The debut of the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood on Starz had me a little thrown off by how produced it was relative to the BBC original. A bigger budget led to a lot of big action, but the essence of the show appears to be intact based on the series opener. A global mystery revolving around the end of death on Earth hits just the right notes and I’m genuinely excited for what comes next.
Spoilers for Torchwood: Miracle Day, The New World (episode one) and the histories of its principal characters may follow.
While the show’s production quality is clearly higher than previous seasons, it suits the shift in focus from Cardiff to the United States as the world adjusts to its new status quo. After seeing a number of previews for the show, I really thought a scene with a helicopter attack might look terrible on screen, but overall the special effects were pretty solid. The scene in question was actually very well put together and memorable in part for hearing Mekhi Phifer scream “Wales is insane” from a speeding jeep. Along with the explosions came some very personal and intensely brutal scenes that kept with the show’s established tone. There were points where the music felt out of place for the action, but that’s a minor complaint. The few odd musical choices were more than made up for by the new take on the original theme music in the opening credits.
I really enjoyed the way the prospect of an undying human race is being handled from the outset. People still get hurt and sick, they just don’t die. This has immediate consequences for one of the principal characters and it’s even suggested that all those that would have died are essentially the living dead. Hospitals start filling up and if the birthrate continues apace, the planet is going to run out of room. There’s a lot of ways to go with this (including the complete collapse of society), but this could be what ultimately drives the humans of the Doctor Who universe out to colonize the stars.
I was particularly glad to see that everyone on Earth becoming immortal was coupled with Jack Harkness (who was previously indestructible) becoming mortal. It seemed like an obvious connection when I first heard the premise for Miracle Day and was happy that we didn’t have to wait for it. Jack asking about what happened if they cut off the head of a greviously wounded assassin was incredibly ominous knowing that’s part of his fate. The Doctor has encountered a creature called the Face of Boe in the distant future who’s a giant head in a jar. His origin and knowledge of The Doctor is an ongoing mystery but the immortal Jack told the Doctor that “The Face of Boe” was his nickname as a young man. I doubt we’ll see that followed up here, but it’s still a little crazy to me that a Doctor Who spin-off is getting this kind of treatment on an American cable network.
Overall, this was a really strong start to the series and I hope it continues to impress. The show is true to Torchwood’s BBC roots and history and a manages to make all of the new elements fit well. Miracle Day feels highly Americanized, but it works. It should be a fun trip for old fans and people watching for the first time. Episode one, The New World is available for everyone to see on Starz.com right now. I highly recommend it.
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Torchwood: Miracle Day preview / Rendition (coming soon)