TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY 05

"Categories of Life"

I'm hereby officially reclassifying Torchwood: Miracle Day as Category 1: it's not dead, but, by all rights, it should be. By all the laws of nature, by everything that is holy, by any reasonable assessment of quality of life, Miracle Day should be put to rest. Let's stick a red clothes-pin on it, throw a blanket over its pathetic carcass, and roll it gently over to the incinerator to be put out of its misery.

Now, now: shed no tears. I know you loved Torchwood, and so did I, but it is long gone, and this sad, suffering thing before us bears only a vestigial resemblance to the show we held so dear. Let us choose to remember the sickly, plucky, endearing franchise that Torchwood was, not the shambling, crap-encrusted mockery that it has become.

What's that you say? It's sad? It's too hard to let go? Yes, of course it is sad, but we must be strong. We must ignore the faint and fading vital signs, the myoclonic twitches that seem to give it—for brief, fleeting moments—the illusion of life. We must not fool ourselves into thinking we see intelligence in the lifeless eyes that stare back at us from the slab, or imagine that we feel warmth coming from a heart that beats weakly from habit alone. We mustn't waste our energy with futile hoping: deep down, we know our show is gone, and it's not coming back. A quick, clean parting will be far easier for all of us than this slow, lingering, painful demise.

We can't hope for a miracle. It's time to say goodbye.

What, after all, are we mourning? Torchwood? This isn't Torchwood. You can only change so much, and replace so many pieces, and alter the tone so far, before the thing you have changed becomes something else entirely.

(Proposition: Torchwood: Miracle Day is to Torchwood as After MASH is to M*A*S*H. Discuss.)

In my review of the second episode of Miracle Day, I said that I suspected this show would have been better off as a stand-alone mini-series without the Torchwood brand-name or characters. I no longer think Miracle Day would be better off—nothing could save this utterly preposterous plot, in which not just the laws of nature but also the laws of human nature have been totally suspended—but the Torchwood brand would certainly be better off. By applying it here, it comes to mean nothing: it is a brand without an identity, since this show does not resemble any other Torchwood series in spirit, tone, genre, content, or quality. Owen (Burn Gorman), Tosh (Naoko Mori), and Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) are long gone, of course. Eve Myles and John Barrowman are here, yes, but they are no longer Gwen and Jack, not in any recognizable form. (If Barrowman wasn't wearing the coat I'd forget he wasn't playing an entirely different character—which must be why he wears it even on the beach.) The aliens are gone, the cool technology is gone, the time-travel is gone, the mythology is gone, the adventure is gone, the fun is gone.

And nothing worthwhile has replaced those missing, essential elements. I suspect the creators would say that this is—like Children of Earth—a darker, more realistic Torchwood. That's an admirable goal, but there is nothing realistic about this story. There is not a single element of Miracle Day’s plot that is remotely plausible, let alone believable—and I'm not talking about the supernatural elements, but the human ones. Governments do not behave like this; the media does not behave like this; people do not behave like this. (For example, I might—just barely—be willing to believe that every government on the planet would construct crematoria overnight—or that millions of people would swoon before the inarticulate and empty persuasion of a man who raped and murdered a little girl—if there appeared to be a total global crisis that shook the basic functions of civilization. I can not believe any of it when—except for some crowded emergency rooms—life seems to go on as normal, with people happily sunbathing and roller-skating on Venice Beach without a care in the world.)

What it all boils down to, for me, is that Miracle Day is a half-assed, ill-conceived concept, weakly constructed, poorly executed, and lazily written. It is unworthy of Torchwood, unworthy of the actors, and unworthy of the considerable talents of a creative staff that is capable of so much more.

Mostly, it's unworthy of us, the fans, who are—I am absolutely convinced—the only reason this show has any viewers at all. (Seriously, if this wasn't slapped with the Torchwood brand, would you be watching it? Would anyone be watching it?)

Anyway, I'm done. I've made my peace, and said my goodbyes. Barring a miracle, this will be my last review of Torchwood: Miracle Day: I no longer have enough interest to keep dissecting each disappointing episode of this series, and I've run out of ways to say that it sucks. The characters I once cared about are pale shadows of themselves, and everything that made Torchwood fun or interesting is long gone.

