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Cult Tube Talk

Chris Chibnall talks 'Torchwood', 'L&O: London'

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This Friday it's the biggie. The much-anticipated season finale of Torchwood. As I told you last week, it's a very upsetting but excellently-crafted episode that everyone is bound to have their own take on. You really wouldn't thank me if I told you any more - avoid any rumours you may hear elsewhere - so I won't. However, this edition we hear from someone who is perhaps more qualified to do the teasing. Chris Chibnall, lead writer on Torchwood and executive producer of the new London-set Law & Order spinoff, tells us what to expect in the finale.

Coming into the finale, what does Captain John want?
"I would say John wants to get back at Jack. It kind of stems from the moment in episode one, 'Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang', when John discovers that Jack can live forever. The way James Marsters played that scene was really interesting and it was slightly different from what was on the page. Instead of being furious and bemused, he was hurt and affronted. I love that: he plays that scene as if Jack's immortality was a kind of personal insult to him, which it sort of is. So at the end of episode twelve, it's clear that he's come back to get his own back. There's a line he has at the beginning of episode 13 - 'you were very rude to me' - which is the impetus to start the story rolling there."

Was the character of Captain John conceived before you signed up James Marsters?
"We had the character in mind, in a very brief kind of 'there's another time agent' as a one or two sentence description. We had that idea knocking around in series one but never quite got round to it, for various reasons. Then when [James] got in touch with Russell [T Davies] about appearing, we put two and two together and said 'Imagine if you got him playing that character'. So that was all thought about before I wrote the script for episode one. I wrote the script for him, we sent it off, and essentially got agreement straight away."

How do you write a character for James Marsters? He's obviously a cult legend from his days on Buffy...
"You don't really think about that. You're always thinking about the character, so what the show needed - and what Captain Jack needed - was a proper nemesis, somebody to really test him, to push him, and to reveal something about Jack's character. And also show what's great about Jack. In seeing John you see the way Jack could have gone, and probably did, for a little while. Jack, in his experiences with the Doctor and Torchwood, made a very conscious decision to move away from that behaviour."

The seeds for the finale were set right back in the season opener, then revisited again in 'Adam', and throughout. Is it important to have a 'Big Bad' each season?
"I think it's useful in getting a sense that the series is building and has momentum, and also it serves a reward for regular viewers. What you don't want to compromise is your standalone stories, because Torchwood is absolutely designed to be 13 standalone episodes that you can dip into, not really knowing anything about the previous weeks. However, what you occasionally want to do is reward the people who are there every week and play out emotional stories that you can't deal with and close down in 50 minutes. The best series do it that way. My taste is very much standalone stories that resonate with character arcs."

Which specific series do you have in mind?
"Oooh, that's a very good question. Any of the big American series, like ER, which is a very good example of how they use stories of the week to comment on the personal lives of the regulars."

Series two of Torchwood was definitely a more polished product. What lessons did you learn from series one?
"I think series two is better, we're all clear about that. The thing about making any new show is that you learn how to make it. You learn what works, what doesn't, and your strengths as a team. Then with Torchwood, you have the additional [pressure] that you are immediately in relation to another show anyway. We learned from doing series one and tightened a few things up for series two. It is not a reboot in any way. We just polished it up a bit better and we made it slightly more heroic, slightly funnier and built on the work we did. There are a lot of episodes in series one that I'm very, very proud of."

There are quite a few references to the Doctor throughout this series. How does continuity work between the two shows?
"There's no hard and fast rule. I think if there's a reference that is easily got then it's fine. There's a lot of references to the Doctor in episode twelve because we're dealing with Jack's backstory. In terms of the continuity at a production level, we don't want the two shows to knowingly contradict one another - you're sharing the same universe, the same timeline - so it's nice to add references in occasionally. It's a treat for people who watch both shows regularly."

How much forward planning is involved for future seasons? In the finale, for example, are you sowing the seeds for next year?
"Not a question to ask me, to be honest, because I'm moving on to another show. We had conversations about the future of the show, in terms of where the show is going and everything like that. There are considerations, but not really, I just wanted to tell the best finale and the most emotional story in terms of the episode. I don't think there's much groundwork laid for series three in the finale of series two. I think you could pick it up the minute after series two finishes or you could pick it up three months later."

You mentioned the other show, a UK version of Law & Order. How's that coming along?
"Good. I've got a great writing team on board. I got my first choice writers, first choice producers, first choice designers... it's very exciting. We've been over to the States and met with Dick Wolf (L&O creator) a couple of times. I've seen how they make the show over there, and their production team are so phenomenally excited that there's a British version being done. They've been so fantastically helpful. It's a very exciting project to be part of."

It's been said that the show will have a "very British feel". How would you sum that up?
"Do you think I'm going to be crazy enough to sum that up in one sentence?! As with all things, we've got a very clear vision of what the show is and how it fits with an ITV audience. I think you'll just have to wait and see!"

Torchwood airs Friday at 9pm on BBC Two.

Click here to read our interview with James Marsters and check back in with DS after the episode airs on Friday for a very special interview with a member of the Torchwood team.

How does the Torchwood finale sound to you? Click the link below to add your comments to this entry! If you have any questions for the column please use the link at the top of the page instead.

Don't forget to scroll down to read previous editions you may have missed!

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