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TV Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode One

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In my writings reviewing television shows (mainly Doctor Who), I have moaned several times about the difficulties in this day and age of avoiding spoilers due to the rise of streaming services and things like Twitter and Facebook. That’s why I feel it was a particularly bad idea for the BBC to enter into a co-production with the U.S. company Starz. The end result is that we Brits don’t get to watch new Torchwood (a show that came from our shores) episodes until a week after they air in the  U.S. 

The spinoff revolves around Doctor Who‘s immortal Captain Jack Harkness who heads the Torchwood Institute. The institute was established in 1879 by Queen Victoria to help defend Earth from alien invasion and other such things. Viewers of the first three seasons will welcome the return of some of the old gang while meeting some characters for the first time.

These characters are introduced as a crisis unfolds (dubbed Miracle Day by the media), in which the entire human population of Earth stops dying, no matter what happens to them. This presents a crisis because hospitals start overflowing (although people don’t die, they aren’t healed either) and food starts getting scarce.

In addition to our returning heroes Jack, Gwen and Rhys, there are some newbies who are all affected in some way by the miracle. Joining the cast are Bill Pullman, who plays a convicted paedophile, and Mekhi Phifer as Rex Matheson, a CIA agent who is frankly a bit of an asshole. Pullman’s character (Oswald Danes) survives his scheduled execution and talks his way out of prison. Matheson was in a car accident and had a steel rod go through his chest. Matheson and his colleague Esther Drummond exist very much as a way of uncovering Torchwood’s legacy. 

Unfortunately, for seasoned viewers this is where the episode falls down. It works well as an introduction for newer viewers but viewers who know what’s going on won’t find much new here that they didn’t already know about the show. If you’re looking for revelations about the pasts of the team, they’re not to be found here. The premise as a whole is an intriguing one, and they’ve done their homework, but this does not mean it’s vital for a returning viewer to watch the first episode. I would be so bold as to say that people who want to know what’s going on in Torchwood this year can tune into the second episode and just watch the inevitable recap. You’re not going to be missing much, as they’re still establishing the ground rules of the miracle in the second episode. 

Of course, like everything ever made it has bad points and good points, so I would be remiss in not addressing the good points. The episode is funny, in little throwaway lines that don’t detract from your appreciation of the dramatic moments that do excel. One moment in particular that works very well is when the experts are trying to test just how far humanity’s newfound immortality can go and they get quite a shock.  

The bottom line is, if you want to watch this episode I’m not stopping you. Indeed, I liked it, I just thought it worked better as an introduction rather than a fully functional episode. All the same, I am looking forward to watching next week’s instalment on the iPlayer.

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About Scott Varnham

  • Taffy

    I wasn’t impressed with this episode at all, and, disagree with your statement that “they did their homework”. 1.) There’s no way a convicted murderer would be released without months or years of legal action, so that wipes out the entire pedophile-murderer storyline. 2.) CIA agents don’t run around identifying themselves as CIA employees at the top of their lungs, AND, they can’t. Rex wasn’t authorized to run to the UK to “question” Gwen, and so, then, on an unauthorized mission, wouldn’t have gained the cooperation of the UK gvt. drag her to the US to question her. So, scratch that storyline. 3.) There’s no way human physiology works the way it’s shown in this ep, so scratch that storyline. If you want me to suspend my disbelief in the “not dying” premise, you’ve got to make most of the rest of the story realistic (or, spend, like, two minutes on Google.)