Torchwood: Miracle Day (2011)
Written by Russell T. Davies, Doris Egan, Jane Espenson, Jim D. Gray, John Shiban, Ryan Scott, and John Fay; directed by Bharat Nalluri, Bill Gierhart, Guy Ferland, and Gwyneth Horder-Payton
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Torchwood is a spin-off from Doctor Who (“Torchwood” is an anagram of “Doctor Who”). Torchwood is a quasi-governmental agency created in England in the late 1800s to find and neutralize alien artifacts. Torchwood’s leader is the immortal Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) who has been a companion of Doctor Who and has lived through thousands of years of history, both on Earth and on countless other planets.
The first two 13-episode seasons of Torchwood (2006-2008) were monster-of-the-week type stories. The third season (2009) was a 5-episode, week-long event that was a single story titled “Children of Earth.” Seasons 1-3 were BBC productions. By the end of season 3, Torchwood had been disbanded. At the beginning of Season 4, events transpire to reunite Captain Jack and Torchwood agent Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) to work with the American CIA. Season 4, a 10-episode mini-series, was co-produced by the BBC and Starz and had the overall title of “Miracle Day.”
“Miracle Day” begins with the execution of unrepentant child killer Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman). But Danes fails to die and soon the world realizes that no one has died that day. And then no one dies the next day… or the next. CIA agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) is mortally wounded in a car crash, but doesn’t die. Rex recruits CIA analyst Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) to dig up information on the mysterious Torchwood that somehow seems to be involved. Captain Jack eventually contacts Esther and Rex, just as mystified as they are about the undead. Rex and Captain Jack fly to Wales to bring Gwen into the action, and the Torchwood/CIA alliance is born.
Meanwhile, the world goes berserk as the numbers of undead begin to mount. Riots, stock market crashes, and loss of utility services are just the beginning of the chaos. The team uncovers a link to a pharmaceutical company called Phicorp, which evidently knew that Miracle Day was coming and had stockpiled vast amounts of painkillers and other drugs. Phicorp PR flack Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) manipulates Oswald Danes into becoming a motivational speaker endorsing the unrestricted use of their prescription medicines.
The governments of the world, in an attempt to control the burgeoning population, set up overflow hospitals that are secretly doing the unspeakable with the undead, as discovered by Torchwood ally Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur). Because they are now clashing with powerful governments, Torchwood has to go undercover, beginning a covert guerilla operation with scant resources.
Torchwood finally links the Miracle Day events to someone from Captain Jack’s past. Will they be too late to find the masterminds and stop their fiendish plans? Will creepy Oswald Danes get what’s coming to him? Will obnoxious Jilly Kitzinger be put out of my misery? What will happen to the undead if Torchwood finds a way to reverse Miracle Day?
Despite some preposterous gaps in logic (for example, concocting a poison antidote using airplane service fluid, or infiltrating high-security corporate and military installations several times), some clichés (CIA moles working for the conspirators), and a story that should probably have been 4 or 5 parts shorter, I enjoyed “Miracle Day.” Barrowman and Miles have a nice chemistry together, and the other actors generally did good jobs. Pullman was disturbing yet charismatic. The grim family predicaments that several of the characters faced in light of the death camps added a nice bit of tension and urgency to their actions. Torchwood upped the ante with “Children of Earth” and upped the consequences even more in “Miracle Day.” I don’t know how they will be able to continue to keep topping the dreadfulness of the disasters in future seasons, but the ending of “Miracle Day” more than hints at further worldwide catastrophes to come.
“Miracle Day” was perhaps not the best incarnation of Torchwood, but was still better than most of what’s on TV. I hope there will be a Season 5, but I strongly suspect it will be at least another year if it happens at all. Torchwood creator Russell T. Davies is busy making another series for Showtime, and it is unlikely Torchwood would go forward without him. In the meantime, I hope that “Miracle Day” will show up on BBC America sometime soon so that those who missed it on the pay service Starz will be able to have the benefit of seeing it.