Coming to the Starz network on July 8th, episode 1 of Torchwood Miracle Day is the British import that’s creating quite a buzz. The series premiers with an unsettling scene involving the scheduled execution of Bill Pullman’s Oswald Danes, an unsavory deviant who certainly deserves death by needle. When he is freakishly spared his fate, we’re left to consider the possibility that the death cocktail entering his veins was somehow botched as confused med techs rush about (of course, anyone who has seen the trailers will know better).
The anticipation builds as to whose life will be spared next. And we’re not disappointed as we abruptly segue into the near death of CIA agent Rex Matheson (ER’s Mekhi Phifer), who is impaled by a metal pipe in a horrific truck accident. As hospital wards overflow with patients who refuse to die, and reports from around the world spread the news, we’re forced to accept the undeniable, yet highly implausible premise: no one on Earth is dying.
And so it goes, day after day, until it sinks in to even the most ardent disbelievers–death, has taken a vacation. Then on the sixth day—well, things change somewhat (no spoilers here). For individuals and their loved one’s, it’s a heaven-sent miracle, but taken on a global scale, you’re looking at a time bomb of accelerated overpopulation–and therein lies Torchwood’s major premise: how does the planet and humanity deal with that?
Keeping things interesting and the viewer slightly off balance is the fact that action takes place on both sides of the Atlantic. In Whales, Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper) with husband, Rhys (Kai Owen), and their baby mix humor and action in a sort of Undercover Blues style that delights and entertains. Who else but Eve can fire a pistol while holding a giggling baby?
Stateside, Alexa Havins’ Esther Drummond is the C.I.A. freshman who longs for field duty and gets more than she bargained for when she dodges a hail of bullets and is exploded out of a high rise with C.I.A. agent Rex Matheson. Together they try to piece together a global conspiracy borne out of the Torchwood project (created by an old, secret British institute). Seems the files on Torchwood disappear whenever someone tries to access them, and anyone who dares to look into Torchwood is K.I.A.
As for Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), let’s just say there’s an interesting surprise waiting for viewers at the end of the episode, something that takes the story in an unexpected direction.
Arlene Tur’s Dr. Vera Juarez is the Washington D.C. surgeon, who finds herself advising government think tanks on how to deal with the world’s sudden exploding population. It’s a geometric growth that threatens the viability of the human race in just four months.
Pullman’s talent is fully exploited as the publicity-seeking murderer who has cheated death. Buoyed by power publicist Ambrose (Jlly Kitzinger), he personifies the darkest side of death’s holiday as he addresses an anti-death-penalty crowd and threatens to sue the Governor unless he is set free.
Torchwood’s creator and lead writer, Russell T Davies did an excellent job of mixing exposition and intrigue, spiced with just the right amount of humor. And the bigger budget has certainly helped Torchwood, with the extra cash going for stunning location shoots, breathtaking helicopter stunts and Rambo-style pyrotechnics.