Torchwood: Miracle Day- Episode 2

Originally written for spiffing telly site TV Pixie.

Torchwood’s grown up.

For a long time it was like Doctor Who’s sexually precocious younger sibling, getting drunk whenever it could, trying to touch people’s boobs and saying ‘bums’ and ‘bugger’ and ‘wee’. It was a bit like those late night episodes of Hollyoaks where people take their tops off just because they can. But with aliens.

But all that changed with last year’s five part special: Children of Earth. Suddenly, the younger sibling had sprouted hair in unexpected places, started reading Philosophy and Ethics textbooks and boring people at parties. It was dark, edgy and everyone died. Even a kid.

However if Children of Earth felt like a reboot, Miracle Day feels like a whole new boot. Or possibly some kind of shoe: the move to the US can’t help but bring to mind the most recent Doctor Who series opener, also set in America and extensively trailed over there.

Who wants to bet the post-Tory BBC funding plan reads something along the lines of:

1. Make Doctor Who and Torchwood popular in America.
2. Fill bath with dollars
3. Frolic merrily?

Everything about Miracle Day seems designed to appeal to a US audience, from the slick feel of the opening credits (more high -tech medical drama than sci-fi) to the CIA headquarters that look like NASA mission control. Not to mention the cast: everyone – even the undying corpses – look well coiffed and slender with bright white teeth. The only character from the Cardiff days who fits in with this new look is permatanned mandroid Captain Jack. He is, after all, an alien-American.

Despite the glitz and glamour, the big sets and the presence of the fat bloke off of Jurassic Park who lets all the dinosaurs out, the old BBC purse-strings did make an appearance: a very large section of the episode was spent statically, and cheaply, on a plane.

There was also a very British seam of humour running through the episode, like comedy coal buried inside the po-faced, dramatic subject matter. To be honest, the section on the plane where they’re frantically trying to assemble a cure for arsenic poisoning for the suddenly mortal Jack using bits of landing gear, necklaces and tiny packets of peanuts (or something) resembled nothing more than Father Ted episode ‘Flight into Terror‘ where the priests are trapped on a plane and have to fix it with a talking Virgin Mary tape-dispenser.

I half expected Mrs Doyle to wander in with some tea and 65 million sandwiches.

Although that bit was pleasingly daft in a pre-reboot sort of way, the rest of the episode constantly jacked up the tension. It’s clear from previews that Famous Bill Pullman’s paedophile character becomes some kind of semi-apocalyptic leader figure in subsequent episodes, and his faux-contrite sobs on TV in front of a big photo of his 12 year old victim was genuinely dark. You don’t get that sort of thing on The One Show

Famous Claire from Six Feet Under also made a welcome appearance as an aspiring PR advisor for the zombie-paedo: all fluttering eyelashes and false bonhomie over what’s clearly an icy core of evil.

However, it’s still not clear how all of this fits together: Who’s controlling the CIA boss? What’s the PR advisor’s game? And- more importantly – why the merry heck won’t people die?

I can’t help but feel that whilst the overpopulation theme is a bit obvious, it’s also very timely: apparently the world population will soon cross the 7 billion threshold and governments simply refuse to take my plan to cull anyone who’s a fan of Michael McIntyre seriously.

It’s a worrying time.

I doubt Torchwood, or any telly programme for that matter, can make a difference: but the idea that the Earth simply can’t sustain so many people – particularly ones who are fans of obvious observational comedy – does need to be more widely heard. We could all do with being a bit more careful with the Earth’s resources. After last night’s episode, for example, I pledged to stop using baby pandas as loo roll and using a coal fired laptop.

On the whole, the story so far has been gripping and the concept’s a great one. Let’s just hope subsequent episodes can live up to the expectations and questions raised by the first two. If they do, Miracle Day has the potential to be the best Torchwood outing so far and further cement the brand’s popularity in the US – meaning the Beeb’ll finally be able to afford that space station Jeremy Clarkson has always wanted.

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

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