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Torchwood: Miracle Day Is a Tasty Piece of Sci-Fi Candy


I can only assume that Torchwood fans experienced some trepidation when it was announced that the series, a spin-off of the worshipped Doctor Who, was being imported to the United States. Especially because the 'crossing-of-the-pond' would come courtesy of Starz, a network with a reputation for creating original programming full of gory violence and bare breasts. But after watching the first episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day, I think those fears can be safely put to rest: The U.S. Torchwood is similar to the old Torchwood, but with a bigger budget. And no exposed boobs.

Of course, I say this having only seen the very enjoyable, if at times flimsy, third series—the five-part Torchwood: Children of Earth. But Miracle Day has retained that series' mystery and entertainment value and added a few rocket launchers to boot. Because why not? Creator Russell T. Davies has more disposable cash now, and there's no reason not to use it.

But, aside from more explosion-y explosions, Torchwood is still a conceptual sci-fi thriller—and Davies just may've come up with his best "what if" scenario yet: People on Earth have stopped dying. Yes, he milked the concept dry in Friday's opening episode, but the way he did so sure was fun. It's fair to say that Miracle Day (and the Torchwood franchise in general) spins its wheels a lot, but the episode never peeled out and remained motionless; it did beachfront donuts in a Bugatti, spent just enough time hammering the concept home, and then rocketed toward the next part of the story. (I admit that Davies' use of news broadcasts to handle the exposition of "Miracle Day" was a bit lazy, but it served its purpose.)

That's what made Miracle Day's debut so enjoyable. The episode boasted an unapologetic sense of self-awareness. The show knows it isn't highly intellectual science-fiction with a reserved spot in the annals of nerddom; it understands that it's a small-screen version of an enjoyable summer blockbuster—and for me, at least, it worked. The action was entertaining. The story is intriguing, and the show's tone screams, "Let's just have a good time, okay?" That's all I ask of my TV shows; as long as you know what you are and roll with it, we'll get along just fine and I can overlook a few flaws.

But just as important, Miracle Day still has Captain Jack Harkness, one of sci-fi's best new characters and the kind of guy you'd love to share a pint six-pack of watered-down American beer with. Harkness (played by Mark Harmon's handsomer doppleganger John Barrowman) is the heart and soul of Torchwood, and if his aloof charm and get-down-to-business attitude haven't already inspired you to hang a poster of him on the wall, just wait. When he stepped into the light in the records library, I did cartwheels. I just love the guy to death. And his introduction to Esther (the cute-as-button Alexa Havins)? Best "nice to meet you" ever.

Also returning to the franchise is Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) who complements Jack very well as his right-hand woman. She's a mom now—how cute is that kid?—and married to unofficial Torchwood member Rhys (Kai Owen). Though Jack is the centerpiece of the show, Torchwood couldn't survive without Gwen; she's the emotional foundation of the series, and Myles has that essential skill of being able to convey as much with her eyes. Also, I have an unfounded obsession with the Welsh that I can't explain, so maybe that explains why I dig her so much.

As for the new cast members, it only took me about 30 seconds to hate Mekhi Phifer's angry CIA agent Rex Matheson. But once he popped out of bed, grabbed a cane and a handful of pain pills, and took off for Wales, I did a 180. That sequence alone was worth the price of admission—it was silly, and really reinforced the point I made earlier about the tone of this show. Esther, in addition to being hot, adorable, cuddly, and uh-oh I have a new TV crush, is fantastic as the Torchwood n00b, holding hands with viewers who've never watched the series before. And finally, we still don't know what Bill Pullman's child rapist means to the series, and I'm eager to see where his story takes us.

For the uninitiated viewers out there, you should know that the twist that Jack might be mortal is HUGE. I'm not sure the whether the first episode made this clear, but Jack is a time-traveling bisexual immortal from the 51st century, and the fact that he can be hurt and presumably die, while no one else can, turns the show on its head. In Children of Earth alone, he "died" three times (blown up, shot, infected with a deadly virus). I don't know if it's too early for theories, but I think we can assume that whatever is making humans immortal is also responsible for making Jack mortal. Perhaps whoever did this did it with the sole purpose of wanting Jack dead?

Torchwood: Miracle Day isn't perfect, but it kept me engaged for the whole hour, and that's a rare feat these days. So far, I'm hooked.


Notes:
... The scene in the morgue with the blown-up guy was incredible. I'm hoping there's a whole lot more of that.

