Travelling Torchwood(s)
: National and Transnational Identities, Glocalisation and the Pseudo-Reflexive Audience

  • Melissa Beattie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Telefantasy series Torchwood (2006-2011, multiple production partners) was industrially and paratextually positioned as being Welsh, regardless of its frequent status as an international coproduction. When, for series four, the production (and diegesis) moved primarily to the US as a coproduction between BBC Worldwide and American premium cable broadcaster Starz, fan response was negative from the announcement, with the series being termed 'Americanised' in popular and academic discourse (e.g., Porter 2012, Derhy 2013). This study interrogates these assumptions via textual, industrial/contextual and audience analysis and finds that, in part due to the competing public service and commercial remits of the BBC, Torchwood was a glocalised text from the beginning, despite its positioning as Welsh, which then became glocalised again in series four. This 'second order of glocalisation,' as I term it, has not previously been explored in depth within TV Studies. It leads to a disjuncture between the national 'imaginary' (Tulloch 1995: 151, cf Weissmann 2012)-- as expressed by the text and interpreted by the (fan) audience. The study also develops the concept of a banal diegetic nationalism, drawn from Billig (1995) and adapted to television aesthetics; this includes elements of the mise-en-scène with a special focus on costume drawn from interviews with both costumers for the series. The Bourdieuian concepts of fan and national cultural capitals are also explored in-depth; their interplay creates and impacts a number of potential readings. In addition, by having conducted 42 semi-structured interviews and four focus groups (totalling 16 further participants), this study qualitatively investigates various readings produced by audience members in the US, UK and Canada, as well as transnational viewers who are long-term residents of one of those nations. The study finds that the audience is pseudo-reflexive (cf. Sender 2012) when it comes to interpretation; though all express an awareness and acceptance that national identity is constructed and fluid, they still express an underlying essentialism when discussing national identity in the context of the series. This broadly agrees with Tulloch (1995) and Weissmann (2012) who both note the inflexibility of audience readings with regard to television and national identity (and their attendant connotations) whilst also helping to account for the lack of reading the initial series text as glocalised. The focus upon fan and national cultural capitals also allows for a discussion of performativity in the context of national identity. My work innovatively extends debates surrounding transnational TV drama into audience studies, at the same time demonstrating the ongoing importance of carrying out critical readings of fan interpretations.
Date of Award20 Jan 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorMatthew Hills (Supervisor) & Jamie Medhurst (Supervisor)

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