Saturday, 10 September 2011


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Miracle Day's finale wasn't good enough to change opinions of this miniseries as a whole, but I thought the conclusion hung together well and answered things in a reasonably intelligent way. It was obvious Russell T. Davies and Jane Espenson struggled to give Oswald (Bill Pullman) something worthwhile to do (I wonder if they regret ever bothering with that character in the first place), but otherwise the mystery was solved and The Miracle reversed in an entertaining fashion. I'm sure many people will think otherwise, but if this had been the sixth episode conclusion of a series that didn't waste time on Oswald Danes (and the various other mid-season filler), I think I would have quite enjoyed Miracle Day...

The finale saw a two-pronged attack on the three Families and their plan to create a fascist oligarchy: Rex (Mekhi Phifer) and Esther (Alexa Havins) in Buenos Aires, with the support of the CIA to find the subterranean Blessing pit; and Jack (John Barrowman), Gwen (Eve Myles) and Oswald doing likewise from Shanghai. The explanation for the Blessing was effectively handled, being cryptically inexplicable (it simply existing since the Earth was formed, dictating the length of mortality with a "morphic field"), but in a way that wasn't frustrating. It felt plausible that the Families had effectively reprogrammed the Blessing by feeding it some of Jack's immortal blood, even if that doesn't really make much sense when you think about it. But this is Torchwood, not an Arthur C. Clarke novel, and on those terms it worked fine.

The climax was surprisingly enjoyable and tense, too, with Jack and Rex realizing they can restore normalcy to the world by sacrificing themselves to the Blessing from opposite sides of the world. The added complication of Esther being shot (certain to die if they end the Miracle) worked very nicely, as a huge amount of pressure flourished in these scenes. For a second I even thought Torchwood was going to be extremely brave and go through with its plan to kill off both Jack and Rex (surely ending Torchwood if the former died), but it didn't quite go that far... with Jack's immortality returning and Rex surviving his gunshot.

Still, the denouement set up some surprisingly fun ideas for a potential return of the show: Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose), having escaped from the destroyed Shanghai pit unscathed, was again recruited by the Families to participate in "Plan B" (whatever that may be), which means the show has found itself an enemy organization to use in future stories; and the surprise reveal that Rex has somehow been turned immortal by the Blessing.

Even the subplots worked rather nicely this week. The CIA having to find a mole in their outfit was enjoyable, especially as traitorous Charlotte Willis (Marina Benedict) got to enact some moments very reminiscent of 24. The scene where CIA boss Shapiro (John de Lancie) was blown up by Charlotte's handbag bomb, the second he uncovered her real identity ("Charlotte? Oh fuck.") was excellent, and I'm actually saddened de Lancie's character has been written out. He was only around for a few episodes, but injected some much-needed comedy and eccentricity into the mix. The death of Gwen's father was also quite poignant, despite the fact the characters always held Geraint Cooper (William Thomas) in greater esteem than the audience ever did. Mr Cooper was someone to bring the Miracle closer to home, to personalize it, and he achieved that limited aim.

Miracle Day itself wasn't a success, let's hammer than point home once again. It got far more wrong than it got right, and can ultimately be seen as a very imprecise and weird miniseries. Jack wasn't a big part of events until the second half of the series, Gwen was more irritating than ever before, Phifer was terribly miscast, there was only enough relevant plot to fill half its 10-episode order, the character of Oswald Danes was a nasty misjudgement (even his death scene was awful, as he delighted in the belief he's going to Hell to continue abusing the children he believes are there), I didn't buy into Jilly's quick ascension within the Families, and the storyline was hurt by having to keep flitting between the US and UK. The only things that worked were the high-concept intrigue of the premise (what if nobody on the planet could die?), a few creative examples of how global immortality would affect society, and the eventual explanation for the Miracle itself was preposterous in a good way.

Do you think Torchwood deserves to come back? If it does, should it continue as an Anglo-American co-production, or get back to its BBC roots? Whoever makes another series, should the miniseries concept be retired, unless they have an idea that definitely fills a 10-hour drama? It's been so long since Torchwood was telling episodic stories that a return to the original format, with Jack and Rex as immortal brother-in-arms fighting aliens and whatnot, carries more appeal than expected. The better episodes of Miracle Day were the more standalone ones, too, perhaps confirming the writers had a problem serializing the concept. With rumours suggesting Russell T. Davies is moving on to write a new US cable drama, maybe Torchwood would actually benefit from having someone else steering the ship, with Davies input reduced to that of a producer.


  • While it was slightly annoying the show chickened out of killing Rex and Jack, at least Esther died. Not that I hate Esther (she was actually one of the better elements of the show), but it would have been unforgivable if everyone made it through alive.
  • So, Miracle Day was just "phase one" of a greater plan The Families have, and they have a "Plan B" in mind to get what they want. There's no point trying to guess, but I must admit I'm glad Torchwood has kept the Families around as a lurking threat.
  • Can we have some aliens next time, please? Ancient underground bum-cracks with a thirst for blood isn't quite the same.
written by Russell T. Davies & Jane Espenson (story by Russell T. Davies) / directed by Billy Gierhart / 9 September 2011 / Starz