BBC censors gay sex scene from Torchwood

Uncensored version to run Saturday nights in Canada

From its inception in 2006 by Queer as Folk creator Russell T Davies, the TV series Torchwood has been billed as “sci-fi for adults.” For three seasons now, this blend of The X-Files and True Blood has cheerfully thrown sex, swearing, blood and bondage into its alien mix as openly gay actor John Barrowman stars as the immortal, bisexual WWII veteran Captain Jack Harkness, leading a team of paranormal investigators in the UK.

Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones, played by John Barrowman, Eve Myles and Gareth David-Lloyd.

In its new season, a creepy 10-part series dubbed Miracle Day, the show has moved to Los Angeles in a co-production deal with the US Starz network. Fans worried the new American partners would neuter Jack’s cheerful polymorphous promiscuity, but for episode three, airing later this week, it’s the BBC that has angered viewers by choosing to censor a sex scene between Barrowman and Canadian actor Dillon Casey.

In an interview with TV news website, Barrowman insisted, “It’s not gratuitous sex…You go back into history with Jack and you discover an integral relationship that is part and parcel to what is happening. It’s a massive story.”

While seasons one and two of Torchwood included Barrowman making out with several male co-stars, the series ran on sub-channels BBC2 and BBC3. With the 2009 Children of Earth miniseries moving to the flagship BBC1, Torchwood got great ratings but increased scrutiny at a time when, like here at home with our CBC, the Conservative government is proposing cuts to the public broadcaster’s funding.

The BBC edits of Torchwood air in Canada on CTV’s Space network on Tuesday nights at 8pm but Renee Dupuis, communications manager at Space, assures that the Canadian network will also continue to run the uncensored Starz versions on Saturdays nights at 9:10pm, so those deprived of seeing Barrowman and Casey go at it this weekend can check it out Saturday.

Davies, meanwhile, has pitched a new series about gay men (enigmatically titled Cucumber) to the US cable channel Showtime, home to daring series like Weeds and Dexter. For a writer who likes to provoke, such censorship worries may soon be science-fiction.


About Scott Dagostino

An arts & culture journalist who's the bastard love child of Van Morrison and Jessica Mitford
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