Torchwood: Miracle Day (Episode One: The New World) (Starz, Fridays, 10/9 Central) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Torchwood: Miracle Day (Episode One: The New World)

Starz, Fridays, 10/9 Central

Jul 09, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


There’s a chilling scene midway through The New World, the first episode of Torchwood‘s 10-episode fourth season —a continuous story dubbed Miracle Day —in which a charred up near-corpse of a man who has just survived a bomb blast lies on an operating table. There’s not much left of him, just a rough skeleton with bits of flesh and muscle hanging off it. But he’s still conscious and it’s suggested that his head be detached to test a theory. The sound effects alone will leave you tingling as the few nerve endings still connecting the head to his hollowed out body are snapped. Once removed, the head’s eyelids slowly open to gasps —the patient is somehow still alive.

The media has called it “Miracle Day,” the strange day earlier that week where everyone has stopped dying. Even those braving the worst of near-death experiences, such as decapitation, still live. The basic premise for Miracle Day is certainly thought-provoking. Mass eternal life sure sounds nice, until you think of the over-population implications (“the fastest population boom in history,” as one character describes it). In this age of rehash, kudos to Torchwood creator/writer/producer Russell T. Davies for coming up with a sci-fi concept that’s never been explored on the small screen before. We’ll see how the central dilemma plays out over the season, but it certainly raises some interesting questions. Many people would be happy for a life free of the worry of death, but if we all lived forever there would only be months until everyone on Earth is left fighting over the remaining food supplies.

Episode one opens with convicted rapist/murderer Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) being given lethal injection, but it doesn’t take, with Danes flailing around the execution table in pain, but not death. Meanwhile, C.I.A. analyst Ester Drummond (Alexa Havins) is investigating an email sent to the agency about a defunct secret British government team named Torchwood. At the same time she’s on the phone with C.I.A. agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer), just as he’s involved in a car accident that should’ve been fatal. Torchwood was a British government organization originally set up by Queen Victoria to defend Britain against extraterrestrial threats. The sole remaining members of the team—Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and a mysterious bisexual immortal, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman)—are slowly brought into the transatlantic action. Gwen is hiding out in a remote beachside location in her native Wales with her husband Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) and their two-year-old daughter, attempting to stay under the radar of the government and Torchwood’s former enemies. Rhys is insistent that Gwen leaves her Torchwood life behind and doesn’t investigate the “Miracle Day” phenomenon, but she may not have a choice in the matter, especially when Captain Jack resurfaces.

So far, each season of Torchwood has managed to be better than the last. Based on only the first episode of Miracle Day, it’s too soon to say for certain whether this trend will continue, but changes are definitely afoot with the show. Much has been made about this being the first season of the British show to be co-produced by both the BBC and Starz and how that will affect the show. While this is not a reboot or remake—it’s in the same continuity, does include some of the original U.K. cast, and partly takes place in the U.K.—for better or for worse this is an Americanized Torchwood. It features such recognizable American actors as Pullman (Independence Day, Lost Highway), Phifer (ER, Lie to Me), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, The Crow), and Wayne Knight (Seinfeld, Jurassic Park), and was shot mainly in Los Angeles. Partnering with Starz has upped the budget (a climatic episode one action sequence involving a helicopter is particularly impressive by Torchwood‘s standards) and gives a more global feel to the story, but the Americanization may have also watered down some of Torchwood‘s U.K. charm.

The third season, 2009 five-episode Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth, was one of the best-reviewed shows of that year and still stands as one of the most compelling sci-fi TV events of the last decade. It asked tough questions about a morally ambiguous predicament and also delved into a complex web of British politics, cover-ups, and bureaucracy. Miracle Day has the potential to reach similar heights, but many of the moments not featuring the original British cast feel less like Torchwood and more like a new American spy/action/thriller show. (This is not helped by the fact that most of the original Torchwood team were killed off in the last two seasons and Captain Jack only shows up about a third of the way through the episode.) Phifer seems the most at odds with Torchwood‘s tone. Pullman, however, is a minor revelation, as audiences used to watching him play presidents and other such noble figures will be surprised to see him as such a vile character, one who is being set up to have an interesting arc over the season.

It remains to be seen whether Miracle Day will equal Children of Earth. But unlike such frustrating recent sci-fi series as The Event, FlashForward, and even Lost, it is likely that Miracle Day‘s central mysteries will be revealed by the end of the season and it’ll probably be a fun ride getting there. (www.starz.com/originals/Torchwood)

Author rating: 7/10

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Robert Paulsen
August 24th 2011
6:32pm

I know this is an older post but I just wanted to stop by and let all the fans of Torchwood know about a place where they can watch it for free, that’s at DISHOnline. I’m glad people like me have other options. A benefit to being a DISH Network customer and employee is that I can watch thousands of titles for free at http://bit.ly/dJzWgo, this includes Torchwood!