‘Torchwood: Miracle Day’ – ‘The Blood Line’: Die another day?

A quick review of the “Torchwood: Miracle Day” finale coming up just as soon as I object to your lipstick…

One of the common complaints Russell T. Davies’ detractors made about his run on “Doctor Who” was that he kept trying too hard to top himself, with each finale offering bigger stakes, more alien bad guys, more guest stars until it all became too much. And while I enjoyed the RTD era a lot, I could see that point. (My favorite Davies-scripted episode was probably the very intimate “Midnight,” with the Doctor trapped in a train car with a handful of paranoid humans.)

Then came “Torchwood: Children of Earth,” in which increasing the scope of that series somehow made it work much, much better than it ever had before. But after struggling through the 10 hours of “Miracle Day,” I have to think that “Children of Earth” was just an anomaly. Because there was just way too much going on in “Miracle Day,” and very few of them got the proper care and attention they needed. Despite being the centerpiece of the villains’ plot, Jack all but disappeared from the season for long stretches, which was a huge mistake. (It’s not a coincidence that the one episode everybody seemed to like was the Jack-centric flashback.) The new characters were either grating (Rex) or forgettable (Esther). There were so many blind alleys and time wasters (I can barely even remember the relevance of the caper episode with C. Thomas Howell as the hitman now) that when we got to last week’s episode and its jump ahead in time, the show suddenly had to allude to a whole bunch of huge plot developments that we never got to see – and which, frankly, seemed more interesting than many of the things we did. (Like the episode and a half devoted to the crazy caricature who murdered Dr. Juarez.)

The season was too far gone for the finale to do much in the way of redeeming it, but we at least could have gone out on an interesting note. Instead, there were lots of explosions, lots of yelling, and very little that held my attention or made me feel anything in the way that, say, some of the sacrifices in “Children of Earth” did. And the epilogue especially put me off. So it turns out this huge world-changing event was just a “trial run” for an even bigger plan on the part of the bad guys? Does anyone (other than Davies) think that what the series needs is to get even bigger? And the shocking twist of Rex being immortal didn’t seem particularly shocking, given that his body was full of Jack’s blood, the polarity of everything reversed – and, oh yeah, he was still ambulatory and okay despite the miracle being over and him having that rebar-sized hole in his heart. I figured we were just supposed to understand that he had been made immortal by Jack’s blood, so to have him be so surprised by it – and for that to be the final moment to hold us for if/when the series returns – just seemed goofy.

I don’t know exactly what the standard for renewal is at Starz these days. The ratings were never incredible, the reviews have gotten less kind as it’s gone along, and I haven’t encountered many (if any) fans of the series who are pleased by this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Albrecht decides to cut his losses, and then the question becomes whether Davies would be able to or interested in turning it back into a BBC-only production. That would bring with it a smaller budget, end the international filming, etc., but some forced restrictions on scope might not be such a bad thing.

What did everybody else think? If the show comes back for a fifth season, will you still be watching?