TV Time: “Torchwood: Miracle Day”

My TV show of choice this summer is “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” the fourth series – what would be a “season” in the US – of the British sci-fi drama “Torchwood.” (The name is an anagram for “Doctor Who,” of which it is a spinoff.) Although the last series, “Torchwood: Children of Earth,” was broadcast on BBC America, the current one is a British/American production showing on the Starz channel as an “original dramatic series.” It mostly takes place in the US and features American characters alongside the main UK characters, “Captain” Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles). (Gwen’s husband, Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) – probably named in honor of the character actor – co-stars as well but his character hasn’t left Wales yet.) I’m also happy to see the return of Tom Price as Andy Davidson, the PC turned sergeant who’s old friends with Gwen. He’s never had much to do but he’s good-natured and has a nice presence.

Halfway through the series, I’m fairly impressed. I started watching “Torchwood” around 2008-2009, despite having to watch everything on either YouTube or various random sites (most memorably, I watched the series two episode “From Out of the Rain” with Chinese subtitles). As I knew would be the case, the editing and cinematography is great. Bill Pullman is easily the best of the new actors; he’s still got the charm from Spaceballs and Independence Day but has added the creepy smoothness and charisma necessary to play child killer and burgeoning cult leader Oswald Danes. As for the other actors, Mekhi Phifer as Rex Matheson is gruff but likeable and I’m slowly warming to Alexa Havins’ character, Esther Drummond, who has good chemistry with Jack. (Not like the Doctor and River’s wildly flirtatious repartee in the first two episodes of the current series but good enough.) Given my love for previous Torchwood members Ianto, Tosh and Owen (who was briefly referenced in the first episode when Jack goes undercover and quickly refers to himself as “Dr. Owen Harper, FBI”), I’m wary of new additions to the team. (And they’re always temporary – remember “Doctor Who” favorite Freema Agyeman’s brief stint and newcomer Cush Jumbo as Martha-lite stand-in Lois Habiba in “Children of Earth”?) However, I’m still optimistic for any and all character development. I’m just not sure how I feel about Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur), who is one of the voices of reason at the beginning of the series but by the fifth episode her character seems to have petered out. She started out so strong but I think her fling with Rex was a poor (and much too easy) choice.

Oh, and Lauren Ambrose as slippery PR exec Jilly Kitzinger? The jury’s still out on her.

We’ll see what happens in tomorrow’s night’s episode before I pass any further actor/character judgments. Overall I am pleased by the show’s arcs, even though I have a bone to pick with the way the show has handled the Ellis Hartley Monroe character. (Alright, so that’s another judgment. Whoops.) I’ve never before been able to watch “Torchwood” on TV and all my eleventh Doctor viewing has been online, so I relish the opportunity to see Jack, Gwen, Rhys and the others in action on a wide-screen Panasonic.

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