Torchwood: Miracle Day

Torchwood title sequence
Image via Wikipedia

Torchwood: Miracle Day, a Starz! original series of the BBC hit adult science fiction series, wrapped up it’s 4th season last night, September 9, 2011.  How was the series as a whole, what were it’s strong points, weak points, writing, direction and overall plot?  Well, let’s talk about that for a bit.

Previously On Torchwood

Torchwood is a secret organization started by Queen Victoria in 1879 after her encounter with The Doctor.  It’s primary goal is to defend the Earth against extraterrestrial threats – especially that of The Doctor.  Things change over the years, however, and Captain Jack Harkness comes into their employment.  Jack is a whole other story in and of himself, but basically, thanks to Rose Tyler, he is immortal.  “A fixed point in time and space, never changing, never aging, never dying,” to poorly paraphrase The Doctor.  Jack eventually – due to horrific events – comes to be the leader of Torchwood in the modern day and changes their directive to simply defending the Earth from extraterrestrial threats, excluding The Doctor.

The first two seasons of Torchwood were hit and miss as far as story and character go.  Stories ranged in depth and tone and people either loved or hated them with little ground in between.  Season three has the most love in the fan community, titled Children of the Earth, this was a 5-part mini-season that had one central storyline that covered the entire 5 episodes.  When Miracle Day was announced, I believe most folks were hoping for the same.  The difference?  Miracle Day was scheduled to run over 10 episodes for the season.

One Day No One Dies …

Torchwood Miracle Day explores the issue of what would happen if “one day no one dies.”  And then the next day, no one dies.  And the next, and the next, and the next …  What effect would this have on the world, the economies, populations, food supplies, how hospitals treat the wounded, the sick.  How would a world adapt when people could be injured and grow old, yet never pass away?  Enter the remains of Torchwood, the surviving members being Captain Jack Harkness and Gwynn Cooper.  Each return damaged and with their own baggage, and the stakes are raised even higher when it is discovered that Jack is no longer immortal but instead the only mortal human on the entire planet.

Who is behind it? Can Torchwood, disbanded and wanted by the government and tagged with kill-on-site orders, rise to the occasion?  Will this be Capt. Jack’s last rodeo?  All these questions and more string along all 10 episodes of this season’s arc.

My Spoiler Free Opinion

I had high expectations for this storyline involving the Torchwood team.  New characters, new locations – it was going to take place in the United States!  Bigger budget, big name guest stars, a major cable channel was backing it along with its parent BBC companies.  What I got was a mixed back of emotions concerning characters I’ve grown to enjoy over three previous seasons.  Gwynn and Jack are great together, they have a chemistry like partners should have, but their constant struggle to do what was right based on reason versus strong emotion was a bit mind boggling.

The new characters were annoying and poorly portrayed.  The new Torchwood members were horrible, especially in their decisions as characters, let alone poor dialogue and terrible acting.  The “bad guys,” were over the top and read pretty much the same lines through 9 episodes (and that’s sad considering Bill Pullman is one of the actors I’m talking about here.  His character had maybe 5 lines he delivered over and over throughout the series.)

At the San Diego Comic Con this year, we were promised by the actors on the Torchwood panel that episode 5 would be when things picked up and started to get exciting.  No, no not really.  In fact, episodes 2 through 7 were pretty much unnecessary.  If you combined the entire story together, compressed it and cut out all the parts that were either drawn out for no reason or weren’t even necessary, this would have made a perfect 5 episode arc, just like Children of the Earth.  There were many filler moments that didn’t really add to anything other than filling that hour of screen time Starz had dedicated to the series.

But What About The Ending?

I knew you were going to ask that.  Well, let me see.  The mystery of what is causing Miracle Day is revealed about an episode before this one.  Everyone is moved to where they need to be to make the final stand.  And then, all hell breaks lose as our team begins an hour long stand off … talking to one another … seriously.  The bad guys just kinda hang out on the sidelines, chillin’, while everyone else just talks about what they think is going on.  Then, with 10-15 minutes left, they decide to fix everything, which leads to about 4 minutes of action and then … about 3 different ending sequences.

Does Jack – the only mortal on the planet – survive?  Does anyone on the Torchwood team die?  Do they stop Miracle Day?  Do ALL the bad guys get their justified end?  And just what is up with that cheesy final meeting between two characters I won’t even mention due to promising a spoiler-free opinion piece?  I really could have done without that.

So, You Didn’t Like It?

No … Yes … Maybe. Like I said above, if the story hadn’t been drawn out unnecessarily, it would have been great.  But poor acting, poor directing, a bit of a let down on the final scenes and more questions raised at the end than was necessary left me disappointed.  I love Capt. Jack and Gwynn (and Rhys) but the ball was dropped higher up and they simply ran with what they were given.  Considering what they had to work with, I do not fault the actors completely – the best episodes were written by Jane Espenson, who seems to know how to write for Jack more than anyone else, and whose episodes had a bit more emotion and character.  Everything else was borderline fodder for poor television.

Another complaint I have is the fact that, for all the new fans they possibly could have brought on board, this would leave the average person at a loss.  Jumping into the first episode a new viewer would (or should) have a dozen or more questions right off the top of their head.  Who is this Gwynn and Jack?  Why/how is Jack immortal.  Is he an alien?  HE’S GAY?!  Why is Torchwood disbanded, what other team members?  Why are the others dead?  “Oh, I’m so lost, let’s watch CSI!”

If there is a 5th season storyline, I’m not sure if I’d want it to be strung together individual episodes with an overarching plot toward the end – like seasons 1 and 2, or if they should try to piece together another single storyline, like CotE and Miracle Day.  Lord have mercy on us all.

The End

There you go, completely my opinion.  I hold no one else liable by myself.  No spoilers, no episode run downs (because I would have launched into rants that would have spoiled the entire thing anyways) and my wrap up.  Sorry if it’s a hard read, but as anyone who has scanned my blog knows, I’m not the greatest writer in the world, but I do enjoy jotting down bits and pieces.

Thanks for stopping by!

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