Dead is dead. R.I.P., Torchwood, and thanks for most of the memories.


The Unaffiliated Critic

Michael G. McDunnah is a freelance writer, a recovering lit major, a pop-culture junkie, and an unaffiliated critic. He lives in Chicago.

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Comments

  1. could not agree more-it oversimplifies political responses,trivialises atrocities and insults the viewers intelligence-and that is on top of the poor execution and paper thin charactor developements.I so wanted TW to reatain some of its magic but it has failed-its TW rewatch for me.

  2. Everything you have said sounds exactly like what I thought would happen. I could not bring myself to even watch one episode, I am not into being entertained by a pedophile. Jack and Gwen in the pictures I have seen are looking old and angry all the time, they look like they are not happy to even be there. If and I mean if Torchwood ever sees the light of day again, I hope to God it is back in Wales and back with the BBC.

  3. I'm still watching, but I have to admit, you've nailed everything I've been thinking and feeling about this series. What makes it so profoundly disappointing is that Children of Earth really DID feel darker and more realistic — a step forward for the series.

  4. We used to have a show where half-robot ladies punched dinosaurs. I don't know wtf we have now, but I know I'm not watching it anymore.

  5. I agree… but for different reasons. I thought the show was stupid before, yet entertaining in a weird way.

    TW has all but lost me completely with the killing of Vera. I tend to like shows that are willing to kill off important characters, but when the victim is one of the 3 characters on the show that I really care about… it's a problem. I like Vera, Rex and Esther more than any of the other characters. I care about them because regardless of personality they are/were believeable, not over the top and seemed to give this season what little meaning it has.

    Frankly Gwen and Jack aren't even on that short list. I want to love them still but they've both become a joke, especially Gwen. Sorry but Gwen treating her husband as sloppy seconds to Jack – a gay man that will never truly love her (that bit says more about the writers' mother issues than anything else), only bothering to go back to Wales to help her father because he happens to be part of her "mission" and her pathetically stunted maternal instincts are just not attractive at all. I hoping that she gets Cat-1'd and soon.

  6. I really don't wanted to say it but I have to…… I did that see coming, so did a lot of other fans who refused to watch Miracle Crap but we were belittled and yelled down by all the others.
    No, I don't want to gloat for that I'm too sad.
    I feel sorry for JB, that he still has to promote a show where he isn't even the center character anymore.
    The writers and producers forgot that this show was supposed to be about Jack and the Torchwood that is supposed to guard the Earth from alien threats.

    R.I.P Torchwood, I still love you and I will miss you.

    1. This has become the stupid cow gwen's show! There's no Captain Jack Harkness. There's a guy called jack in an impressive trench coat who hardly has any lines or even camera shots. This show has sucked from the first episode. I've slugged my way through all 5 episodes. It's horrible. It's exceedingly dull. What happened to the great music of the prior series? What's with the extremely closeup news casts? they are not needed anymore because they are no longer saying anything new. The so called love/sex scenes were ridiculous. Who the hell could EVER want Rex? There was not even any chemistry. Jack looked ridiculous during his sexual encounter. It looked forced, and not in a ravishing way. Plus it was mixed with shots of the other dull bed scene. It should have all been skipped. The awesome Captain Jack is long gone. It's not the remnants of our Jack whose still heartbroken over Ianto. This character has just become an any guy nextdoor. He has no commanding presence. He doesn't even have faith in himself. He had power and conviction even more than Jack Bauer. And that's another Jack who was NEVER broken down to this level of impotence. Thank the Gods that I have the prior series and all of Doctor Who on dvds. Because that's the only place where Captain Jack is now! This Miracle Trash isn't even laughable sad … it's just sad, sucks, stupid, senseless, and systematically seriously WRONG! I cannot watch The Gwen Show anymore. Why is Barrowman's name even first anymore? What strange bond is there between RTD and the cow? I give up. I'm done.

      1. Excuse my typo … I meant Unimpressive trench coat. Plus Barrowman has lost too much weight. Between this and the sad shapeless coat even the beloved iconic image of our past hero is long gone.

