Torchwood: Miracle Day [Series 4] (May 28 - Jun 3, 5, 7, 9)

May 28: "The New World"
May 29: "Rendition"
May 30: "Dead of Night"
May 31: "Escape to L.A."
June 1: "The Categories of Life"
June 2: "The Middle Men"
June 3: "Immortal Sins"
June 5: "End of the Road"
June 7: "The Gathering"
June 9: "The Blood Line"

May 28: "The New World"

It's the thing I'm not really sure anyone expected.  Torchwood: Children of Earth ended pretty definitively; yes, they'd saved the planet and the children, but the cost to Torchwood had been dear and Captain Jack had in fact left the planet at the end.  A bleak ending, to be sure, but it was an ending.

But then an American premium cable network, Starz, decided to co-produce another series with the BBC (after a rumored deal with Fox (which had aired the Paul McGann movie in the US) fell through), and so Torchwood was back, now in a trans-Atlantic form but still helmed by Russell T Davies.  And, understandably but something of a first, new episodes premiered in the US a week before they aired in the UK.  (However, I'll be conforming to UK airdates where relevant, in keeping with earlier non-UK shows like K-9.)

This first episode is an impressive opening, to be sure.  Miracle Day is clearly intended to be a mini-series like Children of Earth was (albeit twice as long), and "The New World" does a good job of setting up the basic premise while keeping everything taut and involving.  It's a simple idea -- suddenly, no one in the world can die -- but it's explored with some thought.  The most obvious exploration is the character of CIA agent Rex Matheson, who is impaled through the chest but doesn't die.  "You should've died last night," Dr. Vera Juarez tells Rex, "but when this thing happened, the Miracle, it gave me time to fix you.  Without the Miracle, you'd be dead."  What's not clear, however, is whether Rex can actually heal, and what will happen when the Miracle ends.  "Do I die?" he asks Vera, but she doesn't have an answer.

We also see the aftermath of Children of Earth for Gwen and Rhys, as they're living in a farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere, continually worried that someone will find them and either take them away or kill them.  The scene where Gwen is talking to the two hikers with a gun held behind her back is evidence that Gwen is still dealing with extreme paranoia.  (Correctly, it turns out, if the knowing looks the two hikers give each other afterwards are as significant as they're made to appear.)  But Gwen and Rhys have a beautiful daughter, Anwen, and they need to make certain she'll be safe.

Rex, Jack, Rhys, and Gwen watch as a helicopter is about to
crash into them. ("The New World") ©BBC Worldwide, Limited
But as I said, it's the exploration of the idea of immortality that makes this interesting.  Not only do we have Rex, and the discussions between Gwen and PC Andy Davidson (Hooray!  Another returning cast member) pointing out that this miracle is targeted specifically at humans but that this will cause the world population to explode exponentially and all the problems with food and space that that entails, but we're also presented with the character of Oswald Danes, a convicted pedophile and murderer who was about to be executed by lethal injection when the Miracle happened.  They've gotten in Bill Pullman to play Danes -- no mean feat, given the star quality he brings -- and he chooses to play Danes as slimy and conniving; even when he's being executed he gives off an air of unlikability, and afterwards he's even more distasteful.  Then there are things like the man sent to kill Captain Jack, who is at the center of the explosion at the CIA Archives but is still alive, despite being horrifically burned -- and as we learn in a quite gruesome scene, even when his head is removed from his body he remains alive.

However, this is Torchwood, and so of course Torchwood is somehow at the heart of it all.  A message went out around the world that simply read TORCHWOOD at the exact same time the miracle happened -- it's not a coincidence, but it wasn't from Torchwood themselves, either.  It got Captain Jack's attention, though.  Someone clearly wants to tie the Miracle to Torchwood, but who and for what purpose remains a mystery.  Still, it intrigues Rex enough to go find the surviving members, so that he can extradite them to the United States in connection with the Miracle...

Gorgeously scripted and shot, with fine acting all around and a story that intrigues and doesn't let up, "The New World" is a stylish new beginning for Torchwood.  If they maintain this level of quality over the next nine episodes, Miracle Day will be an absolute winner.

