Torchwood, "Miracle Day: The New World": Captain Jack is back

Quick Take: Torchwood, "Miracle Day: The New World"
A great setup kicks off the new season of Torchwood.


Review: Torchwood, "Miracle Day: The New World"
Captain Jack is back!

Last season, Torchwood broke format. Instead of a the monster-of-the-week format of the first two seasons, Season 3 (dubbed Children of Earth) presented us with a five-part miniseries revolving around one hell of a menace. The 456, a powerful alien race with a decadent twist, arrive at Earth's doorstep, starving for -- you guessed it -- the children of Earth. The season was magnificent; between the thought-provoking subtext, morally gray characters, interpersonal drama, and dialog that matched the intensity of the action sequences, Children of Earth became a viewer's drug of choice.

That leaves some really big shoes to fill for Torchwood's fourth season, Miracle Day. Last night was the first of ten Season 4 episodes and after just 44 minutes of content, viewers already recognize we're in for another explosive arc. Miracle Day's first episode, "The New World," asks the question, "What would happen if everyone stopped dying, but no one stopped suffering?" and suggests that the answer may surprise us.

Much of the episode was devoted to introducing the four new cast members and does an excellent of job getting us interested in the story of two or three of them. Considering that every member of the audience was waiting patiently through those scenes to learn more about Captain Jack, Gwen, and Rhys, getting us invested in most of the new characters was quite a feat.

Oswald Danes, one of the noobs, even opens the show, strapped to a table to await his death sentence. Needless to say, he doesn't die. In fact, he's the first person to not-die anywhere in the world. Sometime after this irredeemable pedophile recovers from a bad case of the shivers, he demands to be released from prison, arguing (with the help of his lawyers) that he served his sentence and cannot constitutionally be punished for the same offense a second time. After he sent the Mayor's assistant running back to the office, he was released. Naturally, we want to know what this shifty fellow's connection is to the capital-M Miracle. Did he make a deal with some aliens? Uncover some cool tech? Or is he just a distraction? The world now has both eyes fixated directly on this lunatic.

Next there's Rex Matheson and Esther Drummond of the CIA. Even after Rex was run through with a pipe, he still managed with Esther's intel to track Torchwood the coast of Wales. A guy with that kind of drive has to be admired. The dynamic duo were set on the case when, at the precise moment of the Miracle, the word Torchwood flooded official communication, only to be wiped clean from the system a short while later. Esther got to investigating and Rex got to the hospital, and it's pretty much their story that carries the episode. By the time Rex surprises the Torchwood team by requisitioning them back to the United States, we've already come to like the guy so much that we're on his side. Stop being a pussy Gwen! We've got work to do!

Who wants the government to think Torchwood is somehow connected with the Miracle? Who knows? What we do find out -- right before Jack retcons Esther -- is that Jack was the one who wiped Torchwood out of the system in a well-meant attempt to protect Gwen and company. Apparently even mentioning the word Torchwood can pull Jack back from across the cosmos. Or not... maybe he just got tired of infinite sex partners and came back to earth on a whim. Whatever the case, the even bigger news is that Jack no longer seems to be immortal. Whatever happened to everyone else happened to him to.

There's a scene in the hospital where a man who blew himself up is lying on a table, still alive. There's almost nothing left of him, but he's still conscious. Seemingly on a whim, Jack asks to find out what happens if his head is severed. For one, it's good to know how to kill the unkillable and for another, that particular mess of flesh tried to blow Jack to pieces with him just the night before. Unfortunately, severing the head does nothing at all. That head is still alive, somewhere in the hospital, feeling nothing but the afterburn of incineration. Yeesh.

That scene does call to mind what Doctor Who fans will recognize as Jack's future as a five-foot tall severed head who calls himself the Face of Boe. "WTF?" you say? And you say so rightly! Captain Jack will live for at least a few billion more years. Over that time, it's been theorized that since the Bad Wolf prevents him from dying, Jack will grow in different ways. He'll develop amazing powers of mind and control over the energy of the universe, eventually expending that energy, leaving the physical plane. Somewhere along the way, he stops being such a hunky beefcake and starts looking like a pickled cranium.

So does this scene in the hospital suggest that Jack's gonna lose his head before his immortality is restored? Is this the end of the Jack we know? Eek gad, I hope not! But at the same time, I hope so... I mean, it's evolution baby!

It looks like as a counterpoint to Jack's grandson last season, we're joined by Gwen's dying father this year. I hope this familial addition turns out to be as awesome as it was last time around, but I'm a bit skeptical of it at this point. Rhys is bad enough. I'm sorry if there are any Rhys-lovers out there, but I could really do with a little less whining. But you know what? Better him whining than the new baby. Gwen's got a lot of personal stuff going on this year, and I can't wait to see where it goes.

Then finally, the last new character: Dr. Vera Juarez. There's nothing to say about her... yet. She's just an stereotype at this point, and I hope they do something with her to make her worth our time.

All in all, "The New World" was a great setup for the season. Rather than stretching out the unimportant ethical questions, Russel T. Davies, Jane Espenson, and the rest did right by getting them out of the way from the get-go. This is superb because it means that the writers have got a lot more to do with the Miracle Day premise than question whether or not to cut off a head.

Only six days until our next installment...

By Mike Stop Continues

About the author

I'm on a quest to be the most amazing writer to ever live. Until then, writing about TV will have to satiate my hunger for characters, plots, and intense emotional reactions.

See my blog for more stuff...

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