When the history of Torchwood is written, it will surely qualify as one of the most unusual journeys any drama has ever made. Starting on BBC3 as a Doctor Who spin-off set in a Cardiff dungeon with a pet pterodactyl, team Torchwood soon leapfrogged to BBC2, before graduating to BBC1 in sci-fi political thriller Torchwood: Children of Earth. The BBC successfully conquered, Torchwood has found a new home on US cable network Starz (specialists in blood, sand and full-frontal nudity), and is now poised to conquer the States. As invasion plans go, it’s pretty sound – Torchwood already seems indomitable.
With that in mind, Torchwood: Miracle Day is a thoroughly international affair. Told through the eyes of CIA agents Rex Matheson and Esther Drummond, we witness the global reaction to an incredible development – a world in which no one can die. With the threat of an overcrowded planet and dwindling resources, Rex finds himself on the hunt for the mysterious Torchwood organisation. With the outfit’s leader, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), AWOL and sole surviving agent Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) in hiding on the Welsh coast, he has his work cut out.
As Rex, Mekhi Phifer is high-octane and macho, possessing that uniquely American ability to speak in block capitals. On the evidence of episode one, he has two settings – impatient and angry. Variously furious at everything from his own new-found immortality to the Severn Bridge, he is petty, frustrated and therefore utterly real. Raging in exasperation about the Welsh toll fee while pointing a gun at our heroes, so far he’s Miracle Day’s most entertaining character.
Shifting back and forth between Wales and Washington DC, the scope of the story is genuinely epic, even if the collision of accents takes some getting used to. Apart from this culture clash, one other thing longtime Torchwood viewers will notice is the show’s vastly increased budget. Impeccably shot, with no expense spared, lavish set pieces barrel along in quick succession, culminating in a stunt-filled sprint across the Gower Peninsula with a helicopter and rocket launcher thrown in for good measure. In the midst of this, new mum Gwen gets her hero shot, coolly firing rounds while clutching her earmuffed newborn.
And of course that’s only the first hour. With the teaser trailer promising action, romance, a messianic Bill Pullman lurking in the shadows, and an uncertain future for Captain Jack, Miracle Day looks set to be a thrilling ride.