  7. I didn't watch – basically because I could read the writing on the wall. Dead is dead, said RTD, in response to the fans crying out for a return of a show we loved.

    Well, yeah, it is. This just proves it.

  8. How about this…. Dead is dead so why not just kill them all and start over. It would be better than this BS they keep proclaiming is great. Hell, American actors playing jack and Gwen would be better than this crap!

    If I want to watch a holocaust show, I have a whole bookcase full of WWII movies thank you!

  9. Miracle Day isn't After MASH, it can't be, because that was Children of Earth. Seriously, After MASH had Colonel Potter, Sergeant Klinger, and Father Mulcahy. Children of Earth had Captain Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones, and Gwen Cooper. Miracle Day doesn't have that many of the original team left. It can't even qualify as After MASH. Not to mention that it isn't just partially set in another country, it's partially produced by Starz. If the first season of After MASH had been made in the US and the second season co-produced with the BBC and partially filmed in the UK, then Miracle Day might be the second season of After MASH.

  10. I agree with a lot of the points people are making, especially the reduction of Jack's role: he is unrecognizable from the previous series of Torchwood, and there is not even a hint of the swashbuckling con-man from Who. If the writers are doing it deliberately—as an expression of his new mortality and his guilt over Ianto and Jack's grandson—they're botching it: to make it work they would need to, I don't know, actually SPEND SOME TIME ON THE CHARACTER?

    One thing I will take issue with is all the Gwen hate out there. I really like Eve Myles, and think the Gwen and Rhys scenes are the only ones that do, sometimes, feel like Torchwood; it's just a pity that the writers have them both acting so stupidly this series.

    Now, hatred of Rex I have no problem with.

    On a side note, the Ianto thing fascinates me. At the risk of incurring the wrath of the very powerful Ianto lobby, I must say that—while I liked Ianto, and understand the anger over his death—the relationship between he and Jack was never really developed in any meaningful way for me. Absent one or two scenes in CoE—specifically Ianto's coming out scene with his sister—I never bought the emotion of it.

    1. I think for the Ianto thing is it's more loving the character than his relationship with Jack.

      Well speaking for myself, I didn't care for Ianto because he was with Jack but more for the character he is. A passionate young man serving at his best his co-workers and friends. He just made a great sci-fi hero which for me is enough to love. Like Tosh, they had mostly the same qualities that I enjoyed about characters (loyalty, courage, smart, evolve in specifics situations) Don't get me start with the "he have to die thing" which I don't believe just like I don't believe a population cheering for a child murderer, neither the camps. I think mostly the problem is people tend to focus too much about his relationship with Jack and tend to forgot Ianto for who he was alone, the man who put his friends in danger only to save the girlfriend he love by example. As for me, even if he wasn't with Jack, he was my favorite character and not so far Tosh.

      As for Gwen, I don't want to comment because she annoyed much more than entertained me.

    2. The way I see it there are two basic mistakes from The Powers That Be that have brought the Torchwood franchise to where it's at. I don't know if the mistakes come from the BBC and-or RTD, so I'll just say they come collectively from TPTB. They are as follows…

      1) Thinking of the series as strictly being about Jack and Gwen, if that. I've seen fans of each of those characters worry that their favorite won't make it through TW:MD. A big part of the appeal of Classic TW/TW: The Original Series was the TEAM. People loved Owen, Tosh and Ianto for themselves. It wasn't about who they were shagging, whether it was Gwen in Owen's case or Jack in Ianto's. It was about who they were. The franchise shed fans with the series finale of TW:TOS when it shed Owen and Tosh. It lost more shedding Ianto in TW:CoE. If it eliminates more it'll lose more. Characters matter, and not just TPTB's favorites.

      2) Thinking simple plots can be stretched over any number of episodes. TW:CoE was, and TW:MD likely is, ultimately just a variation on a TW:TOS monster of the week plot. When the vomit spewing three headed alien turducken evil alien can be defeated in the last 15 minutes of the last episode, it could have been defeated in the last fifteen minutes of the first episode. Everything between the first episode and last in TW:CoE and TW:MD is filler. It's all about stretching out the plot. That isn't just lazy storytelling. It's really bad storytelling.

