14 Aug

Good news for fellow telly masochists – Torchwood: Miracle Day, which has thus far been pretty terrible, got slightly and temporarily better last week. Or is that bad news? Either way, this post contains big spoilers for episodes five and six.

It may have taken half a season, but Categories of Life was when Torchwood – finally – got properly grim. All over the planet, the sort-of dead are being wheeled into cramped, heavily guarded camps with a moderate to good chance of ending up in a giant oven and burned to ash. Naturally, nobody outside of Jack Harkness’s Christmas card list is batting an eyelid, and so the US contingent of Torchwood go undercover inside the Los Angeles camp while Gwen, who is still barely a more capable secret agent than a shoebox filled with bark shavings, tries and fails to remove her father from a similar camp back in Wales, giving him another heart attack in the process. Well, she tried? I guess?

The hell if I'm dealing with iPlayer again for screenshots, so here's a promo image showing one of the most thrilling moments from Ep.6 - Captain Jack looking at a screen.

Things go even worse for Team USA, when Dr. Vera – a character who had yet to do much other than take fag breaks between stroking Rex’s ego – goads the camp’s clearly unstable, bigoted director into shooting her in both legs and dumping her in one of the ovens, burning her alive. Jesus Christ! Whilst Vera’s decision to wait until she, Colin the Psycho Director and his chubby Army lackey were in the most secluded part of the camp before furiously listing his failings and starting a shoving match displayed an improbably poor judgement for someone with a medical degree, it’s about time the show strapped some on and killed off a central character, brutally and without warning. It’s not that I’m sat here with a giant foam finger that reads “MORE DEAD KIDS”, but Torchwood is definitely at it’s best when it looms over you and whispers “Yeah, I went there”. It’s also much, much easier to forgive yet another ‘WE ARE THE REAL MONSTERS’ story from Russel T. Davies when we see people doing things that are both genuinely monstrous and attainable within the confines of reality.

For completely unexplainable reasons, the writing staff decided this episodes (the one with the concentration camps and an actual, real murder) would be best to have a big ol’ cheer with America’s favourite child rapist, Oswald Danes. For a few brief, shining seconds before he made an appearance at some poorly-defined rally of some kind, it seemed like not everyone was buying his bullshit. But then he made his speech, waved his arms around a little, and completed his journey to sainthood. For fuck’s sake, how dimwitted and suggestible was that gigantic audience? How did they all drive there without being distracted by a particularly shiny window and crashing? Why is the triumphant music suggesting anything other than an evil cretin’s plan coming to fruition? When is he getting the hell off my screen? Except we have an answer to that – apparently (hopefully) somebody realised Danes is barely relevant, and so neither he nor his despicable PR friend show their plasticky, hateful faces during episode six – The Middle Men – at all.

Sadly, this episode (which a kind Yank put on Megavideo yesterday) reverted to Miracle Day’s default setting of ‘dragged-out pointlessness’. Nothing happened in the first forty minutes that couldn’t have been handled in ten: Rex and Esther escape the camp, taking revenge on Psycho Colin along the way, while Gwen makes a slightly less incompetent second attempt at saving her dad. I won’t list the many, many ways in which this episode spits crumbs in the face of logic and common sense, but it perfectly demonstrates the underlying problem with this season. Ten hour-long episodes is an absurd length of time for a single premise, and so much of Miracle Day is spent watching the new team flail around with convoluted but not especially interesting plans, none of which advance the plot more than a few inches each time, with frequent cutaways to fucking Oswald. It’s like a comic who only knows knock-knock jokes laboriously explaining the exact manner in which somebody clenched their fist, raised their arm and tapped it on a very specifically-described door, stopping every five sentences to expose himself at the lighting guy. In The Middle Men, Jack’s task of tracking down and questioning a corporate executive type is relegated to a supporting subplot, even though it was the only thing in the whole episode that moved the overall narrative forwards, to make sure everyone else’s superfluously lengthy shenanigans killed enough time. I don’t want to keep comparing it to Children of Earth but that was at least pacey and lean – this is just bloated, and keeps bumping into things.

NEXT TIME: I complain about Rex some more and use a lot of hyphens.


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