Miracle Day: First Impressions

(This article was originally published on the 11th of June 2011 at the now defunct website Eye of Harmony. It is not up to my current standard of writing, does not accurately represent my current opinions in places, and has not been altered in any way from its original state. There were one or two posts whose purpose was little more to reaffirm that Eye of Harmony was definitely not dead and sometime soon I was totally going to get around to writing those posts I never got around to writing. The only ones worth recovering was The Return, which wrapped the sentiment in an embarrassingly self-indulgent bunch of nothing, and this one. As stated on every other repost, I’m only reposting these for posterity, not for worth. While by its very nature as a worthless “what MIGHT happen in this upcoming thing based solely on the trailer” bit of trash that clogs up “””news””” websites to this day, it’s pretty irrelevant, it still contains sufficient content to be worth bothering to repost. Two more things to note: 1) thanks to Danny Stewart for helping me recover the images for this post as I had lost my own copies, and 2) obviously the Cyberman DVD boxset and Children of Earth reviews referenced in this post no longer exist, I’m unaware of any effort on the part of the other Eye of Harmony writers to preserve their work for the site. Here then is the closest I ever came to unintentionally writing clickbait, which is laughable considering the site it was written for (besides a thinkpiece written by Danny Stewart about the then-current state of the Stargate franchise and my City of the Daleks review none of the Eye of Harmony posts were read to any real degree, most struggled to pass 10 views). It is preserved here for archival purposes only, and that should be taken into account before reading.)

 

My, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Six months may not seem like a long time, but if you look at the Cybermen box set review below and think back to when you first read it, it seems like an eternity ago. In fact, let’s think back to what the world was like when that last post went up:

  • The Big Bang was the most recent episode. We didn’t even know A Christmas Carol’s title, let alone it’s plot.
  • Series Six was still some vague entity off in the distant ether.
  • David Tennant fans were still bitching about how Matt Smith wasn’t as good.
  • Haters of the 2010 theme still had their fingers crossed that it would prove to be the 21st Century equivalent of the Glynn theme (the TV version at least), a one-season mistake that would be looked back on and laughed at.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures had a bright future, looking set to take the lead over new Doctor Who in season numbers.
  • Torchwood was still dead and looked like it would remain so.
  • Bow ties and fezzes were (and still are) cool, but Stetsons were not.
  • Uh… Osama bin Laden was still alive…
  • Erm… the economy… no, that’s still in the toilet…

Actually, that’s pretty much all that’s changed during Eye of Harmony’s little break. Huh.

But, more importantly, what of the future? Well, I’ve had several projects on the back burner since last December, but due to other commitments I’ve just not had the time to finish them. Now though, with a four month vacation until the start of the new term in October, I’ve got plenty of time to get them all posted for your reading pleasure. In order of priority, here’s what you can expect from me in the coming weeks.

1. A Christmas Carol Soundtrack Review

At last my two loves, Doctor Who and film/TV/video game scores, come together! Originally meant as a quickie tide-over until project number two was ready, it ballooned into a full retrospective of all the Doctor Who albums I own, of such an epic length not seen since the City of the Daleks review (more on that later). This will be coming very soon now.

2. The RTD Roundup – Rose Part III

Yes, it’s been a long time coming, but for good reason. After realising exactly how far I was into Rose (Freudian pun not intended) after two extremely long posts, I’m going to whiz through the rest of the episode in this single part. It’ll be much faster paced than the first two parts, but never fear, the incessant nit-picking that has come to define the series shall return in force.

3. The Adventure Games Series One – The Three-Part Finale

Here’s something I forgot to mention in the above list of things that have changed since the last Eye of Harmony post: my faithful old laptop sadly passed away, and has been replaced with a brand spanking new desktop. Once the first two projects are complete, I’ll be finishing off the mini-series that got me started on this very site. In the first part, I’ll be taking a look back at City of the Daleks, and see just how much of my hatred for it stemmed from my laptop’s unsatisfactory processor, as well as completing Blood of the Cybermen. In the second, we’ll see just how TARDIS fares against Edge of Destruction and The Invasion of Time (actually the latter isn’t too hard to top), and in the third and final part we shall learn how scary the Vashta Nerada would have been had they not taken control of unconvincing Halloween masks.

