Hey ho, it’s Ambush Bug with our occasional segment the @$$holes and myself refer to as “Opinions Are Like @$$Holes”, our op ed column where one @$$Hole grabs the mike and spouts his two to nine cents on an issue pertaining to comics or whatever. Longtime reviewer superhero
has some mighty powerful opinions on the new TORCHWOOD series, MIRACLE DAY. But let's let him explain... superhero here. OK…I’ve given the thing four episodes and I don’t know. I think I have to officially say that TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY sucks. I keep watching it in hopes that it’s going to get better but I think I’m just going to have to accept that the TORCHWOOD that I knew and loved is gone, baby, gone.
Which makes me more than a little sad. Look, obviously TORCHWOOD was never the greatest of shows. I’ll admit that. The first series (as the Brits like to call them) had a rocky start but really grew on me. Obviously, I stayed tuned into it because it was a Doctor Who spinoff but by the second season TORCHWOOD was a fun little sci-fi show that was firing on all thrusters. Of course, “Children of Earth” was a bit of a letdown because of a shortened season but it was still good enough for me that I was able to accept it as the end of the show…being that it looked like the BBC wasn’t going to fund it anymore because of budget cuts. But when Starz announced that they would be funding a fourth series I was hopeful that something great would arise from the original TORCHWOOD’s ashes. I was hoping that an American cable network would be able to do something terrific and take TORCHWOOD to the next level.
Boy, was I wrong.
So here are my reasons why, four episodes in, I see the new Americanized TORCHWOOD as almost an embarrassment. After almost every episode I’ve gone on Facebook and whined about how terrible the new season is. So these are my reasons why I think TORCHWOOD has gone off the rails in an awful way. There be SPOILERS below so proceed with caution if you don’t want anything ruined for you. But honestly, the show itself has ruined TORCHWOOD enough so nothing I’m going to say is going to make it any worse.
In no particular order:
The show has gone from presenting individual stories per episode with an overriding series arc to being just one long, drawn out story. Gone are the great little individual episodes with crazy aliens and time travelers or whatever. Now it’s just one big story. This was tolerable with “Children of Earth” because it was a truncated season of five episodes but I have no idea why they would go with this approach with ten episodes at their disposal. Now the pacing of the whole show is off and everything is just draaaaagggeeeddd out to the point of where things have gotten tiresome after only four episodes. I get it--no one’s dying. OK, move on
. Seriously, one whole episode devoted to Captain Jack Harkness being poisoned with cyanide? Really? Where’s the derring-do of previous TORCHWOOD episodes? And speaking of Jack Harness…
Why in god’s name have Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper been relegated to secondary characters? What happened there? Instead of Jack Harkness being the leader of the team, he’s been supplanted by an American character played by Mekhi Phifer. Jack Harkness, played by a fantastically charismatic John Barrowman, was the heart and soul of TORCHWOOD. In “Miracle Day” he’s been pushed back to supporting role status. He should be the one in charge. Instead of a fantastical Captain Kirk type character we get a badly written, horribly acted CIA operative leading the team as played by Phifer. I know Phifer’s a good actor. He’s done great work in other projects but he can’t carry the load that Barrowman was able to carry in the old TORCHWOOD. He doesn’t have the charm or the gravitas to be the anchor of the show.
Which brings me to the American actors. Holy cow, what’s going on here? They are all good actors, or at least they’ve done terrific jobs in other projects, but on TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY it’s like someone told them all to act their little hearts out. Every single American actor is overdoing everything to the hilt. It’s like the British contingent (I know Barrowman is technically an American but he’s part of the original British TORCHWOOD so bear with me) has a completely different acting coach on the set or something. I mean, the first time Lauren Ambrose turned up on the show I thought someone snuck a speedball into her coffee on the set that morning. Really, bring it down a little. Not every line has to be stated with overly manic glee. And Bill Pullman’s not much better. Obviously he’s trying to bring some quirky mannerisms to his pedophile child killer character but he ends up coming off as someone who’s got something seriously physically wrong with him. He’s not creepy--just weird. When I first saw the trailer for TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY and saw Pullman cast as some kind of serial killer I thought he was perfectly cast because he’s been able to turn in great understated performances in the past. But on this show it’s like he’s just trying to go outside of the box and failing miserably. Bill, please, stay inside the box. You were better inside the box. The box is good for you. Whatever you’re doing now isn’t. And Mekhi Phifer? Chew, chew, chew. Yell, yell, yell. Wow, that’s some bad acting. What happened to Mekhi Phifer? He’s a good actor but on this it’s like he’s trying to channel modern day Al Pacino. Guess what? Everyone knows modern day Pacino is terrible. “Godfather” Al Pacino is brilliant. Subtlety. Look it up.