May 29: "Rendition"

Torchwood continues strong with this second episode of Miracle Day.  "Rendition" (or "Renditions", if you're going by the iTunes intro) is primarily about two things: Jack and Gwen's flight across the Atlantic (Rhys gets left behind with Anwen), and Rex's CIA colleague Esther Drummond being pulled into this Torchwood conspiracy and set up as a patsy.  Sure, there are some other things going on involving the consequences of the Miracle (such as Vera working out that they were treating patients in the wrong order, now that no one can die), and we're introduced to the character of Jilly Kitzinger, a public relations representative who's so perky and calculatedly scatter-brained that it kind of rubs you the wrong way, but those often feel like background details while we focus on other things.

Jack is poisoned. ("Rendition") ©BBC Worldwide, Limited
One of those things is a conspiracy within the CIA against Rex and Esther, purely because of their investigation of Torchwood -- somebody out there really doesn't want people to learn about the connection between Torchwood and the Miracle.  Not that Torchwood understands it yet either.  But as Rex says, "I don't think you actually know anything. ... What you are is connected.  And someone has made a link between that old Institute of yours and the Miracle.  And now they want to kill you for it.  So we work out what the connection is, and then we start to solve it."  Jack has a theory, involving morphic fields233 being reversed (which is why he can be injured and not heal -- as Rhys puts it, "Everything mortal becomes immortal, so everything immortal becomes mortal"), but as of right now it's little more than a theory.  It's enough to worry the conspiracy, though (whose face is currently that of CIA agent Brian Friedkin, as played by Wayne Knight -- perhaps still best known as Newman from the sitcom Seinfeld), so they try to poison Jack, which leads to an exciting sequence on the airplane as they try to save the only mortal man left alive on the planet.  I like the way they're tearing up the plating on the plane to get what they need to save Jack, and how Gwen punches out the awful smug Lyn Peterfield with one right hook (sorry, Dichen Lachman was recently on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and I have some issues with her character (not her acting -- she was good) that I'm still working through).  It's a good sequence.

And this conspiracy definitely don't want Torchwood finding out what's going on, so not only do they try to kill Jack but they also start taking care of anyone working on the Torchwood case.  So not only is Rex set up, but Esther makes the mistake of telling Friedkin that she'd been working closely with Rex on the Torchwood case, which makes her a target as well.  That's also a tense scene, as she steals a fellow agent's badge to get out of the building before the conspiracy's men grab her -- but Esther is smart (for now), so she makes her way out of there unscathed.  It's a nice way of showing her thrown into this fugitive role that she was completely unprepared for but still able to think intelligently about her situation and thus get away.  (Sadly, this won't last.)

Those are the main parts of the episode, and they're easily entertaining enough to keep this story going.  As Gwen says at the end, "Welcome to Torchwood", and it's hard to think of a better introduction than what we've gotten these past two episodes.  Keep it up, guys.

May 30: "Dead of Night"

This episode isn't quite as good as the last two, as it's primarily an episode in a holding pattern.  The biggest advancement of the plot is that the drug company Phicorp (and note the similarity to real-world pharmaceutical company Pfizer) has been stockpiling pain medications for a long time: they knew the Miracle was coming and they were ready for it.  But we learn this in the first 15 minutes, and then the rest of the time is spent waiting, it seems.  It's a nice reveal, to be sure, with the gigantic warehouse filled with painkillers, but after that there's a sense of wheel-spinning.  Jack goes off to get drunk and laid, while Rex quits the team, gets laid himself, and then comes back.  I suppose if you're a fan of butts this is exciting stuff, and I suppose they had to show Jack's lifestyle, but in terms of the larger storyline it feels rather irrelevant.

Jilly Kitzinger and Dr. Vera Juarez. ("Dead of Night") ©BBC
Worldwide, Limited
I get that this episode is moving pieces into position for further down the line, as Vera realizes that pain medications are going to be the next big need, Oswald Danes starts his media ascendancy, Jack has a confrontation with Phicorp (via Danes), and Gwen steals some information (hopefully) on Phicorp.  But it's a rather joyless episode -- not that this storyline is particularly happy, but there've been flashes of cleverness.  Here, however, it's more an exercise in plot functions, and little here is particularly surprising or exciting.

I suspect I'm making things sound worse than they are.  It's not a bad episode by any means -- it remains entertaining throughout, and toward the end, as Gwen infiltrates Phicorp while Jack goes to find Danes, things start to pick up.  It's just not up to the high standards Miracle Day had set for itself, as it does start to sag in the middle.  But if a bit boring is the worst things get, they should be just fine.  Just so long as this isn't the start of a slow slide into mediocrity.

