Torchwood: Miracle Day – Can we pretend this is the second episode?

At last, Miracle Day has hit the spot it should have done two weeks ago. Finally, I’m engaged with it. I have questions that I really want answered and I’m actually looking forward to next week’s episode (I wouldn’t have said the same about this one at half eight tonight).

The key to this episode are the categories of life – decided by those medical panels Dr Vera has been sitting on – and being enforced with a frightening combination of ruthless efficiency and chaotic incompetence. Category Ones are the living dead, Category Threes are the healthy, ‘normal’ living people, Category Twos are the inbetweens – the ones who are injured or ill (Rex, Gwen’s dad) and who should have died but who are still conscious. (I liked Esther’s fourth category – Category Jack – which frankly applies at all times in the Whoniverse).

(SPOILERS BELOW THE LINE)

It’s the Categories that drive Dr Juarez to join Torchwood and fight the Big Bad – and that’s even before she’s heard the British Prime Minister describe the decision to send all Category One and Two people into the overflow camps as “a new age of care and compassion”. (Insert your own satire based on actual Conservative health policies here…)

Gwen sneaks back into Wales to get her dad out of the overflow camp by going undercover as a nurse – unfortunately when she and Rhys try to hustle him into the lorry to escape, he has another heart attack and gets reclassified as Category One.

Back in California, the rest of Torchwood is also planning to infiltrate the San Pedro overflow camp to discover the secret of the Modules – mysterious buildings photoshopped from satellite photos. Rex goes in as a Category Two, Esther as admin and Dr Vera as an ‘inspector’ from Washington. Jack is deemed too vulnerable – what with being mortal – and left behind to stay out of trouble (badly, as Steven Moffat once wrote of the Doctor).

In other news Jilly Kitzinger remains an enigma – she seems to becoming a little more unhinged each week. Who could blame her, having to spend so much time with a man she clearly reviles? Yet, she seems to be happy to toe the company line and when the company is Phicorp you can’t feel much sympathy for her.

And going back to Jack staying out of trouble (or not), he stalks Danes backstage at the Miracle Rally and tries to persuade him to use his time on stage to reveal the truth about Phicorp, to become a real hero. It doesn’t work (though Danes doesn’t exactly stick to Jilly’s script either – eulogising that humans have taken a great leap forward and become angels) and now Jilly has a photo of our favourite soldier boy. This is certain to be bad news. Also, why is the word ‘revelation’ so important? Is it just a ‘go’ word, or is there more to it?

Back in San Pedro, the three American Torchwooders have successfully got into the camp. Esther sneaks Rex a camcorder and with a bit of peg switching, he gets reclassified as a Category One and wheeled out to a Module where he can sneak around and record what’s going on – the Modules seem to be a basic storage area – people dumped on beds and locked away inside metal sheds.

The lovely Dr Juarez meanwhile is lumbered with the type of ‘genial’ patronising racist/sexist that makes your teeth grind. Colin Maloney (ooh, Ecklie from CSI) is the administrator for the camp and doesn’t take kindly to Vera’s criticisms of the appalling conditions (especially for those without health insurance…). I say doesn’t take kindly, what I mean is he grabs a handgun from a nearby solidier and shoots her in the legs. Then he coerces the poor young solidier (who, to be fair is trying to help Vera) into dumping her inside one of the Modules.

And now, at last, we get a taste of the darkness that Torchwood is good at. The true purpose of the Modules is revealed as Rex tries and fails to get Vera out, and Maloney activates the Module – it’s a giant oven. They are cremating living people… It’s a genuinely horrifying moment as the clues click together and the flames jet into the room and poor Dr Vera finds out (though only briefly) what really happens to people who join Torchwood. And who says it’s only Steven Moffat who can tap into people’s darkest fears?

I’m left wondering if the Big Bad is planning to get humans to empty the planet for them? Perhaps they’ve seen the genocidal maniacs at work over the years and realised that the simplest thing is to get people to carry out the atrocities themselves in the name of preserving ‘decent’ humans?

Only time will tell.