The whole evil pharmaceutical company thing. Really? Hey, I’m a California liberal. That’s liberal with a capital “L” and even I think that the underlying theme in TMD is tired. Not only that but it’s so knock you over the head obvious that it makes me think that the creators of this TORCHWOOD think their audience is full of morons. I just talked about the lack of subtlety in the acting…the lack of subtlety in the writing is embarrassing. It’s like a teenager wrote the thing. It comes across like teenage fanfic. There are so many ways you could go with the whole world becoming immortal and what they choose to do is make it an evil pharmaceutical company plot to sell more drugs? Really? Really? That’s lame. Oh, I’m sure by the end it’ll be revealed that the pharma company is run by aliens or immortals or whatever. That won’t make it better. That’ll just make it more silly than it already is. I expect more from writers like Russell T. Davies and Jane Espenson.
All of this brings me to the biggest thing that is the fly in the ointment in this new TORCHWOOD. This ties into the bad writing but it’s such a big point that I have to single it out. So everyone on Earth has become immortal, correct? And Captain Jack, who was immortal, is now mortal. He can die now. The big insinuation is that with Jack losing his immortality and humanity gaining immortality that somehow things have been switched. But there’s one big problem. We all know that if Jack gets hurt he’ll just regenerate. If he gets cut, it’ll close back up. If he’s shot in the heart it’ll grow back and he’ll come back to life. So why can’t all the humans who have become immortal regenerate? If they’ve switched (and OK, maybe they haven’t, but that’s what the show is saying has happened right now), why are we seeing people on Earth still with burn scars or bullet holes or whatever injuries killed them? Why aren’t they able to regenerate like Captain Jack? I’ll tell you why. Because it’s more gruesome if someone who gets blown up stays a charred living corpse. Which is fine by me but if you’re saying that everyone’s immortal like the good ol’ Captain then they should all heal like the good ol’ Captain. Unless, of course, the people of Earth haven’t switched their mortality with Captain Jack’s. Unless the switch is a red herring. But here’s the thing about red herrings: they shouldn’t be so obvious. So if it’s a red herring it’s a badly done one. If it isn’t it’s just badly thought out writing. Either way…it’s disappointing.
And speaking of bad writing…you honestly expect me to believe that the government of the United Kingdom is going to allow the United States government to kidnap their crack team of paranormal experts who’ve saved the world over a dozen times over because, well, for no reason? The writers couldn’t find a better idea for why Jack and Gwen would have to go investigate “Miracle Day” inside of the U.S.? No, they have to be taken against their will to U.S. soil because…well, for no reason at all? I mean, what if “Miracle Day” was only happening in the U.S.? That might necessitate the TORCHWOOD team to go to the U.S. to investigate. But that would require some thoughtful writing. That is something that was obviously not what was going on here. Instead whatever is the easiest and laziest way to get TORCHWOOD to U.S. soil is what the writers use. For that matter why does TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY even need to take place in the U.S.? A U.S. produced TV show can’t take place in England? Hell, all the work in Hollywood’s already going to Canada why can’t TMD just be happening in the U.K.? Is there some special rule that says because it’s going to be co-produced by an American cable company it has to take place in the U.S.? Can’t American characters just go to the U.K. and work there instead of coming up with some bogus reason why TORCHWOOD has to be transplanted to the U.S.? I mean, “Miracle Day” is happening everywhere right? Oh, I forgot. TORCHWOOD needs to comment on our lousy healthcare system instead of just providing some good sci-fi entertainment.
The score. Sorry, the music is terrible. It’s all over the place badly produced cheap cable TV music. I know it sounds like nitpicking but it’s not. Whoever’s scoring these episodes needs to go back to the drawing board. It’s horrible. Makes an already awkward show even worse. So those are my seven reasons why the new TORCHWOOD sucks. What can I say? I really liked the first three seasons of TORCHWOOD because it was fun show. I love Russell T. Davies. I owe him a debt I can never repay for bringing Doctor Who into the modern TV landscape. But this season of TORCHWOOD is a serious misstep. I think that the biggest problem with the new TORCHWOOD is that it’s taking itself too seriously. It almost wants to be 24 but it should be more like the show it spawned from: DOCTOR WHO. Most of the whimsy is gone and it’s been replaced by a need to be…I don’t know…gritty. Or, lord help us, relevant. This new TORCHWOOD is a big let down.
I have to admit, though, I’m a phony. As much as this season is driving me up the wall I’m going to finish it off, mostly because of my love for the original British show but also to just see how bad it’s going to get. Or maybe it will be able to improve. Either way, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I hope Starz cancels it. That way maybe it can return to the BBC and go back to being that show that I once enjoyed so much. Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com.
Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G