Sunday, 31 July 2011

Miracle Day - Dead or Alive?

A few weeks ago the fourth series of Torchwood, entitled Miracle Day, premiered to the world and -a first for a Doctor Who related programme - was broadcast first in the US. That's right, if you couldn't tell just from watching it, Torchwood is now made in America. But is it actually up to scratch?
Simple answer: Definitely!
Although the production of the show has hoisted itself across the pond, the writing and production team are still largely the same which means we still have the genius of Russel T Davies (the creator of Torchwood and Executive Producer of Doctor Who during Doctors Eccleston and Tennant) guiding the series. Plus, on the acting side our main heroes are still the indomitable Captain Jack and Gwen Cooper.
So let's start with the plot.

The plot revolves around a simple but brilliantly earth-shattering idea: what if no one dies?
Around the world at exactly the same time, everyone stops dying. Hospitals are quickly overflowing with patients, prisons overflowing with convicts who can't be executed (this is America after all) and the biggest population boom in history. Its thought the human race only has four months until it descends into chaos.
It seems only the long-defunct Torchwood Institute can save the world.
The idea is  tremendous one as on the cerebral side, it leads to an exploration of the outcomes of such a 'miracle' on the world, from the social effect of hospital overcrowding to the religious/political; Hindus losing their faith in reincarnation and stopping their was with Pakistan.  Also, it makes for some good old-fashioned gore. Some of the worst-best examples including the woman with a broken neck able to adopt 'The Exorcist' like head turns and a disembodied arm that can still move around but the best is the bomber at the heart of an explosion who, despite just being a skeleton with a detached skull, is still conscious! Blurgh!
Gradually through the series (or the three episodes we have seen already) we learn that the FBI know something about the origin of the miracle and that its is inextricably linked to international pharmaceutical company, Phicorps. Could they be trying to make a bomb on prescription drugs?
It's a big, huge idea which is also very, very silly. Perfect for Torchwood.

But it's not only the plot that's great, the cast are also fantastic. John Barrowman and Eve Myles are on top form as Jack and Gwen while Alexa Havins and Mekhi Pfifer also shine as CIA- turned- Torchwood- members Esther and Rex.

Still attired in his great blue trench coat (earning him the nickname 'World War Two' from Rex), Captain Jack is now back on Earth after leaving it after the sad death of his lover, Ianto, in the last series of Torchwood.
At the moment of the last recorded death, the CIA get a sudden alert of Torchwood on their screens and it is this that leads Jack to forcibly unearth the dead organisation.
The writers and Barrowman have obviously sought to mature Jack a bit this series as he makes some very Doctorish speeches at times. Then again, it wouldn't be Jack if he gave up the flirting. And he still gets up to plenty of his favourite hobby this series.

Ever since the cataclysmic events of 'Children of Earth' that closed down Torchwood seemingly for good, Gwen, her husband, Rhys, and her baby girl, Anwen, moved from Cardiff to a reclusive cottage by the sea, desperate to get away from the dangers of Gwen's job.
However, when the whole of the world stops dying, the CIA's Rex Matheson knows this is business for Torchwood and so forces Gwen to once again take up the mantle of world-hero.
Just like Jack, the Gwen of this series has also matured. Still feisty, brave and bolshy, Gwen no has a baby to take care of and so her every thought is for her baby's safety who is back in Wales under Rhys' care.


CIA agent Rex Matheson is on the phone to his assistant, Esther, while driving when - CRASH - a pole goes through his chest. But he's picked a good day to get injured. With a constant pain in his chest - he should be dead after all, Rex is a very reluctant Torchwood member, only becoming one after his own bosses conspire against him.
Personally, it took me a while to warm to Rex - not at all the fault of Mekhi Pfifer - but because the character is a bit unlikeable in the first two episodes: hoisting Gwen from her family in Wales all the way to New York and his general disagreeable attitude. However, once Rex becomes an outlaw like the others he mellows slightly. His sparring with Jack for leadership echoes that of Owen way back in Series One and the confusion between him and Gwen over Welshisms/ Americanisms add a bit of light to the more serious scenes.

Now, Esther I liked straight away. Dr Who companion-like in her resoluteness over discovering Torchwood (similar to Gwen in Series One), Esther is an ordinary woman, a not-very-important - but very bright -analyst for the CIA, who becomes embroiled in Torchwood's mad world not through much choice of her own. Something of a tech expert, it is also easy to see how she's useful to the team. Here's hoping she stays!

But enough about the heroes, every good show needs a villain. Miracle Day's got two thoroughly nasty pieces of work. Let's meet them.

Oswald Danes, a convicted child killer, is taken for lethal injection. But as the wardens watch, he survives. Just as everyone else does. Let out on a legal technicality, Danes becomes a celebrity, appearing on talk shows sharing his story, and with the world in such a sorry state some treat him as a messianic figure; including the Soulless, a religious sect who believe that the Miracle has robbed humanity of their souls.
Bill Pullman is terrific - and terrifying - in the role which makes his character's adoration all the more wrong.

Jilly Kitzinger is a ruthless PR Guru who will stop at nothing for power. Lauren Ambrose plays the part with relish as Jilly worms her way in through false niceties when only the audience knows her true intentions.

So, to conclude, three episodes in and Miracle Day is very alive and kicking - much like the whole of the world in fact.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Coat, the Astronaut and the Pyramid

Doctor Who Series Six: Part Two is just around the corner. And it seems the BBC has only just realised this as Iin the past day, we've suddenly been bamboozled by tonnes of preview items, each presenting tantalising new hints about the new episodes. The new promotional image above, for example, shows the Doctor in a new coat! With Silent and Astronaut! All in front of a Pyramid!
And there's also the lip-smacking brand-new trailer containing Hitler, River Song, Silence, Cybermen, The Doctor snogging Craig from 'the Lodger', Cybermen and Weeping Angels. Did I mention the Cybermen?
Also, a preview clip, over a minute long, taken from episode 11 'The God Complex has been released showing a horrible-looking horned creature and a depressive clown amongst other things.
But wait. That's still not all.
The BBC have also revealed the names of two more episodes coming up. Joining Steven Moffatt's 'Let's Kill Hitler' and Toby Whithouse's 'The God Complex' in the run wil be 'Night Terrors' by Mark Gattiss and 'The Girl Who Waited' by Tom MacRae. This leaves only the top-secret final two episode titles unknown.
And that's still not all.
Karen Gillan has confirmed that she will return for Series Seven next year. Hooray for Pond!
That's all.

Phew, after all that I'm a bit exhausted. I may need a Doctor...
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