Last summer, Starz brought BBC’s Torchwood back for a fourth series with Torchwood: Miracle Day. A true British/American continuation of the popular U.K. series, the 10 episode season was filmed partially in Hollywood. This week, Torchwood: Miracle Day was released on Blu-ray and DVD in a four-disc set.
Torchwood: Miracle Day asks the question, what happens if everyone on Earth stops dying? When that actually happens, it prompts Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) to return to Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), and together, they travel across the Atlantic to the United States, where they team up with the should-be-dead CIA Agent, Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer), and his colleague, Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins). Actually, Rex forces this union, but that’s just semantics, as Jack is always in charge.
With Torchwood staffed again, they track the cause of this disaster to stop it. And “not dying” is definitely a huge disaster; when no one dies, resources quickly become scarce. The only one who seems able to die now is the previously-unkillable Jack. Governments across the globe have their own (very unpleasant) ways of dealing with the crisis, including rounding up and incinerating the should-be-dead victims. Jack and company decide that balance needs to be restored, with nature instead of bureaucracy making the decisions, and they set out to do so.
Meanwhile, Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) rises and falls in popularity. Spared from execution just as the “miracle” begins, Oswald becomes an inspirational celebrity. He travels the country, spouting new found belief in “the miracle,” aided by sleazy publicist Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose). That is, until his benefactors turn on him. And, of course, there is more going on here than meets the eye.
Torchwood is beloved by many of its fans for the relationship between Jack and Gwen. It is present here, just as it had been left at the end of series three. Jack still has to compete for Gwen’s attention with her adoring husband, Rhys Williams (Kai Owen), and their baby. But Jack does have the lure of an otherworldy threat around him, and she lives for that danger. The two men in her life accept that Gwen is going to choose both the danger and the stable marital relationship.
Some fans complain that Miracle Day is not as good as the other three Torchwood series. This may be at least partially attributed to the new, global settings and characters. This adventure is still Torchwood in tone and feel, but the new locales and characters are actually quite nice, growing the established world in exciting and unexpected ways.
The moral question of this story is one that cannot be overlooked. Torchwood: Miracle Day asks viewers to put on a value on life. When is it OK to kill someone? What if they don’t have to die? How can the species be saved when there is not enough food to go around? Who gets to make these decisions? Who holds the decision makers accountable?
There are also elements of acceptance. Once society is made aware of the horrors their leaders are carrying out, and convinced that there is nothing they can do about it, what will people agree to live with? And where will they turn? These questions and a lot more are posed, but there aren’t really answers provided. Not all of the characters agree on what the responses should be. Audiences are tasked with thinking for themselves, always a hallmark of great television.
Instead of grouping all of the features on the last disc, Torchwood: Miracle Day spreads out the extras over all four. On disc one, character profiles are presented for Jack, Gwen, Oswald, and Rhys, totaling about ten minutes in length. They give a little background, as well as explaining some of the motivations in this series.
Disc two has a sixteen minute look at the special effects of Miracle Day. This takes fans behind the scenes at some of the most exciting sequences, including Rex’s impalement and Gwen shooting down the helicopter. A lot of green screen and computer-generated imagery is used, to great effect. It is a testament to the talents of the effects crew just how real much of this looks in finished form.