Torchwood-Series 4: Miracle Day (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 1-Dec-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-2 episodes
Featurette-Making Of-Two
Deleted Scenes
Episode Introductions
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 520:00 (Case: 634)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Bharat Nalluri
Guy Ferland
Billy Gierhart
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Barrowman
Eve Myles
Mekhi Phifer
Alexa Havins
Kai Owens
Bill Pullman
Lauren Ambrose
Case Slip Case
RPI $109.95 Music Murray Gold


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD High Resolution Audio 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Back in 2008 I reviewed the first series of Torchwood , a more adult focused spin-off from the new Doctor Who. I enjoyed the show very much, however, it divided opinion even amongst Doctor Who fans, which is evidenced by the comments on my original review. I now have the pleasure to review the fourth series of Torchwood, entitled Miracle Day which has divided opinion even amongst fans of this show. The producers decided to take the show in a very different direction after (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) killing off most of the original team at the end of the third series, Children of Earth. They joined up with American production house, Starz to take the show in a more American direction. They added two new characters to the team, Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) and Esther Drummond (Alexa Havens) and set a significant portion of the action in the US. Bill Pullman also joined the show as Oswald Danes, a major player in the story. Additionally, American writers wrote some of the episodes, although Russell T Davies remained a major driving creative force. All of this adds up to a show with a quite different feel to previous seasons of Torchwood, although retaining the characters of Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles).

    The big question of course is, does it work?

    Opinion about that question is quite divided, but I certainly enjoyed watching this show and want to see more of Torchwood in the future. I prefer the previous approach to this, however, if this is how Torchwood comes then I am definitely keen to watch it. There is no doubt that this season has flaws, which I will discuss in more detail later but it also has some big pluses which to my mind outweigh the flaws. Before I get on to that, I should give you an idea of the story involved because the concept here is a huge plus and very interesting.

    Torchwood (or the two members who are alive anyway) have disbanded and are on the run from people who would kill them given half a chance. Gwen is living in remote Wales with her husband Rhys, and their daughter, Anwen. Meanwhile in the US, the CIA's systems are infected by a virus which points to Torchwood. A CIA agent, Rex Matheson decides to investigate but on the same day something extremely strange happens all over the world - people stop dying. The first evidence of this is a convicted child murderer and rapist, Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) who survives his execution by lethal injection, despite everything going right according to the process. People are still getting injured and sick however, things which used to kill people don't any more. While following a lead, Rex has a terrible car accident and gets impaled through the chest by steel pipes. Despite this he does not die and fights through the pain to continue his investigation. Initially the world thinks this is incredibly wonderful and names the day it started as Miracle Day, hence the title of this series.

    Soon, however, people start to realise that the increasing population of people who should be dead but cannot die is leading to a crisis in the health system. Accordingly, governments decide to set up overflow camps for those who should be dead but are still alive. These people are referred to as Category 1 and includes Gwen's father, which adds a personal angle to the story. The world now needs to work out how to handle this change, which is an interesting hypothetical for how the world would actually react to such a situation. I won't reveal any more of the plot as it would spoil the story.

    So, lets start by discussing the positives of which there are many, especially if you just accept that the show is different in style rather than just saying it is different, therefore worse. First and foremost is the great concept behind this story which is fascinating and probably the most direct comment about how our world works which has been attempted by this show. There is some really good writing involved, although some episodes are stronger than others revealing the different writing styles across the Atlantic. The acting is strong by most of the main cast, John Barrowman offers a different slant on Captain Jack as he changes during the series, Eve Myles is tough and resourceful as usual and Kai Owens as Gwen's husband, Rhys is a much bigger presence in this series. The new additions also add significantly including Mekhi Phifer and especially Bill Pullman as the fascinating Oswald Danes. Lauren Ambrose who many will remember from Six Feet Under is also a great addition as the series continues. There is also some great stunts and effects for those who enjoy the more action side of  Torchwood. Many have commented on the slower pace of this show and the extra exposition. Honestly, I thought this was a slow burn and complex story told across 10 episodes which forces you to focus and concentrate on the story. As usual anything which takes a little more thinking than normal, especially for our American friends is too hard and must not be watched.

