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Torchwood Miracle Day: The Categories of Life

Vera: "So am I Torchwood now?"
Jack: "Welcome aboard."

It took four episodes of set up, but we finally got the payoff. Jeez Louise. The overflow camps were obviously concentration camps, so the ovens shouldn't have surprised me. But they did.

Category One

Rex going undercover as a dead man took guts, pun intended. I kept expecting something horrible to happen to him (I think I started caring about Rex after he climbed thirty-three flights of stairs to rescue Jack and Gwen). But I was not expecting what happened to Vera Juarez. She died because she was a doctor who cared about people and simply couldn't keep quiet about what she was seeing. What a horrible way to die.

Mekhi Phifer was just terrific in that scene. Rex tried frantically to get her out of the module. When he realized that he couldn't, his final act was to pick up that video camera and aim it at the window, even though he couldn't bear to look. I think that defines Rex. He did his job because it was the last thing he could do for her. Rex was right that going undercover was difficult and dangerous, and not everyone could handle it.

Maloney treated Vera like an object right from the first, before he "accidentally" killed her and was "forced" to cover it up. Racist, sexist and ignorant, he was the perfect stereotype of the good Nazi who never asks questions and should never be put in a position of power. He even said "Jawohl" and did the Nazi salute, in case that wasn't obvious.

What I don't get is what PhiCorp and/or their Revolving Triangle overlords are getting out of this, other than tons of profits from drugs. As Rex said, there has to be more to it. Does it have something to do with changing society in order to permanently devalue human life? And what does that have to do with making Jack mortal?

The three categories are: One, people with no brain function or anyone who would have died; two, people with illnesses or injuries that will persist, and three, people with no injuries. It's interesting that Rex is stuck between categories one and two, and that's the point. Putting human beings into categories makes them into objects.

Category Two

Gwen went back to Wales just in time to screw up her father's rescue. She was so wonderfully take charge and damn the torpedoes. What possessed her to yell for help when her father collapsed? Did she forget where she was and what she was doing, or was the situation just too unthinkable for her to process? Geraint Wyn Cooper is now category one and in line for the ovens in the morning. Let's hope Gwen and Rhys can get him out in time.

Category Three

Jack went to the Miracle Day rally and tried to get Danes to tell the public the truth by appealing to that tiny bit of humanity inside him. Jack is intuitive. If he thinks Danes still has a flicker of humanity, it's probably there. But maybe Jack is just projecting his own child-killing guilt on Danes.

Danes talked about the "great leap forward" 50,000 years ago when humans began to bury their dead, and that we've leaped ahead again. We're "angels" now. (Maybe like the angels on Supernatural.) Bill Pullman is acting his heart out, but the Danes part of the story still isn't working for me as well as the rest.

The code word is: Revelation. Why did Danes have to say that word at the rally? It had to be PhiCorp's way of communicating something to someone outside of normal channels, but whom? The Revolving Triangle people have access to cell phones, after all.

Bits and pieces:

-- There are no more medical panels, and it's clear that PhiCorp and the Revolving Triangle are either influencing or outright controlling governments.

-- The simultaneous undercover missions were in San Pedro (daylight) and Cowbridge Camp (night). Nice touch, thinking internationally.

-- Jack pretending to be Rex's boyfriend was fun.

-- Esther loves Rex, doesn't she?

-- The (literally) colorful and exuberant Jilly is still a moral question mark. Did one of the Revolving Triangle nonentities just contact her? He was cryptic, like last week's assassin.

-- If Russell T. Davies were American, I'd suspect this was a science fiction indictment of the American health care system. Although it's more than American. The inequities in health care all over the world are criminal. The poor and uninsured are supposed to shut up and die quickly.

-- This episode, and episode 3, were written by Buffy writer Jane Espenson.


Jack: "That's the big secret, Esther. Times like these, the game goes to the person who speaks with the loudest voice. But pretty much everyone just wishes their mother was here."
Rex is definitely the loudest voice.

Esther: "You're unique. You're category Jack."
Too true.

Maloney: "We got a line on Hilary I'm feeling good about."
Vera: "Hillary Clinton?"
Maloney: "Duff."

Maloney: "We're missing it. The miracle rally. I've heard rumors of Phil Collins."

Stunningly horrible. Four out of four red pegs,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. What an ep. I watched it this am after I finished downloading it and was left nearly speechless. so much going on in this ep: murder (of sorts) since people can't literally completely *die* at the moment, political and social allegories, the comparisons to the concentration camps.

    Just wow. Very good ep.

  2. Ceridwyn2 my friend, I completely agree about the strength of the social and political content. It's an obvious indictment of people who believe health care is only for those who can afford it. I was stunned, too.

  3. Enjoyed this one, too. Nicely paced story, with a couple of decent reveals, and a freakish cliffhanger. I'm betting that Vera won't be dead. Not any money, obviously. I'll probably lose. But I'm expecting her back next week... with Ianto, Tosh and Owen in tow.

    I agree that the Danes part of the story isn't really working. And I agree with Zob that Maloney came across like Window Twanky. So does Danes, to me. But, in my opinion, Danes is bad because Pullman's bad. Maloney was baloney because his character's been badly realised.

