"Categories of Life"

I'm hereby officially reclassifying Torchwood: Miracle Day as Category 1: it's not dead, but, by all rights, it should be. By all the laws of nature, by everything that is holy, by any reasonable assessment of quality of life, Miracle Day should be put to rest. Let's stick a red clothes-pin on it, throw a blanket over its pathetic carcass, and roll it gently over to the incinerator to be put out of its misery.

Now, now: shed no tears. I know you loved Torchwood, and so did I, but it is long gone, and this sad, suffering thing before us bears only a vestigial resemblance to the show we held so dear. Let us choose to remember the sickly, plucky, endearing franchise that Torchwood was, not the shambling, crap-encrusted mockery that it has become. Continue reading


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Episode Four: "Escape to L.A."

I really don't know how much longer I can do this. Torchwood: Miracle Day is terrible. With preposterous plotting, wildly inconsistent characterization, and clumsy storytelling, Miracle Day is too stupid to take seriously, and too self-serious to be fun.

Torchwood has reinvented itself with every series, and now it has done so again, but it's abandoned everything that ever worked in any of its previous iterations. Continue reading


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Episode Three: Dead of Night

Spoiler Alert: Contains spoilers for this and the previous series of Torchwood.

I have to be honest: I'm losing my patience with this show. There is a limit to the number of programs I can watch every week—let alone write about—and so far I'm feeling like I'd rather put my finite energies elsewhere. Unless things get better quickly, the (slowly evaporating) affection I have for Russell T Davies and the Torchwood brand isn't going to be enough to justify keeping Miracle Day in the rotation much longer. Continue reading


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Episode Two: Rendition

Warning: Contains spoilers.

I grow more and more concerned that Torchwood is always going to be a series at war with itself, pulled apart by two intrinsic but incompatible drives. Last week I said that the original concept—Doctor Who for adults—was inherently flawed: in the first place, Doctor Who already works just fine for adults, thank you very much; in the second place, campy sci-fi action heroics do not work well with the sort of dark, serious themes that Torchwood aspires to attempt. I'm a fan of Star Trek (for one example), and I'm also a fan of Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men (for another), but I doubt I'd be a fan of some awkwardly spliced hybrid of the two.

Yet Torchwood too often feels like exactly that sort of ill-conceived mish-mash, and it's frustrating. In this week's episode, "Rendition," written by Doris Egan, the jagged seam where the two different sides of the franchise are knitted together was all too visible. Put simply, there are two entirely different shows happening simultaneously, and one of them is far more interesting than the other. Continue reading


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Episode One: The New World

Spoiler Alert: Contains mild spoilers for this episode, and for the previous series, Torchwood: Children of Earth.

For American viewers who may be unfamiliar with the brand, Torchwood began life in 2006 as a BBC sci-fi series created by Russell T Davies (the man who brought back Doctor Who in 2005). It starred John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness (a character who also began on Who), a charming, omnisexual, accidentally-immortal adventurer now leading a government-sponsored team to defend Great Britain from extraterrestrial threats.

The first two seasons of Torchwood were—to put it kindly—uneven. The show was conceived as a Doctor Who spin-off for "adults," and visibly floundered trying to find a way to realize that inherently flawed vision. For most of the first two series, Torchwood seemed to draw exclusively on the worst of both worlds: childish plots and ludicrous storytelling were awkwardly married to sleazy sex and shock-value violence. Constantly struggling to find its voice, Torchwood suffered from drastic changes in tone and direction throughout its first two seasons, veering wildly between the horrifically dark, the ridiculously campy, and the embarrassingly smutty, while it tried—and mostly failed—to find something that would work.

Torchwood didn't find its groove until the third season, when it gave up on the 12-episode "monster-of-the-week" format for a single, long-form story: the five-part mini-series Children of Earth. Running over five consecutive nights in July 2009, Children of Earth elicited an almost universal gasp of surprise from the critics and fans alike: Holy crap: Torchwood can actually be good. Continue reading


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