Torchwood: Miracle Day
Torchwood returns - bigger, flashier and more American than before.
"So, what is Torchwood, anyway?" asked CIA agent Rex Matheson, moments before a traffic accident saw him kebabbed by a lorry load of pipes.
Most people watching last night's opening episode already knew the answer to that; they've known the answer for a few years now. But Rex is an American, you see, and you know what the yanks are like when it comes to arriving late for the party.
This new series of Torchwood is co-financed by a US channel, and it certainly showed: bigger, louder, flashier, glossier, and more American(er) than before. Hence the need to explain the whole thing all over again for the newcomers across the pond.
There is a fascinating idea behind this new run: death isn't what it used to be. In fact, death isn't around at all. It's left town completely and everyone is immortal. That's great if you're Oswald Danes, an odious child killer being given a lethal injection; not so great if you're a suicide bomber who's been left looking like a piece of burnt toast. You can have your head cut off and you'll still be alive.
Well, you will be unless you're Torchwood's Captain Jack Harkness, a man whose teeth and hair will probably feature in Professor Brian Cox's next series of Wonders of the Universe.
Captain Jack ended the last series by feeding his grandson to a mysterious alien force (long story) before leaving the planet (long story) and now he appears to be the only person on earth who can die. And this is a novel development for someone who was previously the only immortal in the universe. (Long story. Look, it's late, I'm tired, and I'm not even going to attempt to explain it all.)
"This whole situation, worldwide, that's exactly the kind of thing we used to investigate," Jack explained to CIA investigator Esther Drummond before wiping her memory. (Long story - look, just go and watch it on the iPlayer, eh.)
So Captain Jack decides to put the band back together. Except it's going to have to be a duo these days as there's only one member of Torchwood - Gwen Cooper - left alive.
Gwen's hiding out in an isolated house by the sea in Wales. She and her husband spend their days raising their child, growing vegetables, painting the living room and being incredibly rude to passing walkers seeking directions.
They're also armed to the teeth and being tracked by a mysterious helicopter. Rex Matheson arrives on their doorstep just in time for explosions, guns, Jeep chases along Welsh beaches and rocket launchers. You can certainly see where the producers have spent the extra cash.
There's even a reason for Captain Jack to run away from all the dangers now. I could never work out why he bothered in the past because nothing could hurt him. He was immortal so anything could happen to his body and he would reform, like some cosmic version of The Rolling Stones, and carry on exactly like before. You just couldn't get shot of him.
Now, however, he's mortal. He bleeds, he gets hurt, and that's a bit of a problem because somebody's trying to kill him. (He's still got perfect teeth and hair, however.)
Torchwood is, of course, utter tosh, but it's terrific fun and zips along like a finely tuned Mercedes. Whether of not it can keep up this pace over the remaining nine episodes remains to be seen, but you'd be a fool not to tune in to find out.
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