A wise man (Ashes to Ashes writer Matthew Graham) recently advised me to judge programmes on what they try to achieve, rather than what I want them to achieve.
I have been trying my hardest to apply this, especially where Torchwood: Miracle Day is concerned. But even now, I’m not entirely sure what the aims of Miracle Day are. (A comment from John Barrowman is illuminating though. He has said that he’d rather make a compromised/Americanised Torchwood than not have it on TV at all – without Starz money, Miracle Day wouldn’t have happened afterall.)
Actually I think Miracle Day’s biggest problem may be the gap between what the production team wanted to achieve and what the Torchwood fan base wanted it to achieve. Children of Earth proved that you could change the format and tone of Torchwood without disappointing its fans (well, apart from the ones who are still pissed off that they killed Ianto). For all the darkness at the heart of CoE however, that heart was still pumping Torchwood blood around the body. Miracle Day feels like a mutation too far.
Is a compromised Torchwood better than no Torchwood at all? Have the flashes of good Torchwood been worth the soul-sucking awfulness of some of those early episodes – especially all that ‘we call mobiles cell phones over here’ nonsense? I’m still not sure, even after a good night’s sleep.
Perhaps a quick rattle through the good, the bad and the bearable mechanics of The Blood Line will help me to decide.
(Spoilers below the line…)
Typical. Bloody typical (feel free to read those words in a Welsh accent – they were certainly typed in one). Now that I’m properly hooked, there’s only one more episode of Miracle Day to go. Still, as a soppy old thing at heart, I’m also pleased that Torchwood isn’t letting me down anymore.
Sure, we’re asked to take several leaps of faith in The Gathering (I’ll elaborate below the spoiler line) but viewers who do get some reward this week.
The story rips along with plenty of betrayal, surprises galore and some zippy one-liners too. Welcome back Torchwood, we’ve missed you.
(Spoilers below the line…) Continue reading
Okay, so I take back the snarky Star Trek movie comment. This is an even-numbered episode and it was also good. Pacey, emotional, funny and with added jeopardy and John De Lancie. If the plan is to bring in new viewers to Torchwood (assuming the dreadful early episodes didn’t drive them away) I can see now how it might work.
We pick up this week with Jack coming face to face with Angelo again. But Angelo has survived all those decades not through any kind of miracle (unless you count extraordinary self-control and a lot of luck) – he’s an old man, unconscious, and hooked up to the full gamut of heart monitors, drips etc.
(Spoilers below the line…)
I’m starting to wonder if Miracle Day has taken the Star Trek movies as its template – odd-numbered episodes good, even-numbered ones bad… Or perhaps it’s just lucky number seven, because this week I actually felt like I was watching Torchwood again.
It probably helps that at long last we get some inkling of what the Miracle is all about. It definitely helps that it’s a Jack-centric episode. Some actual aliens are good and there’s a much healthier dose of humour too (from Jack’s confessional to him snarking at Gwen about the number of vowels in Welsh).
(Spoilers below the line…)
It is traditional to talk about TV shows jumping the shark. But you can’t accuse a show like Torchwood of jumping the shark – a show with weevils in the basement and a pterodactyl in the rafters needs a better phrase to describe the moment when it’s past its best. And, I think we need that phrase now…
The Middle Men has its moments but they’re too few and far between. The proportion of cool to meh is exactly the opposite of what it needs to be for me to get lost in the story or the characters.
(Spoilers below the line)
At last, Miracle Day has hit the spot it should have done two weeks ago. Finally, I’m engaged with it. I have questions that I really want answered and I’m actually looking forward to next week’s episode (I wouldn’t have said the same about this one at half eight tonight).
The key to this episode are the categories of life – decided by those medical panels Dr Vera has been sitting on – and being enforced with a frightening combination of ruthless efficiency and chaotic incompetence. Category Ones are the living dead, Category Threes are the healthy, ‘normal’ living people, Category Twos are the inbetweens – the ones who are injured or ill (Rex, Gwen’s dad) and who should have died but who are still conscious. (I liked Esther’s fourth category – Category Jack – which frankly applies at all times in the Whoniverse).
(SPOILERS BELOW THE LINE)
I’d be a terrible professional TV reviewer – I don’t like writing down negative thoughts about things, I’d rather say nothing at all. I’m not just a glass half-full kinda girl, I’m a glass half-way to getting refilled kinda girl. So it pains me to report that although episode four of Torchwood: Miracle Day is better than its predecessors I’m still not feeling the love.
There are a few twists in the tale, but so much of it is predictable. From the moment Esther steps out of the car at her mentally-fragile sister’s home, you know she’s inadvertently laying a trail of breadcrumbs back to the rest of the team. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to take from her turning her sister and nieces in to social services – that she is really ruthless enough to be a member of Torchwood? I’m trying to care and failing.
Mekhi Phifer is stuck with a dog of a character in Rex. The writers are flogging a dead horse trying to convince me there’s some sort of relationship between him and Dr Juarez (still wearing those ridiculous high-heeled shoes). There’s more sexual tension between Dick and Dom to be quite honest. And this week we meet his alcoholic father living in a dump. I don’t know if we’re meant to be in the dark about who to feel empathy with, but again I neither know nor care. (I am vaguely intrigued by the boxes of Phicorp meds Dad has stashed though).
So, episode three is a lot more recognisable as Torchwood and thank heavens for that I say. Last time we saw Jack, Gwen, Rex and Esther they were running away from scary Lyn, now they’re working as a team to start dealing with the Miracle – starting with getting the phone that the Big Bad uses to contact Friedkin.
Of course, just pointing a gun at someone isn’t scary in the way it used to be, so Rex has to threaten to leave Friedkin in agony for a thousand years, or to wipe out his memories, or his personality or his bladder control. We don’t know which of these scares Friedkin sufficiently to hand over the phone, but it may well have been that last one.
While Torchwood do their thing, the rest of the world continues to adapt to the Miracle – panic-buying food and stripping the shelves off everything except crisps, joining a cult, wearing spooky masks and declaring themselves ‘soulless’.
(This week, and every week, spoilers ahoy…)
So, episode two of Russell T Davies’s latest thought experiment rolls on.
There’s plenty of serious consideration given to the consequences of the global miracle this week – brilliant Dr Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur in ridiculous-for-any-woman-but especially-an-ER-doctor high heels) realises that the old system of triage is useless (they need to treat minor injuries first and get beds free for the seriously injured who have all the time in the world to wait for treatment), not to mention that humans are going to become incubators for infection and that bacteria are going to become seriously resistant to antibiotics if they keep treating the living dead with them. It’s all very thoughtful, but it can’t make up for the fact that there isn’t nearly enough Torchwood humour and sexiness going on right now.
We do have jeopardy and plenty of emotions though – Eve Myles giving it her all as she’s torn apart from Rhys and Anwen at Heathrow, and conveying the perfect mix of anger and pleasure at having Jack back to mess up her life. Their relationship continues to be real-life-complicated (one part attraction, two parts annoyance, three parts loyalty etc) and subtly played by Myles and John Barrowman.
I have loved Torchwood in all its guises – chasing fish-headed aliens in fast cars, fighting and snogging Spike the vampire (sorry, Captain John) and the dark and deeply traumatic Children of Earth (CoE).
With one hour of Miracle Day under my belt, I’m pretty sure I’m going to love this incarnation too.
It’s 60 minutes spent setting up the pieces on the board, but it’s done with the usual humour and explosions, and with an eye to welcoming Torchwood virgins aboard.