So the wait is finally over, after a two year absence Torchwood has returned to our screens for its highly anticipated fourth run. I’ll overlook the fact that the US are getting it a week earlier than the UK and just move on with this review.
Building on the success of Children of Earth this new hybrid Torchwood is aiming to set the bar even higher. Series opener, The New World written by show runner, Russell T Davies sets things up nicely with Captain Jack keeping his distance but remaining watchful over Gwen. We are swiftly introduced to the new characters; convicted child killer Oswald Danes moments before his execution is carried out, and CIA Agent Rex Matheson who is mortally wounded in a car accident. Gwen Cooper and Rhys are living the quite life with their baby daughter, and CIA Agent Esther Drummond is investigating the now defunct Torchwood and why nearly every trace of its existence has been erased. However, this is no ordinary day, this is ‘Miracle Day’ and nobody can die.
What Davies has always done well is write believable characters no matter what the setting, after all this is the man who in addition to bringing Doctor Who back to the masses wrote edgy modern dramas; Bob and Rose, The Second Coming, and Queer as Folk. Whilst it’s impossible to determine how all the newbies are going to gel, there are certainly enough interesting characters on offer here. This is where I was most impressed by this first episode.
Bill Pullman proves to be the trump card, playing child killer Danes. Easing into this complex and evil character,Pullmanis a universe away from saving the world as The President in Independence Day and is clearly enjoying playing such a twisted part. After Danes execution is carried out and he still lives, it’s heralded as “an act of God” and the media spotlight is on him. The arrival of Lauren Ambrose’s ruthless P.R in next weeks episode, presents a number of intriguing possibilities.
Mekhi Phifer as Matheson is typical of an American series, tough, married to the job and relentless. He assumes the role of a sceptic looking for logical answers behind the day’s events. While Matheson investigates from his hospital bed, he soon puts the pieces together and embarks on a trip toWalesin search of Torchwood. Drummond’s digging leads her to an encounter with the impossible man himself, Captain Jack Harkness.
Captain Jack makes a suitably ‘Jack’ entrance in a clever nod to the very first episode and through Drummond (Alexa Havins) we get a crash course in Torchwood history. There’s also the rather smart angle of Jack now being mortal, does this hold any clues as to who or what is behind the so called miracle?
Gwen and Rhys have real chemistry and the scenes with her Mother and Father at the hospital were fun. It’s good to seeWalesstill plays a part and there was the unexpected surprise of PC Andy’s return, earning his place as a fan favourite after his heroics in Children of Earth. It’s fair to say there is a lot riding on this series. Torchwood has become something different with each series. In the same way there has been a change between Series four and Series five of Doctor Who, Miracle Day is taking what worked previously and making it bigger and more complex. This is no longer just a Doctor Who spin-off.
At first the miracle is embraced but as people still age and get sick, their immortality starts to take on a more frightening form. There are still shocks. One grim scene involves the remains of a man involved in a bomb blast, still conscious and with his eyes open despite being in pieces. We are also treated to a Torchwood first, a real helicopter chase sequence that’s genuinely exciting.
There will be those who preferred the Torchwood of old. Yes, it’s more glossy and slick, but it hasn’t lost what made it so quintessentially British. This was a solid and confident opener which delivered plenty of action and references to previous adventures. The script was sharp and well paced and Barrowman was on good form perhaps the best he has ever been as Captain Jack. Eve Myles as Gwen, has really come into her own and her relationship with Rhys is believable and often acts as the shows emotional heart. My only criticisms would be, events happened a little too quickly and I hope potentially exciting ideas aren’t going to be swept over briskly in favour of overblown action scenes. It was a real shame Trinity Wells didn’t make another of her frequent news bulletin appearances but now I’m just being picky. I really enjoyed The New World and the trailer for rest of the series looks very promising indeed. Welcome back Torchwood, we have missed you.
Next week’s episode Rendition is on BBC One Thursday at9pm.