Torchwood: Miracle Day Blu-ray delivers stunning video and great audio in this excellent Blu-ray release
One day, nobody dies. All across the world, nobody dies. And then the next day, and the next, and the next, people keep aging - they get hurt and sick - but they never die. The result: a population boom, overnight.
With all the extra people, resources are finite. It's said that in four month's time, the human race will cease to be viable. But this can't be a natural event - someone's got to be behind it. It's a race against time as C.I.A. agent Rex Matheson investigates a global conspiracy. The answers lie within an old, secret British institute. As Rex keeps asking "What is Torchwood?", he's drawn into a world of adventure, and a threat to change what it means to be human, forever.
For more about Torchwood: Miracle Day and the Torchwood: Miracle Day Blu-ray release, see Torchwood: Miracle Day Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 7, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
The real question of the hour, though, is this: does Torchwood's hop, skip and a jump across the pond muck up everything the Doctor Who spin-off had going for it? Does the show's time in the States, its partnership with Starz, or its influx of American actors spoil its decidedly dark, decidedly bleak British charm? Will longtime Torchwood fans be left with a bad taste in their mouths? Will newcomers feel alienated or, worse, completely lost? Not at all. Captain Jack, Harkness not Sparrow, is back with a (suddenly vulnerable) vengeance, Gwen Cooper is alive and cracking skulls, and the Torchwood Institute -- beaten, battered and disbanded as it is -- finds new life, thanks to new team members, a new end-of-the-world mystery to solve, and a sinister new evil to unearth and lay to rest. Miracle Day isn't the series at its finest, doesn't maintain its momentum through all ten episodes, and doesn't knock Doctor Who off its sci-fi throne. But it's Torchwood, undead and loving it, and that's good enough for me.
"Never question a miracle. You may not like what you find..."
Imagine the death of death. Not the death of aging, disease, physical injury, infection or pain, just the end of any end to man's suffering. One day, without any prior warning, every man, woman and child on Earth becomes immortal. At first it's declared a miracle; a Miracle Day for the masses. But as uncertainty, fear and panic surge, the realities of the "miracle" become more apparent. The world suddenly finds itself the midst of an unprecedented population boom, hospitals begin hemorrhaging patients, and governments around the globe start taking drastic measures to contain the situation and deal with the new rules of an undying planet. Enter Torchwood, or rather the remnants of the now defunct Torchwood: the immortal Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and his newly immortal colleague, Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles). But, in an even crueler twist of fate, Miracle Day transforms the Cap'n into the last mortal man on Earth, and a convicted pedophile and murderer named Oswald Danes (Bill Pulman) into a celebrity and messiah. Now, Jack and Gwen, already operating off the official grid, set out to unravel Miracle Day, recruit new team members (Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins), and reverse mankind's immortality before it brings about the End of All Things.
Some have accused Davies and co-executive producer Judy Gardner of stretching a taut five-episode thriller in the vein of Children of Earth into a ten-episode abomination. And, in some small ways, they're right. Miracle Day's meta-mystery is full of possibilities; enough to sustain itself as long as need be. But Davies and Gardner seem to run out of steam -- and bigger, grander ideas -- before Torchwood gives up the fourth-season ghost. Other minor issues? Jack's mortality is a fun twist but neuters the good Captain a bit too much, the time spent digging into Torchwood rookies' personal lives comes at the expense of Jack and Gwen, certain mythos beats (Jack's bisexuality and the once-sanctioned Institute's close encounters of the third kind) are handled in a manner that will catch newcomers off guard, and the real villains behind the death of Death stay in the shadows for too long.
Don't fret, though, dear Torchwoodies. Davies keeps things clipping along, meaning those unfortunate souls who spend each episode begging for sweeping reveals and scanning the stars for motherships will miss the real miracle: the series, darker than ever and drifting farther and farther from the folds of Doctor Who's cloak, proves it can thrive on its own devilishly devious terms, on this side of the Atlantic and the other. The writer's room doesn't just run with the idea of life after undeath, they poke their fingers into the ugliest, nastiest wounds they can dream up, casting a stark light on what mankind is capable of and the horror of a world left in the charge of profits and powers. Davies and company don't pull any punches, delving into the depths of the human condition and turning over every rock in sight, raising questions that will keep your brain firing, and taking the story to macabre, truly horrific extremes destined to keep the squeamish and the uninitiated up at night. If you thought Children of Earth had a demented gleam in its eye, just wait till you get a load of Miracle Day.
Torchwood is no stranger to death (there's a reason Jack and Gwen are the only returning team members), but with no real death to be dealt, Davies redefines mortality and redraws the boundaries of immortality. Just because no one can die doesn't mean no one dies; it's just more gruesome and unending than before. Ironically, Miracle Day's obsession with death breathes new life into Barrowman and Myles, both of whom are more energized than they've been in a long time. Children of Earth left Jack and Gwen bloodied and defeated. And while grief lingers on, the fact that Torchwood is still kicking and screaming in one form or another means more to them than either one really understands. The same could be said of Barrowman and Myles, whose performances have been refreshed and rejuvenated by the series' continuation. Some of the recent heaviness has been lifted from the Captain shoulders, Gwen's fighting spirit has dusted off its gloves, and good ol' Rhys (Kai Owen) is back with a welcome laugh and a lovely lilt, even though he's relegated to taking care of the bouncing baby girl Gwen leaves in his charge. Havins, Arlene Tur and Six Feet Under's Lauren Ambrose pull their weight and make excellent additions to the cast as well, and Pullman is positively paralyzing as Earth's formerly condemned, inexplicably anointed prophet. Only Phifer seems out of his depth, overacting and spitting a bit too much free-wheeling fire as a hot-headed CIA agent on the lam.
