It’s all over, and the Miracle Day has drawn to a close. While some will have released a held breath, for others it will be a sigh of relief. For me, it’s a bit of both; it’s been a bumpy ride to say the least, but this is Torchwood. Last week’s episode ended with our heroes split into two teams, poised for action at opposite ends of the planet. The enemies were finally in sight; with one last episode to go, it could have been a gripping conclusion.
Sadly, it isn’t. After a meaty monologue from Gwen, it’s business as usual for this final hour, one which left me with an “is that it?” feeling. We’re given no insight into The Blessing – that almighty crack that runs through our planet – other than its manipulation of the ages of those around it. Apparently, anyone close by lives the average life expectancy; with the introduction of Jack’s blood, The Blessing believes everyone is immortal, and has acted accordingly on a world-wide scale. This, despite the fact Jack himself said a few weeks ago that his immortality had nothing to do with his blood. I seem to recall it was something to do with Rose Tyler and the heart of the TARDIS in Doctor Who.
Our teams are captured in both locations, although Oswald Danes and his dynamite vest mean we have a stand off. Guns are aimed, but nobody is willing to pull a trigger just yet. No, they’d rather talk. A lot. As well as a potted history of The Blessing, the families also reveal their plans for world domination (cue the James Bond theme) by taking over the banks, who run the governments, who run the people. Oh, and they’ll also decide who lives or dies. First, though, they’re going to blow up their bases in Shanghai and Buenos Aires – cue lots of military henchmen (maybe it should be the Austin Powers music?) planting sticks of dynamite onto strategic girders.
They aren’t the only ones messing around with explosives this week. The army transport moving Esther and Rex is blown up, although our heroes are fortunately not in it. “They think we’re dead,” Rex enthuses, but isn’t the whole point of Miracle Day that nobody is dying? We already know that people can be blown up and still live; perhaps ‘out of action’ or ‘Category One’ would have been a better turn of phrase.
Our other mad bomber is the CIA traitor Miss Charlotte Willis. We assume she’s a Miss, as anyone daring to wear a dress so tight for work is clearly on the pull. No matter; she’s evil and devious and – as the trace on her phone gets ever closer – clever enough to hide explosives in a filing cabinet at the CIA headquarters. The office is ripped apart, Allen Shapiro only able to utter a single “fuck” before being blown to kingdom come. I’ll miss him; John De Lancie has been superb throughout his too few episodes, and it’s a shame his last words couldn’t be more witty or profound. I’ve nothing against swearing, but here it feels childish, more a sniggering ‘look what we can say after nine o’clock and get away with’ than a truly adult gut reaction.
For me, that’s been the problem throughout this series. Yes, the effects are better thanks to the alliance with Starz in the USA, but effects do not a good story make. Despite the massive implications of everlasting life (moral, sociological and religious issues) these have never been discussed, bar a few snippets of symbolism that have been stuck in. It’s a world changing event, one that seems to have led to a recession and not much else. For an adult show – one that even ‘kids’ TV show Doctor Who often out-matures – it simply isn’t good enough; Torchwood should be more than Doctor Who with swearing and a bit more bloody violence. Given the flashes of brilliance that have occasionally punctuated the series, this ten week run has failed to deliver. Plot strands have been left hanging – I’ll mention The Soulless one final time – as if the various writers haven’t bothered to talk to each other. What has been a sprawling mess for ten weeks could have been so much better in half that time.
Fortunately, there are still aspects that remain praiseworthy. Bill Pullman and Mekhi Phifer have taken their respective characters from potential clichés into the dramatic heart of the series. Rex Matheson, as the new blood of Torchwood, has injected wit and vigour, while Oswald Danes has been an outstanding, if criminally under-used, villain. Danes’s final line, telling his murder victim that he’s following her into hell, is as chilling as the character should be. Rex’s shooting was a shock, but his subsequent resurrection (thanks to a transfusion of Jack’s blood, the stuff that isn’t responsible for his immortality, remember?) was welcoming, even if it could be seen coming from a mile away.
Esther’s death was shocking, even if my main feeling was surprise that she’d lasted this long. It was a truly villainous move to shoot her, knowing that our heroes’ success would result in her life ending. I felt more for Esther than Gwen’s dad, whose imminent demise was hammered home so many times that it lost much of its emotional impact. I can’t put my finger on it, but the UK scenes this series have lacked something, as if they’ve been an afterthought reminder of Torchwood’s roots.
So, that’s it then. Ten weeks of Torchwood, ten weeks of reading my complaints about how disappointing it’s all been, about all that potential wasted. Yet, I feel there are still positives that can be taken away and worked on to provide a future for the show. Rex’s immortality has far-reaching consequences; will Jack take him under his wing (an Odd Couple pair who can live forever), or will Rex form an American arm of Torchwood on his own, taking up the Captain Jack role to essentially a reboot of the series for a US audience?
Whichever path Torchwood takes in the future, I’ll be there to watch it, even if I’m a harsh critic. Perhaps I’m being foolish, forever in the hope that all its potential will be realised and the quality will be consistent, but let’s be positive and say it’s all just a matter of time. Failing that, we can always watch Children of Earth on DVD to see how it should be done.