Doctor Who #877: The New World

"Looks like someone changed the rules. Miracles got... easy."
TECHNICAL SPECS: All episodes from this one to The Blood Line are included in the Torchwood: Miracle Day DVD set. First aired Jul.8 2011.

IN THIS ONE... People stop dying and the CIA hijacks Torchwood back into play. First appearances of Rex Matheson, Esther Drummond and Dr. Vera Juarez.

REVIEW: Hey, no fair! Torchwood didn't come to Canada when it was partly financed by the CBC, why is it moving to the States now that Starz is paying the bills? All joking aside, the U.S. element is the weakest part of Miracle Day for me. The storyline will take us to different places around the world, but L.A. and D.C.? There's nothing exotic about those cities. Of the American characters, the only one I find remotely engaging is Vera Juarez, a smart, empathetic and beautiful doctor. Rex Matheson, on the other hand, I could never get into. We meet him as he's laughing about a woman's cancer, and by the time the episode is over, is shouting insulting cod-Spanish at his house keeper. What a jerk. Why is Esther Drummond friends with him? She's a nicer person, but a bit if a blubberer. Pass. And of course there's Bill Pullman giving an effective, creepy performance as Oswald Danes, a man who raped and murdered a child which is, for me, just a step too far. It's the "look how edgy we are" writing that sank the show's first season. Children of Earth's use of children was horrific, but couched in sci-fi-fantasy. This element is too true to life, and borders on bad taste. So yeah, Pullman's good, but he's not the villain "you love to hate" (as RTD said in an interview). There's no love element there.

The Welsh bits are much better. Gwen and Rhys have a cute baby and are living like survivalists on the coast, well away from anyone who would want Torchwood out of action or back in the game. We get to see P.C. Andy again, and Gwen's parents haven't been recast. There's the fun Gwen-Rhys relationship of old, along with the same old fights (I love the phrase "Captain Jack Bollocks"). And when all hell breaks loose, it's all about badass Gwen shooting helicopters out of the sky with a smiling baby in her arms. Very John Woo. Awesome and exciting. The trip to Wales is also the best sequence for Rex and Esther, a quick-cut montage with the two of them on the phone as Rex gets ever closer - smooth and continuous, and with some amusing fish-out-of-water banter. Wales has the awesome action beats; America has Jack and Esther surviving a great fall in a shallow fountain. 'nuff said.

I really should mention the whole premise of Miracle Day, shouldn't I? Everyone on Earth stops dying. A BIG idea, but of course, we've seen it before. Everyone's become Owen Harper, haven't they? The real draw is the reality of it. No one dying means overrun hospitals, overnight overpopulation, and a food shortage. It means awkward religious and scientific questions, and the creation of a new social class. How humanity deals with this phenomenon is what's interesting. Maybe that's why Vera's scenes are on the whole better than the other Americans'. She's investigating the consequences, not the cause. The other difference between Miracle Day and A Day in the Death is that they can go more extreme on the damage survived. The human bomb is particularly gory and freaky, living through his own autopsy with Jack on hand for some black comedy. And he thought he'd escape this fate by blowing himself up.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Cool Welsh side, blah American side.


Jeremy Patrick said...

This may sound odd, but I'm looking forward to rewatching Miracle Day because I didn't like it the first time around. I went into the series with incredibly high hopes based off of Children of Earth, and was rather disappointed. I'm hoping that if I go into it with very low hopes now, I'll actually enjoy it :)

Never warmed to Rex either, but I will say the Torchwood novel "The Men Who Sold the World" redeemed him in my eyes . . .

Siskoid said...

So they made it to the books, eh?

Jeremy Patrick said...

Yep, three Torchwood books were released as prequels to Miracle Day. I haven't read the other two, but The Men Who Sold the World is heavy on Rex, light on Esther, and has hardly any of Captain Jack and his crew. A bit brave from the publisher, but I like I said, it worked for me . . .


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