Good bits (so many more than last week – hurrah!):

  • Rhys joking that he left Anwen with petrol and a cigarette lighter – because judging by how much the baby enjoyed Mummy’s shooting in episode one, I think she could be more of a danger to others than herself with these things…
  • Gwen shares my hatred of babies in head-to-toe pink, especially those horrid (and unneccessary) baby headbands.
  • It’s clear that Gwen’s mum could be a Torchwood recruit too. RTD does write some brilliant women – from Rose and Martha to Gwen and Tosh, they aren’t screaming and waiting for a man to rescue them.
  • Jack baiting Rex as he’s loaded into the ambulance by the paramedics: “You look after him. I love him – that crazy old boyfriend of mine…”
  • The San Pedro coloured clothes peg triage system – though let’s hope David Cameron and co aren’t watching. We don’t want to give them any ideas (although they’d probably ask us to bring our own pegs in to save money…
  • Patronising Colin Maloney to Vera: “Well look at you, you’re thin as a twig, bet you’d snap easily…” Vera: “I’m getting there yeah…”
  • Maloney hearing rumours that Phil Collins was going to appear at the Miracle Rally… again insert your own joke here.
  • Danes is the ‘man who has lost heaven forever’. It seems wrong that such an odious man should get such a poetic line.

Posted by Jo the Hat

4 Comments

Filed under Drama

4 responses to “Torchwood: Miracle Day – Can we pretend this is the second episode?

  1. Corumba Love

    Well hello again JtH

    Saw this, the US version of the ep earlier in the week (as, I suspect, are you doing on a regular basis – either that or you’re an Andrew Marr type journo who cranks out print ready prose without need of subs) and was dying to say that it gets TW right back on form.

    Keeping it brief this week, after that last essay of mine (thanks Nikki for responding) but will say this: those ovens were heralded (that’s an angel term, see) early on where you could see clearly the gas feeds and the chimneys. Two eps in a row where a slightly-less-than-major character is wiped out in a gruesome way. yay.

    I do wonder whether Philco (whoever) are as much a dupe as the rest when it comes to Big Bad. Also, left/right politics aside, a lesson learned time and again in The House of CL is that Governments and Authority are as clueless as the rest of us in times of Apocalypse. Best to ignore and cross the sea to Skye.

    • Hi Corumba! (as Bart Simpson would say – sorry, I bet you get that a lot.)
      No, I don’t have access to the US version sadly, so I watch on Thursday night and then type like crazy while the thoughts are still fresh (not always the best approach).
      I’m still not loving this iteration of Torchwood, but it has at least perked up a bit this week. I’m with Tim (see last week’s comments) on this being 50% padding. They should have stuck with the five-episode arc I think.
      Let’s hope next week can keep the momentum going.

  2. Paul

    I don’t know – gas ovens and concentration camps? RTD is a bit obsessed by them, don’t you think? And for my money, he’s already done this theme with much less portentiousness in “Turn Left” towards the end of season 4 of Doctor Who.

    Maybe I’m just a bit bitter that he decided to kill off Dr Vera, who was my favourite character amongst the new ones – though I did like the unhinged administrator, and Oswald Danes getting off on being the centre of attention.

    Jack’s “plan” seemed a bit daft, too – turn up before someone who has no reason to trust or like you and ask him to do the right thing? Never gonna work. Though maybe we’re supposed to think that Jack just had to find something to do while everyone else was doing their secret agent bit infiltrating the concentration camps.

    I DID find myself thinking “Soylent Green, Soylent Green” along the journey there – but I’m sort of disappointed at another heavy handed reference to facism and concentration camps being just a few weeks of crisis behind the facades of democracy – and I now find myself wondering what the people pulling the strings get out of making it impossible for people to die, then processing them through gas ovens – unless this whole thing is some kind of big distraction to keep the humans offbalance with the real thing is happening somewhere else.

  3. Tim

    Definitely an improvement this week, but still some way short of Children of Earth.

    I admire RTD’s ambition with the scale of his story, but yet again his allegories are far from subtle. I wonder if PhiCorp has a secret logo which resembles a swastika? And although the horrors are ramping up nicely week by week – poor Dr Juarez, but that’s what happens when you have a heterosexual fling in an RTD story – but I found myself laughing a bit, which I’m pretty sure isn’t what RTD intended. I just keep getting this mental image of a talented but desperate-to-please scribe writing bigger and bigger pay-offs where you get the episode’s big shock horror and then he jumps out of the background shouting “Ta-dah!”

    And, at the risk of agreeing with myself, this definitely felt like where we should have got to at the end of the second episode. Instead we have had 5 episodes, and 60% has genuinely felt like padding.

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