Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Bharat Nalluri
One day, without any warning, no one dies. They are mortally injured, but they do not die. At the same time as the last recorded death, the United States CIA receives emails about the defunct Torchwood Institute.
“The first sign of trouble and you go running off with Captain Jack Bollocks!”
Going in to this review I have to disclose that I am a Torchwood: Children of Earth fan. I caught the odd episode of Torchwood prior to Children of Earth, and I just never cared for it. To me, it seemed the show had the potential to take on topics and investigations that were too “adult” for the Doctor Who family audience. By “adult”, I mean subject-matter that wouldn’t be safe for a family audience. I mean darker stories that deal with high-concept drama and explorations of human nature. What the first two seasons of Torchwood delivered was pointless nudity and sex. So, I avoided the show until I saw the trailer for Children of Earth, and suddenly all the promise of Torchwood was delivered. Children of Earth was brilliant, high-concept sci-fi. The show finally became everything it was capable of being, then it seemed to end.
Well, Torchwood has returned, co-produced by BBC Worldwide and the US Starz network. While I was excited that Russell T. Davies stated that Miracle Day would have more in common with Children of Earth than with the first two seasons of the show. But what gave me pause was that I don’t typically trust the premium US cable channels. I’m not that familiar with Starz, but HBO and Showtime tend to have wonderful production values, great writing and acting, and totally gratuitous scenes of sex and nudity. My fear was that Starz would be no different and that Miracle Day would combine the best of Children of Earth with the worst of American premium cable.
If the episode I watched on the Starz website is any indication, then so far, Miracle Day is following on in the Children of Earth mold. There was quite a bit of action, a LOT of exposition for the new audience (although very well-done), and nothing seemed gratuitous or unnecessarily explicit. There was one scene where we saw an body involved in an explosion, and while that was quite explicit, it also helped progress the plot and mystery. Honestly, I was quite surprised at the restraint of this episode, and extremely relieved. Now, this doesn’t mean that what aired is exactly what I watched online (the premium shows occasionally edit the more mature content from their online streams, which seems to give indication that the mature content is what they believe people want the most), or that the show won’t eventually include the more explicit, gratuitous content, but for the time being, I think the show is a great continuation of what started in Children of Earth.
As for the story itself, the each of the lead characters are introduced (and re-introduced) quickly and effectively. Captain Jack seems to have spent the time since Children of Earth keeping Gwen and Rhys safe and off the radar, their lives only recently in danger as he notices the so-called miracles of no one dying. Gwen and Rhys are living in rural Wales, attempting to raise their daughter with as little exposure to Gwen’s previous life as possible. New character Rex Matheson is a noble CIA agent who wants to get to the bottom of the case primarily because he was supposed to die, but didn’t. This case is intensely personal. Esther Drummond portrays Matheson’s assistant who seems incredibly devoted to him. The only character that seems a bit uncertain at the moment is Oswald Danes, an ex-school teacher who raped and murdered a young girl. While I don’t think his character is unnecessary, at the moment I don’t see how he connects to the primary plot. But this isn’t due to bad writing. Quite the contrary, it is a threat that will most-likely be dealt with later. At this point, everything seems well-plotted. I look forward to seeing if it maintains the pace and intrigue over the course of ten episodes. And then there is the question of how the story is resolved, since RTD doesn’t always provide good resolutions. They tend to be a bit too deus ex machina for my taste. But as long as he sets it up in advance, I’m usually more forgiving.
Now for speculation. I’m not sure what to expect from the show at this point. Sure, the crisis has a lot of potential for exploring high-concept issues such as food, world population, and war. I also love that the show has confirmed one theory I had going into the show, namely that as every human now seems immortal, Captain Jack is able to be injured which means he may now be able to die.
All in all, this was a great continuation of the elements that drew me to Children of Earth. I look forward to seeing what Davies and his writing staff do with Miracle Day.