... I'm usually not a fan of shows that are too "Rah-Rah!" about their characters, but I got pretty fist-pumpy every time Jack made a dashing entrance or Gwen said "[We're] Torchwood" and fired the RPG. Badass with a hint of corny—my favorite combination!

... Sweet credit sequence.


Quotables:
... Captain Jack: "What if we detached the head? I mean, would he... stay alive without his head?"

... Rex: "I had a pole through my chest. I was dead, then I wasn't. I had to pay for this bridge. And now I want to know what the hell is going on, alright?"


What did you guys think of the first episode? And please preface your comment with how much Torchwood you've seen—it'll be interesting to see how the opinions of longtime fans of the series' compare to those of total newbies.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (89)
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Love Torcwhood and Cap'n Jack. I just wish they didn't spend so much time trying to killl Torchwood. First half of COE spent trying to kill Torchwood and they're still trying now.
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hi i like the new series of torchwood it is grate
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mediocre premiere at the best
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I am a fan of Torchwood and I was sorry when the show ended. I glad to see Captain Jack back and to see Gwen back in acton. I did like this new Torchwood episode. I do miss Ianto and I wish there is a way he could come back. I am looking forrward to the upcoming episodes.
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I didn't finish watching "Miracle Day" and I don't plan to either. I never liked Torchwood before and nothing I saw in this latest reincarnation has given me reason to change my mind.
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Number 1) Jack is omnisexual(He Be Giving It To Everybody(Man Women Alien)
Number 2) I loved the first episode(I miss Ianto,Tosh,and Owen though) but I'm likeing the new people and I can't wait to see what happens next.(I hope though that maybe Captain John Hart Might make an Appearance the Future(Pretty Please).
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As a Torchwood lover from day one while I'm glad the series is back, its just not the same without Tosh, Owen and Ianto. Yes Captain Jack and Gwen can and will take care of business. I'm just not sure about the rest of the "team."
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I have mix feelings about the episode. Parts of the episode were really slow. And Jack wasn’t in the episode nearly enought. Because they spent way to much time interduceing the new cast. But on the other hand I though the parts with Gwen’s and family were really good. And the baby was way to cute. And there was some good action seens. I think MD is going to be like COE for me. I really didn’t like the story arc till the last two episodes but after seeing COE finished I love the story arc. It’s all the parts that make up the hole. And in this case they are draging the story over 10 episode instead of 5.
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Faerie Queene3 time to check out the Doctor Who episode from season 1 (2005) called the Empty Child. Its a 2 parter that introduces Captain Jack. There's a nice bit on Youtube. If you're hooked to Torchwood, you might as well check out the Doctor. And there is a lot more Doctor.
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Never cared much for Sci-Fi, but one Sunday I chanced to catch the rerun of Children of Earth on BBC America, and I was hooked. I bought all 3 seasons on DVD and waited impatiently for the fourth one to premiere on Starz, surfing the net for whatever update I could find. It didn't disappoint. But I must say that I have mixed feelings about Rhys being back. I love the guy but I was kind of hoping to finally see some action between Gwen and Captain Jack....
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I liked it. I've seen all of previous Torchwood. Wasn't all that into Children of the earth. I'm ambiguous about the sentiment of the show that you can't really know who is going to die, and where the general theme will go but, I guess, that's far more useful (and entertaining) than something you already know the end to beforehand.
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I've been a full time fan, all the way along, of Torchwood from the beginning. Loved it all through the series. Still loved it during Children of Earth (got to watch that filming in Cardiff up close, so I'm biased). And I liked...and loved portions of...the new series. Not so sure I liked the music credit opening...a little dark to me, and Torchwood to me was all about light. But that is me. Also, Davies had a lot he had to get out in that first episode, so I give him the doubt for doing the TV expose, etc. Now that we are established, though, I want more of the dialogue and one-on-one that Captain Jack always had. Who can forget the "naked hide and seek" comments, etc., of old episodes. Looking forward to the next episode with joy. I have so missed you....
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Devoted Torchwood fan (since Capt. Jack first appeared on DW) and LOVED the first episode of Miracle Day---got Starz just for that! And worth every since penny it will cost!!!!!
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I've ALWAYS loved Torchwood! I've taped every episode!
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I've ALWAYS loved Torchwood!
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I just didn't understand why when Gwen saw Jack she didn't slap or punch him for leaving the way he did in the last Episode of the BBC Torchwood. And then he comes back with no REAL explanation ("I found out and came back and went to work"....lame) and they pick up as if they had dinner last week. They better explain where he was, and how he came back and what he was doing for the year(s?) he was gone
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This Torchwood is a complete stand-alone show. With the exception of a few familiar characters, it is almost unrecognisable from the original show. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to each individual. Hopefully, the trend that was set at the end of series 2 and carried through Children of Earth will continue, and we will be treated to the much-needed death of the awful Gwen Cooper. Then, at the end of this series, Jack will finally be free of anything still tying him to Earth, and we might finally get him back on Doctor Who, where he really belongs. As for the first episode, the characters are certainly engaging, but given RTD's propensity for killing off all the likeable characters, I'm loathed to let myself get too interested in any of them. What will happen, after all, when the "miracle" is reversed? Will everyone who has so far been unable to die suddenly drop dead? Time will tell, and I think this series is going to be a great viewing experience, but we can only hope that it's lacking the sort of gaping plot holes that were so evident in Children of Earth.
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This is a wonderful series (both US and UK) and a great episode. My guess is Starz is doing one story / arc per season (sort of Prison Break like).

