Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 5

(Index to all Torchwood posts here.)

Now that’s more like it.


Governments around the world agree on emergency measures to place people in three different categories: three, two, and one… alive, ill, and dead. Categories two and one are shipped off to camps for containment and treatment in the face of rampant disease in the hospitals, Gwen’s father amongst them. Dr Vera Juarez sets her doubts aside and joins the Torchwood team in disgust at the actions of the governments of the world. Living people are being categorised as dead, disposable, objects.

Torchwood discovers that hidden ‘modules’ are a part of the camps around the world, and they infiltrate two camps – one in the States and one in the UK. Gwen tries to free her father, but the stress of the escape triggers a heart-attack, relegating him to category one. Rex infiltrates the State-side camp as a patient, whilst Vera uses her position on the medical panels to pose as an inspector and Esther enters as clerical staff.

Meanwhile, Jack tries to appeal to Oswald’s conscience to persuade him to use his media attention to expose PhiCor.

How was it different?

Suddenly Torchwood seems like biting political commentary. Healthcare being turned over to big business under the radar. Political freedoms being curtailed in response to a crisis. ‘A new age of care and compassion’ sounds very much like the sort of thing our current Prime Minister might say whilst categorising groups of people cleanly away so that they can be disposed of.

And yet the cutting undercurrent of this is that it is a genuinely desperate situation. It’s entirely understandable that people would agree to any plausible solution that sought to bring to control a situation rapidly becoming apocalyptically chaotic. It’s telling that the writers tacitly recognise the remarkably terrorist aspects to Torchwood’s activities. They’re operating outside and against governments to infiltrate and sabotage in the cause of freedom. It’s a surprisingly balanced and intriguing view that encourages us to weigh up the options and the sides and identify with aspects of disparate groups. I’m even warming to the presentation of Oswald Danes in his uniquely challenging fight for survival. He’s still a repulsive figure, but they’re starting to move him into a depth he lacked at the beginning, and I approve. I suspect we’re setting up this human complexity against a complete othering of an Alien Evil, but it’s still an unusually nuanced take.

I haven’t talked about it much, but Miracle Day has also been delightfully and understatedly inter-racial throughout. Yes, there’s a predominance of white main cast members, but we also see multiple black, Asian, and Latino people. I’ve mentioned before that the treatment of women is pretty good – there are lots of them, and the frequently kick ass, but they’re also vulnerable and believable in turn. Esther’s character’s had a rough ride, but Gwen and Juarez are consistently both interesting and strong. Perhaps the most peculiar thing, for Torchwood is that one of the least comfortable aspects of the show is its treatment of homosexuality, which seems to have been reduced to Jack making bad jokes to make Rex uncomfortable. It’s forced and unnatural and a little uncomfortable to watch.

Quite apart from the themes, though, this episode was fast paced, tense, and believable in a way the previous two episodes weren’t. Someone spoiled the ending for me by Googling key terms that brought them to my blog, if you would believe it, but it was still shocking and rather impressively horrible. Everything feels like it’s coming together, and I’m eager to watch the next episode next week. Hurrah!

12 thoughts on “Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 5

  1. Ha! I thought of Cameron with the “care & compassion” thing too. So much for the Big Society!
    Agreed, this one was loads better and I am fascinated by Oswald’s transformation into a populist preacher-type.

    I was pretty bummed about (ending) but what can you do? No omelets without breaking eggs. Plus, the camp boss reminded me of a few guys I worked for back in Texas. Good times!

    …But yeah, I am kind of bummed thinking that this is all going to be aliens after all when it is so gloriously humanly big-businessy rotten right now. Kind of like “Make Room! Make Room!” in a way (one of my favorite old classic sci-fi books, along with “Stand on Zanzibar,” which I really should read again as it’s been over 20 years.)

    • Oh! I was gonna talk about the camp boss. What a slimy git!

      Mwaha – you appeal to the Stand on Zanzibar fangirl in me! You should reread – I see something new every time!

      Tell me more about this “Make Room! Make Room!”, though – I haven’t heard of that!

      • It’s a novel by Harry Harrison, written in 1966. It’s about life in an overpopulated New York of 1999 that’s swollen to 35 million residents (!)

        Sadly, it’s become overshadowed in history by the film that was made from it: “Soylent Green.” That shouldn’t put you off, though–the book is much more complex and interesting, plus there’s no silly cannibal conspiracy. I can’t recommend it enough!

  2. 5 definitely picked up, but 6 once again proves how boring this season is. It’s so drawn out and focuses far too much on the two Americans being melodramatic.

    The premise is fine, but I really think it would have benefited from a shorter, tighter narrative, more like Children of Earth.

    • I disagree on six. I felt the pace stayed well and truly up, and although there is a touch of melodrama, Torchwood’s always been a bit like that. I’ll agree that Rex continues to ham it up in a way that doesn’t quite work, but I felt Esther started to take her character somewhere interesting again.

      On having a shorter, tighter narrative – yes, I think there’s come truth to that, but the fat is more in episodes three and four. I think it’s noticeable that Oswald doesn’t appear in six at all, and, for me, it was a much tighter show for it.

  3. Trying to reply without reading your comment – I’m a Brit, we’re behind the US showings. It comes out on a Thursday over here and I usually watch it on iPlayer on a Friday. Long and short: I haven’t seen episode 6 yet and don’t want to get spoiled! I’ll try and pop back to read your comment after I’ve watched on Friday – just wanted to let you know I wasn’t ignoring you!

  4. Pingback: Index: Torchwood | In Search of the Happiness Max

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