Torchwood: Miracle Day - RenditionBookmark and Share

Monday, 25 July 2011 - Written by Paula Seligson
Written by Paula Seligson

Torchwood: Miracle Day - Rendition
Written by Doris Egan
Directed by Billy Gierhart
Broadcast on Starz - July 15 2011
BBC Worldwide Productions
This review contains plot spoilers and is based on the US broadcast of the episode.

Torchwood is taking advantage of its longer time-frame.

With 10 episodes, 50 minutes each, instead of the usual 45 minutes for a ‘monster of the week’ or the miniseries of Children of Earth, we finally get to see not only the action of the plot but also its greater ramifications for both the Earth and the characters.

Rendition continued exploring the Miracle into the extent of its world-impact. This isn’t just the Torchwood team trying to save the Earth from a threat only they know about. This isn't Doctor Who where only the Doctor and maybe his companions can save the day. The Miracle is affecting the whole world, and that means the world’s best minds are going at the issue because everyone has a stake in what has happened.

That’s why I loved Dr. Juarez’s scene where she reverses triage. She understands how few resources her hospital has when nobody can die, and she realizes that a doctor’s most lacking commodity - time - is no longer an issue. This extends into her attendance at the panel, where we realize that illnesses will soon become resistant to drugs, and the most in-demand drugs will be painkillers. Logical steps like these turn Torchwood into good science fiction, which discusses how people deal with new issues and what ramifications those issues have on culture and resources.

The cultural aspect is prominent through Danes. The use of social media, ranging from the Twitter hashtag #forgive to memes about Danes’ failed execution like the Youtube video ‘what did you do?’, show why Danes is a character at all. As Esther says, “It’s the miracle made visible.” But she also comments on another interesting development: reconciliation between India and Pakistan, going completely against how she thought those cultures would react. It’s details like these that I hope the show continues to include, because they are what set it apart from a fun and dark ‘scifi’ action show into something that really analyzes human behavior and comments on society.

Gwen and Jack’s interactions continue to be a highlight of the show I love Gwen’s conflicting feelings of anger at Jack for leaving and for then returning, her fear for her family, and her relief and joy at having Jack and all the action of Torchwood back in her life. The entire scene where Jack is poisoned and Gwen, Rex, Juarez, and the flight staff work to save his life was just, simply put, well done. Her concern for Jack and her utter refusal to let him die are characteristic of how much stronger Gwen has become as a person since she first joined Torchwood.

Jack is still as cocky and in-control as always, which make his interactions with Rex a welcome comic relief. He is also finally being open with Gwen, as shown in one of my favorite dialogue exchanges in the episode:

Gwen: Where did you go, Jack?
Jack: A long way away.
Gwen: And did it help?

Jack just looks away, and doesn’t try to lie to Gwen and say that he’s fine. He’s no longer portraying himself to be the unshakable leader when he’s with Gwen, which shows how much their relationship has grown.

Also, point of interest: Jack’s guess about morphic fields causing the Miracle (confirmed by the CIA’s response of attempted assassination) is actually from the conjectures of the real scientist Rupert Sheldrake:
I’m very excited to see how the writers take Sheldrake’s ideas and make them real for the show.

So far, Torchwood continues to be a strong show with a good mix of plot, characters, and action. The chase scene when Esther escaped from the CIA, the moments where Rex stared at himself in the bathroom mirror on the plane and questions again why he was still alive, and Danes’ disturbing breakdown of ‘I’m sorry’ on national television are all examples of continuing strong scenes in the show. I also love the bones the writers keep throwing at the new audience to hint at information only previous Torchwood fans would really know, especially in regards to Jack’s immortality, like when he says he had a boyfriend in the 1800s who used arsenic. The plot is progressing by revealing a bit each episode, and it’s fun to keep the mystery going. The new information in this episode - the morphic field, the oscillating level of life, and the fact that people are still aging - is all intriguing and I can't wait to see what is revealed next.

But of the two new characters, I only like PR rep Jilly Kitzinger. She is sly, developing the plot, and downright creepy with her smile and business cards. She’s interesting. On the other hand, Rex’s old love interest, CIA agent Lyn Peterfield, is too stereotypical to keep my interest. She’s exactly what you’d expect from a high-security-clearance CIA agent. And her ‘death’ was too camp - I felt like I was watching a zombie horror film when she walked toward the car with her head twisted around. Although she gets points for another really disturbing Torchwood moment.

Another issue I had with the episode was the gay flight attendant, Danny. I felt like every joke centered around him fell short. The jokes themselves felt juvenile, and at the least should have involved Jack flirting with Danny. Humor, usually very dark, is part of Torchwood, and it would be wrong not to have comic relief throughout an episode. But a character like Danny highlights an issue with longer stories. With a short length and time limit, writing has to be tight. Every word must count. But when a story becomes longer, and without the pressing need to make every moment necessary, quality can be lost. I felt like that’s what happened with Danny.

It’s wonderful for the story to not feel rushed. Scenes are longer, letting us see more nuances in the characters facial expressions and mannerisms, like Danes’ slight and sly smiles, and the beats between Jack and Gwen that are always filled with either silent communication or unspoken emotions. The full story gets to unfold in the style of a very long movie, allowing for a slower and more comfortable evolution of the plot as well as more character development. Hopefully this freedom in length wont diminish the quality of the show.

FILTER: - Torchwood - Television