Well done, Russell T. Davies.
Torchwood has had a rocky history. It’s first two seasons were wildly uneven while the third season, the five-episode serial story Children of Earth, delivered a potent and highly emotional story the series had never seemed capable of.
The move to the United States and Starz for Miracle Day cast the future of the series back into doubt. With Russell T. Davies continuing to guide the series, could it maintain the quality it achieved with Children of Earth? Or would working within Hollywood’s structures, as opposed to the BBCs, change the direction and tone of these characters?
If the first episode “The New World” is any indication, Davies has pulled off a spectacular snythesis, blending the potency of Children of Earth with fresh excitement. Torchwood: Miracle Day is an invigorated science fiction experience.
“The New World” offers a fantastic jumping on point for new fans without neglecting the progression of these characters or the trials they have been through in previous series. As the episode opens, we discover that Torchwood has been long defunct, although the trauma of being in Torchwood never seems to have left Gwen and Rhys.
The bulk of the episode concerns itself with introducing CIA agent Rex Matheson, his assistant Esther Drummond, Dr. Jaurez, and murderer Oswald Danes. (The series opens with Danes and the details of his crime are an immediate promise to the viewer that the same darkness that inhabited Children of Earth will be recurring in Miracle Day.) All four find themselves linked by the events of Miracle Day, and Drummond in particular notices that all information on the “Torchwood” organization seems to have been wiped from all electronic files at the same time.
It’s not long before Drummond’s connection draws out Captain Jack Harkness himself. His reappearance is a quiet shock you don’t see coming, even though you’re expecting little else by that point in the story.
Further, Davies proves remarkably deft at resolving the ireedemability given to the character at the end of Children of Earth, handling it in one line of dialogue and one intense sequence later on in the episode. Davies is at the top of his game here, delivering a tight, exciting script that still gives its main characters room to breathe.
Gwen and Rhys’ journey is similarly well-handled. Her reintroduction to the life of Torchwood is gradual, building and building up to a golden moment at the climax of the episode. (And perhaps one of the most well-earned helicopter explosions in television history.)
The new characters are engaging, the action is intense (Gwen and Jack’s reunion is fantastic), and there’s a lot here for both new and old fans.
To be clear, “The New World” is primarily an action piece. The premise of the show is extremely intriguing but doesn’t get a lot of exploration here, as the episode is largely concerned with reuniting our favorite characters and introducing the new ones. As an opening action piece, “The New World” functions marvelously. If the series can expand on the implications of Miracle Day as the series progresses, and tell some intimate character stories along the way, then Torchwood: Miracle Day could become a masterpiece of character-based science fiction storytelling. I’m excited to watch it unfold.
Excited yourself? You can watch “The New World” right now online at Starz’s website.
Chris Lough is the production manager at Tor.com.