(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!