Immortal Sins


Mel Gibson comes to Torchwood or, The Passion of the Jack


Mel Gibson comes to Torchwood.
Mel Gibson comes to Torchwood.

Throughout this painful series, I've been blaming Russell T Davies alone for the tedium, the idiocy and the sheer story-telling incompetence displayed on our television screens and computer monitors like a toddler's finger-paintings hung in the Louvre by his rich parents, rather than taped to a refrigerator door where they belong.

But unlike finger-painting, television is a collaborative medium and not even Davies' broad frame can shoulder all the blame.

At this point, one can only conclude that the unholy spawn of the marriage between the BBC and the American cable network Starz, is the mutant product of some arcane bureaucratic process and not of any actual human being.

The imagination reels before the idea that a person has vetted the scripts or even read an outline of the story in its entirety.

The alternative — that someone did knowingly approve this mess — can only be ascribed to madness, deliberate sabotage, or to the consumption by everyone involved of enough dangerous, mind-altering drugs to have stopped Hunter S. Thompson in his tracks.

Yes, things are that bad. And I say this after having acknowledged that Immortal Sins is the best episode of the series to date (see "Sins of the Show-Runner" here).

So, just for a change, let's talk about what is right about Immortal Sins. Let's talk about the good that Jane Espenson hath wrought.

(No, it won't take long.)


Jack is in love ...


The other passion of Captain Jack.
The other passion of Captain Jack.
Post-coital bliss for Captain Jack.
Post-coital bliss for Captain Jack.

Immortal Sins is told in two tracks, one set in 1927 and 1928, the other in the present. All of the good bits, such as they are, occur in the nearly-sepia-tone past (kudos to the cinematographer), where Captain Jack falls in love.

Fresh off a boat from Britain, Captain Jack chases down and tackles (while nonsensically calling "Stop that man!" a half-second before doing the job himself), then rescues from deportation, an Italian immigrant named Angelo (angel — get it?) Colasanto, who had stolen Jack's visa.

There follows a relatively subtle 15 or 20 minutes of slash fiction, as unhurried and unconcerned that time is running out on this series as every other episode so far — but quite a bit more entertaining than any of them.

Just so I'm clear, Jane Espenson writes decent smut and a relatively credible (at least for this program) transformation of lust into love. The budding relationship includes not only a fair amount of naked man-on-man action, but humour and tenderness as well. Enough so that it seems reasonable enough when Jack somehow (already, the details escape me; which reminds me that I'm grading on a curve) decides that, like the Doctor, he ought to have a companion, and that Angelo ought to be it.

The newly-minted Batman and Robin soon find themselves opening a mysterious crate in a dark basement, but things quickly go wrong.

The crate contains an alien (at last!), a mind-controlling creature (clearly from from Ceti Alpha V) that Jack deduces is meant for none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In a fannish nod to The Sarah Jane Adventures), he explains that the The Trickster's Brigade is behind the plot. But, like Jack, I digress.

Jack destroys the creature and closes the crate.

"So," says Angelo, "the mission is complete."

"We just saved the world Angelo. And no one will ever know."

"Then, did I pass? Can I stay with you like The Doctor? Learn all the secrets?" An alarm sounds and Jack grins. "Here's one of the secrets: Run!"

Unlike most of the Doctor's races, though, this one ends with a bullet exiting the back of Jack's skull while Angelo watches in palpable horror. The scene the strongest since Vera was shot back in Categories of Life, but it's all downhill from here as the Idiot Plot Monster rears its ugly head.

Is it really too much to ask of Espenson that she provide a better reason for Jack to come back to life without witnesses than that the cops just leave his bleeding body in an alley — unattended?

Wait. This is Torchwood: Miracle Day. Of course it's too much to ask.


Never trust a Catholic peasant


The Church, according to Russell T Davies.
Guess who's blood? Religion, according to Russell T Davies.

A year later, Angelo is released from Sing Sing. Jack is waiting for him. "I came back for you," he says.

