It's not exactly a secret that I love Torchwood and that I was impatiently waiting for Friday night's season premiere. While there were some moments that were fantastic, a lot of it felt like set-up and left me underwhelmed. It seems like this 10-episode arc is trying too hard to bring in a new audience by debuting in the US on Starz before airing in the UK and moving the setting of the show stateside as well. Because of that, this isn't exactly the same show that I've loved all along. Then again, this episode didn't exactly make it easy for new viewers to jump right in. So its somewhere in the middle of the road and hopefully in the second episode they'll pick up the pace, get their groove back and everyone will have a clue what the hell is going on.
The basic gist of this 10-episode season is that there's been some sort of catastrophic world event that has made it so people don't die. They don't miraculously heal either, so if you blow yourself up with a bomb, you'll be a conscious, charred mess in utter pain, but you'll still be alive! So there's a lot of hospital space being used up by people who rightfully should have been offed a long time ago. Benefiting from this turn of events are Gwen's dad, who has had multiple heart attacks; Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman), a murderer who gets out when his execution causes cruel and unusual punishment; and FBI agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer), who is investigating Torchwood when a pipe smashes his windshield and goes through his body. The appearance and then rapid disappearance of the name Torchwood on the Internet, piques the interest of Vera (Arlene Tur), who keeps trying to tell Rex that the Miracle Day and Torchwood name have some sort of connection. And Miracle Day has brought Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) from galaxies far, far away in order to protect Gwen (Eve Myles), his only remaining Torchwood colleague. Much of the first episode involves the setup of this elaborate plot, coming up with contrivances to get Gwen back to work, and getting the Torchwood team to America.
As a Torchwood fan, I appreciated that there were some shout-outs to the show's previous installments, aside from just all the references to how everyone in that division (with the exception of Gwen and Jack) died young. My favorite was when Jack used Owen's name as a pseudonym. And I enjoyed Jack's conversation with the spritely and inquisitive Vera as it was very reminiscent of the one that he had with Gwen a very long time ago when she was just an innocent young crimefighter unfamiliar with the alien beasties of the universe. On the other hand, I wasn't thrilled that we had to wait 20 minutes for our first Captain Jack sighting. No matter how dark and twisted he may be, he is the heart and soul of this show, so I was tapping my foot waiting for a glimpse of him. If it weren't for all of the shots of Gwen trying to live happily in Witness Protection with Rhys (Kai Owen) and her baby, I would have begun wondering if my DVR had taped the wrong show.
The premiere also glossed over a lot of lingering issues. Sure, we were shown that Gwen was living off in Wales and that people were still threatening her life, but there was no real discussion of all the death (RIP Ianto) and the horribleness with Jack and his grandson. In fact, Jack seems to be back to his devilishly charming self, stealing a cell phone from Rex and happily fending off bad guys. I've got my fingers crossed that this will be dealt with at a future date when black helicopters and guys with machine guns aren't hunting down Gwen.
The premiere also took a big leap of faith in presuming that people had seen the previous installments of the show. When Captain Jack informs Vera that he's been injured and isn't healing, she doesn't register this at all. People who have seen the show before would know that Jack is immortal (and eventually the Face of Boe) and therefore basically indestructible, but those who didn't must have been scratching their heads over this seemingly irrelevant information until Gwen spelled everything out for them. For those who did know already, this seemed redundant. It might have just been better for him to tell Vera, since he was planning on mind-wiping her afterward anyway.
I definitely have mixed feelings about Miracle Day, as well as some pity for those fans in the UK who have to wait a week for the episodes to air. (I've been there with Doctor Who and Torchwood before, so I feel your pain.) And I'm hoping that the brash American personality that we've gotten so far from Rex doesn't overpower the wonderful quirkiness that has made this so much more than a "let's stop aliens" show in the past. I'm more than a little concerned about taking the team out of Cardiff, but willing to go along for the ride to see how it all pans out. At least for now.
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