Torchwood: Miracle Day (5/10)

Torchwood: Miracle Day (1 & 2/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (3/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (4/10)

Review of latest episode at Torchwood: Miracle day (6/10)

All the misgivings suggested by the phrase, “overflow camp,” were fully justified in this episode, as the Torchwood team discover the heart of darkness at the centre of the Miracle.  It starts with Vera arriving at Washington City Hall for the Medical Panels, only to find that a report has already been sent to Congress.  There are now 3 categories of human, and the Emergency Miracle Law is about to be passed, putting categories 1 and 2 into overflow camps.  An American news broadcast quotes the PM, talking about “a new age of care and compassion.”  Well he would, wouldn’t he?

This development is enough for Vera to sign up for the cause, and she joins Torchwood in Venice Beach, where  the system of categories is explained.  One is “bad” – no brain function, or people who would normally have died.  Three is healthy people with no illnesses or injuries.  Two is all the rest, sick people who might get better.  So under the Emergence Miracle Law, and similar legislation in Europe, only the healthy have civil rights.

Meanwhile, Gwen has flown back to Cardiff in an attempt to get her dad out of the South Wales Overflow Camp.  Her mum’s ready and waiting as she walks through the door, with an operations board set up in the living room.  Good to see PC Andy back on the right side, as he tries to get Gwen’s dad out through his authority as a policeman, but the Army’s in charge.  So Gwen infiltrates the camp as a nurse, while Rhys has access as a delivery driver.

Torchwood in California are trying to get into the San Pedro Overflow Camp to check out the existence of “Modules,” which appear on the Phicorp plans, but have been hidden in official photographs of the camp.  Esther will go in as a clerk, Vera as a government inspector, and Rex as a Category 1 patient, so he can photograph the inside of the Modules, final destination for these patients.

This leaves Jack with nothing to do, so he tracks down Oswald Danes, one of the warm-up acts at the Miracle Rally in Los Angeles, where the President will speak.  For the Illuminati/Phicorp, Danes’ speech is crucial.  Jilly has a carefully written script for him, which contains multiple repetitions of the word, “revelation.”  Each time it’s used, a huge Phicorp logo will appear behind him, probably flashing out subliminal messages.

But Danes wants to know who is behind Phicorp, and doesn’t like being used as a tool.  He has already tried to bond independently with the crowd when he arrived at the stadium, only to have a hostile response caught on camera.  Jilly gets the footage destroyed.  It’s frustrating for them both.  Danes isn’t allowed a dressing room because the other speakers don’t want a murdering pedophile near them.  And Jilly has a lot to lose if he screws up.  A creepy Illuminati/Phicorp suit tells her, “Just wanted to say, you’re doing a very good job.”  She is being noticed by “the right people.”

It’s a complex plot, cutting repeatedly between these 3 main strands, with an increasingly irritating soundtrack.  28 Days Later used something similar to generate unease, specially written for the film, but it worked then.  Here it distracts from the action.

Gwen and Rhys do indeed get her dad out of the South Wales Overflow Camp.  In an unforseen consequence, he has another heart attack as they try to get him into the truck.  Now he’s Category 1.  Gwen’s told that she has until next morning to do something about it, because then he goes into a Module.

In San Pedro, Rex is at first put into Category 2.  Esther, working from the office, gets him reassigned to Category 1, and slips him a camera.  Vera, under cover as a government inspector, meets the racist, sexist, violent, and thoroughly incompetent good ol’ boy who runs the heavily guarded camp.  The character must have a name, but I didn’t catch it, so hereafter he shall be known as Good Ol’ Boy or GOB.  Unless I come across the  name.  He drives a golf cart round the camp, and is psyched by the possible visit of Hilary (Duff, not Clinton).  If all this isn’t enough to make you hate his guts, he’s also a Genesis fan.

Despite asking for a tour of the Modules, Vera’s fobbed off with a general tour of the tent city that comprises most of the camp.  GOB even has a military escort in the form of lower ranks Ralph, who is appalled by his boss.  In a well-deserved swipe at the American health care system, the patients with no insurance are housed in the most disgusting conditions, with Category 2 patients pegged as Category 1.  Literally.  They use red (1) and blue (“rhymes with 2”) clothes pegs to identify them.  The banality of evil.  GOB responds with, “I’m under budget.”

