A wise man (Ashes to Ashes writer Matthew Graham) recently advised me to judge programmes on what they try to achieve, rather than what I want them to achieve.
I have been trying my hardest to apply this, especially where Torchwood: Miracle Day is concerned. But even now, I’m not entirely sure what the aims of Miracle Day are. (A comment from John Barrowman is illuminating though. He has said that he’d rather make a compromised/Americanised Torchwood than not have it on TV at all – without Starz money, Miracle Day wouldn’t have happened afterall.)
Actually I think Miracle Day’s biggest problem may be the gap between what the production team wanted to achieve and what the Torchwood fan base wanted it to achieve. Children of Earth proved that you could change the format and tone of Torchwood without disappointing its fans (well, apart from the ones who are still pissed off that they killed Ianto). For all the darkness at the heart of CoE however, that heart was still pumping Torchwood blood around the body. Miracle Day feels like a mutation too far.
Is a compromised Torchwood better than no Torchwood at all? Have the flashes of good Torchwood been worth the soul-sucking awfulness of some of those early episodes – especially all that ‘we call mobiles cell phones over here’ nonsense? I’m still not sure, even after a good night’s sleep.
Perhaps a quick rattle through the good, the bad and the bearable mechanics of The Blood Line will help me to decide.
(Spoilers below the line…)
Typical. Bloody typical (feel free to read those words in a Welsh accent – they were certainly typed in one). Now that I’m properly hooked, there’s only one more episode of Miracle Day to go. Still, as a soppy old thing at heart, I’m also pleased that Torchwood isn’t letting me down anymore.
Sure, we’re asked to take several leaps of faith in The Gathering (I’ll elaborate below the spoiler line) but viewers who do get some reward this week.
The story rips along with plenty of betrayal, surprises galore and some zippy one-liners too. Welcome back Torchwood, we’ve missed you.
(Spoilers below the line…) Continue reading
Okay, so I take back the snarky Star Trek movie comment. This is an even-numbered episode and it was also good. Pacey, emotional, funny and with added jeopardy and John De Lancie. If the plan is to bring in new viewers to Torchwood (assuming the dreadful early episodes didn’t drive them away) I can see now how it might work.
We pick up this week with Jack coming face to face with Angelo again. But Angelo has survived all those decades not through any kind of miracle (unless you count extraordinary self-control and a lot of luck) – he’s an old man, unconscious, and hooked up to the full gamut of heart monitors, drips etc.
(Spoilers below the line…)
I’m starting to wonder if Miracle Day has taken the Star Trek movies as its template – odd-numbered episodes good, even-numbered ones bad… Or perhaps it’s just lucky number seven, because this week I actually felt like I was watching Torchwood again.
It probably helps that at long last we get some inkling of what the Miracle is all about. It definitely helps that it’s a Jack-centric episode. Some actual aliens are good and there’s a much healthier dose of humour too (from Jack’s confessional to him snarking at Gwen about the number of vowels in Welsh).
(Spoilers below the line…)
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)
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’.
(This week, and every week, spoilers ahoy…)
So, episode two of Russell T Davies’s latest thought experiment rolls on.
There’s plenty of serious consideration given to the consequences of the global miracle this week – brilliant Dr Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur in ridiculous-for-any-woman-but especially-an-ER-doctor high heels) realises that the old system of triage is useless (they need to treat minor injuries first and get beds free for the seriously injured who have all the time in the world to wait for treatment), not to mention that humans are going to become incubators for infection and that bacteria are going to become seriously resistant to antibiotics if they keep treating the living dead with them. It’s all very thoughtful, but it can’t make up for the fact that there isn’t nearly enough Torchwood humour and sexiness going on right now.
We do have jeopardy and plenty of emotions though – Eve Myles giving it her all as she’s torn apart from Rhys and Anwen at Heathrow, and conveying the perfect mix of anger and pleasure at having Jack back to mess up her life. Their relationship continues to be real-life-complicated (one part attraction, two parts annoyance, three parts loyalty etc) and subtly played by Myles and John Barrowman.