The newest, fourth season of Torchwood, dubbed “Miracle Day,” now on Starz, as well as BBC, begins with “The New World.” In it, everyone on Earth suddenly stops dying, including Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman, Independence Day, Too Big to Fail), a convicted pedophile and murderer, whose execution fails to take. People can still be severely injured, but even being blown up and having one’s head severed from the body does not stop consciousness or life. Strangely, the event extends only to people, not animals, insects, or other forms of life. Which means that the planet has four months before total destruction, instead of the two days it would have taken otherwise.
Oswald forces a debate over whether he should be released, as he has technically served his sentence, but the governor doesn’t wish to let go of such a dangerous person. In the end, the legal arguments win out, and Oswald becomes a free man once more. What he will do with that freedom remains a mystery.
At the same time, CIA Agent Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins, All My Children) sees the word ‘Torchwood’ flash across her computer screen, and begins to investigate a possible connection between Torchwood and the lack of death. As she tries to find paper files on the mysterious Torchwood, the computer ones being wiped, she is found by Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), one of the subjects of her investigation. Jack is normally immortal, but it soon becomes clear that he doesn’t heal the way he used to, and is likely the only human being capable of dying on the planet. Jack heads to Wales to find his former co-worker, and the only other member of Torchwood left alive, Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles).
Esther learns, as fans of the first three, British-made, seasons already know, that Torchwood is an institute set up by Queen Victoria to defend the Earth from all manner of strange things, including alien incursions. Many times over, Gwen, Jack, and friends save all life on the planet. But those comrades that work alongside them die off one by one, until only those two are left. While now defunct, Torchwood may be just what Earth needs now.
Esther’s superior, Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer, ER, Lie to Me), is in a car accident, and would be dead, if not for the “miracle” overtaking the planet. He awakens, and Esther tries to push him into finding Torchwood. Rex agrees, and flies to Wales, managing to find Gwen, who is in hiding with her husband, Rhys (Kai Owen), and their infant child. Gwen is suspicious of Rex, but before they have time to get to know each other, they are attacked. Luckily, Jack comes to the rescue. After the bullets stop flying, Rex has Gwen and Jack extradited to the United States to help him find out the cause of “Miracle Day.”
To have Jack and Gwen back after such a long absence (season three aired two years ago, and only has five episodes) is gratifying. While time has surely passed for them, and many things are different, they seem much the same people at heart. Gwen is hiding with her new family, and Jack stays missing to protect her. But their glee at reconnecting and having a new mission is as satisfying for them as it is for the fans. Whether Rhys likes it or not, the two are back in action, and with some new friends, it is likely they will save the day once more.
As “Miracle Day” will be longer than “Children of Earth,” the subtitle for season three, there is no urgency for everything to happen right away. More than one critic has complained that it makes “The New World” move a little slower than one would like. I disagree with this assessment, glad that time will be spent getting to know the new players in the game, as well as to slowly unravel the mystery behind what is going on. Torchwood once did cases of the weeks, but a longer arc is a much more gratifying way to digest the adventure.