   As far negatives go there are also quite a few with this series. I don't think the americanisation of this series adds to it significantly and although it is not dreadful, I think the original style was better. Having said that, I would still watch more of this style of Torchwood as it is better than most shows on television, especially the 'normal' American series. In terms of writing there are some inconsistencies and things which don't quite make sense especially some character actions which seem hard to fathom. The character of Oswald Danes, despite being very well played by Pullman, is hard to fathom and doesn't completely work in the context of the story. On the other hand, the character played by Lauren Ambrose, publicist Jilly Kitsinger is a great addition. There are also some plot holes which lead to confusion at times but it all mostly comes together in the end. Alexa Havens is a bit too wet to be believable at times and I wish there had been a better female foil for Rex. Some episodes are a bit silly at times such as Episode 2. There is still some great verbal interaction between Jack & Gwen, but in general the dark comedy side of this series is muted and the American characters are quite serious. It is probably worth noting that those who disliked the rampant sexuality when this show first started (such as some commenters on my previous review) will probably not like the very up front man on man sexuality during this series. It does form part of the story, however, some scenes are a little more gratuitous than is probably necessary.

    So, where does all that leave us? It leaves us with a very worthwhile, interesting and intriguing science fiction series which is certainly worth watching. It will alienate some fans of Torchwood, but if the differences are put aside there is much here to enjoy. It certainly takes some thinking about and does not always move quickly or completely coherently, however, this can be forgiven. I think it works better on disc than it would of as a week by week show on television, allowing you to immerse yourself in the story over a shorter time period.

    This set includes 4 Blu-ray discs with the ten episodes plus extras spread across them. Each episode is around 52 minutes.

    Recommended despite its flaws.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is very good but unfortunately only 1080i.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is 1080i encoded using AVC.

    The picture was quite clear and sharp throughout but not as good as some film based Blu-rays mostly due to some motion based blur due to interlacing.The shadow detail was very good.

    The colour was excellent, showing off the various locations.

    There was some minor aliasing/shimmering at times.

    There are subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired which are clear and easy to read.

    There are no obvious layer changes during playback.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is very good but certainly not the best Blu-ray has to offer.

    This disc contains a English soundtrack in DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 which is not the highest quality format available. There are also commentary tracks and Audio Descriptive in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Dialogue was reasonably clear and easy to hear and understand, although a combination of accents, mumbling and muffled sounds at times meant that subtitles were useful for those without hearing disabilities.

    Generally, the sound was rich and full highlighting many sound effects and the music by Murray Gold, however it was more front focused than many Blu-ray soundtracks.

    The surround speakers were used reasonably well but didn't stand out. They were used for scenes like the helicopter crash and other action scenes but never really setting the house on fire.

    The subwoofer was used to support explosions and other action plus the music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    

Menu

    The menu included music and motion and offers audio navigation for the sight impaired.

All Discs

Episode Introductions (1:00 each) 

    Each episode starts with an introduction by John Barrowman and Russell T Davies which I found annoying and mostly skipped. They were not optional.

Disc 1

Commentary Episode 1 - Russell T Davies & Julie Gardner - Executive Producer 

    This is a good commentary which continues on Episode 10. They are relaxed and jokey, discussing the themes of the show, how such a situation might panic the world due to the twitter generation, where the title came from, development of the plot, sets, locations and more. Interesting and entertaining stuff.

Character Profiles (9:51) 

    Short featurette of the actor's talking about their characters.

Disc 2

FX Special (16:20) 

    Featurette focusing on the special effects used to create the helicopter crash, the scene where Rex is impaled, the dead soldier scene and the burned but living body. Well worth a look.

Disc 3

Behind the Scenes (30:15) 

   A comprehensive making of featurette which covers interviews, stunts, shooting, locations, technical details and special effects. Worth watching.

Disc 4

Torchwood : Web of Lies (28:06) 

    Motion comic based in the Torchwood-Miracle Day world. The story is separate to the main show and I found it quite confusing. An interesting idea but not overly well executed to my mind.

Deleted Scenes (7:44) 

    Scenes that were deleted and should have been. Nothing much of interest here, some are more outtakes than different scenes.

Commentary Episode 10 - Russell T Davies & Julie Gardner - Executive Producer 

    This is a good commentary which continues from episode 1.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This set is available in the same format in the UK.

Summary

    A interesting, intriguing but flawed series of Torchwood which takes it in a different direction.

    The video quality is very good but only 1080i.

    The audio quality is very good.

    A good quality set of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplaySharp LC52LE820X Quattron 52" Full HD LED-LCD TV . Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into BD player. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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