Lately I’ve been watching Torchwood: Miracle Day. Now… I’m a huge Torchwood fan. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan… hence the TARDIS USB hub and TARDIS heat changing mug I have (amongst other paraphernalia). I even designed a D&D character after Capt. Jack Harkness, complete with bisexuality action. But “Miracle Day” is bad. So bad in fact it’s a “Miracle it’s still on the air toDay” after the first three episodes. And it’s not just me that thinks so. A few people have commented on the watered-down writing of the new series, as well as the irritating and over-the-top acting of Mekhi Phifer. Maybe this is because the show is now taking place in the US, and Starz (the cable channel airing the show) wants US viewers to be able to relate to the show. Maybe it’s because they were forced into a 10-episode arc instead of a 6-episode one, e.g. Children of the Earth. But for whatever reason, Torchwood: Miracle Day certainly does not live up to the earlier seasons of the show.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still watching it. Five minutes before starting this I finished episode four (I’m a little behind in the season due to not having cable… you do the math). I still love Jack and Gwen, miss Ianto and Owen, and look forward to scenes where Gwen shoots down a helicopter with a bloody rocket launcher. But then I cringe as she says “Welcome to Torchwood” to close episode 2. Really? I mean, the line wasn’t badly delivered. It just shouldn’t have been said. No… Bad. Which brings me to my point. Can good actors save bad scripts? Well, in some cases… yes.
In the 2009 film “The Maiden Heist” Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken, and William H. Macy play museum security guards who choose to steal their favorite works of art from the museum, rather than see them shipped off to a Danish museum. Okay… I’ll buy it, sounds vaguely interesting and has three absolutely phenomenal actors in it. But no… something about this doesn’t jive right. I actually watched the movie twice to try and figure it out, and I realized it was the writing. The dialogue was… poor, and the entire thing seemed shabby… like a first year film student had managed to sell his unedited script to Sony Pictures and said “Please.” But it was still a decent movie. It was funny in parts, I enjoyed watching the three play bumbling thieves… it was actually an extremely entertaining movie. But in other cases…
“Closure” (known as “Straightheads” in the US) is a movie about a successful British business woman who gets gang raped, while her boyfriend is brutally assaulted, and rendered impotent. Later they end up moving into the woman’s deceased father’s home in the country only to discover one of the rapists is their neighbor. It’s more revenge-thriller than “Last House On The Left” horror… but it’s bad. And not just “unnecessary rape violence” bad, but “Why would anyone think to write that” or “Wait… what? Why did she say that” bad. And it stars Gillian Anderson, who I think is probably one of the better female actresses around. I mean really, would you say Scarlett Johansson or Christina Hendricks (though I did like her on Firefly…) is better? And even then, let’s not forget the second X-Files movie. A series I have recently come to adore… almost completely ruined by one 104-minute nightmare. “I Want To Believe” I never really watched that… Again, not bad acting… not bad direction. Just bad writing.
All of this strikes particularly close to home considering I just finished writing the script to my first movie. Lazarus is a collaborative effort between myself, Lawton Hughes, and Dean Cromer. I finished the final edit of the script yesterday, and I really hope I don’t pull this same mistake. Bad acting can on occasion be forgiven. Bad direction less so, but it can be saved by a good script and good actors. Bad writing? There are many examples of this, but very few that one can turn around and say “Well, it still wasn’t that bad.”
So, to return to Torchwood: Miracle Day. Is the show bad? No. The show is entertaining. The acting (minus Mekhi Phifer) is excellent. And the plot is fairly intriguing. But the writing leaves much to be desired, and that is making many people – new comers and old fans alike – turn away from this new season. A lesson to take to heart…
Filming of Lazarus begins this month, visit the Facebook page for more information and updates.