Last week Torchwood returned, sucking us right back into the adventures of Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper as they began to investigate a worldwide event known as Miracle Day. That miracle—people on Earth suddenly stop dying—will turn out to be anything but as the series progresses, said series creator and executive producer Russell T Davies in an exclusive interview.
"Oh, my God! Wait until you see what we did," said Davies with a laugh.
When it comes to the not-dying part of the equation, "if you get a bullet through the stomach, you would have the pain and the wound, but you simply don't die unnaturally. Your heart keeps beating, blood keeps pumping, oxygen keeps being transmitted to cells, and you literally, physically stay alive no matter what is done to you. Which both allows us a great examination of life and mortality and what we are and what we're capable of being. It also allows us some great body horror, to invent really fiendish, grisly ways to try to kill people. You can't kill people, but all you can do is mash them."
Torchwood: Miracle Day "is 10 hours of what really happens to the world," said Davies. "What happens to your family? What happens to your job? What happens to your government? What happens to all levels of society? And like Children of the Earth, there is a great big high concept. But the point to the high concept is to see how we react, what the human race becomes and what we're capable of, as in Children of Earth. We saw the government selling our children down the river. But we also saw people doing magnificent things, like Gwen and Ianto and Ianto's family. We saw them rise to great moments of bravery. So that is the real point of Torchwood now. There's a lot of other shows doing 'monster of the week' and that sort of thing, and I thought we needed new territory, which is to really explore society and really say who we are now and what dark avenues we are capable of going down."
While the people of Earth are only beginning to understand the complications of immortality for all, the other story to play out involves who is trying to take out the members of Torchwood and why. Torchwood had been disbanded after the events of Children of Earth. But Miracle Day drags Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and Gwen (Eve Myles) back into Torchwood to investigate the deathless phenomena. When it comes to that story, "the mystery spreads," said Davies.
"The whole world is going mad. Everyone is manic, and there is hysteria in the air," he said. "Just as Torchwood is investigating what is happening, so you get this very dark force of Oswald, who is also investigating what is happening, and their stories become parallel and touch upon each other and then swing wildly opposite directions. It's something that is plotted very carefully over the total episodes."
Oswald Danes, who's played by Bill Pullman, is a child killer whose death sentence in prison is being carried out just as Miracle Day begins. "It is a character you have to follow. He is paired up for most of the episodes with Lauren Ambrose, who is glorious. You will so love her character, and her performance is just so vivid and bold. She plays the part of the most evil, scheming PR woman in the history of television," he said with a laugh. "She's got that fantastic red hair, and she wears lipstick as red as her hair, and she is so vivid and glorious."
The other major player is Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer), a CIA agent who had his own brush with non-death last week when he was impaled by a pole during a car accident, and who managed to track down Torchwood despite his injury. "A lot of the spine of the series is him teaming up with Jack. ... They're friends, enemies, they're in competition with each other, they need each other again. They keep sparring throughout the whole series."
We'll also see a couple sci-fi favorites on Torchwood this season, said Davies. "We have John de Lancie, who was Q from Star Trek. ... [And] Nana Visitor from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He gets a scene with her. It is a great episode to put the two of them together. They appear toward the back end of the series, so I don't want to give away too much, because that's when all the plots start happening and touching and fighting. What a camera presence!"
Davies promises the story will get bigger and more complex "until you reach episode five, and episode five reveals the true agenda. When you watch episode five you will go, 'Oh, my God! That is what the series is about.' And then from there the second half of the series explores that, and just when you think you know where it's going, it takes another twist and opens up completely new vistas. It's very exciting," he said.
"I played episode five of the new [season] to my boyfriend," said Davies. "There's the most colossal ending to that episode, and he just went, 'Wow, that makes Children of Earth look like kindergarten' [laughs]. But we loved that. We were very proud with what we achieved with that."
One of the elements Davies believes has helped take Torchwood: Miracle Day to a new level is the move to Starz, the pay-cable channel that brought us shows like Camelot and Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
"In some ways [Starz is] just starting, and so they are brave and ambitious, and they are kind of fearless, like what you would expect of the best of premium cable," said Davies. "There is some very dark stuff in the series, and there is violence, which are some scenes that say very terrible things about human nature. And the only note from Starz is to go further. Push it. Explore that darkness. Complicate it. You know, take the audience on one hell of a journey. And that is the only kind of a working relationship you ever want, really. So it's been lovely.
"You make these shows to please people, and when it has worked you feel like you have climbed a mountain," he said.
Here's a look at tonight's Torchwood: Miracle Day:
Torchwood: Miracle Day airs on Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.
What do you think so far? Has Torchwood: Miracle Day climbed that mountain?