Starz Miracle Day Premiere Screening

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Doctor Who TV contributor, Clint Hassell, on the Torchwood Miracle Day Starz premiere event.

To promote its new series, Starz television network screened the first episode at several premiere events, days before the network television premiere. I live in Dallas, Texas – the U.S.’s fourth largest media market – and was lucky enough to be invited to attend a local event.

My invitation asked me to arrive early; seating would begin after 6 PM, with a 7 to 8 PM screening. I arrived early. (Embarrassingly early, actually, but I was not missing this opportunity – and I actually wasn‘t even the first to arrive. I was second.) The theatre was perfect: a trendy, six-screen art house known for its quality production values and quirky aesthetic. I grabbed a seat on the bench by the in-house bar, and read a book as I awaited the arrival of other guests.

I didn’t have to wait long. Within a half-hour, the theatre staff organized us into a formal line which often stood two or three people across and twisted through a maze of cordoned lobby and down a long flight of stairs, before filling the downstairs foyer. The crowd was a ménage of eclectic characters, probably 50% Twilight-loving girls in a sea of baby doll T-shirts, 45% geeks, and 5% professional, urban gays (like me – though I am also a total geek). Conversations drifted from Buffy to True Blood to Joss Whedon. Someone asked me – no pun intended – who was my favorite Doctor. (My answer: Davison, because he was hot, though I loved Eccleston and, surprisingly, love Matt, despite not loving the majority of Series 5 and 6 . . . to which a woman nearby whispered to me that she loved Matt more than Tennant, but was afraid of admitting it lest the surrounding crowd decry her blasphemy. But I digress.)

The funniest joke of the evening went something like:
In Torchwood: Miracle Day, no one dies.
“Except me.” – Rory Williams

One woman, the self-appointed Torchwood “expert” and apparent spokesperson for the crowd, told a curious passerby that Torchwood was “a movie, based on the BBC series, about a man who can’t die,” which I found terribly amusing, since, ironically, Jack’s immortality is the one thing that doesn’t carry over to Torchwood: Miracle Day. Her male companion – also obviously attracted only by the “free” part of the event – – described the “movie” as a “remake” of Death Takes a Holiday.

By 5:45 PM, representatives from Starz had arrived with ad slicks featuring the globe-as-bomb motif and stacks of tickets and food vouchers. Everyone in line was given a coupon for a “Torchwood Special” – a medium soda, medium popcorn, and a box of M&Ms. Additionally, I saw silver trays of summer rolls, pastries, and other assorted finger foods sail past.

At 6:35 PM, we were allowed into the surprisingly chilly theatre, and I grabbed my standard, front-row, center seat. The couple behind me bragged that they had painted their little boy’s room “TARDIS blue” and that their son had a Doctor Who bed spread. Another guy nearby stated that he had yet to see “A Christmas Carol” because he did not want to illegally download Series 6.

At 7:04 PM, the two Starz representatives introduced themselves as Dan Maley and Robyn Brown. Dan welcomed everyone, reiterated twice that Miracle Day was the “fourth installment of the Torchwood series,” being very careful to neither use the word “reboot,” nor take credit for Torchwood as a solely-American production. He asked if there were fans in the audience, and, when he got an enthusiastic response, wisely skipped giving any background on Torchwood in lieu of a brief plug for Starz. I was impressed that Dan and Robyn knew the names of our local cable television providers.

Following a brief commercial for Starz that included clips from Torchwood: Miracle Day, as well as Starz’ other original series Spartacus and Camelot, the screening started at 7:09 PM.

Read 20 spoiler-lite teasers from the first episode here.

Upon leaving the theatre, the audience was given an awesome piece of swag – a black-and-silver squeeze ball modeled after the globe/bomb that dominates the Miracle Day ad campaign. In the lobby, Dan mingled with the audience and asked for honest feedback. The most common comment I heard was that the audience wished that they could have seen also the second episode, which I took as a good sign. Only one woman expressed her displeasure, stating that she didn’t appreciate the direction Russell T Davies had taken the series. She found Children of Earth “nihilistic” and figures that Miracle Day will be the same. She is a fan of “classic Torchwood,” when the show was “quirky and fun” and “uplifting.” I asked if she had seen “Cyberwoman,” which I found to be one of the bleakest (and most amazing) hours of television ever. (Seriously – Ianto ugly cries.)

“Well, that episode was followed by two light and funny ones,” she retorted.

I replied, “You mean, ‘Small Worlds,’ where Jack sacrifices a child to evil fairies in front of her mother, or ‘Countrycide,’ where the horrors of supernatural monsters are but shadows compared to the darkness of the human soul?” (Yeah, that’s right – I’m that Torchwood fan.)

After the crowd dispersed, Dan and Robyn invited me to share drinks with them at the theatre’s in-house bar. Here is where the silver trays of assorted finger foods had been brought for a more private reception. Our drink of choice: blueberry vodka and tonic, later with a splash of cranberry juice. Dan is svelte and urbane (and hot – seriously, he is impossibly handsome), while Robyn is fabulous and drips of talent. (She keeps Dan organized; I’d hire her in a minute.) What impressed me was that they both care not just for Starz as an expanding network, but for Torchwood’s place as a prominently-featured program within Starz’ roster of original series. They are proud of Torchwood – not because they claim ownership – but because they recognize Torchwood’s (and Doctor Who’s) rich history.

I did pry three further spoilers out of Dan. (It’s amazing what I can do with some liquor and a hot guy.)

  • Torchwood is not guaranteed to run through 2017. There are no plans for that at all. They would like to do at least a second series, but that will be determined by the support given to Miracle Day.
  • When I mentioned that Russell T Davies claimed to only have “one more Torchwood story in [him],” and asked if a potential, second, Starz-produced series might be the last, Dan remarked, “That’s what I’ve heard too.” (I repeat this news not as a sign that Torchwood’s end is imminent – Russell himself has stated that he always feels he has but one more story in him… until he thinks of another. Rather, I find it interesting that Dan was aware of comments made by Russell in interviews. It is apparent that Starz is listening to Davies and allowing him to guide the development of his show. And, further, Robyn quickly agreed to write Torchwood Series 6, for the right amount of money.)
  • Dan stated that they gay element would be “significant.”
    “Really?” I asked, thinking of the rumors I’d heard about episode three. “The gay thing will be huge?”
    “I didn’t say ‘huge’; I said, ‘significant,’” replied Dan, carefully annunciating the word slowly, as if to connote a hidden meaning within the syllables.

Overall, the Starz-sponsored premiere was a well-organized event that emphasized Torchwood’s importance to the Starz network and their support for Russell T Davies’ creative vision.

Now, what more would you like to know about the episode? What specific questions are you dying to ask? I’m open to answering any questions you guys have.

Oh! A cool bonus for the evening: Dan gifted me with a box of Torchwood: Miracle Day squeeze balls. Obviously, I don’t need quite this many. One of them is going to Tom Colman, the inspiration for this article, and because I owe him a thank you for the awesome teasers and review he wrote for the Doctor Who Series 6 premiere. (Seriously, Tom, you did a great job.) One squeeze ball is going to Chris, the editor of Doctor Who TV, because this is the first web site I visit each day. The rest? I’m open to sharing those with Doctor Who TV readers, starting with some who respond with questions regarding the first episode. Let’s see how many we can answer before Friday’s U.S. premiere!