On Friday, July 08, Starz will premiere its latest original series, "Torchwood: Miracle Day."
Except it's not an original series. "Torchwood" was originally a sci-fi series on BBC that ran for three seasons. And while it's true that "Torchwood: Miracle Day" is essentially a chance for the series to find a bigger audience (thanks in part to a larger production budget), the fact remains that this is essentially the fourth season.
The premise for "Miracle Day" is intriguing enough that it could have been made independently of "Torchwood" entirely. On one amazing day, no one Earth dies. The population takes it as a miracle on a grand scale, but this miracle has a price. Because everyone on Earth has seemingly become an immortal overnight, the planet will run out of resources within just a few months, leaving the human race in everlasting suffering.
That's where the Torchwood team comes in. It's their job to find out what caused "Miracle Day" and figure out a way to stop it over the course of ten episodes.
Of course, that's just the short version of what you might expect. But if you really want to understand "Torchwood: Miracle Day" without watching three seasons straight, these six items will tell you everything you need to know to appreciate the new season.
What is Torchwood?
The "Torchwood" series is a direct spinoff from "Doctor Who," but they aren't so closely tied together that you need to watch both to enjoy them. In fact, "Torchwood" is a considerably darker show, so if you like sex and violence... you know the drill.
The concept of Torchwood first appeared during the second season of "Doctor Who." In 1879, the Doctor (David Tennant) encountered Queen Victorian (Pauline Collins) during an attack by an alien race (that seemed to resemble werewolves) that wanted to infect her. It's debatable whether the aliens succeeded, but the Queen came to view the Doctor as a threat to Great Britain and she formed the Torchwood Institute to confront all of her country's "enemies beyond imagination."
For over a century, Torchwood hunted aliens and seized their technology until 2007, when Torchwood accidentally unleashed a dual invasion of Daleks and Cybermen. With the organization in disarray after that, the Doctor's former companion, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) stepped up to transform Torchwood in his own image. The "Torchwood" TV series follows Captain Jack and his team as they serve as a modern day "X-Files."
Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) is the female lead of "Torchwood" and arguably the co-lead of the series alongside Jack. As a police officer, Gwen noticed Jack and his team investigating strange cases and she soon learned that they were tracking down alien threats. Impressed by her abilities, Jack offered her a place on the team and she has gone on to become one of his top field agents.
It has also been broadly hinted that Jack is in love with Gwen, despite the fact that she's gone on to marry her longtime boyfriend, Rhys Williams (Kai Owen). Rhys even became aware of Torchwood and he assisted them on several occasions.
This is the rest of the original Torchwood team: Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), Gwen, Jack, Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori) and Owen Harper (Burn Gorman).
You may have noticed that Ianto, Tosh and Owen are nowhere to be seen in "Miracle Day." And that's because they all died horribly. There's a high mortality rate on this show and despite its premise, there's every reason to believe that not all of the main characters will survive the season.
Captain Jack Harkness
Jack Harkness was first introduced all the way back in the first season of the "Doctor Who" relaunch as a former time traveling con man who became one of the Doctor's companions and bravely stood by him during a Dalek Invasion in the far future. Jack was killed and subsequently resurrected in a way that rendered him virtually immortal. Jack still ages (albeit at a much slower rate than everyone else) and he can still be hurt. But when Jack is killed, he usually revives a few minutes later with no aftereffects.
Although Jack has a sometimes skewed morality, he's still an extremely heroic figure. He's like Captain America, if he was secretly British... and he liked guys.
What? I didn't mention that Captain Jack is bisexual?
Actually, I think It's kind of disingenuous to call Jack bisexual. He may have had wives in the past and a longstanding crush on Gwen, but he clearly prefers men and he even formed a lasting relationship with his male teammate, Ianto Jones.
So in that regard, Jack is the rare gay action hero. If you have a problem with that, then maybe "Torchwood" isn't for you.
Everyone is Bi-Sexual
This may due to the influence of "Torchwood" creator Russell T Davies ("Queer As Folk"), but on this show nearly every character has had a fling with someone of the same sex. And when I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE.
Owen brought home a girlfriend and her boyfriend for a one night stand, Tosh had a relationship with another woman and even Gwen "snogged" a woman once.
As for Ianto, he was so devoted to his girlfriend, that he hid her in Torchwood's basement even after she became part cyber... woman?
Maybe Ianto could be called a cybersexual before he finally hooked up with Jack, in what seemed to be a rebound relationship because Jack couldn't be with Gwen.
The point is that this happens a lot on "Torchwood" and it will likely continue on "Miracle Day." So don't look so surprised if John Barrowman makes out with Mekhi Phifer at some point during the new season.
Torchwood Can Be Dangerously Incompetent
Fans of the original "Torchwood" series may not like to admit this, but the team has a tendency to f*** up on a global scale.
Before any defenders start shouting, let me ask this: whose fault was it that a giant soul sucking entity called Abaddon ran wild in Cardiff? That's right, the Torchwood team let him loose after being easily manipulated into turning on Jack.
That wasn't their first or only screw up. Even Owen's initial death at the hands of a deranged individual seemed to happen because the team got too complacent. Prior to that, they practically let one of their former members, Suzie Costello (Indira Varma) run wild as a serial killer for weeks under their noses!
Even Captain Jack has been guilty of this. During the "Children of Earth" miniseries, Jack arrogantly confronted the alien menace known as the 456 and told them to leave Earth immediately. In response, the 456 killed everyone in the building, including Jack's lover Ianto.
If Jack had approached that situation with an actual plan, maybe things would have played out very differently.
The Big Ideas
The best reason to watch "Torchwood" is that the premises can be truly evocative and thought provoking.
"Torchwood" seemed to struggle to find its identity during the first two seasons, but in the third season the show was revitalized in the form of a miniseries called "Children of Earth." In that story, an alien race (nicknamed "the 456" by the British government that had previously made contact with it) came to Earth and demanded that humanity hand over a large percentage of their children... whom the aliens essentially used as their recreational drugs!
To hide their complicity with the 456, the British government nearly succeeded in wiping out Torchwood, including a particularly gruesome death for Jack that saw most of his body destroyed by a bomb before the flesh slowly (and painfully) grew back.
In the end, Jack was forced to make a choice: sacrifice his own grandchild and drive off the aliens or attempt to find another child to sacrifice at the risk of losing even more children. He opted not to wait and Jack's grandson died as a direct result of his actions.
In his shame and loss, Jack fled Earth and seemed unlikely to return. And yet, he'll be back in time for "Miracle Day;" which may push Torchwood even further than before. Alongside a new team consisting of Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer), Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) and Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur), Captain Jack and Gwen may be facing their toughest challenge yet.
"Torchwood: Miracle Day" could raise the stakes for the series once again with its newfound international scale. So be sure to check it out this Friday night on Starz!