(Oh, and I keep meaning to mention it, but... with all the media coverage we've seen within this series so far, where's Trinity Wells, the newsreader who would always show up on Doctor Who, Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures to let us know how the world felt about things?  It feels like a weird omission, given that they've gone to the trouble to get so many other recurring characters from previous series in this.)

May 31: "Escape to L.A."

Hmm.  Torchwood: Miracle Day seems to have slowed its story down rather, as this is another episode that's largely concerned with setup.  However, the events of "Escape to L.A." largely play out as a consequence of Esther's actions at the beginning, as she goes to visit her sister, who "can't cope", in her words.  And because she does so, Torchwood is followed, from Washington D.C. to the west coast of the United States.

Oswald Danes decides to speak up for those who should be dead.
("Escape to L.A.") ©BBC Worldwide, Limited
But for most of the episode, the primary concern is the rising concerns of what to do with the people who should be dead but aren't.  There's a rather awful woman named Ellis Hartley Monroe -- described as "the darling of the Tea Party" -- who advocates segregation of those who should be dead with her "Dead is Dead" campaign.  She seems to be in this episode for two reasons: first, to act as a spokesperson for the less compassionate point of view that would likely arise in such a situation, but more importantly, to act as a foil for Oswald Danes, a counterpoint to him as he continues his rise.  We're meant to see how his message of acceptance is more powerful than Hartley's more hateful message, and that's ironic, given Danes's past and the conversation he had with Jack at the end of the previous episode.  It's a child murderer who Phicorp are using to get their message across, a message of acceptance that will of course also lead to more sales of pain meds for Phicorp.

But of course Torchwood is working against Phicorp, trying to work out what they're up to, and slowly but surely they're making progress.  Now they know that they have to steal a server out of Phicorp, which is what the second half of this episode is about, and this is the part where the person hired by the Delta group (my term for them, since they seem to contact people with a direct line that has a capital Greek letter delta on the display) starts to take out Torchwood.  "This is all your fault!" Rex yells at Esther after she reveals she went to visit her sister -- and it's true that three people nearly...well, not die, because the Miracle, but end up in really poor shape (and, of course, Jack could die).  It's here that we also get a hint that Jack's connected to this, thanks to an event in his past.  "What did you give them so long ago?" the assassin asks Jack, but Jack doesn't know, and before the assassin can give some names to help jar Jack's memory Rex shoots the assassin through the throat.  But at least they know something.

It's an exciting sequence, but it does start to feel like Miracle Day is starting to just spin its wheels as it concentrates on filling out its ten episodes.  As with the previous episode, "Escape to L.A." isn't bad (and it looks like Esther learned an important lesson), but I hope they start things moving soon.

June 1: "The Categories of Life"

The last four episodes of Miracle Day have been about this Miracle and the conspiracy of people who brought it about, with Torchwood trying to uncover them and reverse it back, and while we've had updates of how the world is coping with these new rules, they frequently take a backseat to learning more about who's behind things.  But now we've almost reached the halfway point for the series, and Miracle Day chooses to focus not on the conspiracy but on the human cost.  This is a story about how we cope, and the answer that comes back isn't encouraging.

It's easy enough to watch Torchwood do its thing, but the advent of these "overflow camps" is independent of Torchwood and feels entirely like scared people doing the wrong thing.  Sure, they attempt to tie Phicorp into them, but you're no wiser at the end of the episode than when we started -- even the plausible "they're using brain dead people to experiment on so that they can unleash new diseases that they can then sell medicine for" idea isn't true, and you start to wonder why Phicorp was brought up at all.  Because this doesn't feel like an evil faceless corporation's act; no, this is just how people react.

Esther and Vera infiltrate the San Pedro Overflow Camp. ("The
Categories of Life") ©BBC Worldwide, Limited
The clever thing about "The Categories of Life" is how it turns the actions of the people calling themselves Torchwood back on themselves.  Gwen's father has another heart attack because Gwen tries to get him out of bed and out of the overflow camp.  Vera's work on how to treat patients in this new world has been subverted into deciding who has to be moved into the camps and how to classify people based on their current medical condition.  Rex is responsible for Vera coming out west to help Torchwood, ultimately putting her in danger.  We saw last time that actions have consequences, and that's brought home here.

