The latest season of the British sci-fi series Torchwood finally arrives with much fanfare with it’s fourth season. Simply called Torchwood: Miracle Day the series moves from it’s usual haunts in and around Cardiff in the United Kingdom to a location that should bring with it some advantages and disadvantages to new fans and returning loyal ones. As someone who has just recently begun and caught up to watching the first three seasons to this series I must admit that I seem to be more excited about this newest season. The first three seasons for this Torchwood neophyte was a mixture of awesome and tedious (the last season was more of the former than the latter), but in the end I really bought into the series despite some of the latter.
“The New World” heralds in the fourth season of this series with the introduction of several new cast members to the Torchwood team in Mekhi Phifer as the up-and-coming CIA operative Rex Matheson who becomes well-acquainted with the sudden arrival of “Miracle Day” to the world. It’s during this sequence that we also get to meet Alexa Havins’ CIA analyst Esther Drummond who first brings up the topic of the Torchwood team to Matheson. Their conversation’s shortlived as Matheson meets with what seemed to be quite the fatal-accident on the road, but as the premiere episode soon states clearly the world’s suddenly forgotten the concept of death. It’s not just through Matheson we see this event occur first-hand but in another new character to the series in the form of convicted pedophile-murderer Oswald Danes (played with a level of creepiness by Bill Pullman) whose execution by lethal injection becomes railroaded by “Miracle Day”.
All that occurs within the first five to seven minutes before we even get to meet any of the returning cast members and really shows that the series’ showrunner Russell T. Davies wants to give these American characters their introduction before bringing in the regulars. When I say regulars I mean just the two surviving members of the Torchwood Institute which fans last saw being destroyed in the climactic episodes of season three’s Torchwood: Children of Earth. There’s Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles in the returning role) now in hiding with her husband Rhys Williams (Kai Owens) and their young daighter Anwen in a remote British seaside cottage. It’s been almost a year since the events of Children of Earth and these three live in constant paranoia from those they believe will soon come hunting for them for what they know of the Torchwood Institute.
The favorite of fans don’t make his appearance until a third of the way through the episode, but it was quite an appearance. The 51st-century ex-conman and immortal Capt. Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman with his usual dashing flair) has been trying to keep the knowledge of Torchwood and those survivors from the Institute from the very shadowy figures Gwen has gone into hiding from. It’s during one such attempt to do this task that he encounters the intrepid sleuth in Esther Drummond who thinks Torchwood might be a link to the event being called “Miracle Day” sweeping the world. The rest of the episode does a great job in bringing together the surviving members of Torchwood (albeit somewhat reluctantly) with the CIA’s Matheson and Drummond who want to know just what the hell is going on in the world.
The episode doesn’t lack for action as we see running gunfights between a speeding jeep on a sandy beach as a helicopter with gunmen try to kill Harkness and his new team. There’s even a great use of special effects in a sequence where we first see the disadvantage of not being able to die as a body blown-up and barely together still clings to life in a hospital morgue. These two sequences and the slicker production value that could be seen in the episode really reinforces the fact that this latest Torchwood season has moved from being just a British series and into an American one as well.
This slicker look may throw some loyal fans off as being too Hollywood, but the show still felt and sounded like a Torchwood episode. The writing by Russell T. Davies for the premiere episode was great as he was able to balance the jarring introduction of American characters and their attitudes to what had been a British cast with their own distinct quirks and mannerisms. One thing I truly got from this episode which I rarely got from past seasons was the epic feel to the story. This epic tone was what made Children of Earth such a great third season, but even then there were times when the season sometimes fell back to being very regional in scope. Miracle Day really acts like a story where it’s not just the UK that these events are occurring but America and the rest of the world. It will be interesting to see how Davies and his writers are going to be able to continue to build on this international scope as the season goes along.
Torchwood: Miracle Day made for a fun and fast-moving premiere with “The New World”. It was able to bring back the recurring cast members from the previous three seasons in addition to introducing a new band of cast mates who look to be quite unlike the previous members have encountered in the past. I may not have been quite the lover of British sci-fi tv series in the past, but this latest Torchwood season does a great job in making me fall in love with it and I’m sure doing the same thing to like-minded individuals as myself. The loyal, regular fans may need to make room on the bandwagon for us Torchwood neophytes because there’s going to be a lot of us.