Torchwood: Miracle Day on Blu-Ray - Review
By Anthony Marcusa
For years now British comedies have been successful on this side of the Atlantic, and now the BBC and others are making a concerted effort to further invade North American televisions with action and drama. A most recent and rather well-done attempt can be seen with Torchwood: Miracle Day, the fourth series of the popular Doctor Who spin-offs, now on Blu-Ray.
Filled with action and intrigue, and certainly not lacking in romance or humour, Torchwood: Miracle Day takes a British staple with a storied history to America (thanks to Warner Brothers), combining fine English storytelling with plenty of Hollywood drama.
The triumph of this fourth series (think season) is its ability to instantly welcome and compel first time reviewers (including this writer), while, I can only assume, it works as well, if not better, for returning fans. Torchwood aims to merge American and Britain audiences with the CIA and Torchwood working simultaneously. Set in both countries, with talented actors from both countries, Torchwood had made a strong connection across the ocean.
The series begins with Oswald Danes, a convicted killer played with a smarmy grimace and ill remorse by Bill Pullman, set to be executed. The injection goes in, Danes writhes and screams in pain—but doesn’t die. Meanwhile, CIA Agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) is impaled in a gruesome car accident, resulting in what should be sure death, but he too survives.
‘Looks like someone changed the rules,’ a doctor says, as she explains that her hospital, and numerous others, has not recorded a single death in the last 24 hours. No one is dying. As this ‘miracle day’ is taking place, the CIA is investigates the mysterious Torchwood—institution or person, perhaps—from Britain, surrounded by intrigue, that suddenly disappears from the internet lexicon, from libraries, and every database.
Danes and Matheson are among the new characters introduced to the series, while John Barrowman, Eve Myles, and Kai Owen return as Torchwood favourites Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, and Rhys Williams.
The first episode imagines a world where no one can die, a poignant, refreshing alternative to doomsday and Armageddon-based entertainment that envisions an Earth with few survivors. This rather novel premise does present some curious scenarios, some fantastical hypothesis, and more than a few discussions of ethics and morality. One of the first of many issues deals with Danes asking, what does the government do with a man it has convicted, sentence, and killed, but who remains alive?
The dialogue at times is too ‘on the nose’, and the action a bit over dramatic, but that tends to be the British way. Epic in size and scope, the series is filled with beautiful and clever camerawork and music that is stirring and appropriate. Everything and everyone is attractive, or haunting, and it all together makes for a wickedly cool series.
Spread across four discs, the special features are anything but superfluous (though a bit heavy on the ‘Miracle Day’ graphic, you’ll see), especially for new fans, as character profiles act as primers for the series’ stars. Most fascinating is ‘Web of Lies,’ a dark and well-made motion comic starring the voices of Barrowman, Eves, and Eliza Dushku.
Commentary, deleted scenes, promos, and lots of behind-the-scenes footage make for an exceedingly comprehensive edition.
Lastly, as enjoyable as the series and special features are (which is immensely), the item that steals the scene, so to speak, is a short promo for BBC America that appears before the title screen on the first disc. Voiced by John Oliver of Daily Show fame, the clever commercial is absolutely hysterical as it explains how the Britons do drama and comedy, and why Americans enjoy it and should continue to watch BBC America—hint: it is mostly because of the accents.