Two outstanding Sci-Fi issues (for me) right now. One is about the Doctor and the other Stargate.

1) Is Matt Smith going to the be last actor to play Doctor Who? I'm asking based upon our seeing the Doctor really killed (Not allowed to regenerate).

2) I really would love to see someone bring back Stargate Universe. I didn't care for season 1, but season 2 really roped me in and grabbed me.
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http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.217813884926735.48937.119328091441982
For those on Facebook. It looks like Starz is trying to go Viral with the promotion. They should get more marches like this with the masks all around the world!
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The only thing I can say is, wauw. Jack's back. As a long time Torchwood fan i must say that it did scare me, when I heard that the show was pickt up by the us networks. This because the ladt year or so they killed off such great shows. So naturally I was scared that Torchwood would see a early death. But to have seen the first episode, dawm that was good. And looking at this episode, I think the show is a keeper for the US market...... Hopefully they can keep up this hype.
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Really cool first episode.I follow this show since the very beginning and have never been deceived, except when Children of the earth ended and I thought the serie has ended for good. Can't wait for episode 2.
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Notrachael I am American, is this irony? in your pursuit of flaming all things American, you became the stereotypical America hater.
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@ notrachael... Most of the best scientific-fiction can be found in American literature. As far as Sci-Fi television, the US isn't as dead as you make it out to be. We've had amazing sci-fi shows like Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and Lost (sort of sci-fi), and Fringe only in the last few years. Now Terranova and a AMC first contact show is coming and those look very promising. Sci-Fi usually doesn't translate to high ratings very well in American audiences, but over the last decade that trend is reversing. As far as remaking or Americanizing British television, I can somewhat agree with you, but the US version of The Office is an example of a how it can be done right. It all depends on the American talent-- the US version of Skins was terrible, the US Being Human is pretty much its own entity now.

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Why get so mad and stereotypical at America, especially when we are the ones throwing money at the British writers you hold in such high regards.
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@notrachel: I don't know if I agree with everything you said (e.g. Star Trek bores me to death) but I did enjoy your antiimperialistic rant :P And thanks for using the USA'ian ("u-es-ai-an"?) term!! as a *South* American, I always feel a little left aside when someone uses the term "American". Anyway, haven't watched this yet, but your comment made me laugh!
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as for what I came on here to actually say

