Torchwood Miracle Day – Spoiler-Free preview/review

Caleb Woodbridge and Swithun Dobson look ahead to Torchwood: Miracle Day – we’ll have our commentary on episode 1, The New World, online immediately after UK broadcast. Don’t forget to check out our Children of Earth commentaries (Day 1, Day 5and interview with Gareth David-Lloyd!

Caleb’s spoiler-free review:

Miracle Day opens with Oswald Danes, a murderer and a paedophile, about to be executed by lethal injection. It’s a clear statement of intent: Toto, I don’t think we’re in Doctor Who any more. Like its immediate predecessor, Children of Earth, this series looks set to take a twisted sci-fi look at the dark side of our humanity…

It doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the opening episode of Children of Earth – there’s more set-up, as you might expect with the longer run, the shift to America, and lots of new characters to introduce. It’s like those early episodes of Heroes – you get a few minutes introduction to lots of interesting characters, but not much development of any of them just yet, but is just as compelling for it. And I reckon that Russell T Davies and team will be rather better at sustaining their story than Heroes did.

Alexa Havins’ Esther Drummond follows a similar path to that of Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper back in the very first episode of the show. She’s the young innocent investigating the now defunct Torchwood, putting her on the trail of Gwen and Captain Jack.

John Barrowman is just as much John Barrowman as ever. I’m not sure I’d exactly call it acting in the usual sense: it needs its own verb, Barrowmaning, perhaps. He Barrowmans the part of Captain Jack with his usual enthusiasm. No, that’s not a euphemism, though it may well be useful as one as the series progresses!

Mekhi Phifer plays the very driven Rex Matheson. I believe the term that the kids these days use is “bad ass”, but it’s played for laughs as much as anything. Torchwood has always had its quirky side but it was downplayed in Children of Earth in favour of a more serious, high concept approach. As a result, some of the silly moments – good moments, but daft – jar slightly with the Big Ideas being thrown around here.

Does it all add up to a coherent whole? Well, almost. It’s strange to be jumping back and forth between America and Wales – it’s not just two locations, but two styles of television, colliding with each other. Torchwood, in particular the first two series, had the air of wanting to be an American show when it grew up. It was a bit like the Frankenstein offspring of Doctor Who, Angel and the X-Files. As such, it’s appropriate that it should find its way across the Atlantic.

Like the human race discovering it cannot die, the show has undergone a strange and unexpected mutation: becoming American. But for both better and worse, it’s still recognisably Torchwood.

What did you think of the first three series of Torchwood? Will the show successfully translate to American TV? Is the gap between US and UK broadcast acceptable in the digital age? Let us know your thoughts!

5 thoughts on “Torchwood Miracle Day – Spoiler-Free preview/review

  1. Good stuff guys – not showing on iTunes again, is there a problem or am I just being impatienht?!

  2. Thanks Aled! It's showing up on iTunes for me now – there shouldn't be that much of a delay, so I'm not sure what's going on.

  3. It was very American wasn't it? My least favourite new character was Rex – he spent the whole episode barking at people, telling us the Welsh/British are crazy and clutching his chest to prove, yes, he should be dead. Well it dramatizes the point but it got a bit boring.

    The best thing about it is the concept.

    Oh and did you notice Jack used the name Owen Harper to the CIA?

  4. Hmmm, still not getting it on iTunes myself, don't know what's going on then- I am subscribed! Oh well I can listen fine on the blog so it's not a disaster!

    Looking forward to Thursday!

  5. I have to agree with everything you said, really. Exposition overload, I think. Certainly wasn't as tight or interesting as the first episode of Children of Earth but they only had five episodes that time.

    I do wonder what a new Torchwood viewer would make of this first Miracle Day episode. I suspect they too might have quickly tired of the slow way the players were moved into place. If it weren't for the Torchwood history they could have hit the ground running rather than the jogging we got (maybe speed walking!)

    Nonetheless the concept is strong (what is RTD's obsession with death?!) and I hope to yet begin to like some of the new cast. So far they've been pretty 'meh', with the exception of some fun moustache twiddling by Pullman and some really unlikeable 'hero' crap from Phifer.

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