Monday, February 24, 2014

Binge Watch: Torchwood: Miracle Day Edition

Miracle Day, the latest season of the Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood, brings the remainder of the Torchwood Team, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), together with a couple of CIA agents (Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins) to solve the mystery of the end of death, the sudden inability of any person on earth to die. The influence of American co-producer, Starz Originals, is evident in the inclusion of the CIA protagonists and extensive use of locations in the United States. It is also evident in the level of violence this season brings to the screen; an appropriate amount, I suppose, for an American cable network.

The first notice of the phenomenon is the failed execution of pedophile and child murderer Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman). As hospitals around the globe fail to record any deaths during the first 24-hour period, it becomes clear that the world has changed dramatically. The downside of the end of death becomes obvious soon enough, as people who are horrendously injured (even mostly disintegrated by a bomb) continue to live and be conscious. And the inevitable problems of limited medical and nutritional resources soon need to be dealt with. Democratic governments and capitalist economies eventually crumble under the strain. Although still living, many people are classified as ‘Category One,’ and sent to be disposed of in Overflow Camps.

Miracle Day is a big story, as big as one might expect from a story about the end of death. It’s also a bit convoluted, and sometimes it seems as if the writers were trying to fill the ten hours with new events and characters. Although he does play something of a crucial role in the resolution of the story, I could see the whole thing running without the inclusion of Danes. Pullman is excellent in the role, but the subplot seems rather superfluous. The other new characters are interesting enough, even if they have to operate in the shadow of the chemistry between Barrowman and Myles.  The final resolution, as is often typical in the Doctor Who universe, has elements of the absurd, although the sacrifices made by some of the characters provide for a powerful ending. B+

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