Saturday, 13 August 2011


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Why does dimwit CIA analyst Esther Drummond use her real name while undercover? How does wanted fugitive Gwen Cooper manage to keep making trans-Atlantic flights without being caught? Why isn't Jack Harkness, the ostensible star of this show, getting more than about seven minutes of relevant screen time most weeks? Those are the burning questions in my mind after this week's episode, having replaced "who's behind Miracle Day?"

It's become very clear that Torchwood: Miracle Day has failed in its lofty ambitions, although I don't subscribe to a popular online theory that this miniseries has flopped because it doesn't feature aliens (so far). To me, Torchwood wasn't exclusively about aliens. The majority of pre-Children Of Earth episodes revolved around other forms of paranormal activity, so the world's population becoming immortal fits into that quite snugly. No, the problem is that this idea doesn't justify 10 hours of television, and the new American characters are both impossible to care about and, frankly, hog the limelight from the more interesting Gwen and Jack.

The latter has been treated especially poorly by almost every script, which is akin to writing six Doctor Who episodes and finding a way for The Doctor to only appear in a handful of scenes every week while his companions do all the work. This week, Jack's role was to stage a ridiculously fake kidnapping of a PhiCorp secretary, so he could use her as leverage with her boss Stuart Owens (Ernie Hudson), whom she's having an affair with. However, it turns out Owens is just as puzzled by Miracle Day as everyone else, and equally determined to explain it. His current theory being that PhiCorp is just one piece of the jigsaw, and the architects of The Miracle have spent years surreptitiously getting the planet to this point. Oh, and it may have something to do with "The Blessing", whatever that is.

Most of this week's story concerned the Overflow Camps in both San Pedro and Swansea. Gwen (Eve Myles) tried to get her "Category 1" father removed from the facility with the help of husband Rhys (Kai Owen), before he's sent to be burned alive; while Rex (Mekhi Phifer) tried to smuggle his video-taped evidence of the camp's ovens to the outside world, only to be captured by director Colin Maloney (Marc Vann), who wanted to ensure evidence of Vera Juarez's incineration didn't leak out.

There were a few scenes I enjoyed this week, like Esther's fight with Maloney and her subsequent breakdown over "killing" him with Rex. Alexa Havins' character may be a naïve moron, but I think she's a decent actress doing her best with iffy material. At least Esther's rite of passage is the kind of development you can see happening and enjoy, compared to boisterous Rex's slow realization that these Torchwood people aren't so bad after all.

It's just a pity so many scenes don't work or just feel  silly, both in how they're acted and constructed. For example: Maloney's twitchy accomplice whose guilt was written all over his face, or Gwen literally jumping back in horror at the message "Bring Us Jack" typed on her high-tech contact lenses by, we assume, the people behind Miracle Day. Or how about Rhys not even flinching when two armed guards were shooting at him as he drove a lorry through a security gate? A few cheesy or unconvincing moments I can handle in a show like this, but Miracle Day is riddled with them, and they seriously drag the show down. Miracle Day often comes across as amateur hour. How ironic that the UK-made show, often criticized by Americans for its cheap and cheesy feel, has compounded that problem now it's made with US co-operation.

Overall, "The Middle Men" did little to dissuade anyone that Torchwood: Miracle Day has been a big failure. It's making so many unnecessary mistakes that you can't quite believe it. Who writes six episodes of Torchwood and gives Jack Harkness the least active or interesting role in them? I'm sure some viewers appreciated having a break from the Oswald Danes storyline this week, and there were some nice ideas about state-sanctioned concentration camps floating around, but I can't see this miniseries turning around anytime soon. Still, now that PhiCorp don't appear to be our Big Bad, maybe a certain portion of fans will get their wish and "The Blessing" can be revealed as extra-terrestrial in nature. And we can also wonder what Owens' colleague in Shanghai saw that made him jump off a skyscraper. My guess: next week's script.


  • Do all Americans pronounce "badminton" as "bad-minton"?
  • Are you seriously suggesting a global network of concentration camps where governments were incinerating people, without anybody knowing, wouldn't cause huge outrage? The President of the USA didn't even apologize for what was going on? I mean, does anybody swallow that?
written by John Shiban / directed by Guy Ferland / 12 August 2011 / Starz