series, it doesnt mean there is a crossover episode on the way : and Barrowman said he himself is quite happy to keep the two shows, “Torchwood” and “Doctor Who,” apart.
You will never see, you will never have Whocrossing over into Torchwood, Barrowman exclaimed. Doctor Whois for children, is a base for family viewing and children. Torchwoodis not. The only person that will cross at this point will be Jack going back and forth, because Jack has a different persona in Doctor Whoas he does in Torchwood,if that makes any sense. Hes darker because of his circumstances and hell change again when [he] comes in, or he might be darker when he comes back in Doctor Who.
“I dunno yet but, the Doctor will never come into Torchwood.
Now while Jacks return is certainly cause for celebration by his many fans, Barrowman said there is currently no news of a second [season] for Torchwood, but hes hopeful that the series will return after its first season finishes in January.
Barrowman said that he cannot comment on his upcoming Doctor Who episodes because they are still a work in progress, but he did drop a couple of hints surrounding the rest of Torchwood.
Im sure at some point whether it be in Doctor Whoor Torchwoodyoull learn all of his back history, Barrowman said of Capt. Jack. Towards the end of this [season] of Torchwood,youll learn some of the back history for Jack.
But don’t expect to hear any more than that from the mouth of John Barrowman. I cant tell you something no one else knows because Id be blasted by a Dalek or a Cyberman, he joked. What I can tell you is that you will learn a lot about Jack in the next few episodes and towards the end of the [season]. And also that as youve noticed in the series thus far, everybody has a secret and youre going to find out more about their secret and how things start to unravel. And that was a hint.
Playing the same character over two shows is bound to have an impact on Barrowmans career, but just because he will be playing Jack on both Doctor Who and Torchwood doesnt mean hes going to be Jack forever. But then again, it doesnt mean hes opposed to the idea either.
If I was typecast as Jack Harkness for the rest of my life and I played Jack Harkness, Id be completely happy,” Barrowman said. “But I kind of pride myself on my career over the past where Ive not been typecast. I do different things at different times just to keep things alive for me.”
Some of those things include a concert he’s preparing for BBC Radio 2 as well as a pantomime over Christmas playing a different Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Although hes keeping busy on his varied schedule, Barrowman said that as an actor he is very fond of the opportunities he has as an actor through the science fiction genre. And that was something which first attracted him to Jack in the first place.
I love science-fiction, I love playing these characters because science-fiction for me is very much like musical theater, he said. Its a very heightened reality, its an unbelievable circumstance. You get put into situations that are completely unbelievable because they havent happened yet, or maybe theyll happen in the future, we dont know. But I totally love what I do every single day. I love going to work. I love filming. I love being in the situation so my expectations are to continue to do it.
One of the many reasons Jack has become such a notable figure in British television is due to his omnisexuality, and because of this, Barrowmans own life — he is openly gay — has become very public. The actor will be entering a civil union with his partner on Dec. 27 in a ceremony not too far from the Torchwood Hub in Cardiff, and the entire cast of the show is expected to be there to support him.
I dont mind people wanting to know about my personal life because I see my personal life being normal like everybody elses, Barrowman said. And thats one of the things that I try to promote to young people and to people who dont understand is that you just have to accept it.
“Im not asking that you live my life, but Im asking that you accept my life. Jack has been an incredible figure for the British public because theyre the ones whove accepted him, and in return, accepted me. So Im really grateful to the writers Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffatt for creating Jack because it has opened up a whole bunch of doors for the British public to look upon sexuality as being no big deal. Which is a good thing.
Special thanks go to Mark Barrowman for not only arranging this interview but for hosting it as well. Mark owns MB Disco Supplies in Stirling, Scotland, and offers advice to young DJs trying to break into the scene. He can be found on the web by visiting www.mbdisco-supplies.co.uk.