Checking in on TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY at mid-season

At the mid-point of Torchwood: Miracle Day, for me, whether the series proves to have been worthwhile or simply a high concept mess depends on who or what is actually behind “the miracle”; and here I, like the central cast, am assuming that PhiCorp is not at the end of the plot. I am pretty open-minded about possible explanations, but at the very least I think there should be something like the Wolfram & Hart Senior Partners moving all of the pieces, if not some force to which PhiCorp is little more than a handmaiden, like Pope & Zinco in B.P.R.D. I would be perfectly happy for PhiCorp to turn out to be essentially opportunistic, unconnected to the who or what of the miracle.

Otherwise, the series leaves you with a pretty venal and stupid corporate conspiracy as the mechanism for the plot, and one that cannot possibly sustain the series premise over the course of ten episodes (or, really, any episodes).

Just imagine this board meeting:
“Hey, you know if we could make it so people stopped dying, but still could feel pain or suffer from chronic disease and debilitation, we could guarantee a permanent market for our product.”
“You’re right. But what about the excess population? You know, people who are essentially ‘dead’ or who can’t pay for the drugs they night need.”
“Gee, I dunno. Maybe we could incinerate them.”
“Hmmm. Yeah. That could work. Let’s get on this.”

Evil, sure, but also mind-bogglingly dumb as a business plan. While the corporate element seems like a necessary part of the story being told, it does not seem sufficient to fulfill the plot. The fact that Jack is mortal at the same moment as others are made immortal also suggests some kind of will at work beyond the ken of an earth-bound corporation, no matter how greedy or big it is. I trust that PhiCorp will, indeed, turn out to be nothing more than a shell or even irrelevant to what’s really going on.

Making the underlying secret of “Miracle Day” a good one is also important because as the series has become more heavily plot-driven, it has, paradoxically, also become more lax. Most of the key details to the Torchwood crew’s investigation have been yadda yadda-ed, as in, the team needs to get into this or that highly secure facility, yadda yadda, and they’re inside.

Even when the writers bother to note complications, these are so easily dismissed in the script that I am left wondering what the point was.

In the most recent episode, for example, Rex mentions, off-handedly, that he has started to heal. Leaving aside the greater significance of what this revelation means to the miracle, the immediate implication is that this will make it harder for him to be placed into category one containment. Seems like a problem to be worked, right?

Not so much. Not only is there no strategizing over this challenge, but the computer networks and procedures for the camp are so leaky that Esther, posing as no one more significant than a brand-new clerical worker, can, on the spot, not only reclassify Rex, but order medical staff to act on the new orders.

This, however, pales in comparison to the ridiculousness of Gwen and Rhys not only managing to get all of the appropriate credentials for access to the Overflow Camp housing Gwen’s dad, but also being allowed to just hang out after their cover is blown. Rhys, in fact, seems to actually pick up work while there, and, in short order, learns what the supposedly highly secret Modules are for.

There are aspects of the police procedural and the heist film to Torchwood, but the show is not fully of either of those genres. I am fine if there are details which get glossed over so long as it is in the service of something interesting, and that something has yet to be revealed in Miracle Day.

What I find most frustrating about the most recent episode, particularly, is that it seems as if it would only take a few minutes of showing members of the team doing reconnaissance to establish that the pace and scale of events are such that there are holes in the security networks  to be exploited. There is no reason to just rely on the idea that everyone here is so awesome and charming that they can break into whatever facility they choose.

Through the first three episodes the series focused on philosophical and affective reactions to the miracle. In the last two, the show has taken a hard turn to the political, and I am struck that there are no notable characters here within government. The governmental response to the crises coming out of Miracle Day appears to have been dropped from the sky.

And maybe that is what happened, bringing me back to the beginning of this piece and hoping that the second half of the series shows us something big and interesting underneath the surface of events.

(And, as a side note, as much as Dr. Juarez is one of my favorite characters, I was not terribly moved by her death, but maybe that is because at the heart of the series is the conceit that people can no longer die, which raises provocative questions about what happens after incineration. Or maybe it is indicative of a series that hasn’t been able to develop an emotional core yet).

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