Torchwood: Miracle Day Review -

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  • TV Series: Torchwood: Miracle Day
  • Episode: The New World
  • Starring: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, and Bill Pullman
  • Written by: Russell T. Davies
  • Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
  • Network: Starz
  • Series:

Torchwood: Miracle Day Review

Less than miraculous...

By Rob Vaux     July 11, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day
© Starz/Robert Trate

 I must confess that I’ve not watched much Torchwood before now. I know the character of Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) from the occasional Doctor Who episode, but the idea of following him around on a weekly basis never floated my boat. I list that as a qualifier since the premiere episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day gave me no reason to change that opinion.

It’s not that it lacked the proper elements. The intriguing premise is more than capable of carrying a ten-episode arc. The cast is energetic and appealing, and the ready chemistry between Barrowman and Eve Myles (as the Torchwood Institute’s only other survivor, Gwen Cooper) creates an instant appeal for new viewers. Yet the final impression is surprisingly superficial: all sound and fury, signifying nothing that demands our attention.

It starts with the Problem Du Jour, as everyone in the world suddenly fails to die. People can get hurt, feel pain and otherwise experience all the miseries of existence, but their hearts just keep on pumping. The press calls it “Miracle Day,” but as new days arise and the world’s morticians continue to suffer for business, the real horror of the equation becomes clear. Within four months, the world’s population will outstrip any available resources, leading to mass starvation. Only we can’t die, so “starvation” really means “being incredibly uncomfortable in perpetuity.”

The CIA soon has its best agents poking in the right corners… as well as following up on the Torchwood Institute, word of which mysteriously vanished from its records at the same instant people stopped pushing up daisies.  Operative Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) spearheads the efforts, despite being, um, spearheaded in a car accident that should have punched his ticket for good. He’s joined by analyst Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) and ultimately the two Torchwood survivors to unravel the mystery before the rest of the world unravels. The path apparently crosses that of Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman), a convicted child killer whose execution is interrupted by the phenomenon and who has some dangerous ideas about how to take advantage of it.

All well and good… so why does it all feel like reheated X-Files leftovers? The characters all run to and fro with great vigor, while spelling out the parameters of the scenario so we can follow everything clearly. Lost in the equation is a reason why we should care. Director Bharat Nalluri delivers plenty of slick action sequences that don’t add up to much of anything, while holding the key questions in reserve for future episodes. Does it really matter who started this population explosion, or why? Does anyone doubt that it will be resolved by the time the show ends? And assuming it doesn’t – assuming that Russell Davies and his team pull an amazing narrative rabbit out of their hats – then how does it differ from any of the dozens of other shows who played similar tricks in the wake of Lost?

Call it Metaplot Fatigue: the need for shows of this ilk to string us along without providing any kind of satisfying resolution. Lost pulled it off with style, but many of its imitators have failed to duplicate its magic. Torchwood falls all too easily into the same trap, with deferred satisfaction and a scenario that fails to bait its hooks properly. Longtime fans may be thrilled by the developments, as the team moves to America and the sense of a real shake-up helps it keep a spring in its step. The show also benefits immensely from Pullman: a very engaging actor who does his best work playing creeps and weirdoes of this precise sort.

Sadly, it can’t engender the kind of urgency that it requires to earn itself new fans. I don’t regret watching the show, but I have absolutely no desire to tune in again. Considering the big question it posits, and the wonderful permutations that could arise, Torchwood: Miracle Day feels far too empty for its own good.


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muddseye 7/11/2011 7:01:21 PM

Well at least you didint just give it an "F".  Is it mania's policy to have people who have no clue about the show's they are reviewing, be the reviewer?  Is this thier attempt at being non-partisan?  With a show like "Who" and "Torchwood" I believe it's reviewer whether paid or not, should at least have a decent knowledge of the show.  I dont know, I just find reviewers who have no history of the show like putting a former football great in as a commentator for say Tennis.


Now was ep 1 perfect?  probably not but for me it was great to see the characters back in action and well, I do know them so its easier for me than you.  For me, it was a good first effort and in the end I may be saying, they should have trimmed the season by a few is the first 2 longer season of Torchwood were "Alien of the Week" inside of the "metaplot"

Masedno 7/11/2011 7:58:51 PM

I must say I love reading all your reviews Rob (wether I agree with them or not), I'm happy you tuned in to watch and give it a try. Knowing that the show is a multi episode show, you really should be giving the subsequent shows a try to see where this leads and how it all fits. I know many people who dropped Lost after the first show because, 'it wasnt really going anywhere'. I myself was curious and toughed it out, to my utter satisfaction. To be fair, the grade was spot on (knowing what they have done in the series in the past, this is a luke warm return).

