Torchwood: Miracle Day – This isn’t a Dear John letter. Yet.

I’d be a terrible professional TV reviewer – I don’t like writing down negative thoughts about things, I’d rather say nothing at all. I’m not just a glass half-full kinda girl, I’m a glass half-way to getting refilled kinda girl. So it pains me to report that although episode four of Torchwood: Miracle Day is better than its predecessors I’m still not feeling the love.

There are a few twists in the tale, but so much of it is predictable. From the moment Esther steps out of the car at her mentally-fragile sister’s home, you know she’s inadvertently laying a trail of breadcrumbs back to the rest of the team. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to take from her turning her sister and nieces in to social services – that she is really ruthless enough to be a member of Torchwood? I’m trying to care and failing.

Mekhi Phifer is stuck with a dog of a character in Rex. The writers are flogging a dead horse trying to convince me there’s some sort of relationship between him and Dr Juarez (still wearing those ridiculous high-heeled shoes). There’s more sexual tension between Dick and Dom to be quite honest. And this week we meet his alcoholic father living in a dump. I don’t know if we’re meant to be in the dark about who to feel empathy with, but again I neither know nor care. (I am vaguely intrigued by the boxes of Phicorp meds Dad has stashed though).

Gwen is also distracted by family  – missing Rhys and Anwen and fretting about her father stuck in hospital. Again, the moment where she distractedly tells Rhys to get her father out of hospital is so clearly going to backfire horribly, it’s just painful to watch.

Slightly more interesting is the plan to overflow the terminally (or should that be eternally) sick into an abandoned hospital – a plague ship. Sounds like just the sort of thing David Cameron would sign off on to me and highlights the unpleasant fact that while the Big Bad is up to something Unspeakably Evil, it’s helped along by humans who just do’t care enough to say ‘no’ or ‘this is a bad idea’.

Torchwood’s move of the week is to break into Phicorp HQ, steal the server that holds all the juicy data and replace it with an identical, but handily fire-damaged, one. To do so they need the biometric data of one man, Nicholas Frumkin. I’m not sure that lampshading Gwen’s awful American accent is enough to excuse it – but she and Jack coo over the Frumkin’s baby and collect his fingerprints, a sample of his voice and a copy of his iris pattern in a scene that must have had bottoms clenching on sofas across the land. It turns out there is another way to get this data – as we find out when the man who is following Torchwood with instructions to kill Jack shows up – but this way involves a lot more blood and screaming.

The server switch goes beautifully until the unnamed assassin knocks out Gwen and trusses her up to entrap Jack. Luckily for Jack, the assassin doesn’t want to kill him (having noted his services are no longer required post-Miracle), and lets us have a few crumbs of knowledge to chew on. The Big Bad encountered Jack a long time ago and he gave them something (I’m resisting the urge to joke that it was a dose of the clap. Oh.). We’re about to learn the Big Bad’s name when all-too-predictably Rex finally makes it up 33 flights of stairs and shoots the assassin in the throat. Sigh.

More interesting, however, is Jilly Kitzinger. She’s not in thrall to Danes at all. She is just doing a job for Phicorp, allbeit with great relish when Danes unseats the ursuper to his media throne –  Ellis Hartley Monroe and her Dead is Dead campaign. As it turns out he needn’t have worried about losing his moment in the spotlight. The Big Bad are worried Monroe is drawing unwanted attention to a future stage of their strategy and dispose of her in a thrillingly awful way (I know she was a caricature of a Tea Party loony, but she was very unpleasant and it was a damn fine way to punish a fictional horror). And now, we can also see the evangelical beginnings of the future Danes we saw in the taster for the season shown at the end of episode one. Bill Pullman remains an acting god despite everything the writers throw at him.

I’m hanging in there, afterall all relationships go through rough patches and I like to think that I can rekindle my full-on passion for Torchwood. But they’re going to have give me a little more than this to work with.

The good bits:

  • Gwen asking for the team to be able to stay by the sea in Venice Beach instead of some “stinking dirty pit for once”.
  • Rex scoffing at the large, biker dude landlord pointing the team to some ‘fabulous’ food on the corner: “Fabulous? What is it with you? You make everyone around you gay?” Jack: “That’s the plan.”
  • George Eliot’s line about flames making patterns in irregular scratch marks on metal – which does at least explain Jack’s obsession with Oswald Danes.
  • Jack is hotter than ever when doing manly lugging of heavy stuff in delivery man uniform.
  • Assassin in reply to Gwen’s “It’s in your interests to keep [Jack] alive.”: “That’s exactly what I’m doing. Haven’t you noticed the absence of killing?”
Posted by Jo the Hat

5 Comments

Filed under Drama

5 responses to “Torchwood: Miracle Day – This isn’t a Dear John letter. Yet.

