News
3 min

BBC censors gay sex scene from Torchwood

Uncensored version to air Saturday nights in Canada

Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper played by Gareth David-Lloyd, John Barrowman and Eve Myles. Credit: Xtra Files
From its inception in 2006, by Queer as Folk creator Russell T Davies, the British 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, with openly gay actor John Barrowman starring as Captain Jack Harkness, an immortal, bisexual Second World War veteran who leads a team of paranormal investigators.
 
In its new season, a creepy 10-part series dubbed “Miracle Day,” the show has moved to Los Angeles as part of a co-production deal with American network Starz. Fans worried the new American partners would neuter Jack’s cheerful polymorphous promiscuity, but for Episode 3, 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. 
 
As an irritated Barrowman told website Zap2it, “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 costars, the series ran on sub-channels BBC2 and BBC3 at the time. In 2009, the third season, “Children of Earth,” moved to the flagship BBC1. It got great ratings but also drew increased scrutiny at a time when, just as here at home with our CBC, a conservative government was 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.