“Torchwood” is a mythology-heavy set, but still easily digestible by new and established fans of BBC’s “Dr. Who” spin-off show.
Strangeness sometimes has its appeal, and if “Torchwood,” the BBC spinoff of the television series “Doctor Who,” is one thing, it is strange. The television program follows the trials and tribulations of the Torchwood Institute, a present day secret organization that was created in the 1800s to investigate the unusual and the alien. The humor and drama-injected Sci-Fi show ran for three seasons in the United Kingdom, but its fourth season, which debuted July 8, is American-produced. The first American episode aired on Starz, unveiling a “Torchwood” that diverts from its British roots. Not only is the series now produced by the States, but it also takes place here.
After the “Torchwood” team’s base in Cardiff, Wales, was destroyed in the previous season, the writers had an opportunity to relocate the characters. These changes added the challenge of taking a show entirely British in its handling of plot and characters and introducing it to an American setting both on and off the screen. There was a new audience to impress and an old one to still hold onto.
The first episode, “Miracle Day,” tackles this issue by blending both British and American elements, leaving the episode feeling somewhat disjointed. “Torchwood” comes off as a show unsuccessfully trying to merge two different styles of television together. Some of the charm of the show found in the past is lost and the Welsh characters are slightly toned down. A new character, Esther Drummond, is bland – nothing like the witty, quirky characters of past seasons. However, there are nine episodes left for some of these issues to be resolved. The program is still a little bit bizarre, which made the show appealing to many in the first place, and more importantly, the story this season revolves around is imaginative and thought-provoking: what if suddenly no one could die?
When the new series begins, Torchwood no longer exists. The last two members alive chose not to rebuild after the events of the previous season, but the name of the organization comes up on CIA computers. While Drummond, CIA Watch Analyst, is on the phone with agent Rex Matheson about this mysterious Torchwood, he is injured in a what-should-be-fatal car accident. Both he and Drummond, and the rest of the world, quickly discover that no one on Earth is able to die. Instead, those who should be dead remain in the state of their last minutes alive, which for Rex is perpetual pain.
One of the successes of the first episode is its ability to introduce “Torchwood” to new viewers while also keeping its material fresh for long time fans. The new American audience learns about Torchwood, along with these new American characters who have also never before heard of the institute. There is also plenty there for those who have watched the previous seasons: beloved characters return, little references to the past are made and of course, there is a global phenomenon plaguing the world. “Miracle Day” overall feels a little stale in comparison to the series’ former self. Often where past seasons were subtle and clever, the new one is blunt and dry. Its new style may appeal to new viewers, but the old audience will easily find faults. Not all hope is lost though. The story is intriguing enough and there are still remnants from the British production to make original audiences hopeful for the remainder of the season.