Friday, July 8, 2011

Preview - Torchwood: Miracle Day – From the BBC to Starz!

Tonight, we'll see a few things that don't happen very often occur at the same time. With existing science-fiction TV series not pulling the ratings of crimes against nature like The Jersey Shore or Real Housewives of Orange County, many of them are becoming one season wonders, and we see fewer pilots getting greenlit each season. I'm just glad to see a new sci-fi show like Torchwood beginning, as it is more fun to celebrate a new show's birth than it is to mourn one's passing. To be fair, Torchwood isn't really “new,” though. The Doctor Who spinoff has already had three seasons and a built-in fanbase. The second thing you don't see very often is a BBC hit series come over to the states without getting a “remake,” as though we spoke different languages and couldn't understand British TV. The move from the BBC to over here in the States filled my heart with dread when I heard Torchwood was going to Fox. Thankfully, the deal with the butchers at Fox fell through, and Starz! is carrying the, erm... torch.

Unexpected events,” and “things that don't happen very often” are central to the set-up for Miracle Day. I personally find the whole concept intriguing. One day, not a single person dies. And then the next day, and the next. That is to say, NO ONE DIES, not even those grievously injured, executed by the state, etc. Exploring the initial celebration concerning the sudden abolition of death itself, and then the problems a lack of death creates is a topic worthy of many a late-night conversation. I can see how the problems would mount quickly in a world where no one ever dies could turn it into a nightmare.

Apparently I'm not alone in this forward sort of thinking, because the Torchwood Organization is called up out of the ashes in order to investigate the event, disrupting a few lives in the process. Returning to the show are all three of the previous series regulars, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman,) the immortal omnisexual con-man, Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and her husband Rhys Williams (Kai Owen.) Gwen and Rhys settled down in order to raise their child and enjoy a quiet life in the country and Jack has left Earth after seeing Torchwood and almost everyone he loved destroyed. The three of them called back together makes things complicated, as Jack still has unresolved feelings for Gwen, and despite her love for her husband and child, the feelings are somewhat mutual.


The shift in focus from the UK to the USA also means different government agencies are involved in Torchwood's operations, and the CIA adds a man of their own to the team, Harvard-educated Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer.) Other supporting cast will include some recurring characters from the first three series, and a new stable of characters based in the US. Guest stars already planned for the current season include Wayne Knight, Dichen Lachman (of Dollhouse fame,) C. Thomas Howell and Ernie Hudson. Another notable name who will play a major role in the series is Bill Pullman, who will play a murderer turned celebrity as the first man executed by the state who didn't die.

The decision to not make the production of Miracle Day a “series reboot,” but rather a continuation of the previous show is a bold one, that I applaud. I fear that fans will turn their noses up at the show, and I can guarantee that whether reasonable or not, we'll hear the criticism “Too American,” whatever that means. I love science fiction, whatever country it is written and produced in, and so long as this series isn't done with mindless and meaningless explosions, I won't care that more of it was shot in Los Angeles than Wales. After all, there's a lot more to US studio productions outside of reality TV and Michael Bay Blockbusters. Russell T. Davies left creative direction of Doctor Who to devote his talents to Miracle Day, and he wisely wrote only the season premiere and finale. I've long felt that he is a better executive producer than writer of individual episodes.

I can only hope what they are looking at offscreen isn't Wayne Knight at
the beach, though in that case, the rocket launcher is appropriate.

What I expect from the new series is something a little more like a science-fiction thriller than what we're used to in the vein of Torchwood, further distinguishing it from Doctor Who. Instead of lots of rubber monsters and spaceships, if the trailers match the reality, I sort of think we'll see something like a higher-energy sort of X-Files. Maybe something like Men In Black, if it had been written by John Grisham. The focus on the emotional impact of weirdness that has affected the entire world, and how it affects individual characters and changes how they live, sort of the way the best episodes of Flash Forward worked (when they worked.) Maybe my expectations won't live up to the reality, but if the series is anything like the one I imagine, I think I'm going to like it.

Luckily, I happen to have Starz! as part of my cable package, so even if I don't watch it when it first premieres tonight, I'll likely be able to catch the series premiere within a day or so. When I've watched an episode or two and have a more informed opinion, I'll put up a review, either as part of an article here, or over at the Tumblr.
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Kelly said...

Do they ever explain why no one dies in the series. I've never seen the show before but it looks entertaining and interesting. I'm a big fan of Fringe, Stargate series and other science fiction shows- so I'm always on the lookout for something new and fresh in that dept. Reality shows suck, are scripted, for the most part and do nothing but give no talent wannabes the chance to show their ignorance and shallowness in every episode. All networks care about is that they're cheap to create and they pull in high rating with retards.

Wayne Knight? Fully clothed or in Speedos on a beach, I'd still point the rocket launcher his way and fired it.

Alpha said...

I hadn't realized that this series had such a history.

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