The two repair to the very same room in which they enjoyed their first tryst, but Angelo (conveniently armed with a dagger), isn't going to have sex with the Devil, not again. The guilt-ridden lapsed Catholic puts his Captain's immortality to the test by gutting him then stabbing him in the heart.

And that's only the beginning of the Passion of the Jack.

What Mel Gibson's Jews did to Christ, Espenson and Davies' Catholics to do Captain Jack.

Our hero is set upon by a basement full of slavering stereotypes, a mob of Italian Catholic peasants who cross themselves before and after they shoot and stab, slash and bludgeon, the immortal miracle man. If Jack suffers hours or days (or weeks) of torture, we viewers must endure more than two minutes, and that, frankly, is more than enough.

The peasants' blood-lust finally sated (and presumably, every one of their glass bottles filled with Jack's precious blood), Jack is sold to a mysterious triumvirate, Pink Floyd. Though (we presume) monstrously evil, they haven't yet got the hang of proper security, so a remorseful Angelo has no trouble rescuing Jack.

He explains that he was really scared but — boy! howdy! — he's really sorry for all the trouble he caused. Won't Jack please take him back? "You're lonely too ... Please, don't let me on my own."

For no apparent reason, Jack doesn't beat Angelo to a bloody pulp. Rather, he explains that he's an unkillable fixed point in time and that he doesn't want to watch Angelo age and die (why ever not Jack?).

Angelo keeps going on about being together, but Jack holds firm.

"I'm sorry Angelo, but this is the story of my life. It always ends the same way: you kill me. Men like you. You kill me."

Holy explicit Christ allusion, Batman! If we didn't get when Angelo washed the blood from Jack's feet, Mr. Davies, Ms Espenson, we surely get it now!

I mean, What the hell, Russell T Davies? What happened to story structure? What happened to foreshadowing before 70 percent of the story is told? What happened to the show-runner who so subtly wove Bad Wolf through a whole, very entertaining, series of Doctor Who?

When did you substite allusions for substance?

If last week, the stupid burned, this week it's more like an insidious poison, rotting out a pretty surface from the inside.

And yet, it gets even worse.

Never trust a mother

Never trust a mother.
Never trust a mother.

Back in the present, in the second thread of this week's episode, that stupid is wholly in the ascendant.

Gwen is back in California at last, but under orders from Pink Floyd (who, you'll recall, have hacked her contact lenses and are holding her family hostage) to "Bring us Jack."

She tazes him, bundles him into the back seat of her car, then sets off to deliver her Captain to the bad guys.

Last week a bad-ass motorcycle mama, this week Gwen is a broken woman, bereft of imagination or intelligence, who blames Jack for everything, and who is willing to betray not only Jack, but the entire human race on the off-chance the bad guys aren't lying and will really return her to the bosom of her family.

Once a woman becomes a mother, don't trust her with anything important, I guess is the lesson here. Thanks, Ms Espenson!

Through luck rather than guile (naturally; we know that brains are in short supply in this world), Rex and Esther manage to save the day, even locating Gwen's family and arranging for a Cardiff swat team (hi P.C. Andy! You do get around!) to go get 'em. (How they manage all that while also still being in hiding is (naturally) left unexplained.)

What's also unexplained is why the whole kidnapping took place at all.

You see, once disarmed, Nana Visitor's unnamed villain calmly explains to Jack, "You're still coming with me ... I can take you to the one man who knows how the Miracle began ... Angelo Colasanto. He's waiting for you, Jack."

Which begs the question: Why didn't Angelo just pick up the phone or send Jack a friend request via Torchwood's Facebook page? If Jack does go with Nana, what in the world have the last seven episodes been for?

That's it for this week. No Jilly Kitzinger nor — but for a mention on the radio that sounds more like a press release from Xinhua than anything American: "But Oswald Danes has released a statement in which he says that a global emergency calls for emergency measures, and he advocated a swift return to the Category Policy" — no Oswald Danes.