Vera goes ballistic and threatens to prosecute him: “I guarantee you’re going to jail, you stupid little man.  I’m going to see you inside a prison cell, you limp-dicked little coward.”  Bad move.  He grabs Ralph’s gun and shoots her twice.  Then panics and gets Ralph to help him dump her in one of the Modules she so wanted to see.

Rex, meanwhile, has found out for himself the reality of the Modules.  It has no heating and is fitted up with bunks that could have come straight out of a Nazi concentration camp.  They’re stacked with Category 1  “patients.”  He gets outside and notices there are only 3 Modules, far too few to cope with the influx of Category 1 people.

He relays this information to Esther, who is worried about losing touch with Vera, last seen in the golf cart on tour with GOB.  Looking inside the window of a Module, Rex can see her on the floor, but he’s unable to get in.  Then we find out what these things really are.  GOB sets the controls to burn, and flames incinerate everyone inside.  The Modules are crematoria.  Rex can only look on in horror, and when he can’t do that, film it.  Because he’s a CIA agent and he has to fulfill the mission of gathering evidence.

I never expected this to happen.  It was genuinely shocking.

The scenes in South Wales and San Pedro are interspersed with Jack’s attempt to get Danes to “do the right thing” at the Miracle Rally.  Confronting Danes, he gives him an alternative speech that tells the truth about Phicorp: “What if you became a hero instead?”  Recognizing that Danes is sick of his own life, Jack says, “You help me and I promise I will help you die.”  At this point, Jilly comes looking for Danes.

It’s as if Danes has the devil in a red dress on one shoulder, and Jack in a blue greatcoat on the other, each one vying for his soul.  Now Jilly knows about Jack, and takes his picture on her camera phone.

So what will Oswald Danes do?  He starts hesitantly, as if not sure which way to turn.  He even discards both speeches.  But it becomes clear that he wants to engage with Phicorp on his own terms.  He talks about a great leap forward 50,000 years ago, when we changed from animals to humans.  Miracle Day was the next great leap.  In full evangelical mode, he fires up the crowd with this:

Man has risen again.  Now he has a new name.  And his name is Angel.  Angel.  Angel.  We are angels.  We have been helped.  We have been purified.  We have been given life unending.  We are the first angels on Earth.  And I promise you this, there are even those who have been planning for this – the agents of angels.  I’m telling you now, they stand amongst us.  Yes, for this is my revelation.

Cue huge, brilliantly lit Phicorp logo behind him, triggered by the word “revelation.”  The crowd goes wild, and Jilly jumps up and down for joy, just as she did when Danes stole the show from Ellis Hartley Monroe.

In South Wales, Gwen now understands what the Modules really are.  As she watches plumes of smoke rise into the sky, she tells Rhys:

They built ovens.  They built ovens all over the world.  That’s what the Modules are – they are ovens.  They’re burning them.  The patients, they’re burning them alive.

This is what good science fiction should do – take on the big issues.  Russell T. Davies’ wit, pitch-perfect dialogue, cultural references, and portrayal of human interaction are good reasons for watching anything he produces.  Couple these things with a dark drama that goes to the heart of the human condition, and you have really powerful television.

2 thoughts on “Torchwood: Miracle Day (5/10)

  1. But seriously – would Vera REALLY have been stupid enough to wind up someone who clearly had no conscience in such a dangerous place?
    The plotline no longer seems to be going anywhere – the same reason I stopped watching the X files many years ago. Yes, I love the characters, but if they are going to burn them alive or pick them off one by one, doesn’t this become a bit like a bad horror where only the teen who hasn’t yet had underage sex survives? I can see Gwen being the only survivor here – though am sure if another season gets commissioned Jack could arrive as a time traveller from when he was still alive.

    • Well, Vera is feisty. That superb tongue-lashing she gave Colin should have been rewarded by letting her get through the episode alive. Killing her off is a clumsy move, bound to alienate viewers. That sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen. So you could say that RTD is boldly challenging accepted dramatic convention, or that he’s freeing up Rex for the inevitable romance with Esther that’s been foreshadowed right from the start. My money’s on the latter.

      You sound like an aficionado of Sci-Fi Channel movies. Used to watch them when I lived in the States and could afford cable. Did you ever play the game where you have to guess the next character to get whacked?

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