Suspension of Disbelief: Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 1
Suspension of Disbelief is a weekly feature, in which we review movies, books, TV shows, and other popular culture for the skeptical teen.
Series Name: Torchwood: Miracle Day
Episode Title: The New World
Starring: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Bill Pullman, Alexa Havins
Created by: Russell T. Davies
Air Date: 8 July 2011
I am an unashamed Doctor Who fan. (At least the new series. I’m still puttering my way through the original. I’m in the Jon Pertwee era now.) So when Torchwood, the darker Who spin-off debuted in 2005, I was totally on board.
If you are unfamiliar with the series, shame on you! But I’m here to help, so I’ll try to provide a brief explanation. The Torchwood Institute was established by Queen Victoria to protect the United Kingdom from alien threats. (Like, actual, outer space aliens.) Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) is the leader of Torchwood 3 (and mysteriously immortal), based in Cardiff, Wales. The Torchwood team deals with all the paranormal detritus that comes into contact with the Earth. This is the premise of the series.
The first two seasons where typical, with stories mostly contained to the hour-long episodes. The format changed in 2009 with Torchwood: Children of Earth. It was a five-part miniseries, and, in my opinion, the best season yet.
If you haven’t seen Children of Earth, and want to, I recommend that you go watch it now. Not only because it’s hecka good (I may watch it again when I’m done writing this), but because spoilers from that miniseries lie ahead. You have been warned.
Miracle Day starts off with the failed execution of a convicted pedophile and murder called Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman). We soon find out that this is part of a larger phenomenon when CIA agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) is fatally wounded in a car accident but refuses to die. On that particular day, human beings stop dying.
That same day, a mysterious email is sent to U.S. intelligence officials that simply said, “Torchwood.” Of course, no one knows what the heck that means. This peaks the interest of intrepid CIA watch analyst Ester Drummond (Alexa Havins), who thinks the lack of deaths worldwide and the mysterious Torchwood must be related.
Travel across the pond to meet up with Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), the last surviving member of Torchwood (except for Jack), who is hiding out in rural Wales with her husband and baby daughter. Gwen is called back to Cardiff when her father enters the hospital. He is in bad shape, but doesn’t die. It’s Miracle Day.
Meanwhile, Agent Matheson has taken it upon himself to check out of the hospital and travel to Wales to find the remnants of Torchwood and bring them to the United States.
If you’re new to Torchwood, I think this new season will be a good place to start. The first episode of Miracle Day – “The New World” – watches like the beginning of a series. Because Gwen and Jack were the only members of the Torchwood team left alive after Children of Earth, there are a lot of new characters who were previously unfamiliar with the organization. At one point, Jack explains Torchwood to Drummond, but then slips a memory-erasing drug into her drink, a direct call-back to the very first Torchwood episode, “Everything Changes.”
Before I watched this episode, I was worried about a letdown after Children of Earth. Seriously, people, it doesn’t get better than that. I was also worried that an American network would ruin the franchise, as so often happens. I needn’t have worried. If “The New World” is any indication, this will prove to be an action-packed, paranormal mystery. There is enough explanation to bring Torchwood n00bs up to speed and enough esoteric references to keep seasoned veterans on their toes.
The format seems to be the same as Children of Earth, which I think is good. I would rather have one shorter but incredibly well-thought out story than 12 or 15 simpler ones. I also think Miracle Day will have a slightly lighter feel. In Children of Earth, every element conflated to create an emotionally wrenching journey. I don’t expect quite that level from Miracle Day. That isn’t to say that the new series won’t be worth watching. It just means it only gets 4 out of 5 John Barrowman Heads. If you like well-acted, exciting, alien bum-kicking, then this is a series for you. I am very much looking forward to the next installments.