  11. "(Proposition: Torchwood: Miracle Day is to Torchwood as After MASH is to M*A*S*H. Discuss.)"

    Brilliant.

    I couldn't make it past episode one. A tragedy.

  12. The main dislike for the gwen character is that not only did she moon desperately over Captain Jack, but that she actually had an affair with Owen. It was shameless because neither of them even thought they loved each other … Not to mention Rhys. She could have redeemed herself when she confessed to Rhys, but she retconned him AS she did it. Now on the other hand Ianto had to pay the price of surviving the Battle of Canary Wharf. He paid the price of watching Lisa suffering. Of Lisa being killed. Of being the cause if the two people who Killed. Of putting his team in danger. And yet Ianto was always pure of heart. Enough so that he captured the sheltered heart of Captain Jack. The burden of loving an immortal who is afraid of losing you to death was another burden. His character was due to be rewarded … Not hers. She was nothing but selfish and self righteous. She even made a fool of Rhys. But, oh well! It's not my show. I have the right not to watch it. But I've yet to hear ANYONE explain why her character was the only other one to survive. She was the Least skilled of the team. She was the weakest link. It's unbelievable that she learned so much alone in the world, yet Rhys is still the same. So for those who continue to love gwen, I'm happy for you. And as such, I expect you to understand my loss of Jack's true love … Ianto. I grew to love Ianto because Jack loved him. They both deserved some happiness, but apparently RTD only wants gwen happy. Please just let me cry in peace. So long Ianto. So long Captain Jack. So long Torchwood.

  13. I like your review, but it would really have more credibility if you delete the nasty/ungrammatical/abusive comments.

    1. You know, this site is new, and so far I haven't felt the need to establish any kind of policy for comments. My attitude has been that if you're not trying to sell anything or threaten anyone, have at it. If it gets out of hand I may rapidly become less democratic.

      (I also think that if I judged every article by the quality of the debate—or the grammar—in the comments section, I'd basically have to stop reading the internet.)

  14. I'm going to be the only one commenting here who completely disagrees. Miracle Day is bloody fantastic!

    Yes, I agree the pace is a little slow, but I don't find anything that is happening in it particularly incredulous for a show like this. The actions and reactions of everyone are believable. If you don't agree, take a look at the crazy rioting in the UK right now…people get in a frenzy and do stupid stuff that goes against the grain of what common sense dictates. Why wouldn't governments react to Miracle Day this way? Why wouldn't the media and people embrace someone like Oswald Danes? He's a fabulous anti-hero.

    Torchwood series 1-3 are different animals, and you shouldn't compare, but I think Jack and Gwen's characters have evolved exactly the way they should given the circumstances they've been put in, and the horrors they've been through. Jack's heroic gusto is gone, and why wouldn't it after losing a grandson, a lover and being forced to wander the universe alone? Gwen's been forced into hiding with her husband and child…family is all she has now, so dropping everything for her father makes total sense.

    We're only halfway through the series too…if it were a two hour movie…or even a one hour episode, would you walk out halfway through with so many questions unanswered? Your assumption that there are no aliens, technology and things that"made Torchwood, Torchwood" are completely unfounded at this point.

    I agree it could go either way for me depending on how the rest of the story pans out…but so far I'm hooked, and the back 5 episodes could make this the series that everyone SHOULD have seen, rather than the one everyone clearly is in a hurry to miss now. This is the build up, it's the delivery that matters now….

  15. Yes, episodes 1-5 were kinda boring. Yes, episode 6 is again boring. BUT you HAVE to keep watching! Why? Because of episode 7! It´s bloody brilliant! Just go and watch episode 6 and then be prepared for episode 7! It is awesome! Seriously! I was kinda disappointed by series 4 so far, too, but episode 7 makes it all better!

    1. Though I didn't review it, I did watch Episode 6 last week, and it didn't improve my opinion any. I haven't watched Episode 7 yet, but I probably will. I may even do one more post at the end of the series to judge the thing (for better or worse) as a whole. (The last four episodes will have to be pretty great to redeem the first six for me: even if they're as good as Children of Earth, it still doesn't excuse the six hours I spent not enjoying the show at all.)

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