The biggest "event" (for lack of a better term) in this episode is Vera's inspection of the San Pedro camp, which is being run by a racist, sexist paper pusher named Colin Maloney (no, it's not exactly a subtle character) who's been hiding all the problems with the camp (such as sticking people without insurance in buildings on filthy beds and leaving them unattended) and is in fact willing to commit murder (or the nearest equivalent post-Miracle) to avoid prosecution.  It's a shocking moment, watching him shoot Vera, and it's even more shocking watching him place her in the mysterious modules that the Category 1 patients (aka the brain-dead and unresponsive) are being kept in, and turning on the incinerator.  It's a dark secret -- the Category 1 patients are being burned alive -- and it's one that hits home, as Vera is trapped inside and Rex (who's also snuck into the camp to find out what's going on) can only watch and film her demise, presumably so that he can use it as evidence.

The "next time" trailer makes it clear that the situation at San Pedro isn't over by any means, but "The Categories of Life" doesn't exactly feel like the sort of episode we've expected from Miracle Day.  It's a far more straightforward exploration of how low humanity can sink, but it's handled with reasonable care -- to the point where the scenes with Danes and Jack, which are more how the rest of the series has been, feel somewhat intrusive.  I don't know that the show could sustain another episode like this one, but "The Categories of Life" is an episode definitely worth doing.

June 2: "The Middle Men"

The big problem with "The Middle Men" is that it has almost nothing new to say.  Its most interesting scenes only take up something like five minutes of screen time, and the rest is filled with people being horrible to each other.  But we've already seen humanity being awful last time -- this doesn't add anything to our understanding of the bigger picture, and none of the conversations we witness deepen our appreciation for the story.

Stuart Owens is confronted by Jack. ("The Middle Men") ©BBC
Worldwide, Limited
The best scenes involve Ernie Hudson (probably still best known as Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters) as Stuart Owens, the chief operations officer for Phicorp, trying to find out more about the Miracle.  He only gets two scenes here -- one at the beginning where he tries to get more information about some property in Shanghai, and one conversation with Jack -- but they're far and away the most interesting thing on display here.  He's as much in the dark as Torchwood, but he also wants to know what's going on.  "I'm not a bad man, Captain," Stuart says.  "I'm not a good one, either.  I'm a middle man in every sense of the word. ... You don't believe me.  You think I'm the epitome of evil, the devil in a three piece suit."  "In my experience, that's how it works," Jack replies.  "Your experience must be rather simple," Stuart says.  "You have a rather archaic view of good versus evil, don't you?"  It's an interesting conversation that moves the story forward more than the rest of this episode's running time.  "I'm sorry, Captain, but Phicorp isn't controlling this.  Profiting, yes, but this is part of a much larger design way beyond any of us."

The rest of the episode involves the aftereffects of the events of "The Categories of Life": Rex is trying to sneak out of the San Pedro Overflow Camp with the video evidence he's collected, while Gwen is still trying to get her dad out of the Cowbridge Camp in Wales.  Gwen is railing against the doctor who's employing the Nuremberg Defense as she marks people for burning, while Rex is caught and handed over to the camp's director, who decides he has to take care of Rex as well, after Rex mentions that he has evidence that Vera was murdered.  The San Pedro portion adds nothing to the overall story, other than showing us that Colin Maloney isn't happy about what he did but doesn't want to be caught and having Esther turn Colin into a Category 1 patient -- except we find out that she didn't actually, and it's only the actions of Maloney's attaché Ralph that save Esther.  And while it's exciting how Gwen blows up the ovens at Cowbridge, it doesn't really add much to the narrative.

In other words, most of this episode is simply spinning its wheels, content to do little more than reinforce points made more eloquently and subtly (if such a thing can be believed, as "The Categories of Life" was hardly subtle in its approach) in the previous installment.  Perhaps the events witnessed here will have a larger impact down the line, but as it stands now, "The Middle Men" is largely redundant.

June 3: "Immortal Sins"

So the last episode ended with Gwen's family being held hostage until she delivers Jack to a certain location.  This episode sees Gwen tying Jack up and taking him to the arranged place.  But that's just a small part of "Immortal Sins" -- the main part is an extended flashback, showing Jack in New York in 1927 and what he got up to.  It's a bit of an odd flashback, however, in that it's for the benefit of the audience, rather than Jack remembering -- he still doesn't know what he did "so long ago" that led to the Miracle.

