Saturday, July 9, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day - 'The New World' Review

Two years ago, the fate of Torchwood was up in the air. After the incredibly shocking finale of Children of Earth, Torchwood's series three miniseries, it almost seemed as if the show may be ending on a dark, and final note. Where did you go from there? Jack (played by the incredible John Barrowman) left earth and was on the run, trying to atone for his sins. Gwen (played by the always gorgeous Eve Myles) and Rhys ( the always dependable Kai Owen) were now parents of a little girl. And the Torchwood Hub was quite literally destroyed. It seemed as if Russel T. Davies, the creator of Torchwood, and the man who revived Doctor Who for the BBC, had penned his last adventure featuring Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper. But here we are, for the first time in two years, with the continuing adventures of what's left of the Torchwood team, fighting what may be their biggest threat yet. Did the co-financing of America hurt the return of the critically acclaimed British series, or did it manage to move across the pond in tact? Find out after the jump.

A convicted child rapist and murder named Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) is strapped to a chair, about to face the fate he created for himself. He is injected, but some how survives. That same day, FBI Agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phiffer) is impaled by several large metal rods, only to wake up in the hospital alive when he should most certainly be dead. But it's not just a freak accident for these two men. Across the world, no one dies for a day, The day becomes known by all, as the Miracle Day. And in the middle of it all, the the now defunct Torchwood becomes the target of an investigation by two FBI agents who think they hold the secret to what has happened. As Jack catches wind of the situation, he destroys all evidence leading back to him or his former team, and sets out to protect the last member, Gwen Cooper, from the events that are about to transpire.

There was quite a bit of worry in the fan community over the fact that Torchwood: Miracle Day would be co-produced by the American production company Starz. Fans worried that it would turn out to be very Americanized, somewhat like the ill-fated 1996 Doctor Who television film that starred Paul McGann, co-produced by Universal Studios. Another shocking turn of events had the show being moved out of Cardiff, which many fans, myself included, became very nervous about. Torchwood set in the USA? That just screamed blasphemy. But all fans can breathe a sigh of relief, because Torchwood's integrity is still in tact, and the show has never been better. 

Miracle Day, in my opinion, is the beginning of what could be the strongest series of Torchwood yet. It hit all the right notes with me, and really has me anticipating what we have to come. This is the first of a ten part series, and Miracle Day does a great job at being the set up for what looks to be a fun, globe trotting affair. Torchwood's very distinctive vibe has absolutely survived the move across the pond. There is definitely a bit of a '24'-like undertone as well, with a government conspiracy and cover-up, but it's not too much. To me, they found a perfect balance to make it appeal to the original fans, and bring in new fans as well. That said, I find that the producers wanting to make this a stand alone series that new fans could jump into, while slightly accurate, is off. I found that the series may be hard for new fans to completely understand. There are lots of little winks and nods to the previous series, while also making very important connections that aren't dealt with much. That may change over time, but this is important information that only fans of the prior series' will understand, and new comers may scratch their heads at. Everything from why Gwen and Rhys are on the run, to what exactly Jack is and what his true abilities are. It is a big deal, and seemed sort of passed over to me, but I have a feeling it will be much more front and center later into the series. 

I must say, the cast that they were able to acquire for the new Torchwood so far is quite good. Of course, we have the return of the series star, John Barrowman, as Captain Jack Harkness. Barrowman has been front and center every season so far, and each season he gets to bring a new layer to Jack. But Barrowman plays Jack so comfortably and well that you'd swear it hadn't been so long since he last played the character. He just oozes the headstrong, cocky nature so well and really brings Jack to life. We also get the return of the always lovable Eve Myles as the tough as nails Gwen Cooper. Her character has come a long way from the naive officer thrown into this world of aliens and conspiracy. She is now a tough, gun totting gal who wants nothing more than to be with her child and husband, but also deal with the world's new mystery, no matter the cost. It's a real dilemma for her, and it shows. Mekhi Phiffer's FBI agent Rex is a character I really look forward to seeing. He plays the part very well, and is very convincing as a man who is tortured by the fact that he should be dead. The pain he feels emotionally, not just physically, just comes pouring out. The scene in the hospital where he realizes what has happened to him, for me, is one of the strongest scenes in the episode. Phiffer just knocks it out of the park, and you can't help but care for his character Rex.  For me though, the standout here is Bill Pullman. I have been a fan of Pullman for a long time, and his character Oswald couldn't be further from anything I've seen him previously play. The character is sleazy, evil, and just a bad, bad guy. But he also comes off as a genius, getting himself freed from prison after his attempted execution. Every time he is on screen, I couldn't help but feel a chill. He just plays the character in a way that got under my skin, and I'm glad he was able to pull it off that way. It was a standout in the episode so far. I look forward to seeing where his character goes.

One thing I have to say for Miracle day is I LOVE the story so far. It's very interesting. The idea that no one is dying is very, very, well done here. Not only do they deal with that, but they're also dealing with the idea of what repercussions if brings to the world. Yes, people may not be dying...but children are still being born. Within weeks, the world will be overpopulated even more and there will be a shortage of food. And what happens to these people when the miracle ends? Do they all die like they should have? So many questions to be answered and so much to deal with. I look forward to seeing the conclusion of it.

Torchwood: Miracle Day is an incredible continuation of the series that I did not expect. With nine more episodes left in this particular series, it'll be interesting to see exactly where Miracle Day goes. I really look forward to seeing how Jack's new found problem causes, and how the world will be affected by this new Miracle Day. It's a true testament to Russell T. Davies' writing and characters that they have survived the transition over seas and have not been terribly altered or fix. While not a perfect jumping point for new fans of the series, I definitely see it becoming a fan favorite and obtaining new followers for the series. Next Friday can't get here soon enough, and should fill the void for Doctor Who fans waiting for this mid season break to end. 


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