Gwen Cooper is sci-fi's new baddass mom!
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Dear notrachael,
Please do not speak unless you know what you are talking about. I am an American and long time Doctor Who / Torchwood fan. I for one think the American office is awful compared to the British Office. You see "Sci-fi" or science fiction is just that, fiction rooted in science. Fiction means made up story. How can you possibly say Star Wars is more of a Western then Sci-Fi? It has space travel, robots, aliens(I'll address this later on), space battles, light sabres and a whole lot of other reasons why it is sci-fi. The plot and story elements are sci-fi too. I'll just do one example. Midi-chlorians. They are entirely made up(fiction). They are microscopic beings that live in the cells of all living beings and communicate with the Force(science). Now as to why aliens are sci-fi. As of right now we do not know if aliens exist therefore any depiction of them is fiction. Meeting them is science as it will take space travel to meet them. They also are depicted as having far more advanced intelligence and technology then us. That is all science! Do you even understand why Torchwood is made in America now. If it wasn't for Starz buying it Torchwood would not be on right now as it is. Russell T. Davis is still writer/producer and has a very large say in what happens. Just because it has a bigger budget and set in America doesn't mean it's still not the same great show. The first episode of Doctor Who was set and filmed in America. You know why? So it can procure a larger audience. Doctor Who and Torchwood already have a large fanbase outside of the US. I for one think British shows are great. I've watched the IT crowd, Spaced and the first season of the old doctor who as well. Saying Americans don't appreciate other cultures is being very closed minded. I don't recall anyone fleeing prosecution to Australia. We have many religions, cultures and races in America. New Orleans for example has it's own language called Creole which is a mix of English, French, Native American, Spanish, and West African due to it being such a diverse area. I don't quite understand why you say Americans have no concept of irony. I think it's kind of ironic that you are on here stereotyping and complaining about Torchwood when you don't fully understand everything. I know I didn't use irony correctly in that sentence but then again, I'm just an obese, stupid American. But it is ironic that Star Wars and Torchwood for that matter fit into your incorrect definition of Sci-Fi. Extrapolation on known sciences. If you think Star Trek is the best Americans have to offer I suggest you take your own advice and check out something outside of British shows. Check out Star Gate. It has way more of your precious "philosophy" then Torchwood or even Doctor Who has.
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The opening episode was nothing short of FANTASTIC! Can't wait for the other nine :)
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That was a pretty fantastic opening for those who haven't seen this show before. Alexa Havins' character provided the perfect vehicle for this introduciton. All of those complaining seem to miss the point that this episode had to serve as an introduction to new audience as well. Some minor hiccups but hey, we even got a little of Gwen's cop pal Andy who is always good for a laugh. Anxious to see where this goes, especially with Bill Pullman's character. Looking forward to Lauren Ambrose and Dichen Lachmans' characters respective introductions. Was much better than "Camelot"'s opener.
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I've seen the entire Torchwood series and I really enjoyed this episode. I'm looking forward to next week.
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KICK ASS BRILLIANT!!!!!
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I've watched quite a bit of Torchwood, but not all of it - the series has its fair share of gut-wrenching, heart-ripping, tragic episodes that are just too much for me.

That said, I really enjoyed this episode, and am looking forward to the next instalment.



Btw: Jack Harkness is NOT bisexual - he's OMNIsexual! :D
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I've watched "Torchwood" from the get-go, and I was incredibly nervous about the transition to Starz, too. But it was well done, and I too fist-pumped, especially when Gwen shot down the helicopter with the rocket launcher. It's actually really nice to see the show with a bigger budget, too...those flyover shots of the Welsh coastline were downright cinematic. Very nice...I call this a win.
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@xANNEx37081x thanks i didn't recall that part well great to know now hope they show how he transforms into the face of Boe sometime before they end of Torchwood which I hope its not for a LOooooooooooooooong time
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Ive been a torchwood fan since theyre first appearence on doctor who and I loved it. Great start! My only complaint is it lost almost all of its charme, but since this is an americanized version it was to be expexted.
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@wildandcrazygal totally agree i dont like Rex and did not do a 180 i dont think I will come to like his character but seing how he is already dead i figure that once they find out whats keeping them alive and fix it they are all gonna die anyways.
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You do NOT have to watch previous Torchwood. It helps. You won't get the Owen Harper line or the 456 references. And duh Jack flashing the psychic paper is awesome. And some people have said some stupid things for being Torchwood "fans". And to the dope below, has there EVER been an American star? Co star? Guest star? Yeah James Marsters and wore his Spike/Giles accent. Come on people. Just cause John Barrowman has an American accent doesn't make him American. He's Scottish. And I won't even get into the Face of Boe stuff. COE was Different than season 1 and 2 as well. Not complaining. Now if I could get some Captain John Hart please... I know I won't, but a girl can hope. Enjoy the show!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZAq86sr70U Captain Jack in his first WHO episode. He's so great with Rose.
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I love new programming! Im going back to watch all the Torch stuff so I am up to speed.
Sure beats another amateur talent show of singing and dancing!!!!!
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Long time fan of Torchwood ; especially Captain Jack. I still cant see Children of Earth without crying at the end. That being said I loved the new first ep of the new season. It did have a different pace to it and feel, but when Gwen reunited with Jack, all i could think about was that Torchwood was back; it just felt right. On a side note, was it just me but they kept mentioning 456 quite a bit? So many questions that are floating inside my brain, but in the meantime i would be waiting for the next ep.
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Do I need to watch the old Totchwood season to understand the new season? I watched the pilot episode last night but I could only watch the first 2 mins because they used cameras and lighting that American Daytime Soap Operas use and that totally killed any chance of me watching it.
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Never seen Torchwood or doctor who but im liking this !!
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@rickvega Have you seen Primeval? That's one of my favorite British sci fi shows. Kind of like Torchwood meets Jurassic Park!
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I do not subscribe to premium channels, hope it makes DVD soon cause I loved the British production!.
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Oh, you might want to see Luther, Sherlock and Merlin...also some good british shows in my opinion :)
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I personally didn't enjoy it at all. I loved seasons one and two and I now feel that all the charm that existed in those seasons has officially been sucked out of it. It shouldn't be any surprise though, that always happens with US remakes of British shows and no matter how Starz insists otherwise, it feels like a remake to me. I agree with you that the character Rex was annoying, but I like yourself didn't do a 180 once he got out of the hospital bed, I found he only got more annoying as the episode progressed. He's nothing but a typical self absorbed, egotistical jerk with a bad attitude that for some reason passes as a typical hero's personality in North American television so often. I also find it odd that all the respondents here for the most part claim to be long time fans but not one mentions how Torchwood suddenly being able to be taken control of by a CIA operative when the entire basis of the organization has been that it operates outside of anyone's direct control in order to be able to accomplish the things it does is basically the equivalent of turning the Torchwood squad metaphorically into a chihuahua instead of the mighty great dane it once was. From everything I've read they say this is about introducing a new audience to Torchwood. I've always been an adherent to the if it ain't broke, don't fix it school of thinking though and Torchwood wasn't broke. I understand that new characters had to be added to flesh out the now deceased original characters. The additions however should have been like adding sugar to lemonade just to slightly sweeten and improve the taste. Instead, it feels to me like they're now serving us grape juice and telling us it's the same old lemonade, which is ridiculous. Grape juice tastes fine but no matter how you try to say it is, it isn't lemonade. So I guess for me, it's the fact that the press releases all keep trying to insist it's the same old Torchwood that really made the show fall short for me, it just wasn't as advertised. I loved the British sensibility of the show, it's what made it work for me and I fear that is all going to evaporate in this incarnation. I'll give it one more episode, but unless there's a major change in tone, I don't believe I'll be watching beyond that and for as big a Torchwood fan as I have been, that's very surprising to me.
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@rickvega: the other thing is the Face of Boe I've heard different people say its Captain Jack but im still not convinced..maybe this video will convince you??http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLxvwqkrHIM

Ive watched all 3 seasons of Torchwood and all 6 seasons of New Who and I liked this episode, I think it was a good set-up-episode to fill the viewers in on the story and let the viewer get to know the characters. Now that everybody knows the basics the story can develop and we can hopefully see some conflicts and drama as we did in COE which was just brilliant. Im excited to see if MD can have the same perfection as COE had, but Im positive that we all will be well entertained.
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Oh by the way do any of you know any other good British Shows that I might wanna see like I said I already see Spooks(MI-5), Torchwood, Doctor Who, Keeping Up Appearances, Being Human (UK)
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Loved it, and I've seen every season. In my opinion this has had a great start, to reiterate what has been said, this start wasn't as crazy as children of the earth but it was far better the entirity of season 1 and 2. Iook forward to see where this story goes and if it can top Children of the Earth.
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" jekyll: And he's not really Captain Jack until he makes some homosexual innuendo or kisses a guy."

So true lol but for some reason I dont think it will play out well with other Americans Im fine with it as that is who Captain Jack is and the other thing is the Face of Boe I've heard different people say its Captain Jack but im still not convinced. The only one who knows for sure is The Doctor. And yes season 1 and 2 of Torchwood where fine but COE was way better as we saw Captain Jack had a Daughter and a grandson who he sacrificed to save the earth. We also saw him go thru different emotional losses and I hope they expand on that and also do flashback as to where and what he was doing all this time. Also like someone said I dont think I will fall in love with the new cast and yes Agent Rex Matheson sees like a d**k not sure I will love him also the rapist getting out of jail come on just because he threaten the governor they should have put him in solitary confinement un-communicated from the rest of the world why would you let a rapist/murdered of a young child free it does not seem right. I hope he end up dead. **** Also so far the people who have so far died and are still alive do you think that once they find out what is going on and stop it that they will actually die????????
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Suddenly scfi is back...first episode is spectacular...can't wait for the rest...in many ways the story telling is better than the last 2 WHO seasons.... thank you RTD for an amazing new series of torchwood....the show is back in a big way....
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A very solid start. Not quite on par with last seasons Children of Earth - but much better than seasons 1 and 2. I'd give the first ep of this new season an 8/10.
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