  1. Jen

    I must admit I’m not gripped. This is my first exposure to TW (pulled in by the relentless trails) and it’s OK. I expect plot absurdities in TV dramas but this does have a lot of flaws. For a new viewer it isn’t very well-explained back-story-wise. Probably good for the ‘old hands’ but not so much for me.

    Plus what is it with the lengthy opening titles and previews of next episode? Maddening.

    • I guess the padding of ‘previously’ and ‘next week’ makes it up to a full hour. I imagine it’s shown with ads in the US. But happy to accept better suggestions.

  2. Corumba Love

    The great thing about adding comments to others’ posts on PLA is that all the heavy lifting’s been done (delivery man gear optional) so thanks again because, apart from another witty review JtH, it lets the likes of Team CL get on with the froth and fun.

    I had an epiphany this week (I usually duck these because with a sister-in-law called Tiphanie, conversation heads rapidly down doggerel lane without a muzzle). Well anyway this ePiph tackled the central problem in Miracle Day: it should have started life as a novel. That would have given it all the latitude and pacing it needed to explore the ideas that RTD and his new chums can only touch on in the series. As it is, every episode takes a moment to nod at each new notion but fails to explore it in any detail (eg last week’s mention of hideously deformed foetuses going to term).

    It’s too late now but drawing material from a fully formed story would have allowed the producers to cherry pick the most interesting – or cinematic – ideas to run with and would have brought with it an extra depth of goodwill. As it is TW is in severe danger of wasting what is a fascinating concept and never really doing more than glancing at a parade of passing “what ifs…” with breathless and turbo-charged ADD.

    A corollary to the SF novel idea is that the whole shebang should have been better thought through to begin with. Excise the repetitions, hesitations & deviations and concentrate and following an undeniably powerful story through to its logical and apparent conclusion. The best example of this I can think of is a film called “Daybreakers” whose protagonist is the sublime Ethan Hawke (despite being a chap of boringly non-omnisexual tendencies, I do like a cheekbone that soars heavenward).

    Daybreakers imagines a world set in the near future that is now ruled by vampires with humans being farmed for their blood (of course). The society is entirely like ours is now, with all its politics, capitalism and foibles except that its run by those blood-sucking b*stards. I’m not a fan of vampire stuff normally (CL’s is a house of zombie lovers) but this film stood out because it took its idea and wrung every possible nuance from it and not once is the viewer knocked out of the story by a distraction. For example: what would be the outcome of a world where the dominant life-form is immortal but its only foodstuff is as perishable as a late middle-age mayfly by comparison … ?

    Which question rather brings me back to Torchwood. I have realised belatedly that there’s no sense in constantly harping back to the pure homegrown product of the last few years. I’m enjoying it for its own sake, although that does entail blocking out the more obvious signs that British and American approaches to the programme have been sellotaped together like Action Man and Barbie; a union that is slinky and kinky to a ten year old (not me, oh no) but ultimately futile due to each party lacking the essential equipment to please the other.

    Couple of final thoughts unrelated to the rest: I’ve been pleasantly distracted by the Ellis Hartley Monroe character (Mare Winningham) who was best pal Ida In “Mildred Pierce” (reviewed extensively by some idiot elsewhere on this site). Also, if you’re not watching ”The Hour,” (good but definitely *not* Britain’s answer to Mad Men on any level bar the smoking) you might like to know that Burn Gorman (Owen Harper) has just been bumped off after three episodes as a very sinister villain indeed.

    • Nikki

      Miracle day as a book is an excellent idea CL! I like it!

      Room to full explore glossed-over issues, develop emotional attachement to the characters, likewise the characters amongst themselves, their sense of conscience etc.

      PS Daybreakers is an awesome film. Takes pop-culture vampire popularity and turns it into a well thought through film, with all the gritty realities, and a truth about it. A reality. Its not fantastical or whimsical y’know? Kinda why I like surrogates too. Takes the whole robot thing and a strings together a tale thats grounded and gritty. Despite Bruce Willis’ death defying stunts, the plot itself it solid.

      PPS Nice to see you again CL! We need to stop bumping into each other like this.

  3. Tim

    We’re gradually – make that rapidly – losing all the things that made Torchwood Torchwood. This was just all filler, wasn’t it? This week: Torchwood does Ocean’s 11. But without the Chinese acrobat. Or Brad Pitt. And some other random stuff with the frumpy girl from St Elmo’s Fire which goes pretty much nowhere.

    Still, at least the green spinning triangle got some character development this week. It says something when a triangle is the most interesting – and rounded, ho ho – character in the show though, doesn’t it?

    I’m also sticking by my theory that RTD pitched a 5-parter to Starz and was asked to turn it into 10. Twice as long as it should be – but less than half as good as it might have been.

    Next week: Gwen talks to camera because the production team ran out of the budget to shoot a full episode. And places that look like concentration camps. Not so much Schindler’s List as shopping list.

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