Angelo and Jack. ("Immortal Sins") ©BBC Worldwide, Limited
The flashback is kind of interesting -- Jack befriends an Italian immigrant named Angelo Colasanto (played by Daniele Favilli) and then quickly takes him as a lover, before getting him involved in Jack's life of strange happenings.  They're rather sweet scenes and nicely character-driven, even if they are a tad slow-moving -- but then, this flashback isn't about the story, it's about the relationship between the two men.  It seems to be going well for a while -- Jack even contemplates taking Angelo along as his "companion", much like the Doctor does (and hey, our first explicit mention of the Doctor in Miracle Day), and even shows him an alien lifeform that's going to be used by "the Trickster's brigade" (so not just a Doctor Who reference, but a Sarah Jane Adventures one too) that Angelo copes remarkably well with.  So of course it goes wrong when Jack is shot in the head by the police in front of Angelo, who's taken away to prison for a year.

But when Angelo is released, Jack's waiting for him, which leads to the second part of the flashback, as Angelo thinks Jack is the devil, as he can't die.  This leads to Jack strung up and tortured by people who want to see what happens to the immortal man -- and it also leads to people collecting his blood and making an agreement to own him (which they make with an odd handshake that looks, from above, like a triangle -- so we're clearly meant to make the connection between them and the mysterious "Families" behind the Miracle).  Angelo sets him free, but apparently the fire has gone out of the relationship for Jack.  He says it's because he doesn't want to watch Angelo grow old and die (which is an awful lot like the Doctor's comments to Rose in "School Reunion"), but one gets the feeling that it's really because of Angelo's betrayal, even if Angelo feels remorse about what happened.  "They said you were the devil, but other people said you were a blessing," he tells Jack (which seemingly ties him into the "Blessing" mentioned last episode by Stuart Owens).  But it doesn't matter how Angelo feels; Jack disappears, leaving Angelo alone.

So, given this extended flashback, it's hardly a surprise that the woman who told Gwen to bring Jack (played by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Nana Visitor -- boy, they got all the genre actors in this series, didn't they?) is working for Angelo.  It's nice how Torchwood regains control of the situation at the end, though; "Next time, just ask for help," Rex chastises Gwen, after having followed her and trained a gun on Jack's would-be kidnappers.  "I'm sick of Torchwood acting like amateur clowns."

It's an interesting episode that provides us with some useful background, and it fills in some details and finally gives Jack the opportunity to take center stage (after having spent a number of episodes in the background).  If it weren't for the fact that "The Middle Men" also gave us an extended pause, this would be a good break from the action.  As it is, while "Immortal Sins" is nice, Miracle Day had better pick the pace back up soon.

June 5: "End of the Road"

It's odd; on the one hand there's a sense of finally getting somewhere with the storyline, as we learn about the Families and the Blessing, but on the other hand I'm not sure we actually learn much of anything new by the end of the episode.  Well, I mean we've learned a lot of things -- Angelo had been watching Jack from afar all this time, those three men forming a partnership for control of Jack maintained their relationship as the Families, Angelo's worked out a way to die, Charlotte Wills is working for the Families -- but there's little here in the way of major revelations.  Or, to put it in Doctor Who terms, we're eight episodes in and we're still basically in part two of a four-part story.

There are some nice moments here -- the picture of Jack with a moustache is particularly great, and I like the way CIA official Allen Shapiro (John de Lancie, probably still best known as Q from various Star Trek series -- so yes, another well-known genre actor) immediately takes charge from the second he appears.  This is a man who will brook no nonsense and doesn't care who knows it -- the way he has Gwen deported just to get what he wants, without a second thought, is a perfect example of this.  And it really is special how Jack slowly comes to the realization that no, Angelo really is dying from old age, in defiance of everything we know about this new death-free world.

