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TV Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day – “Dead Of Night”

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After a disappointing start to the season, Torchwood: Miracle Day seemed to pick up during last week’s “Rendition” with some interesting plot developments and a return to form for Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles).  The scene was set, the new Torchwood team established, the supporting cast was introduced, and we looked forward to the story really getting started with “Dead of Night”. 

Unfortunately, “Dead of Night” got off to a terrible start and my hackles were immediately raised by the pointless and irritating scene focusing on American English versus standard English.  You have to wonder who the writers think they are kidding.  British television is full of American programming and part of the reason for the production of Torchwood switching to Starz was the growing popularity of BBC America and British shows in the States.  I assume that the audience is quite familiar with the synonymity of pants and trousers, gas stations and petrol stations, and cell phones and mobile phones. We didn’t need Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) kindly and patiently wasting the first quarter of the third episode of the show explaining it to us.

While there was so much more to like about “Rendition” than season opener “The New World”, “Dead of Night” seemed to milk those ideas and storylines and began to slide down an all too predictable path. 

The already thin plot was beginning to wear on my already thin patience. The idea that convicted paedophile and murderer Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) was taking the moral high ground seemed interesting in “Rendition” but during “Dead of Night” I felt weary of the moral ambiguity and the idea that the audience is being lead to empathize with this man.  I fully expected him to expose his manipulative side by the end of the episode and I find it tiresome that this character is becoming the great media sensation and bearer of Miracle Day discourse.

I had enjoyed the introduction of Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) in last week’s episode and was disappointed to see that she soon became a stereotype and her evil arch-manipulator-but-obviously-a-big-business-pawn role is shallow, undeveloped and two-dimensional.

The much-hyped sex scenes seemed quite pointless too and I struggled to place them within the greater context of the show. It was as if the writers got to writing the third episode and suddenly remembered that Torchwood was renowned for its adult, risqué and gender-bending storylines.  There was no subtle innuendo, suspense or  tantalising build-up; instead, what we saw was clumsy, protracted and obvious.  I mentioned last week that Torchwood: Miracle Day seems to missing the sense of magic and allure that generated intense fan investment in the Torchwood series and the writers urgently need to reconnect with that.   Sadly though, after witnessing this episode, I fully expect to see obvious, transparent “insert magic and mystery here”-type storytelling in upcoming episodes.

It is not the first time since Torchwood: Miracle Day began that I’ve felt that the writers believe viewers to be idiots, incapable of understanding anything but the most obvious of plots.  I admit, there was a discussion in this episode on the cessation of spontaneous abortions and how more children would survive to be be born with serious birth defects.  However, the interesting discussions on the ramifications of immortality and super-human status soon made way for the main storyline involving the big, bad pharmaceutical company with a big business profit agenda.

Choosing a multi-national pharmaceutical company as the seat of all evil in Torchwood: Miracle Day was sloppy and excessively moralistic but naming it PhiCorp was just plain lazy and I am surprised that it didn’t result in litigation.  As the tone and direction of Torchwood: Miracle Day cascades around like an out of control pinwheel, it began to remind me of a cross between Flash Forward and Erin Brockovich

To maintain my flagging interest in Torchwood: Miracle Day, I have decided to make some predictions regarding the plot over the next seven episodes of the show.  The Torchwood Institute deals with extra-terrestrial threats to Earth.  Characters like Oswald Danes, Jilly Kitzinger and CIA director Brian Friedkin are indeed going to be shown to be pawns in a greater plan for pharmaceutical monopoly and profit, which is then going to turn out to be a grand alien plan to take over our planet. 

There might be an interesting discussion of the enemy’s need for immortal, genetically weak drones which is what humanity will be reduced to when natural selection is no longer a determining factor. There may also be the Russell T. Davies standard device of post-apocalyptic scenes of epic proportions, although that would require an intervention in time and space and I don’t believe we’ll see The Doctor in this season. Nevertheless, Torchwood will then swoop in and save the day and a massive cliff hanger in the final episode will lay the ground for the second Torchwood: Miracle Day season.

I truly hope that I am proven wrong and that twists, unpredictability and magical, explosive storylines await us, but at this point, the only reason I’ll continue watching Torchwood: Miracle Day is to see whether I am proven correct or not.

All images ©2011 BBC Worldwide Limited.

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About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is a blogger, serial expat and eternal tourist living and working in London. Aside from writing at Blogcritics, she blogs about travel and London at Emm in London, entertainment and media at Addicted to Media and war crimes, genocide and social justice over at A Passion to Understand.