Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pilot Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day

Torchwood: Miracle Day (Fridays at 10:00 on Starz)

I've never watched an episode of Torchwood, and going into this episode all I knew of the show was that it originated in the UK and featured John Barrowman as a bisexual mercenary-type. I was surprised to find out that it is like a British version of The X Files, focusing on a group of specialists formed by the British government to investigate supernatural and extraterrestrial phenomena. The premiere episode of the first American season of the show fills us in on all of the important background of the organization, including its leader Captain Jack Harkness (Barrowman) and the only other surviving member of Torchwood, Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles).

The series picks up with the execution of Oswald Danes, a convicted pedophile and murderer by lethal injection; but somehow he survives. Across the country a CIA agent should have been killed in a horrific car accident while on the phone with his partner regarding the word "Torchwood." The word and all references to it soon disappear, and the world begins to realize that no one is dying. Gwen is hiding out in Wales, attempting to live a normal life with her husband and daughter after the destruction of the Torchwood program. But she is quickly drawn back into the thick of it, along with Harkness, when this "miracle day" of no more death takes place. She soon discovers that the world will ultimately collapse in four months under the weight of a heavily expanded, immortal society. Jack and Gwen try to remain hidden, not wanting to be dragged into everything. But they are ultimately discovered, and the episode ends with the entire Torchwood team being extradited to the United States to help the CIA investigate this so-called "miracle."

There was a hell of a lot information in this premiere, considering all of the necessary background needed to be re-established for American audiences on top of the new plotline of the "miracle day." But the developments are all relatively fascinating. Who hasn't thought about what the world would be like if there were no more death? Another subplot involving Jack Harkness is even more intriguing; Harkness was previously immortal, but this new virus or outbreak or "miracle" has actually made him susceptible to harm and (likely) death. It's a thought-provoking blend of philosophy, science fiction and action. There's not a dull moment in the entire first episode.

On top of the masterful storytelling, the cast is top notch. Aside from cult-favorite John Barrowman as the leading man, other top-notch performances are turned in by Bill Pullman as the recently-released killer Oswald Danes; Mekhi Phifer as CIA agent Matheson; and a very sympathetic Eve Myles as the reluctant Gwen. Future guest stars include Lauren Ambrose, Wayne Knight, Dollhouse's Dichen Lachman, Ernie Hudson, and C. Thomas Howell. So I'm willing to bet that the performances will always be of a higher quality than is typically expected of such sci-fi fare.

So this first hour did exactly what it was supposed to: it presented an interesting story to carry through the next nine episodes, with just enough information and action to intrigue. If the series can be turned up to ten for the rest of the run, I think it will become even more exciting and even addictive.

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