    Still, I enjoyed the rest. I'm still in two minds about whether the story's strong enough for a ten episode run. So far, I'd say not. But it's beginning to feel like Torchwood again, and for that I'm grateful.

    Great review Billie. Just one thing: was last week's episode written by Jane Espenson? I thought it was the week before's.

  4. This was a good episode but the problem I'm having with Miracle Day is that, while I do enjoy it, I can't escape this nagging feeling that it could be a lot better. The series' biggest flaw is still the Oswald storyline, it's just too ridiculous to be taken the slightest bit seriously.

  5. Why is it ridiculous? If Casey Anthony started speaking at public events, I guarantee (tens of) thousands would show up.

  6. This episode was difficult to watch but very good. Nice review Billie, you always make me look at the episode in a new way. Just let me say that I am an optimist and not usually the cynic in the group but I think the Danes story line is central. He talks about a giant leap forward for humanity but really the show is about what happens to a democratic country when panic sets in and people are uncertain about their future. The concentration camp really summed it up for me since they are a great illustration of how humans can become inhuman and Danes is the epitome of that. Jack even called their little group Freedom Fighters. I was really hoping that the little shred of humanity in Danes would win out but I wasn't surprised when it didn't. I also really expected the red peg people to end up as hosts for aliens. Wouldn't it be interesting if this was just about money and power. I also thought it was really interesting that China was a hold out in imposing the categories. Not sure what that means but it looks like every democracy in the world has crumbled.

  7. Russell is British, so it's much more likely he's indicting the British NHS where government runs the system.

    Remember, the system we are now seeing in Torchwood is the replacement for the private system with a government-run health-care system.

    It's the government system that allowed some bueareucrat to be put in charge of a camp, a guy who had no idea about health care and just wanted to save some money.

    And the NHS does decide who gets treatment based on how old they are. And I personally know a woman who waited years for a hip replacement because, under the government system, she was likely to only ever get one, because she was old enough that after it gave out, she'd be considered old enough that it wouldn't be considered "worth it" to do another.

    In America, no hospital is allowed to turn away patients who can't pay. Clearly people with money get better treatment, but if everybody got everything they needed without regard to money (the Utopean ideal, I suppose), nobody would bother to work hard to earn money, because what would the point be?

    In fact, the major selling point for ObamaCare was that it was costing people who paid too much money for their health care because of all the free care given to people who didn't have insurance.

  8. Charles my friend, if you're an American, I am betting you have friends who hold down low-paying jobs but never see a doctor because they don't have insurance and can't afford it. I have friends like that. I'm betting you know someone who lost their home or couldn't leave it to their heirs because of medical expenses. Like my grandparents -- all four of them. There are problems with NHS, but there are problems here in America, too.

  9. It's true, the NHS isn't perfect but I'll fight tooth and nail to keep it.

  10. Sorry about that -- I dislike talking politics in my entertainment world...

    Torchwood was very disturbing; RTD is good at writing stories where it seems all hope is lost. I'll have trouble getting the image of Vera out of my mind.

    And when they showed the camera on teh ground, my daughter said "he should be filming" and I said "how could you film watching your lover get burned alive?" Then he picked up the camera -- the man does his job.

    Other than that, it seems the team is stuck on stupid. In real life, who taunts the guy who just shot you? It's like you are begging to be killed. I realize that's a common trope, telling the guy who can kill you that you know what he's doing and you are going to put him away forever. But it still is annoying.

    It takes a lot of suspension of reality to believe Gwyn could fly from California back to Wales on such short notice and without being caught, given what you assume the state of the world is right now. But assuming you can, her husband still using his real name, and then kissing her -- not very good with the secret identity thing.

    This reminds me of dollhouse, how it takes a while to get the full grasp of how things would be in the alternate reality being imposed. I can see how burning the bodies of the real dead would make sense -- but I am wondering if the burned but still "alive" tissue is actually a product they are working to obtain?

  11. I'd like to stay out of the health-care debate, because I think I might get a little over-zealous, and I don't want to bring politics to the site.

    But it is odd that so much of the impact of this episode came from its references and allusions to history and current politics (ObamaCare, Nazis, privatization and contracting of governmental services, even austerity). That feels like a real change from most of Torchwood, even Children of Earth (although obviously governmental depersonalization and classism were issues there).

    I've read three Nazi-related books recently, two of them based in facts, and I was still astonished that RTD went as far as including the ovens. Ovens! It's so intense that it would be unbelievable if we didn't know that sort of thing had been done.

  12. Every country in the world deserves an NHS, it may not be perfect but at least i know that if my boy gets sick he will get medical care, and of a quality standard. Its all to easy to knock and anyway why shouldnt we strive for utopia, surely as a species thats our ultimate goal?


  13. The eintre scene when Vera ges shot felt so surreal and fake that it really took me out of the episode. What a way to gram the idiot ball...

  14. Finally getting a chance to watch this series and loving your reviews! From the first I figured they'd either go the Soylent Green or Nazi route, although I'm kind of sad they took the (in my opinion) easier Nazi option.


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