So we reach an end to the latest season of 'Torchwood', and just when I thought things were just getting started! Since my last review of the first few episodes, various political machinations, and mostly behind the scenes plotting, have lead to the internment of all ‘terminally’ injured patients into overflow camps.
As the Torchwood team investigate, they discover that recipients of the ‘miracle’ cure are being incinerated in order to preserve resources. A glimpse of the origins of the series’ antagonists, the ‘families,’ is shown in flashbacks to Jack’s (John Barrowman) past. Eventually the Torchwood team are able to track down the source of the ‘Miracle’ and are unsurprisingly able to end its influence on the world.
Having read various reviews on this 'Torchwood' series and perused many opinion forums, it is certainly more than evident that this show has proved divisive, both amongst 'Torchwood' fanatics and series newcomers. Overall, the show took a new approach from previous seasons, especially the first two.
There has been a constant feeling of urgency throughout this series, as the future of society is constantly on a knife’s edge. Contrastingly, the earlier seasons tended to opt for much less of a story-arc approach. Naturally, this is a dividing factor amongst viewers, with some enjoying the more grand scale and others soaking up the constant drama and twists and turns.
Earlier in the season, I felt a great deal of potential lay in the political backdrop of the scenario this series had created. I expressed my hope that this would be further developed throughout the series; sadly this was not to be the case. The latter half of the season focussed a great deal more on the ‘families,’ the antagonists of this story. I was able to forgive the fact that my aspirations did not come to fruition, however, because there initially began to emerge an intricate back-story, complemented by some dips into the past of Jack Harkness.
I was regrettably to be disappointed once again. Despite having some truly exciting and suspense-filled episodes when considered in themselves, for a season that models itself around one story arc, there was surprisingly little fluent or coherent progression of the main storyline. Every two or three episodes seemed to play out as a mini-story arc with a great deal of disjointedness between each.
For example, an entire episode is dominated by flashbacks that are seemingly aimed to introduce the ‘families’ and serve as a tie-in with the following episodes where Jack finds an old friend from his distant past. However as this character is promptly killed-off and more information about the families is given from another sources, it seems ridiculous to devote so much screen-time to a plot that seems to have very little bearing or necessity.
Looking back at some of my prior hopes and predictions for the future of this series, I believe that the character of Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) was not used to his full potential, but at least did not outshine the other more prominent characters in a way that would detract from the overall experience.
The character of Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) remained prominent throughout the series, much to the chagrin of some of 'Torchwood'’s die-hard UK fans. Whilst he seems a little rough around the edges in terms of character development, sometimes seeming to have very limited personality, I feel he played a useful role throughout the series as an ambassador to the USA.
The writers have done well in leaving room open for a further season, though I believe the chances of this happening are not great. The final revelations that Rex now appears to be immortal and that the families have an even more grand and insidious scheme seem too contrived to be taken seriously.
Overall, I believe that the series was enjoyable and interesting at times but stopped short of excellence due to a lack of direction. Perhaps I have been overly critical, but I truly had seen glimmers of brilliance and had higher aspirations for something that turned out to be, in a word, average.
Catch up with the 'Torchwood: Miracle Day' series on BBC iPlayer before 27 Sept '11.