Is this the last ride of Captain Jack and his immortals? Let's hope not. It's clear Davies and company have more stories to tell, Barrowman and his cohorts have more to give, and Torchwood has more to offer the human race. If all goes well, we'll soon be debating the ups and downs of a fifth season. I, for one, will be heartbroken if this is the last I see of Jack and Gwen.
It's a mid-April miracle! The BBC's partnership with Starz has given us what we've long dreamed of: a Torchwood season presented with a perfectly proficient 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation. While the first two seasons of the series proper looked quite good in high definition, 1080i or no, Children of Earth was riddled with issues, enough to give fans pause. But Miracle Day should lay any fears to rest. Colors are bleak but bold, primaries pack heat, skintones are precisely saturated, and black levels are deep and sinister. Detail is out of this world too, with well-resolved textures, crisp edges and excellent shadow delineation. Faint but obvious noise invades shots that involve substantial visual effects (artifacts swarm the crates in an FX-extended warehouse packed with medical supplies), but each instance stems from the source, not the technical encode. The presentation fends off macroblocking, banding, aliasing and other alien entities, and offers a clean, consistent image from "New World" start to "Blood Line" finish. Regardless of what you think about Torchwood's fourth season, its Blu-ray release won't leave you wanting.
Like its previous season releases, though, Torchwood: Miracle Day arrives with a 2.0Mbps DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 surround track (not to be confused with a lossless Master Audio mix). Not that anyone should ready an online petition. It may not be lossless, but BBC Video's HR track isn't far off, to the point that I seriously doubt most anyone could tell the difference anyway. Rear speaker activity is overwhelming but it is engaging, opening up the soundfield to create convincing hospital, high rise and industrial facility interiors, suitably cramped hotel rooms (ahem... mobile bases of operation), and relatively immersive worldwide chaos. And while directional effects aren't whiplash worthy, they get the job done, adding enough movement to the mix to feed the fire. The LFE channel, meanwhile, grabs hold of gunfire and explosions in equal measure, ratcheting up the weight and tension of the series nicely. Dialogue is bright, clear and grounded too, without any prioritization issues or muffled lines to speak of. The track may not blow anyone away, but it won't disappoint either.
Audio Commentaries (Discs 1 & 4): Executive producer Judy Gardner and head writer/executive producer Russell T. Davies deliver spirited commentaries for the first and final episodes of Miracle Day, "The New World" and "The Blood Line." The duo do more in two rapidfire chats than most showrunners do with a season worth of commentaries, and the results are both entertaining and informative.
Episode Introductions (Discs 1-4, HD, 10 minutes): Davies and John Barrowman provide excited introductions to each episode, commenting on where things are and teasing where things are going.
Character Profiles (Disc 1, HD, 9:55 minutes): A series of short featurettes that offer some quick background info on Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, Rex Matheson, Oswald Danes, and Rhys Williams.
FX Special (Disc 2, HD, 16 minutes): Be careful watching this one if you haven't seen every episode of the season; spoilers abound. Visual effects take center stage, though, with a nice selection of shot breakdowns, sequence overviews, and FX team interviews.
Behind the Scenes (Disc 3, HD, 30 minutes): This rather extensive trip behind the scenes gives Davies and his cohorts more than enough time to discuss Torchwood's latest outing, the elements that renewed the production team's love of the series, and where Miracle Day fits in the show's ongoing arc.
Deleted Scenes (Disc 4, HD, 8 minutes): A small collection of incomplete, fly-on-the-wall deleted scenes, none of which made it past the shooting stage or to a point of being show-ready.
Torchwood Motion Comic (Disc 4, HD, 30 minutes): A "Web of Lies" motion comic tops off the set, written by Jane Espenson and Ryan Scott, with the voice talents of John Barrowman, Eve Myles and Eliza Dushku.
Miracle Day split audiences on both side of the Atlantic, Torchwood junkies and newcomers alike, but I couldn't get enough, and a fifth season can't come soon enough. What's next for Captain Jack and the Torchwood team? Only God and Russell T. Davies know, but I'll be one of the first in line to find out. Fortunately, the fourth season's 4-disc Blu-ray release is a strong one, with a first-rate 1080p video presentation, a solid DTS-HD High Resolution track, and a decent batch of special features. Torchwood isn't done yet, BBC willing, so catch up while there's still time to hold out hope.
BBC Home Entertainment will bring Torchwood: Miracle Day to Blu-ray in April. This ten-episode miniseries details the continuing exploits of Torchwood agents Captain Jack Harkness (Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series) and Gwen Cooper (Doctor Who). Torchwood: ...