Torch Song: The high camp of Torchwood: Miracle Day

Why act when you can overact?

Caught the last episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day last night. It’s a series that, while riddled with flaws the way Swiss cheese has holes, I found myself enjoying. Once you stop trying to take it seriously as a genuine exploration of a Big Idea and buy into the high-camp, wildly gesticulating opera of the thing, then it becomes a far more palatable option. Let’s face it, if the show really wanted to show us the effects of a world without death, you’d be in for a much grimmer prospect.

I loved the way Lauren Ambrose and Bill Pullman both got the tone. Ambrose in particular, who I adored as Claire in Six Feet Under, really went for it, all hair and bug eyes and shrieking. The script even got a joke out of it, as she was smacked around by Gwen while the show built up to it’s Really Big Explosion. “How much lipstick can someone wear?” Well, in this show, there’s no such thing as too much.

The fanboi rollcall of ex-Trekkies and genre stalwarts simply added to the hilarity. Look, it’s Q! With a beard! Nana Visitor still looks like an alien even without the nose-thingy!

Look, come on. You couldn’t take it seriously. It was clever of Russel T and his co-conspirator Jane Espenson to move on from the bleakly adult themes that Children Of Earth had explored so effectively, and try something more over-the-top. And dear gods, they did it. Immortality, brought about through a magic tunnel through the earth that was somehow the physical manifestation of the soul of the planet. You couldn’t do that on Hollyoaks. The show became a manic, globe-trotting whirlwind of crazy ideas, big ‘splosions, gore, sex and tantrums.

Gwen Cooper has changed too. No longer the audience’s eyes, ears and questions, she’s a superspy now, a stone killer whose secret base just happens to be a terraced house in Cardiff. A woman whose mothering instincts include shoving a Glock into the face of any threat to her daughter. To be frank, she’s the reason I kept watching. She took the hysteria and bombast around her and made it, if not believable, then somehow bearable.

Everything’s geared up for another season, with a Buffy-style Big Bad in the shape of the Three Families and another immortal on the planet. Will we get one? Well, viewing figures in the UK have tanked. But Starz, who backed the show in the States, have form when it comes to pushing out high-concept, high-camp genre shows. This could be the start of something faaaabulous.

More like this, please. John Woo, anyone?

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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

One thought on “Torch Song: The high camp of Torchwood: Miracle Day”

  1. I too enjoyed it once I stopped taking it seriously, though I liked the premise. It took a while for me actually to enjoy it though. The first couple of episodes actually did induce frustrated, angry grunts from me. I think my favourite episode featured Cap’n Jack’s relationship with Angelo in years gone by. They could have made an entire film out of that and I would have loved it.

    Children of Earth still remains my favourite series though.

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