An adult-oriented spin-off of Doctor Who, the Russell T. Davies creation Torchwood followed the adventures of immortal, 51st century born Jack Harkness and a band of intelligent misfits as they investigated the strange, unusual and alien around the UK. It only ran for three series on the BBC, and that might have been just as well. Though it had a good premise, the episodes were as much miss as hit. Still, there were some excellent episodes (especially the brilliant and devastating third series, five-part “Children of the Earth”) and great chemistry between Jack and police officer-turned-Torchwood devotee Gwen Cooper. And so, BBC Worldwide has moved the series and its two remaining characters Stateside, for “Miracle Day”. The first episode airs in Canada on July 9th, and proves an interesting and possibly successful transition.
The show opens with the execution of Oswald Danes (the underused yet always fantastic Bill Pullman), a convicted and admitted pedophile. Except the lethal injection doesn’t work: he doesn’t die. Meanwhile, two CIA agents find out about Torchwood, and as soon as they do all note of it vanishes. Turns out, all over the world, no one is dying; the undead bodies are piling up, and resources will soon grow scarce. And it all comes back to Torchwood.
The science fiction remains very British: it takes a global problem and doesn’t attempt to solve it through great heroics or lofty ideals. The problem is real and dirty and guns won’t help (since they won’t kill anyone.) The aesthetic and editing, though, overall feels like an episode of 24. This is not necessarily a bad thing; if you go to America, it should have an American television feel. Instead of an underground bunker, there are sleek CIA offices and impossible clean & orderly hospitals. The CIA agents use the full force of their power, bringing in a SWAT team to arrest a few people. And religious fervour permeates the plot; as Danes is released, having had it proved that his sentence was carried out, it seems that his role will become central to this strange worldwide immortality.
Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) has always been a strange character; in the Doctor Who, he was the cocky rogue. In Torchwood, he becomes a kind of Doctor, who knows all and sees all. Gwen (Eve Myles) is his companion, pulled from an ordinary life and unable to ever quite return to it. The two CIA agents land somewhere in the middle: certainly used to things out of the ordinary, though not necessarily extraterrestrial. Giving the series a combined American/British feel might help the series find a more solid direction. Certainly this first episode is fast-paced and intriguing, and will likely keep the audience waiting with baited breath for the second.