“Not ‘Touchwood’, it’s ‘Torchwood!”* My thoughts on Miracle Day

15/07/2011 at 9:37 am (Doctor Who, Torchwood, TV)


Torchwood has always been a bit of an oddity to me.  It’s a show I’ve watched religiously, but never quite loved.  Of course, I watched it because it was a spin off of Doctor Who, although charged with the task of placing it in a more adult pocket of that universe.

The results were patchy to begin with, as sex, violence and swearing seemed to be lobbed in to create “adult” content.  The results could make the show edgy, but sometimes puerile in places.  This is possibly because Torchwood’s remit is a tough one to adapt within the glorious nonsense of the world in which the Doctor exists.  Over time, more thought provoking stories were introduced, the overtly sexualised element was toned down, making it feel less like a late night Hollyoaks with aliens.

Now we have Torchwood: Miracle Day following the excellent Children of Earth, 2009’s five part Torchwood miniseries.  Children of Earth employed truly sinister elements to create a gripping close to the show’s purely British adventures.  So what of Miracle Day?  Would it be a step back to finding its feet in this new US co-production?  Could Torchwood be littered with ill informed decisions from boardroom suits taking away the very quirks that make the show?  I have to say, I’m not that bothered about its “Americanisation”.  It’s pretty much an American format show anyway; small team of agents who’s job is to investigate weird stuff.  I’m also glad it’s not a “reboot”.  It’s the original characters, with a continuing story.

It’s an interesting premise, as we find out that no one dies anymore, anywhere on Earth.  As the story opens, we’re shown polar opposite worlds.  On one side, the CIA, which looks like a mood lit call center with some seriously big TVs.  On the other, the rugged Welsh coast, shown in sweeping panoramas.  I’m sure Russell T Davies, the show’s creator, has done more for Welsh tourism than the country’s designated tourist board.  We’re also given the first glimmers of the villain of the piece, in the shape of convicted pedophile and murderer Oswald Danes, played by Bill Pullman.  He’s not a hard character to hate already, but – thanks to the rather long “coming soon” clips at the end – the character becomes ever more important.

It was nice to see old favourites back, and played true to their previous characterisations; Captain Jack (John Barrowman) going from Mystery Man to Mr One-Liner in equal measure, and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) trying to be a laugh, but sliding into serious mode and looking for things to bother her.  What I was also very happy to see was the return of Gwen’s long suffering husband Rhys (Kai Owen) and Gwen’s old Police partner PC Andy (Tom Price).  I can’t be the only one who wants to see PC Andy go stateside, maybe doing a cultural exchange with the FBI.  Or maybe I am.

I still think “Agent Andy” is a great idea for a show.

I also warmed to the new characters fairly quickly – CIA agents Rex Matheson, played by Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins as Esther Drummond.  Havins reminded me of Julie Benz of Angel and Dexter fame, and had a wonderful wide eyed quality.  Not sure about the other series regular, Dr Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur), but I’m sure we’ll get to see more of her character unfold as the story does.  She seems to be the “but you can’t do that, it’s wrong” element to ground the characters.

As much as I enjoyed the story as it unfolded, it was not without it faults.  I can handle the nonsense with rocket launchers and helicopters, but it was the key moment in the story that had a bit of a clunkiness to it.  How do you knit together a storyline to bring our heroes back into the action?  It hinged on the scene where Agent Rex has to fly over to the UK, and travel to Wales.  Yes, time is of the essence here, but with the seemingly small gap in a mobile phone conversation, landing at Heathrow, crossing the toll bridge and getting to the Welsh coast all seemed to be so quick.  For Agent Esther dutifully sat at her laptop, hardly any time seemed to pass at all.

There was plenty to like. however.  Particularly for me, the absolute horror of the explosion victim, was grotesque and brilliant.  It really played to the strengths of the show’s format.  I also loved the little scene where Gwen grabs her handgun, then the little pink fluffy earmuffs to protect her baby’s ears.  In fact, I quite liked all the little domestic bits with Gwen and Rhys, showing Gwen’s constant vigilance.  You can imagine what a nightmare she is to live with. Have a day off, love!

In closing, it was nice to give us a teaser of what’s to come, but I feel it gave a bit too much away.  I’m sure most viewers would’ve been happy with:

Shot of Jack on roof top
Gwen jumping off/out of something
Rhys Looking worried
Officer Rex shouting down the phone
Jack skulking with a hand gun
Officer Esther looking worried
Gwen shooting something
Dr Vera Looking worried
Jack and Gwen shooting stuff while jumping off a rooftop
Explosion

That would’ve been fine!  Saying that, very nice to see Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under’s Claire Fisher) becoming a rather important part of the series.

All in all, very enjoyable.  As a first episode, I think it was strong.  I can see there’s scope for telling a few different tales under the Miracle Day arc.  As long as the question of what’s causing the phenomenon isn’t dragged out too long.

*I loved that line in the title of this post – it’s what my mum calls the show.

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3 Comments

  1. Abramelin said,

    I have to say I thought this was awful. Awful american rock guitar music (what IS IT with americans and bad rock guitar everywhere???), stupid comments regarding toll bridges and typical american hyperbole non-drama regarding ‘get me a dam gun on the aeroplane’, oh please.

    Then the guy receives the co-ordinates to the cottage just when it is visible from his car. Right, so he’s made it all the way across Wales with no directions, to exactly the right place, but only then does he get the directions. Oh, and he receives them as latitude and longitude. Who, I ask you, Who, takes directions when driving, in latitude and longitude? (or at any other time for that matter). WTF?

    Then he shoots a helicopter with a machine gun from point blank range and… oh, he seems to miss ? because nothing appears to happen. FFS.

    Oh, not to forget the female nurse/doctor character…in high heels! ha! ha! Like a Dr on a ward is going to be wearing heels!! We all laughed greatly at that one. How can anybody take tripe like this seriously?

    Sadly missing Ianto Jones, missing the tightness of a weekly story script, spoilt by having been transformed into the usual crap low quality american drama which passes for tv in the states. What on earth has happened to a quality, interesting, unusual and well scripted series?

    RIP Torchwood, because this REALLY isn’t it.

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