When you think of Torchwood's highly acclaimed mini-series Children of Earth, one scene sticks out above them all – Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) dying in the arms of the love of his life, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).


Not only did it devastate fans at the time, prompting petitions calling for Ianto's return and even a shrine in Cardiff's Mermaid Quay, it's one of the biggest lasting legacies of Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off helmed by Russell T Davies. Fifteen years on from the fateful third season of the show, the shrine still exists and is regularly visited by fans, as well as having its own caretaker, Carol-Anne Hillman, who looks after the beautiful monument.

Speaking to RadioTimes.com exactly 15 years to the day after Ianto's death aired in Children of Earth: Day Four, David-Lloyd recalls: "Firstly, we didn't know whether we were gonna get the third series. So to have the phone call from my agents to say that we would go again, we've got a third season, was really exciting.

"He said that it was only gonna be five episodes and at first, I was a bit disheartened. I thought, 'We were a 10 to 12 episode series.' And then he explained that it was going to be one linear story over the course of five days, and it was going to be one of the first television events where everything was going to be shown over a week. And that was quite exciting.

"And then he said, 'And you'll be needed for three or four out of the five episodes,' at which point it sort of clicked and I thought, 'Right, OK. So it is his time.'"

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He adds: "By the time we got to season 3, I felt lucky to have got that far. So it wasn't a massive shock. Of course I was disappointed. I was going to lose a job and, you know, it created a real sort of a family atmosphere among the cast and obviously it was sad, but I felt lucky to have got that far without being killed off sooner!"

The scene itself remains one of the most heartbreaking in TV history. After a slow-burn flirtation, Ianto and Jack grow into a serious relationship – before the potential of any future together is cut tragically short. Dying in Jack's arms, Ianto begs him not to forget about him and, for David-Lloyd, the emotions were very real.

"The way they scheduled it was that it was one of the last scenes we filmed," he recalls. "It wasn't the very last bit but it was my last scene, I think, which obviously helped the emotion of leaving Ianto, leaving the world, leaving the job, leaving friends. So that really sort of helped with the emotion behind that. And we only did it in a few takes, there were a few angles they needed, but yeah, the emotions were pretty raw."

Not only was it the end of a beautiful relationship, but also the loss of a character who had a real-life impact on many fans. With bisexuality being almost nowhere to be seen on British TV in 2009, it's no exaggeration to say that Ianto's storyline as a bisexual man changed lives.

"I've had a few experiences where fans have come up, and they've been quite emotional," David-Lloyd explains.

"And they've said that Jack and Ianto's relationship helped them accept who they were, and come out to their parents or feel that they're given the power to own themselves. I think maybe that has a lot to do with [why Ianto is still so loved], with that sort of relationship being so forefront in a major primetime TV show.

"At the time, it was quite a unique relationship to put at the forefront of a primetime show. And I think maybe that had something to do with it, and people felt connected to it on a deeply personal level, because it spoke to them personally. That's my main theory as to the longevity of the shrine and the attention and the love that Ianto still gets."

Carol-Anne Hillman (caretaker of the Ianto Jones shrine in Mermaid Quay) with Gareth David Lloyd on the 10th anniversary of Ianto's death in 2019
Carol-Anne Hillman (caretaker of the Ianto Jones shrine in Mermaid Quay) with Gareth David-Lloyd on the 10th anniversary of Ianto's death in 2019. Carol Anne-Hillman

As for whether Ianto's bisexuality had any impact on how he approached the character, David-Lloyd adds: "Not at all, actually. I mean, for me, it was a thrill when I found out – it started off as a bit of flirtation between Ianto and Jack in the scripts. It was quite funny and dry and then it sort of turned into a full blown relationship.

"And for me, it was like, 'My character's in a relationship with a leading character. I'll never get more lines and better storylines!' That's the way I felt about it. I didn't really think of the impact or the connections that would be made to fans and audiences."

For David-Lloyd, Ianto being such a crucial character in Torchwood came as a surprise – after all, it was his first major TV role.

"I remember getting the script for [Cyberwoman], which is the Ianto-centric episode, the first episode I got to sort of drive and I wasn't expecting it at all. I was expecting Ianto to be one of those characters that would be a bit like the guy in the red shirt in Star Trek, who was sort of more expendable than the others. So he'd probably be the first to go. So getting that episode, I was bowled over. There was no discussion or warning about it. I just got it and sort of had to do it!"

Gareth David Lloyd as Ianto Jones and John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood
Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto Jones and John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood. BBC

Ianto's death could almost have been very different too – in fact, he almost died in season 2.

"In season 2, originally, it was the Ianto storyline that he was going to be sort of the walking dead, the dead character [and] you can only go so far with a walking corpse deteriorating and rotting as he goes along! So I thought season 2 was going to be the end...

"It was only a few weeks before we started filming that I got told that was no longer Ianto's storyline, it was going to go to Owen [played by Burn Gorman] because it was something about the doctor, the guy who works in the morgue, the dead tending to the dead that was more interesting, which I completely agree with."

Now, Davies has returned to Doctor Who, with David-Lloyd saying: "I haven't watched it really religiously but I caught 73 Yards, which I thought was a great, great episode. I'm just pleased for him that it's going in the direction that it is, that he's got Disney on board and it's getting more of a worldwide exposure."

There's also been talk of spin-offs. While there's no sign currently that Torchwood will return, there's no denying the show is still beloved all these years later by fans and its cast alike.

"I'd jump at the chance to go back to Torchwood," David-Lloyd says. "I don't know how that would work, but it's sci-fi so anything could happen!

"I think I'd owe Torchwood that, to go back to it. It's changed my life, it's a gift that still keeps giving today. I'm still writing stuff for it, it's still very much part of my life and I owe it a lot so yeah, I'd definitely go back."

There's also one particular location where Ianto has been immortalised – Mermaid Quay on Cardiff Bay, where Ianto's Shrine is still visited by fans.

Weirdly enough though, David-Lloyd never gets recognised at the shrine itself.

"I don't get recognised. It's weird – unless they see me having a picture taken. I think a lot of fans are so invested with the fact that they're paying their respects to Ianto, who is no longer with us, that everything in the periphery is missed, they don't really see me!"

"I don't go on my own!" David-Lloyd quickly clarifies, adding: "I know I'll always have an opportunity if friends come over from overseas or are visiting Cardiff. They always want to go to the shrine to have a picture taken. So I've been there a few times, it's been a couple of months since I've been there... I went for the 10-year anniversary. I know [caretaker, Carol-Anne Hillman] has put up lots of decorations.

"My mind boggles that it's still there and I'm just waiting for Mermaid Quay to say, 'Enough is enough, let's take it down!' So it's very weird but very flattering."

All seasons of Torchwood are available to stream on BBC iPlayer.


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