Five Things To Know Before Watching ‘Torchwood: Miracle Day’

Sure that whole independence thing caused a bit of a rift between us and England, but since then, we seemed to have mended fences pretty well. Look at all the great things we’ve gotten from Britain since then….crumpets, Wimbeldon, William and Kate souvenir mugs…And now, “Torchwood.” This British series has finally come across the pond, and its fourth season, “Torchwood: Miracle Day” begins on Starz tonight. As critically acclaimed as the show has been overseas, though, it is still relatively unknown in the States. So, to prepare for its arrival, here are answers to some basic questions you’ll no doubt be asking yourself before diving into the show.

What is this show about?

It’s a spin-off of sorts from the massively popular British series, “Dr. Who”. “Torchwood” debuted on the BBC in 2006, and followed the exploits of an agency known as the Torchwood Institute. The group’s mission is to track down extraterrestrials who are causing problems here on Earth. The group is headed up by Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), an immortal ex-con man known as much for his very stylish duster and suspenders as he is for his alien-battling abilities. His partner in crime fighting is Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), an ex-cop who joined the agency as a skeptic but is now a bazooka-shooting, karate-kicking expert at all this.

So it’s science fiction then?

Yes and no. Yes, each of the previous three seasons did have space aliens running around trying to destroy the planet. And Captain Jack is immortal, and has been known to use a crazy, futuristic weapon or two every now and then to beat the bad guys. But no, “Torchwood” isn’t just sci fi. It’s part action/adventure, with each season featuring plenty of car chases, explosions and dazzling use of weaponry. However, what also sets “Torchwood” apart from traditional science fiction is the depth of its plotting. For instance, it’s third season (“Torchwood: Children Of Earth”), dealt with an extraterrestrial attack on children around the world and the lengths people would – and wouldn’t – go to to stop it.

A male-female team of investigators scouring the globe for alien conspiracies that provoke major moral debates. Is this the second coming of “The X-Files” then?

On the face of it, the comparison seems to make sense. But then again, Captain Jack is not only immortal but also bisexual. And he smiles a lot more than Fox Mulder ever did. Meanwhile, Gwen Cooper is much handier with her punches and kicks than Dana Scully was. If there’s any prototype for the character, it’s probably closer to Mrs. Peel from “The Avengers.” If Mrs. Peel had a baby daughter and believed in alien conspiracies.

What is “Miracle Day”?

The title for the show’s fourth season refers to the day when people stopped dying. One minute, humans expired as they always have. The next, not a person around the globe passes way. Which might seem like a miracle at first but everyone quickly realizes the seriousness of the situation. No deaths means a dramatic increase in population which means a greater demand on resources which means….bad things for the planet. And good things for at least one sinister pharmaceutical firm. It looks like a job for Torchwood, but as the 10-episode series opens, the agency has been shut down. Captain Jack has vanished. And Gwen is in hiding with her husband and baby.

Sure the accents are cool, but I kind of got my fill of England with all the Royal Wedding coverage. Will “Torchwood: Miracle Day” have any American appeal?

Plenty. For the first time, the show has a large American cast. Mekhi Phifer plays Rex Matheson, a C.I.A. agent who investigates Torchwood’s involvement in Miracle Day and ends up joining them as a result of what he learns. Bill Pullman, in the creepiest role of his career, is a convicted child killer whose execution on Miracle Day goes awry since nobody can die. Lauren Ambrose is Jilly Kitzinger, an evil genius of a publicist for a drug manufacturing company. In addition to having an international cast, though, “Torchwood: Miracle Day” will grab audiences from anywhere because a) the action sequences (and there are plenty) are as good as in any summer blockbuster and b) its themes – the meaning of death, the nature of forgiveness, the lengths some people will go to to profit from tragedy – are universal and irresistible.

Still not convinced “Torchwood: Miracle Day” may be the best series of the summer? Watch this first episode of the series and see for yourself.

Watch the First Episode of “Torchwood: Miracle Day:”

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Watch Full Episodes:
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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