The hordes of autograph hungry fans waiting outside the special preview of Torchwood: Miracle Day really do illustrate the level of success that this Doctor Who spin-off now enjoys. After lurking in the murky depths of BBC3, the sci-fi show has defied it’s critics time and again, developing a cult following who seem to be drawn to the adventures of Captain Jack like a moth to flame. It’s now a ratings winner on both sides of the pond – but more of that later..
Anyone who’s had a passing interest in sci-fi television over the last ten years will know that the series is written by Russell T Davies OBE, a man who – like his colleague Steven Moffat – is developing a habit of turning out must-see television on a regular basis. Indeed he recently passed the Doctor Who torch on to concentrate on other projects, including this John Barrowman-fronted sci-fi.
Now in it’s fourth series, it appears that Torchwood has outgrown finally Wales, and indeed the UK, with the Beeb getting into bed with US channel Starz to stretch its wings across the channel, no doubt in a bid to increase the popularity of the series Stateside. Filmed in part at Universal Studios, the new episodes have a somewhat American movie feel to them, with a definite touch of Hollywood glamour. Think Doctor Who meets 24.
Earlier this month in an unusual move for anything even remotely related to the Doctor Who franchise, fans were given key plot details in advance of the show being aired later this year with Starz releasing a teaser trailer. With the first episode being shown to press and fans alike at a special preview, Davies obviously has faith in the audience members not to spurt plot details. Time will tell if this trust was well placed, with Doctor Who writer Stephen Moffat knowing all too well the perils of what happens when you reveal storylines to hardcore fans who love to blog.
If you’ve watched this trailer, you’ll already know that the premise of the fourth series is simple: For some reason, no one can die. Nobody that is, except for our old friend Captain Jack, who after enjoying year upon year of invincibility, suddenly realises that he can perish when no one else can. Bummer.
But whilst the prospect of eternal life may sound attractive to many people, on reflection the affliction is very much a curse. Yes the human race may be immortal, but it is still vulnerable to disease, injuries and old-age and all the pain these conditions bring. Panic soon descends as hospitals become full of people who should be dead, and it’s made clear that if the problem continues, society across the world will soon collapse.
Adding to the world’s problems is Oswald Danes, a convicted paedophile murderer who survives a lethal injunction. Played by Bill Pullman (the jet-fighter President who helped fight off E.T in Independence Day) the character relishes his self-made ‘celebrity’ status following his great survival, and is set to play a major part in Miracle Day, though in what form we are still unsure.
Eve Myles returns as Gwen Cooper, who alongside Captain Jack is all that remains of the once great Torchwood Institution. Whilst the Welsh wonder may have settled down with a baby, it’s clear from the outset that she misses the action of being on the frontline, and despite her best attempts can’t help but fall back into the crazy world of Captain Jack and Torchwood that she thought was all in the past.
There are plenty of new faces too, with American actors Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile, ER) and Alexa Havins playing FBI agents Rex Matheson and Esther Drummond respectively. One thing that’s clear from the outset is that Davies is keen to please new and old fans alike, which he does brilliantly through dialogue that introduces viewers to the Torchwood brand without baby-feeding the previous fan base with information they already know.
Comedy is aplenty in the new series, with a confident, cheeky Davies even managing to make us chuckle about the Severn toll bridge, quite a challenge at the best of times. With ten episodes to play with this time round as against five for Children of Earth, the dialogue feels decidedly slower in parts to the previous series, with the plus side of this being that the characters and story feel much more fleshed out than in previous offerings.
But whilst Torchwood: Miracle Day looks like it will be another critical success for the future Sir Russell, one thing that will certainly rile fans is the confirmation today that the series will air in the US at least a day (possibly more) before the UK. Whilst this is no doubt down to Starz fronting the majority of capital for the show’s production, the confirmation will be hard to swallow for fans eager to catch the next instalment of the sci-fi show. One can only hope that the US media will keep quiet about plot lines…