Imagine a world where nobody dies

Dave Bartlett
Published on July 15, 2011

Would the world be a better place if everybody stopped dying? Without thinking too hard about that question, you might say yes.

But if people continued to get sick and sustain serious injuries; babies were still being born, yet the elderly lived on - the planet would soon be overcrowded, food would run out and the cost of taking care of the immortally sick would soon spell the end of life as we know it.

That's the premise of "Torchwood: Miracle Day."

The fourth season of the "Doctor Who" spinoff premiered on the Space network last Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

"The best show I've seen in months!" I proclaimed aloud as the end credits rolled, momemtarily forgetting "Game of Thrones." And considering I was lukewarm on the most recent season of the Doctor, it's a relief.

Here's the skinny on the show's mythology so far.

The Torchwood Institute - created by Queen Victoria after an unamusing encounter with the Doctor - investigates the bizarre and the extraterrestrial and protects the Earth from would-be invaders.

The head of the operation, Capt. Jack Harkness, is a former companion of The Doctor, who made his first appearance in the classic BBC sci-fi series when it was rebooted for the modern era in 2005.

In Season 1 of "Torchwood," the opening monologue tells us "The organization is separate from the government, outside the police, and beyond the United Nations."

Its debut also introduces police officer Gwen Cooper, who stumbles upon the clandestine company and quickly is recruited.

The show's creators intend "Torchwood" to be a darker, more adult show than "Doctor Who," but the B-movie quality of its first two seasons made it difficult to take seriously.

The third season of the show was a game-changer. A dark and brilliant mini-series titled "Children of Earth" had the team investigating why all the kids in the world would simultaneously stop in their tracks and repeat the words "They are coming."

That five-part mini-series aired on five consecutive nights in July 2009. But despite its summer time slot, "Children of Earth" garnered unexpectedly high ratings. Its tearful ending left only two surviving members of the organization, Capt. Jack and Gwen. A heartbroken Jack leaves Earth to travel the stars while Gwen and her young family go into self-imposed exile, hiding from Torchwood's enemies.

The new series is largely set in the United States - as opposed to Cardiff, Wales - and adds at least two American CIA agents to the cast. Just as the unexplained threatens to tear the world apart again, the name Torchwood suddenly appears on the CIA's computer system.

While being briefed on the situation via cellphone, Agent Rex Matheson is skewered by a flying metal pole in a traffic accident. He should be dead. The junior agent on the other side of the phone, Esther Drummond, begins to investigate Torchwood, believing there's a connection.

The show is action-packed, but is deeper than the typical shoot-'em-up. Gwen, her husband Rhys and baby daughter are hiding somewhere in remote Wales and don't even realize what's happening in the world. A phone call from her former police partner informs Gwen that her dad is sick and, upon arriving at the hospital, they learn that no one has died for 36 hours. Rhys isn't happy that Gwen's former life of danger is about to call her out of retirement and may put their family in jeopardy.

After trying to investigate the case from his hospital bed, Matheson finally stumbles out of the hospital to catch a transatlantic to the U.K., where he meets the surviving members of Torchwood and relocates the team to the U.S. at the end of the first episode.

Bill Pullman is also in the show as a condemned murderer who doesn't die after his lethal injection. After the first episode, it's unclear what part he'll play in the story arc, but you're certain he's the primary villain, if not the cause of all the trouble.

What's brilliant about the premiere of the new 10-part mini-series is that protagonist Capt. Jack doesn't even appear on screen until the 20-minute mark.

His entrance is classic Jack, or at least classic Russell T. Davies who revived the "Doctor Who" franchise in 2005 and wrote this episode.

If the entire 10 episodes are as good as the first - and based on the quality of "Children of Earth," I have no doubt they will be - I can't recommend a better summer adventure.

Dave Bartlett covers municipal affairs for The Telegram, when he's not watching television. He can be reached at