TV Revisiting Torchwood’s Miracle Day, this summer’s great televisual disappointment in any form is rather like picking at a scab, but for completion sake I did buy a copy of the blu-ray if only to see if the commentaries would offer any indications as to what went wrong. Recorded during post-production for the last episode by Russell T Davies and Julie Gardener it is possible to hear some weary exhaustion and with all of the criticism and qualifications of their own work, we can now take the view that they had a massive loss of confidence when faced with working in a new idiom and followed too many dodgy notes from Starz as to how to make the programme. Meanwhile, it sounds as though the BBC just left them to get on with it.
Amongst the other extras are a deleted scene which allows us to watch Alexa Havens park a car outside an airport over and over and over again (and for no good reason it turns out) and this “motion comic” Web of Lies originally released on iTunes in ten weekly chunks during the original broadcast. Already finding the forty-five minutes or so of the main series quite enough to slog through per week I decided to leave my enjoyment of this as late as possible and so here we are at the closing of the year. I could of course have waited until next year’s Doctor Who drought but decided that the last thing I wanted was for Torchwood’s Miracle Day to spread across any more of my calendar, especially since it looks like it’s never coming back anyway.
In the event, Web of Lies is about as I expected with just a few surprises. Split between two time frames, it sees Holly, a surprisingly connected young woman, investigating the shooting of her brother during Miracle Day and in parallel, a flashback sequence set during Torchwood’s first season in which Gwen travels the world searching for a kidnapped Jack, the two stories ultimately segwaying in a way that Immortal Sins failed to. At half an hour it doesn’t outstay its welcome and Jane Espenson’s script flows pretty well so long as you keep in mind that the reason everyone keeps repeating themselves every three minutes is because we’re skipping the week in between, and narrative leaps are because the interactive elements are missing.
The pre-release/publication/download excitement was because of the appearance of Eliza Dushku as the lead though there’s two obvious disappointments. As well as the aforementioned isolation from actual Torchwood, thereby nullifying hope of a kind of faux-Faith/Jack stand-off, Holly isn’t drawn to look like her either, the artist clearly a fan of Maggie Hopey from Love and Rockets (see above). Of course, in animation such things aren’t to be expected, but since the rest of the cast includes Jesse Eisenberg and Daniel Craig (at least in terms of drawing inspiration), it’s a shame the artist didn’t decide to give Eliza her tru calling (sorry). Perhaps she was cast after the design work was done.
There’s no Web of Lies Confidential so we don’t really know what the production process was like, but it’s fair to say not all of the animation works and in this case the “motion comic” label is designed to set the viewer up for something fairly rudimentary. It’s at about the level of the Shada remake with some moving parts, so although the rendering of the Cardiff characters is perfectly fine, the multiple facial expressions of Eve Myles captured, especially the one in which her eyeballs seem to envelop half of her face, their heads often wobble back and forth in a very curious manner like office toys. The two or three frame style of walking will be familiar to fans of 8-bit computer games.
But like Shada and dozens of missing episode recons, it’s the performances and writing which generally carry things. Eve and Jack are at about the tone of Torchwood’s radio series and there’s a strange nostalgia to hearing them refer to absent friends even if the actuality of that old series, as we’ve noted in recent weeks, left a bit to be desired (a bit?). Dushku is a bit hesitant at first but soon the Faith/Tru/Echo paradigm kicks in and almost makes up for the lack of proper Torchwood action for her. The story resolution even seems to make sense of a section of the main series, although arguably it should have been up to the main series to do that. Presumably they decided it was already overburdened with stuff.