‘Doctor Who’ spinoff ‘Torchwood’ getting U.S. remake on Fox

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John Barrowman
John Barrowman

Russell T. Davies, who brought the classic British sci-fi drama Doctor Who back to television and created the edgier spinoff Torchwood, will be the head writer for a U.S. version of Torchwood now in development for Fox.

Fox produced a 1996 television movie called simply Doctor Who that was hoped would resuscitate the franchise, which began in 1963 and went off the air in 1989. It failed miserably, and was universally derided as “too American” with its hints of ill-placed romance and high-speed motorcycle chase.

But The Hollywood Reporter says the original Torchwood production team is behind the remake, which is one of the first major projects of a new BBC Worldwide Productions drama unit. If anyone knows how to make Torchwood work, it’s them.

The real question is this: Will Fox, which has a history of terminating good sci-fi series before their time, even give the show a chance?

Torchwood, an anagram of Doctor Who, follows an elite group of secret government agents who hunt down alien invaders and devices that fall to Earth. It featured more adult situations than the traditionally family friendly Doctor Who, and explored the gamut of sexuality and violence. That shoud be right up Fox’s alley.

Torchwood got two full seasons before a third “mini-season” called “Children of Earth” presented over five consecutive nights, at the end of which only two of the original five central characters remained alive. Star John Barrowman, who played the immortal (literally) Capt. Jack Harkness, is believed to be involved in the new Fox project, according to the U.K.’s Guardian. If that’s true, we may not see a “remake” so much as a continuation, with Harkness starting over in America after losing most of his team in a succession of tragedies. (That’s just my speculation, of course.)

Barrowman seems to have been trying to break into the American acting scene for a while: Last summer he was reportedly being courted by ABC for a role in its primtime soap opera, Desperate Housewives, according to statements the actor made on the BBC’s Radio One. The American citizen, who was born in Scotland, also has been rumored to be up for the title role in a Captain America film.

A Doctor Who fan also has to wonder what this means for the possibility — or lack thereof — of crossovers and occasional references in Torchwood to the series that spawned it.

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