Torchwood: Miracle Day – Too much translation, not enough sex and snark

So, episode three is a lot more recognisable as Torchwood and thank heavens for that I say. Last time we saw Jack, Gwen, Rex and Esther they were running away from scary Lyn, now they’re working as a team to start dealing with the Miracle – starting with getting the phone that the Big Bad uses to contact Friedkin.

Of course, just pointing a gun at someone isn’t scary in the way it used to be, so Rex has to threaten to leave Friedkin in agony for a thousand years, or to wipe out his memories, or his personality or his bladder control. We don’t know which of these scares Friedkin sufficiently to hand over the phone, but it may well have been that last one.

While Torchwood do their thing, the rest of the world continues to adapt to the Miracle – panic-buying food and stripping the shelves off everything except crisps, joining a cult, wearing spooky masks and declaring themselves ‘soulless’.

I don’t know whether the writers are trying to helpful or funny with their Esther-translating-into-American thing, but personally I found it grating. I imagine an audience that watches Torchwood (even newbies) is also likely to know that ATMs are cash machines, mobiles are cell phones and so on. Let’s hope this is a one-episode aberration.

Mostly however, this episode is about pain relief. From Oswald Danes spouting the idea that there should be free access to pain killers (as opposed to strictly on prescription) to Jilly Kitzinger’s meddling on behalf of pharmaceutical giant PhiCorps to the less tangible pain relief that Jack (and perhaps Oswald) are looking for.

Circumstances are taking their toll on a lot of people this week. Esther nearly gives them away by planning to phone her sister, who is not well. Jack dives into a gay bar to deal with his ‘mortal needs’ (how they differ from his immortal ones I can’t see, but feel free to enlighten me, and don’t get me started on why the BBC cut out the sex scene…), Gwen is understandably anxious about her family, and Rex, well, still seems to be mostly an arsehole (yes, Esther, you’d call that an asshole, we know).

The team dynamic is still unsettled (understandably), with two alpha males tussling at the top and Esther not sure she can do ‘this’. It takes most of the episode for Rex to see that sometimes, the Torchwood way really is the only way to do things.

And then Torchwood way uncovers a massive warehouse (“bigger on the inside” mutters Jack) stockpiled with millions of non-narcotic painkillers from PhiCorps. Someone’s been planning for the miracle for at least a year and is planning to cash in big time.

And talking of pain relief, this week we pick up on something referred to briefly in one of those Radio 4 Afternoon Plays – the idea that Jack can’t seek forgiveness for his many sins while he’s immortal. He doesn’t need Rex baiting him about his dead friends – Tosh, Owen and Ianto – he’s been carrying that weight for a long time, but perhaps now he can finally find redemption. It broke my heart watching Gwen drop out of the conversation where Jack is pouring out drunken, but heartfelt affection and neediness for her to speak to the two most important people in her life now – Rhys and Anwen.

And at last, we get a bit more full-blooded Torchwood humour. Rex, defending, his stash of pills: “I need that for legitimate pain … You weren’t impaled.” Jack: “Ha-ha. You should have seen the other guy…”

I’m not in any danger of not tuning in next week, but Miracle Day has really got to up its game if it doesn’t want to lose me in the coming fortnight. It’s not as sexy or snarky as the first two series, or as frightening, intelligent and emotionally-draining as Children of Earth.

Things we’ve learned this week:

  • Everyone is so alive, too alive. But Jack doesn’t say whether that’s how he’s experienced life since Rose made him immortal.
  • Gwen is impatient when it comes to stealing cars…
  • That any security guard dumb enough not to wonder why a car’s only passenger would be sitting in the back probably deserves to get knocked out by the old ‘grab the tie and whack the head into the door frame’ trick.
  • That babies that would once have miscarried because they were too deformed to survive (“we’re talking brian outside the skull, no skin, no face, suffering” explains Dr Vera to Catholic every-baby-is-sacred doctor) are now being carried to term.
  • That Jack and Rex are more similar than you might think – both turn to sex for comfort. Though we only see one of them having a conversation about safe sex. And only one of them going to somewhere called the Golden Gopher. I’m not sure whether to hope that is a euphemism or not. I’m also with Brad on the desire to protect Jack’s coat.
  • That for every person who sees through Danes’ tear-stained apology for his crime, there’s another one ready to hero-worship him.
  • That we can see the wrinkles (and very sexy they are too) on Mr Barrowman’s face this week – making me think perhaps my suspicions that the overdone Botox in episode one was for dramatic purposes (and that we’re giving Jack a chance to catch up with his owner’s real ageing process) are right.
  • That the Eye-5s survive no matter what.
  • That Jack’s still sure this whole thing is something to do with him.
  • And that Jack and Oswald have something in common too – though not Danes’ perverted delight in the damage he did to his victim.

Posted by Jo the Hat

4 Comments

Filed under Drama

4 responses to “Torchwood: Miracle Day – Too much translation, not enough sex and snark

  1. Tim

    A very fair review, Jo. However, I am growing ever more disappointed with this season, even though there is clearly an interesting sci-fi story buried somewhere underneath all the filler.

    Again, we get an interesting idea around babies coming to term who natural selection would normally weed out, but it is completely glossed over so we can get to see Jack finding himself a good time. Ooh, so risque. Not.

    Enough filler, exposition and character development. When is this story going to start? Jane Espenson is such a good character writer, as she has proven time and again on Buffy, BSG and Game of Thrones, but even she can’t rescue this. It’s as if RTD pitched a 5 or 6-part serial to Starz, got told to flesh it out to 10, and this is the resultant mess of all-too-obvious padding.

    The eternal optimist in me hopes for better. But if the human race in this series is “so alive”, as Jack puts it, as a viewer I am slowly dying. Needs to improve. Fast.

  2. Paul

    “Gwen is impatient when it comes to stealing cars…”

    Oh! Reading this review was worth it, just for that one sentence! I had nearly forgotten that scene, but I loved it – all of them carefully trying lots of handles, then Gwen picks up a rock.

    I also loved Gwen losing attention to what Jack was saying when Esther finally managed to patch up a Skype connection to Rhys and Arwen.

    btw – does that radio play explain why being immortal means that Jack thinks he can’t seek forgiveness for all his friends and colleagues that have died over the years? Because I’m not sure I can understand that.

  3. Lynda

    On one hand, I want to know what happens but, on the other, I can’t be bothered to sit through it. It’s the music. No, it’s the overacting. No, it’s the plot… no, no more. I’ll probably just read the reviews if anyone makes it to the end of the series. Which is a shame.

  4. Corumba Love

    Hulloo JtH

    Late to this one too. At present my entire existence is late, which in a clumsy stab at combining irony with an atrocious pun, is precisely not how you’d describe the Miracle Day cast. Except Jack, (un)naturally.

    I’m going to stick with the series but it’s really not working. It has the whiff of camel about it – ie designed by committee with each member having a different odour, sorry, agenda. It’s almost as though the British end of things has negotiated three stabs at TW humour an episode, two of which are spent on Welsh bits – great for for the Welsh but pointless for the rest of us. It’s like watching two astronauts sharing an in-joke inside a landing capsule – you may see that there is a joke (and you may even understand it) but it doesn’t stop you and everyone else around you being excluded from a club with the most rarified membership on earth (apart from Kerry Katona’s brain cell).

    None of this is to say that I resent that humour, any part of it, it’s just that being so rationed every gag must work. Which, to be fair, it does spectacularly when Jack skewers Rex with his “you should see the other guy” punchline.

    What does annoy me, however, is seeing our hip, happening but endearingly ramshackle production being trampled all over in the name of big budget and wider audience. Does that make me elitist? Probably but then I’ve always enjoyed a tottering confection of in-jokery that builds on itself (and includes me in the process) and which TW used to do but singularly fails at in its current incarnation.

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