Torchwood: Miracle Day

It may have taken a few years, but Torchwood was finally continued in another high-concept series – this time in a joint British and American production. Children of Earth‘s concept was the desperation of humanity against an impossible to defeat alien threat that simply wanted to use their pre-pubescent children for drugs. Miracle Day, the latest effort, had an even more amazing concept – what would happen to the world if people stopped dying? It wasn’t a matter of invincibility, mind you. Even when decapitated or crushed, people stayed alive through what could only be described as a miracle. What does humanity do with a population that only increases in number? Vile things, it would seem.

There’s a lot to talk about with this particular series, but I’m going to try to streamline it. This is an approach I wish that BBC and Starz had taken with the series, which would have been brilliant at 5 episodes but seemed stretched thin at the 10 episodes they aired. Good storytelling with proper buildups would no doubt have a bit of slow movement in the middle of the series, but Miracle Day almost came to a crawl as the writers struggled to figure out how to slow down the pace that a proper Torchwood story should have. What made Children of Earth so effective was that it felt like a five hour movie, whether you saw it all at once or over the course of days. Miracle Day seemed less fluid and contiguous. I suspect it has everything to do with the arbitrary episode count.

But the series was brilliant nonetheless. I love the idea of exploring how humanity tries to deal with overpopulation (categorize and eliminate). I love the idea of taking the Torchwood team out of Wales, proving that their efforts really do affect the world. I love that they were taken away from the Torchwood tech, meaning that the solution to each problem did not depend on having the right miracle gadget. They played it smart, and I appreciate the series for that. The spirited performances also helped me to believe in the story and the new characters.

Bill Pullman did an amazing job as Oswald Danes, convicted pedo-rapist/murderer and first high-profile survivor through the miracle. I loved watching this complete slime rise in popularity despite how horrible everyone acknowledged he was, and I loved Captain Jack Harkness’ deconstruction of the man Oswald was hiding inside. His character arc was very subtle, but it was there. He basked in his glory until he realized that he was being recategorized as no longer living but rather as someone who should not be allowed to live. In helping to end the miracle, he found some level of redemption in the eyes of the viewers. Meanwhile, he proudly boasted he would likely go to hell when he was finally able to die, finally accepting his fate.

But what about the climax? To be honest, the payoff for the series was pretty damn disappointing. It should be a spoiler to say that some weird, two-opening creature that lives literally through the Earth was the cause of the miracle, but a lack of any sort of build-up or worthwhile explanation renders the spoiler pretty much null. It simply exists, and it proves Jack’s theory that the miracle was somehow caused by morphogenic field alteration. No, this isn’t made up sci-fi terminology. However, its application here is again stretched thin. The reversal of the morphogenic field needed to be explored further to be satisfactory. All the time they had was squandered.

I can’t help but think that I’m more intrigued by the concept of the series than anything else, and that helps me to acknowledge the poorer aspects but look past them for the rest. I’m not sure if any other show would take a chance on running a full concept through for a season. For any other show, this would have been a two-parter.

So would I recommend Miracle Day? Probably. I would sooner recommend Children of Earth, as that is truly mind blowing and heartbreaking. Miracle Day felt like it was almost but not quite the same. Maybe if they get another chance, if the ratings didn’t drop too much, they can build upon this and make a much better series. They already put in sequel hooks, after all. Still, more Torchwood is never a bad thing in my book.

Torchwood: Children of Earth – an account of horrid classism

An alien species has come into orbit, threatening humanity unless they offer up 10% of their children. This race, called the 4-5-6 because of wave frequencies they have used to communicate, is said to have immeasurable strength. The worst thing is that they previously visited London in 1956 and made a similar threat – and were offered 12 children. They have come back because they know they can bully humanity for more.

While Doctor Who is slowly establishing itself as a source for decent science fiction stories in America, its spin-off, Torchwood, is still an obscure property over here. Given the pop culture sensibilities of this country, it should have been an easy sell. Torchwood is Doctor Who‘s shadow. Torchwood shows a dark and gritty world of sex, swearing and pessimism while Doctor Who promises the romantic notion of clean fun while bringing out the best in everyone. Torchwood should be an easy sell because the first two series of its run are mature in the same way that R-rated movies and M-rated games are mature. Who doesn’t like violence, unnecessary swearing, and strong sexuality?

Then came Torchwood: Children of Earth. This third series can be considered an experiment by the producers, mostly because the BBC had to cut the budget and thus the entire run. Instead of 12 episodes, they received 5. Instead of the usual late Sunday night time slot, it was shown on five consecutive nights during the week. This is what television stations do to a show when they expect it to fail and just want to get it out of their system. Children of Earth should have floundered but was an absolute success. Focusing on five consecutive episodes forced the writers in a position to make a strong yet concise tale about human pessimism and survival. Continue reading “Torchwood: Children of Earth – an account of horrid classism”