It’s actually Doris Egan’s fault. Years ago, I made a solemn vow to myself not to become addicted to more than one television series at a time. I don’t have a lot of free time to obsess over more than one, and most shows on my DVR are for casual, one-time view it and delete it use. Right now, the object of my obsession has been House, M.D. as it has since 2004 when it first premiered. But I’m a fan of Ms. Egan’s most excellent television writing. A favorite among House, M.D. fans, she has penned some of the best episodes in the six seasons for which she served as a writer and producer.
Along with many fans, I was disappointed when Ms. Egan left her House gig (whether it’s temporary or permanent, I certainly do not know). However, I was excited to learn that she had signed on to write for Torchwood: Miracle Day. The fourth season of the BBC series Torchwood, originally spun off from Doctor Who, has been transported across the pond to the U.S. (and STARZ).
Friends have been trying to get me into the Doctor Who universe for many years, but I never quite got into it as a must-see series. I’ve dabbled from time to time, so I know that his ship, the TARDIS is a blue London police call box, and that he’s combating Daleks, and that there have been ever so many incarnations of the timeless time lord (and as many actors playing him). But that’s about it.
So, with Egan attached to the new season, I thought I would tune in have a look at Torchwood. Stick my toe in the water, as I’ve also done this season with Alphas (Syfy Channel): a mere summer fling. At least that was the plan. Before 25 minutes had passed, the plan, such as it was, had been forgotten. Intrigued by the Torchwood‘s complex protagonist Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), I was left hungering for more.
With a very hot and rainy weekend hovering over the Chicago area (but, not, to my knowledge any evidence of a time rift), I took a deep breath, booted up Netflix. Queuing up three seasons of Torchwood to my hopefully cooperative Blu-ray player, I pleaded with the machine to avoid its usual knack for re-buffering at the most inconvenient times, and plunged in.
Two days later (more or less), I came up for air genuinely addicted. Gee, thanks, Doris! Just what I need: another television series requiring my care, feeding, and constant attention.
The Torchwood Institute, so the story goes, was created by Queen Victoria to investigate the unusual—sort of Victorian X-Files. The Institute operates outside normal government channels, and seems to have fallen in and out of favor over the many decades it’s been in business. Torchwood takes place in modern day Cardiff, Wales, the location of a rift in the time-space continuum. In a time (or temporal) rift, people and objects can fall through from other times (future or in the past) and locations, including alien beings and technology. Torchwood investigates and captures (or destroys) malevolent creatures, collecting their technology to stockpile for some coming battle.
Torchwood: Miracle Day begins with a failed execution. Imagine a convicted pedophile and murderer—cold and unrepentant—prone on his deathbed, the needle plunged into his arm carrying his neither cruel nor unusual punishment. But Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman, Independence Day) doesn’t die. Danes has been given another chance. How he ultimately uses it is another question. But he’s not the only one refusing to die.
What would happen if suddenly one day, no one could die anymore? Not from illness, not from physical trauma, not from poisoning—death simply ends. That is the premise of Torchwood: Miracle Day. Where does the Torchwood Institute come in? The word “Torchwood” mysteriously appears, then disappears in connection with this so called “Miracle Day.” And soon anyone with any connection to the Institute (even saying its name) is targeted.
When fans last saw Captain Jack, Torchwood barely had a pulse. With most of the team dead, only Jack and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) remained alive. Jack had gone off to some other time and place, and Gwen, now living a theoretically peaceful life in Wales with her husband Rhys (Kai Owen) and new baby, living in constant fear for her life. Events catapult her from the bucolic life back into the action, certainly by episode two.
As for the immortal Captain Jack, he is, ironically, now suddenly very mortal. The two things must somehow be connected, and the mystery surrounding it is certainly one worthy of the Torchwood Institute. Gwen and Jack reunite and reluctantly go back into action, this time adding CIA agent Rex (Mekhi Phifer) to sort out the “miracle” (which has several definite downsides, including a mega population boom).
Captain Jack is exactly the sort of literary hero to whom I gravitate: brilliant, outwardly brash, even egotistical, but harboring a lot of torment and secrets buried deep inside. He has a deeply human side, but can come across as cold and overly rational when weighing life and death choices. (Okay, I admit it, he’s very, very easy on the eyes.) The rest of the characters in Torchwood are quite compelling in their own right; none of the characters—friend or foe—are cookie-cutter stereotypes.
Of course now that I’m hooked, I can’t stop with four seasons of Torchwood. I have to go back at least to the relevant Doctor Who episodes (with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant as the ninth and tenth Doctors). And then of course there are the fansites, novels, and audio books. It’s a good thing House doesn’t come back on the air with new episodes until early October! (Oh, and there is even one episode of the very British Torchwood series that references my own favorite doctor!)
Torchwood airs Friday evening at 10 PM ET on STARZ.