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Published on August 11th, 2011 | by Andrew Reynolds

Torchwood isn’t ‘too gay’

Many years ago when anyone wanted sex on TV or film all they had to do was lose an acceptable amount of clothing and wait for either a cheeky smash cut or for the whole screen to demurely fade to black before doing the horizontal mamba

These days sexuality is as organic to a character as breathing in and out- and in our oh so knowing, gritty, realistic modernity sex should reflect the world around that character from the avaricious little plebs in Skins to the Victorian tickle your fancy of Tipping the Velvet.

So it comes as no surprise (What? I did say we were knowing) that several viewers have complained about the appropriateness of showing a gay sex scene in Torchwood: Miracle Day episode Dead of Night- leading to this rebuttal from the BBC complaints department:

“In all BBC output the portrayal of sex, or the exploration of sexual issues, should be editorially justified and treated with appropriate sensitivity. In post-watershed content, we must be able to justify the frank and realistic portrayal of sex and the exploration of themes and issues which some people might find offensive.

Captain Jack Harkness is an established character in the series. We felt the content was justified in terms of the context and character and would be within the expectations of regular viewers. We aim to depict relationships whether heterosexual or homosexual in an honest and realistic way. These scenes are not meant to cause offence.”

The question shouldn’t be: ‘Is it appropriate to show gay sex post watershed?’ Instead it should be: ‘Is it appropriate to show sex scenes post watershed?’ and the answer would be yes given the suffix of content and the nature of the material shown.

Regardless of the sexuality there are rules as laid out by the BBC above that govern sex on TV and that scene didn’t break any of them.

While its justifiable to get angry at the incredulity of this it is also kind of sad that the BBC have to explain equality in this manner.


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About the Author


Everyone has a favourite Doctor and mine - just for his honesty, his fairness and his ability to not notice the Master's awful, awful disguises/anagrams (Sir Gilles Estram!?!) - has to be the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. The stories didn’t serve him as well as his acting served those stories.

9 Responses to Torchwood isn’t ‘too gay’

  1. avatar Bobbygaga says:

    Torchwood isn’t gay enough, I say.

  2. avatar Vanessa says:

    Full blown sex has no place in a show that is normally certificate 15 as that would make it an 18 and would be inappropriate for the 15-17 year old viewers. However, it is a 15 ussually so the subject doesn’t have to be avoided completely and a certain amount of sexual content would be acceptable.

  3. avatar ChrisL says:

    Well I suppose it all depends on the direction you approach Torchwood from.
    If, as many of us have, you started watching Torchwood because it is a spin off from Dr Who and you’d missed the earlier Torchwood, then any overtly sexual content would be a surprise. However, after watching the first two series’ it became very apparent, very quickly, that Torchwood is a more ‘adult’ part of the Whoniverse (damn, I swore i’d never use that word) than Dr Who exposes us to.

    The big contrast of course is in the different versions of Torchwood: Miracle Day that are being aired by The BBC and Starz.
    The Starz version showed much more graphic sex scenes than the BBC put out and even though I wasn’t offended by the sex (neither gay nor straight) in the Starz version I felt the narrative didn’t suffer at all in the censored BBC version.
    This leads me to question the need for the graphic nature of the sex scenes as viewed by the American public. I sense it was included purely for shock value in an attempt to gain more viewers.
    RTD used the same seedy approach, although to a much lesser extent, during the earlier Torchwood series’ and in my opinion it cheapens the whole show.

    Having said all that I have to be honest here and admit that this new version of Torchwood is pretty ropey. In fact it’s been a complete let-down and I don’t actually care who, or what, has sex with whom. Neither do I care how graphically this sex is shown – the show is a failure and if it needs to shock in order to gain viewers then perhaps it should just be allowed to fade away through the rift and stop this slow death it’s currently experiencing.

  4. avatar FGP says:

    This is not a question of how gay it is. The bottom line is this is a family show. Yes it’s after 9 and not something you have your 5 year old watching if you don’t want him to have nightmares but my 13 year old daughter loves Dr Who and Torchwood and its avid family viewing when we all site down and watch it together.

    Well it was until it became a bit uncomfortable to watch. NOT because its a gay scene but becasue no 13 year old wants to watch such a graphic sex scene with their mum and dad and neither do the parents.

    There are plenty of programs aimed at adults that you can explore gay straight or any other kind of sexual relationship in. NOT in a program that should be good old hide behind the sofa family viewing. And if its is ‘VITAL’ to the story, we would still ‘GET IT’ if its portrade in a more subtle way, we don’t need to see all the details.

    CAnt anything just be about a fun action packed

  5. avatar Amanda illand says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the previous comment. I have a 13 year old son and had to change channels several times during last nights programme. I am no prude and take no offence sex scenes in general and john barrowman is pleasing on the eye but this programme is targetted at family audiences and until last night fit the bill for family viewing. Will stick to dr who in future!!x

  6. avatar Dan says:

    I thought largely the point of Torchwood was an adult version of Doctor Who? What’s the point of a post-9pm water-shed – you’re saying there’s no room for adult TV?

  7. avatar Marcus says:

    Why have any sexual content at all? straight or gay? This is sci fi and graphic sexual content is not intrinsic to the plot, it is just gratuitous filler aimed at causing a talking point and some publicity. We get it Russell , you are gay, now get on with what you are good at.
    Torchwood lost a heck of a lot of viewers after last week, I know at least a dozen people who wont be watching it again.

    • avatar Jen says:

      Oh God you prude Americans.. XD Violence is fine, sex is evil and unnatural, we get it. Man, I’m glad I’m German.

  8. avatar Mick says:

    The question ‘should sex scenes be shown on TV?’ is a reasonable one… it matters not if the characters are gay, straight or have a penchant for whacking themselves off, using rampant rabbits or banging freely in an Orgy…

    I wonder how many complaints there were about Sparticus when it was aired! We can after all look that up… which I will do after I write this. I get a sneaking suspicion the compliant were not due to the explicit sex… but due to the explicit gay sex. And I’d hazard a guess almost all the complaints were instigated by a limited number of peoples weird sense of what they think are moral values coupled with a brainwashed near fundamental religious model of the world.

    The problem with TV is that the viewer does not get to preview the content before agreeing to watch…. however with digital TV advances this will change and scenes will be available for deletion for those whoof a more conservative disposition. Or viewers who might have children watching… in the case of Torchwood although it was broadcast after the watershed I’m sure even Gay couples would object if their 9 year old kids were watching when a sex scene appears.

    Not that it would bother them… but it would embarrass them in what is meant to be a sci-fi drama!

    From my point of view John Barrowman can swing from a chandelier and piss on the crowd in a TV show if he wants to…. I gave up being embarrassed by the sexual activities of other people a long time ago.

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