Esther and Rex listen to Jack as he operates the null field
panel. ("End of the Road") ©BBC Worldwide, Limited
Of course, this leads to the big moment at the end.  Halfway way through the episode, it finally looked like Torchwood would have to stop running, as Shapiro seemed willing to listen without locking them up or killing them.  (Well, except for the "deporting Gwen" thing, but that was to gain leverage against Jack.)  But then they discover the null field generator panel thing -- "I knew this stuff the second I saw it," Jack tells Rex and Esther.  "Yes, it's alien technology.  The only examples of it on Earth were in the Torchwood hub.  They were buried in the ruins. ... [Angelo] must have salvaged it, knowing the Miracle was coming" -- and Jack knows he has to head out on the run with the piece that makes the generator work, lest it fall into the wrong hands, as the generator could give people "control over life and death, and we've seen that that doesn't work."  So it's back to being a fugitive for Jack and Esther -- although Jack's been shot while trying to escape, so that might go badly in the next episode.

But despite things like this, we don't actually learn much.  We confirm that those three men making the agreement are behind the Miracle and that they're known as the Families, and we learn that their last names are Ablemarch, Costerdane, and Frines (and that they've been incredibly good at erasing those names from all records), and that the Miracle is tied to something called the Blessing -- which might be related to Jack but isn't actually his blood.  And that's really about it.  It's an entertaining episode, and it does feel like they're finally getting this story back on track, but those hoping to learn what's really going on will have to wait.

June 7: "The Gathering"

It's been two months since the last episode, and the world has gone to hell since then.  Which begs a larger question for Doctor Who -- how is it that we never hear about these events outside of Miracle Day itself?  Even allowing that there seems to be about a year's gap between "The Big Bang" and "The Impossible Astronaut", the Miracle lasts for something like three months starting in March 2011 (Rex's bank transfer text in "Rendition" is dated 22-MAR-11), with the Western world collapsing and China closing its borders and things generally going to hell -- and yet in the midst of this, on 22 April 2011, Amy and Rory meet the Doctor at Lake Silencio in Utah.  And not once do we see them mention this to the Doctor, or wonder how he could be dead in the midst of the Miracle, or anything like this.  At least in the past, there were token efforts to keep all the spin-offs more or less lined up (even allowing for things like no one mentioning to the Doctor that a giant devil materialized over Cardiff for an hour or so) -- but now that Torchwood and Doctor Who don't really share a production office (even if much of the UK crew still overlaps), it seems the same efforts aren't being made.

Rex asks Shapiro permission to head to Argentina. ("The
Gathering") ©BBC Worldwide, Limited
And while it's sort of interesting to see how society has begun its slow collapse into a depression, as the Miracle carries on and the overflow camps are reopened ("It's funny, isn't it?" Gwen remarks.  "When they first opened the camps, we all protested.  Second time we're all too busy looking after ourselves"), it doesn't make for the most thrilling television ever.  We see that Rex and Shapiro have spent two months chasing down the Families, only to come up with nothing, while Gwen is trying to keep her father hidden from the authorities -- and Esther and Jack are hiding out in Scotland, doing little better.  I suppose we should be thankful they skipped over those two months, but really, other than showing that things have gotten really bad little has changed since last time.  Jilly Kitzinger's storyline hasn't even advanced yet.

But the nice thing about "The Gathering" is that we do finally start to get some answers.  Torchwood works out where the Blessing is, thanks to a tip-off from Oswald Danes of all people (nice that he's finally being integrated into the story; despite Jack's claims that Oswald needed watching, he hadn't really been relevant to the conspiracy storyline), and we're starting to see people moved into position to deal with it.  Plus we finally get to actually see the Blessing, although it's not very clear what it is: some sort of fissure that sucks in stuff and runs all the way through the Earth that makes people feel weird when they look at it, but that's it.  We still don't know exactly how it was used to make everyone immortal, or what the hell Phicorp or the Families' endgame actually is, but we're getting closer.  Of course there's still Charlotte Wills in the CIA to deal with, along with the fact that it looks like she'll be able to warn the Families that Torchwood has discovered them, in Buenos Aires at least, so we're not out of the woods yet.

I probably could have done without the jump forward in time, but at least "The Gathering" starts to finally bring everything together in a satisfying way.  The final episode next time has a lot of questions to answer satisfactorily, but some of those answers start to appear here, rather than simply leaving us hanging until the very end.  That said, they still have a long way to go and not much time left...

June 9: "The Blood Line"

Hmm.  Something of a damp squib, this one.  "The Gathering" ended with a number of key questions unanswered, and "The Blood Line" generally refuses to answer any of them.  What exactly is the Blessing?  Dunno.  How did the Families find it, or even know it existed?  No clue (other than some waffling about average life expectancies in Shanghai).  What is the Families' actual plan?  Something about tearing down the old society and replacing it with their own, although the details are left vague.  (And surely there are easier ways of destroying the world's economy -- but I guess they wanted the immortality as well.)