So, that’s the future, but what of the present? Since the original plan of making the Christmas Carol Soundtrack review a quickie to tide the site over while I worked on the RTD Roundup has been completely abandoned, here’s another quickie review in it’s stead:

Before we start, I should probably establish my experience with Torchwood, so you can see where my opinions are coming from. When the first series aired in 2006, I was but a wee lad of 15. This was fortuitous for me, as it meant that I had the same idea of what ‘mature’ was as the writers had at the time: pointless gory violence, lesbian space aliens, and swearing up a ****ING STORM! Therefore, I watched the first season avidly. However, a mere two years later when the second series debuted, I had already grown up enough to see how the first series had maneuvered dangerously close to exploitation movie territory, and only caught the first few episodes of the season before deciding I had better things to do (this was before Sky+ became popular). In retrospect, this may have been a mistake, as the Word of the Critics says this season ironed out many of the first’s problems. I honestly cannot tell you how I feel about this judgement, as to this day I have not seen the second season and have no plans to do so. But then, in 2009, everything changed with Children of Earth. I won’t go into specifics, instead I shall direct you to Luke Pietnik’s excellent review of the mini-series on this very site. However, I did watch the entire series, and recall the following about it:

1. The ‘stripping’ of the series (okay, seriously, media jargon can get pretty stupid, but how in the hell does this make sense in the slightest?) caused, for me at least, a build-up of series fatigue (see, TV industry? I can make up moronic buzz-words too!) very fast. At first, it seemed like a good idea. Instead of having to come back every week for five weeks, it would be over in one! Genius! However, this is how it panned out. Day One: It’s all going to be over in a week! Hooray! Day Two: Phew! It’s going to be all over in a week, and it sure feels like it! Day Three: Okay, Torchwood’s on again tonight! Day Four: Oh God, it’s on AGAIN? Day Five: Please just END! Not exactly a good sign for the format.

2. Actual maturity? In Torchwood? OMGWTFLOLBBQ

3. The ‘reality’ of the situation was well handled and consistent. For all I joked above, this really did feel like adult drama for the first time (then again I didn’t see most of series two, so this might not have been the first time). The politics never felt corny or boring, the 456 were some of the best new aliens introduced in (the extended canon of) the new series, and despite the fact that RTD once again proved he can’t figure out how to write drama without it affecting the entire planet, my suspension of disbelief held firm. Well, that was until…

4. The reveal of what the 456 wanted the children for. Until that moment, the series held onto one of the most important rules of horror: the audience’s imagination can do far more to scare them then anything you can do. I’d hate to spoil something that’s two years old, but it is rather sad when your villains have fallen from the highest heights of the pantheon of the extended Doctor Who universe down to me wanting to chant ‘Pa-a-a-ass de child’en on de left hand side!’ whenever they appeared.

Basically, a very mixed mag, with very high moments of startling quality as well as low moments all courtesy of the RTD Book of Clichéd Storytelling. I don’t regret spending five hours watching it, but it’s not something I’m clamouring to re-watch either.

Now, of course, it’s 2011. Times have changed, the cast has changed, hell, even the country the series is made in has changed. Quite frankly, it should come as no surprise. Torchwood has always been incredibly Americanised anyway, shifting it’s focus there was inevitable.

