From the overrated pen of Buffy's Jane Espenson, "Dead Of Night" was of mixed success and, owing to the fact this is a miniseries, I have less to say that's not just reiterating points from previous reviews. I still find Gwen (Eve Myles) so annoying she makes my teeth itch, because she's written as confident and sassy but it's all done so cartoonishly, and none of that attitude flows naturally from Myles. Rex (Mekhi Phifer) continues to be a belligerent dickhead, Esther's (Alexa Havins) written so thinly she elicits no reaction, and Captain Jack (John Barrowman) currently seems lost in the crush—and, frankly, more interested in shagging the local barman than saving the world. (Or if you're watching the BBC airing a week later, just flirting with a local barman?)
In some ways this episode is where the story truly started to take shape, but that shape doesn't feel like anything remarkable. The Torchwood team discovered a warehouse containing millions of painkillers stockpiled by a pharmaceutical company called PhiCorp, who assumedly knew about Miracle Day a year in advance and have planned to make a fortune by selling an immortal world their medicines. The CIA, personified by Rex's butterball boss Friedkin (Wayne Knight), are also in the pockets of whomever's pulling the strings. But right now the prime suspect must be red-lipped PR woman Jilly Kitzinger (awesome Lauren Ambrose), who invited Dr Vera Juarez (terrible Arlene Tur) to a PhiCorp presentation, while also managing to get child killer Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) on her client list, with plans to manage his sudden and wholly implausible celebrity status with the support of PhiCorp.
Along the way the video-camera contact lenses from an old Torchwood episode make an appearance, Espenson's script laboured the point that Americans and Brits use different words for things (although I must admit I never knew lemonade isn't fizzy in the States), a cult called the "Soulless" has started walking around town in frowning face-masks (um, it looks good for the trailers), Rex slept with Dr Vera (possibly because he needs someone to get a recurring blood stain out of his shirts), and there was Miracle Day's first gay sex scene—together with a gay joke playing on the double-meaning of the word "impaled". Fnar, fnar. And don't you dare criticize said joke or you'll be labelled homophobic, rather than having an evolved sense of humour.
In the episode's favour, at least it managed to get Oswald Danes into the same storyline as Torchwood's random investigations, and Oswald's speech to Jack about "painting" bruises on the 12-year-old girl he raped and killed was an effective piece of writing. We also now have a potential villain in PhiCorp, but if they're the definite culprits of Miracle Day I think they've been revealed too early in the show's run. Or are they just one part of a bigger plan, seeing as their painkillers are being given to the public without a lucrative prescription charge? Is it possible there's something in those drugs someone wants the entire human race to ingest en masse? And if so, is it encouraging that Torchwood's lifting a storyline from the first season of V's remake?
Overall, "Dead Of Night" didn't really work for me because the juiciness of the Miracle Day concept is beginning to wear off, and it feels like the explanation's edging into predictable "evil company" territory. But it's early days still, so I hope PhiCorp is just a dead-end, or will lead the investigation into a more imaginative realm. But really, given the size and scale of Miracle Day, the explanation's got to involve either aliens or futuristic technology. What else could it possibly be? I'll be mightily impressed if Russell T. Davies can avoid anything obvious for a cogent explanation, but given the show's abject failure to even make Oswald Danes' forgiveness and public worship feel plausible, I have serious doubts.
written by Jane Espenson / directed by Billy Gierhart / 22 July 2011 / Starz