Torchwood: Miracle Day “Rendition” TV REVIEW

Snacks and a plane


4.02
Writer:
Doris Egan
Director: Billy Gierhart

THE ONE WHERE Jack drinks something that doesn’t agree with him on a plane, and the CIA suddenly decide that Rex and Esther need “retiring”.

VERDICT First up, sorry this has taken a while to make its way onto the site, but three things caused the delay: a) our frantic Comic-Con coverage; b) the site relaunch; and, c) the fact that the episode was a bit m’eh, and sapped the will to make a special effort.

While there was a lot that impressed – especially any scene with Bill Pullman’s Oswald Danes, and the medical discussions into the ramification of Miracle Day, it’s worrying, just two episodes in, the series already seems to showing signs of padding. The entire plotline with Jack, Gwen and Rex on the plane was, basically, an extended excuse for them not to arrive in the US before all the necessary shenanigans with the CIA had been sorted out. To be fair, the medical MacGyver malarkey was fun enough in itself (it certainly gave us some great lines), but jarred excruciatingly with the more weighty elements in the episodes. Forget whether the show has a UK/US identity problem. The real problem seems to be that it can’t make it’s mind up whether it wants to be Warehouse 13 or 24. Certainly John  Barrowman’s Jack comes across as more of a Pete Lattimer than a Jack Bauer.

There’s also still no real feeling of how deeply Miracle Day is affecting the world. At the moment it seems little more than a mild inconvenience. Sure, issues are discussed, but it’s be nice to actually see some evidence. Vera’s trip to the frantic medical panels does help but tellingly, the most effective moment is when she barks at her colleagues that they need to totally rethink the triage system.

The medical panels seem to be Miracle Day’s replacement for the series-defining government cabinet moral discussions in Children Of Earth, but the lack of any input from the world’s leaders remains a weakness for this new series. As we mentioned last week, clearly Russell T Davies doesn’t want to repeat himself, but it would help ram home the potential seriousness of the threat if a few presidents turned up on TV screen at least. At the moment it seems like it’s just a bunch of random medics and Torchwood who are doing any forward-thinking. Okay, this may change in future episodes, but for the moment, Miracle Day is kicking off with a very soft start.

And why the need for all that babble about morphic fields? No, Jack, the amazing thing about Miracle Day is that people have stopped dying, not that it happened at the same time. Trust us on that. Okay, morphic fields are a known scientific phenomenon (well, they’ve got an entry on Wikipedia, anyway) but stretching that theory to account for a worldwide phenomenon is bordering on Treknobabble.

Danes continues to be the standout element in this series, as his character takes some unexpected turns. His prison-induced snack attack (“That’s the thing about piss. It has a way of enduring,” he tells a shocked TV production assistant by way of explanation) is a great moment, and his breakdown on TV – whether calculated or not – is both uncomfortable and riveting to witness. You can easily believe he would become an internet phenomenon (though we could have done without the pro-and-con CIA dissection of his performance afterwards). The revelation that the CIA seems to somehow be in on Miracle Day is an intriguing twist as well, that promises some X-Files-style conspiracy plotting; maybe this is why the US government is suspiciously absent from the plot right now – maybe they’re in on the whole thing?

Rex and Esther remain thoroughly watchable, and Rex’s “bullshit” speech at the airport as he sides with Torchwood against the CIA is a wonderfully brazen piece of crowd-pleasing script fireworks. The subsequent Dichen Lachman “twist” though is another case of nobody quite knowing what level to play it at. It simply looks ridiculous, but the Torchwood crew just look slightly embarrassed about how silly she looks, when what the scene really calls out for is a direct lift form The Thing: “You have got to be f**king kidding.”

There are flashes of brilliance, and black humour, and genuinely thought-provoking concepts, which hopefully will develop further in future episodes. But for the moment, Torchwood US feels oddly flaccid in places, and really needs to deliver a killer episode with a real water-cooler discussion-generating bombshell soon.

BEST DIALOGUE:

Air Steward: “Be careful, that’s my good tie.”
Gwen: “You’re definitely not gay?”
Air Steward: “It was one time, okay?”