So, then, at last we come to what this post is supposed to be all about: what we know so far of Miracle Day. Even by my standards, it’s harsh to judge a programme purely by a trailer meant to get the average (i.e. stupid) American public salivating over the over-the-top action, bad one-liners and a hefty serving of crème de la explosion. See, the mainstream American viewership are easily scared, and once scared will NOT be back in greater numbers. In order to make something successful over there, you have to have a heavily regulated amount of violence, make sure every piece of comedy you introduce to balance the mood can be understood by a humour-challenged amoeba, and if you can fit in some saluting of the American flag or the President of the United States saving the world by making a speech, all the better. Miracle Day is already looking set to pass this test with flying colours, but instead of tackling the mammoth problems with how the American industry is terrified of making something that hasn’t been proven multiple times in much better media, we shall instead do a fun little countdown of the top 5 RTD clichés which we can tell are present and correct by the trailer alone. Let’s begin, shall we?

Number 5 – WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALES!

Yes, would you believe it, RTD and this series came from Wales? You’d never tell, were it not for the fact that the plot in several episodes would grind to a halt for a minute or two for the characters to take a moment to point out that this is Wales. And that everyone is Welsh. And that is a good thing. For some reason. This is somewhat underplayed for the majority of the trailer, as in true American fashion, anything vaguely like the UK is described as England (or, more commonly, ‘England-land’). It’s good to see Team America wasn’t actually a parody of how America sees the world, but was in fact a documentary. However, because we can’t forget the characters are Welsh, Gwen helpfully points this out to us in the legally-mandated ‘one-liner at the end of the trailer where the music stops for a minute to amplify how awesome we think it is’ thing. And then kicks some woman in the face.

This image perfectly sums up how RTD asserting his Welshness feels for the audience.

Number 4 – Oh, the humanity!

What is RTD’s fetish for newscasters? Seriously, I want to know. This comes down once again to his very limited list of ways to make a story feel big, have a newscaster make an overly dramatic announcement telling us things we already know. To be fair to him, the trailer only has one short moment with newscasters, but in that brief moment, we see, what…

One…
…two…
…three…
…four!

…of which two appear twice. Way to compensate there, Russell.

Number 3 – Someone didn’t get the memo about the ‘top-secret’ part of the operation.

Torchwood is so secret, it’s but a rumour among the police. A well-hidden skeleton in the closet for the British government. An agency so secret the American government can just walk into the last scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark and find out everything about the organisat- wait, what?

Number 2 – Jack Harkness: Will do anything that moves

Okay, I’m stretching a bit here, but come on, the trailer has this:

“Captain Jack Harkness. Nice to meet you.”

…and we all know for Jack that’s the equivalent of a first date and getting to first base all in one.

Number 1 – “If it’s not the entire world, I don’t wanna know!”

Of course, however, there can be only one cliché that can top this list: IT’S THE WHOLE WORLD! Sadly RTD has not taken the opportunity since 2009 to learn ways of creating compelling drama for a wide audience that doesn’t involve putting the entire planet in jeopardy. It’s sad, really. It seems one of the writers that actors are clamouring to work for (just look at the early Confidentials when Eccleston discusses why he was cast) cannot invest people of any nationality in his stories without saying ‘Look! Your nation is in danger too! The entire world is!’.

Exactly how flawed is this type of thinking? Well, here’s a movie you may remember:

It’s a film about strange space people. Although they may look human, and are called human, they aren’t. The movie did not revolve around a crisis threatening the entire planet Earth, simply because it wasn’t part of their universe, and as we all know, due to this crippling weakness in the film’s plot the movie bombed worldwide, not finding an audience in any country. So yes, this type of thinking is not flawed at all.

See, this is why Steven Moffat is having to increasingly put stories on distant planets and in space stations, since whenever he tells a story about the Earth being endangered (The Eleventh Hour, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon), the critics immediately blame the show for doing the same type of story far too often. If the series had started with The Eleventh Hour, as I advise any newcomers of the show to do, I imagine these complaints would have been far less vocal or widespread.

Well, that’s my thoughts on Miracle Day. In summary:

“The amazing thing about the miracle is that it happened to everyone at the same time!”

…Yeah, I don’t know about you, but it feels great to be back!

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