In terms of what the show has brought, maybe a little knowledge of the gems of the show could help you understand why we are eager to see this show return? Starting to watch the show now is like me trying to watch Fringe now: I'm sure its a great show, I just cant get into it without knowing what has happened previously and what drives each character. I couldnt give it a fair review without it.

Some important elements: Jack is mortal again (he cant be, he's the Face of Beau!!). Gwen looks like she's the new Ripley, not the shy little girl from the first season. Not all bad things happen in Cardiff (eh eh eh). I was happy to see Jack and Gwen return but what intrigues me most is how they will behave without the actual Torchwood Institute support and without Jack's travelling device.

Granted, it wasnt as Earth shattering start as some other seasons have been but give it time. Russell Davies has yet to disappoint with his Doctor Who and Torchwood stories, i think we will see another fine season from the UK.

On the down side, i dont like the character of Rex Matheson and his rapid travel. He seems to get better when he gets off the plane, then collapses at Gwen's doorstep, only to recover in the jeep. I chalk that up to a lot to say/do in little time. Hopefully this will not be a trend. I also like Oswald Danes, I'm curious how he will fit into all of this.

I think that the season will get much better and, if you tough it out Rob, that you might even give it an A before the season is over.

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 7/11/2011 8:53:37 PM

I wish people would cool it with the undeserved X-file comparisons. First Fringe had to go through it and now Torchwood. Please. Neither are hardly - except superficially maybe - like X-files at all.

makabriel 7/12/2011 6:14:47 AM

Wait.. Torchwood is playing again?

*runs to check DVR*


makabriel 7/12/2011 6:18:34 AM

Ah, I forgot it's on Starz now.  Wonder if Netflix has it...


lusiphur 7/12/2011 6:52:43 AM

 Not for 90 days, makabriel.  Starz changed their policy earlier this year.

wish 7/12/2011 9:15:30 AM

Wow, the first comment says it all, if you don't know the show then of course this won't really hit home with you.  As a long-time fan of this series, I think this was a really great episode!  I really like that Torchwood is extending to a planetary scale as it did with the last series "Children of the Earth" which was the best season of the whole series so far in my opinion!  This is shaping up to top that 3rd season though, it's a great concept and they are only beginning to touch on it's implications (see the scene with the burned and exploded body that lives after decapitation!!!!!!)  I can see how you wouldn't see Jack in his glory in this episode but I'm confident that he'll shine soon enough, he always does! 

I love the new American characters, especially Bill Pullman who's massive creepiness is indicative of his talent, and the fact that they are going Stateside is a cool way to improve the setting of the show, which was always in Cardiff or London before.  This episode had the right balance of action, drama, sci-fi, horror and comedy that makes Torchwood such a favorite for fans, and speaking of "FANS", anyone who really wants to "actually" try to be a fan of this show, be smart and go back to the beginning, watch all the previous seasons and get to know the show and characters (especially Jack!!) and then tell me what you think of this new series.  In the meantime Mania should let someone else review this show and give the real fans a fair assesment of the episodes for this current 4th season.

Sorry Rob but you blew it when you imediately stated that you hadn't watched any of this show before, why should I have even bothered finishing your article?  Poor review based on lack of homework.  Maybe you should just travel for the summer instead of losing credibility on this site with shitty reviews like this one.

And I usually quite enjoy Rob's reviews, but shows like this require a reviewer educated with the past preceedings of the show in order to give it a fair write-up. 

wessmith1966 7/12/2011 9:21:45 AM

Never watched Torchwood before. I knew the name, but have never seen any episodes. But, since it was on Starz I decided to check it out. I'm glad I did; it was pretty entertaining and I like the premise. My only problem was Mekhi Phifer. I've always liked him as an actor, but he was so far over the top in this episode that he looked like he was starring in a Uwe Boll or old Roger Cormen movie. He was definitely the weak link in an otherwise entertaining beginning episode. I'll definitely watch the next episode. It's got to be better than what Starz did to the Arthurian legend. I was so excited when I saw that Starz was doing a Camelot series, but I hated what they did with the characters.

docwho 7/12/2011 9:44:18 AM

It is obvious that an Alien species is preparing to harvest the Earth for food.  It is also obvious that they have exploited Jack's power.  They sent the Torchwood meesage to get Jack back to Earth and then they sapped his immortality so that they could give it to Earthlings.  More food, yum.

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 7/12/2011 10:02:34 AM

Yeah, DocWho, that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Why would they have to make us immortal to use us as a food source again? I mean it makes sense, with all the immortal food that we have running around.

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