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updated: 7/8/2011 2:00 PM

Today is 'Miracle Day' for 'Torchwood' fans

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  • Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) brings the Torchwood crew to American shores to explore the "miracle" of immortality.

      Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) brings the Torchwood crew to American shores to explore the "miracle" of immortality.

 
By Greg Evans
Associated Press

An unrepentant child murderer survives what should be a lethal injection. A suicide bomber, near-headless and charred to a crispy stain, opens his eyes.

Death has taken a holiday on "Torchwood: Miracle Day," that goofy, sci-fi spinoff of BBC hit "Doctor Who" that's crossing the Atlantic after three seasons in the U.K.
Teaming an American cast with three U.K. holdovers, the retooled show about alien hunters has the casual smarts of the old "X Files," blowing away more recent homegrown efforts like "The Event" and "Falling Skies."

Subtitled "Miracle Day," the 10-episode series on Starz plays out like an action-heavy game of What If. Humans, even decapitated ones, have suddenly stopped dying. The ramifications are endless, dire and surprising.

Mostly, though, the threat of overpopulation, starvation, disease and unending pain loom, along with the question, What, or who, did this to us? And who's going to pay for health care?

Among the should-be-dead: CIA agent Rex Matheson, played by Mekhi Phifer ("ER"), investigating the mystery despite a gaping hole in his chest.

Also on the case are CIA underling Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) and two agents from the defunct, supernaturally inclined Torchwood Institute of Wales: Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), a dashing, bisexual immortal, and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), the sole human survivor of the decimated Torchwood.

New viewers needn't concern themselves with the Torchwood backstory. "Miracle Day" is self-contained.

Written by series creator Russell T. Davies, the debut episode lays all the necessary groundwork and introduces two terrific villains, deliciously portrayed: the execution-defying pedophile (Bill Pullman), who becomes a prophet for the nightmare age, and a cheerfully devious pharmaceutical rep (Lauren Ambrose) who knows an opportunity when she sees one.

Suicide bombers who can't die need lots of painkillers

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