Jack and Gwen gaze upon the Blessing. ("The Blood Line") ©BBC
Worldwide, Limited
So we've got this deus ex machina running through the planet, without even a fig leaf of an explanation, and when Torchwood finally gets there it takes them forever to do anything about it.  Instead we get all sorts of speeches from everybody which go on forever and don't actually tell us anything, and we even get the Families' representatives laughing at Jack's foolishness of thinking his mortal blood in Shanghai could fix things, which leads to even more speeches from Jack and Rex.  And while, to be fair, the shooting of Esther is a shocking moment, Torchwood still takes forever to end the Miracle.  Seriously, Gwen, just shoot Jack and be done with it.

Look, that's not to say that there aren't good moments in this.  The standoff between the Families and Torchwood is still rather entertaining, despite its length, and the scenes inside the CIA are genuinely compelling.  (And I'm still mad at Charlotte Wills' duplicitousness, but at least she gets a comeuppance of a sort at the end.)  There are also some exciting action moments mixed with quiet, touching scenes (Andy Davison holding the hand of the unidentified Category 1 girl is really sweet) that add to the balance.  It's just that this is the finale of the whole story -- they've been building to this for the previous nine weeks, and the final result isn't the impressive climax it should have been.  Miracle Day needed this episode to deliver in a big way, and it just doesn't.  It's an OK episode, but it falls short of the mark that it really needed to hit.

But that rather sums up Miracle Day as well.  It's an interesting concept and a fantastic opener, but the goodwill that "The New World" engendered ends up being squandered as they spend too much time dealing with side issues instead of the main event.  Ten episodes was simply too long, and while the slack was often picked up in somewhat interesting ways, it still was evidently slack.  All that matched with a finale that fails to truly deliver means that Miracle Day isn't the strong installment of Torchwood that it initially seemed it would be.

Of course, part of the issue might be that "The Blood Line" ends with some unresolved issues.  Yes, the Miracle was reversed, but the Families are still out there plotting (with Jilly Kitzinger working for them), while Rex apparently also has the same immortality that Jack has.  ("You, World War II, what did you do to me?" Rex demands in the final line of the episode.)  However, to date we haven't gotten another series of Torchwood -- apparently Starz was satisfied with ratings and amenable to doing more, but Russell T Davies' return to the UK put Torchwood's future on hold.  It's therefore somewhat ironic how definitely Children of Earth ended, and yet we got another series, but Miracle Day's open-ended finale hasn't been followed up on.  (Maybe Big Finish will explore it, now that they've announced they'll be doing Torchwood audios, with Davies' blessing.)

So that was Torchwood -- a show that started out very shakily but slowly got better and better, to the point where Children of Earth was must-see television, and while Miracle Day didn't quite reach those heights, they still did a decent job.  Torchwood was frequently a difficult show to love, but in their efforts to make a more "adult" companion to Doctor Who they largely succeeded (once they recalibrated their ideas of "adult" to not simply be lots of sex and violence).  I can see how it's not to everyone's tastes, but if you can get through that first series (so maybe just skip it altogether) then there's a fair amount to enjoy.  Not bad for Doctor Who's first ongoing spinoff.

(Oh, and it should be noted that after "The Blood Line" I watched "Web of Lies", which was a 10-part "motion comic" with puzzles available online to accompany Miracle Day.  The DVD presents it minus the puzzles, but unless you're a huge Eliza Dushku fan, don't bother -- it doesn't add anything to the Miracle Day storyline, and it's not interesting enough in its own right to warrant your attention.)


233 Morphic resonance is a "theory" from Rupert Sheldrake that suggests that all members of a species are linked together and influenced by special morphic fields, which means that if someone does something somewhere then it's more likely that someone somewhere else will do/learn the same thing.  It's supposed to provide an explanation for how you can sense that someone is looking at you behind your back, among other things.  It's not accepted by the scientific community because it can't actually be tested experimentally and seems to be unfalsifiable.  About Time 5, while acknowledging that it's generally nonsense, advance it as a possibility for how evolution works in the Doctor Who universe, so they were probably pleased by this confirmation.