Saturday, 16 July 2011


Torchwood: Miracle Day had its BBC One premiere on thursday night. One week behind US cable premium channel Starz, now co-producer of Torchwood with BBC Worldwide Productions. Miracle Day arrives two years after Torchwood: Children of Earth, the five one-hour episode masterpiece miniseries.

Sinister Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) is about to receive a deserved death sentence curtesy of the State of Kentucky when things go not as planned. Meanwhile, a name known only in some very restricted circles gets the attention of CIA agent Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins): Torchwood. She informs her colleague Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) but he has a spectacular car accident. In Wales, former Torchwood member Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) lives with her husband Rhys (Kai Owen) and their baby - only Police Sergeant Andy Davidson (Tom Price) can contact her. Rex survives because Death took a sabbatical and everybody else in the world doesn't die anymore. Esther feels this global "miracle" could be linked to Torchwood and searches the archives where she meets Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).

« No one dies these days.
- You wanna bet? »

Torchwood: Miracle Day is the fourth incarnation of the Doctor Who spin-off launched in 2006 and initially developed and produced by BBC Wales. The American co-production and the filming stateside (majoritarily) raised some apprehension but fans expected exec producers Russell T. Davies (creator of Torchwood), Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter to be a guarantee of the programme's integrity. Davies himself writes this first episode, aptly titled The New World, directed by Bharat Nalluri - also executive producer. At his best Nalluri is more than a director, he's a genius stylist. He directed the premiere episodes of Spooks, Hustle (of which he got the idea), and Life on Mars. He's the man behind the stylistic identity of those three hits which established the reputation of Kudos, their prodco. Unfortunately his name is also associated to that mess called Outcasts.

The New World has the double duty to reinstall Torchwood after a two-year absence and transplant it in an American setting without betraying its DNA. However Torchwood: Miracle Day is mainly designed for Starz's viewers and is submerged with US television fiction tropes right from the totally uninspired and short title sequence, out of a net med drama. Without "Tarantino Gwen", Rhys and unsung Torchwood hero Andy, Captain Jack would almost be a special guest star in his own show (with a predictable twist) arriving only after 20 minutes. And would-be team members Esther and Rex are not a solace, as the former is the generic American TV government agent and the latter is one of the most irritating characters in the History of television. Among newbies only Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) is of some real interest for now.

Nevertheless an overall watchable 50-minute US sci-fi fare (think The X-Files or Warehouse 13) with uneven humour, action sequences tailor-made for the North American market, and the brilliant presence of Bill Pullman. The next episode of this Malthus meets 24 dystopia will tell what is left of the identity of an originally British drama, definitely fading away behind the economic necessities.

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