The best episode this series has yet to offer is one rife with logical errors, class and religious stereotypes so broad even this unmitigated atheist is appalled, and an implicit insult to women whose unconscious contempt is nearly impossible to fathom. And of course, the plot has barely moved forward at all.

Can things get any worse? Tune in next week to find out!

Return to the "Miracle Day" index and overview.

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The best review ever,

The best review ever, seriously. I've seen rabid MD fans defend this episode and your review just makes me smile.

Best review ever, seriously.

Best review ever, seriously. I've seen rabid MD fans defend this episode and your review just makes me smile.

I refuse... take something serious that won't even get the most basic timeline correct and calls itself a Sci-Fi show. It's 1920-something and Jack tells Angelo that he's a fixed point in time and space, something he won't learn for another 80+ years, when he meets the Doctor again during S1 and S2 of Torchwood. Torchwood always had plot holes and crappy writing, but to base the central plot (I guess this is the beginning of Miracle Day here) on a plot hole is a whole new level of bad.

I wish Torchwood could go back to taking itself so serious, back then it was at least fun to watch. This? This is not funny anymore, this is a laugh. This old Doctor Who and Torchwood fan here almost feels insulted by who stupid Torchwoods writer seem to think the fans are.

Box of tricks

Miracle Day just feels like a rehash of every plot device RTD has ever used-not to mention a rehash of dialogue and scenarios all put together like a box of tricks with out much attention to pacing,storyline or credibility.The end was a real LOL moment but not in a witty way--the wit seems to have dissapared gone the same way as the continuity.I thought the ovens were heavy handed but the multiple ressurections and torture of CJ was just crass.Is there any analogies they have not covered-and you know its bad when even the worst of slash fiction in better than the MD smut.

And onto fan fiction-- when the writing is good i enjoy it as much as the original--some of it is both witty and innovative--not being a writer i have a lot of respect for some of the authors who manage to build on the original and ask for very little but a few nice comments.

enjoying your MD snark

nearly-sepia-tone past (kudos to the cinematographer)

D'you mean you liked the wholly new and original and creative use of sepia to signify flashbacks? While I didn't find them offensive or anything like that, isn't this 'the past looked like an old photograph' technique overused and predictable?

an Italian immigrant named Angelo (angel — get it?) Colasanto

Not versed in Italian, but doesn't 'Colasanto' mean something like 'to drain a saint'? Drain him of BLOOD or DOOM. Or something.

better reason for Jack to come back to life without witnesses than that the cops just leave his bleeding body in an alley — unattended

Mmm, they left unattended his DEAD body, and I think there was something said about some of the cops checking the perimeter, so I figured they planned to pick Jack's corpse up later. It's not like they could've expected a dead man to walk off.

Pink Floyd. Though (we presume) monstrously evil, they haven't yet got the hang of proper security, so a remorseful Angelo has no trouble rescuing.

They didn't yet buy Jack in that scene, they just agreed to. And Jack was still in that same basement, so I'm guessing Angelo rescued Jack in the nick of time while the baddies were making arrangements. Come to think, we haven't learned anything about the baddies yet, or what they could've done to Jack if he escaped them...

Once a woman becomes a mother, don't trust her with anything important, I guess is the lesson here.

Thanks for clearing that up! I did wonder. =)

What's also unexplained is why the whole kidnapping took place at all. <..> Why didn't Angelo just pick up the phone or send Jack a friend request via Torchwood's Facebook page?

Oooh, that. Aside from Jack's convoluted timeline issue, this was one hell of a WTF moment. Possibly the most glaring yet this series, for me at least. And overall, watching 'Immortal Sins' (and actually enjoying it a lot), I felt like it should have been episode two, following an episode one consicely and tensely introducing the main disaster and the new characters.

Re: enjoying your MD snark

D'you mean you liked the wholly new and original and creative use of sepia to signify flashbacks? While I didn't find them offensive or anything like that, isn't this 'the past looked like an old photograph' technique overused and predictable?

Sometimes originality is over-rated. I know it's not a new technique, but I thought in this case it was nicely-done, not calling attention to itself but clearly marking the chronological difference. Besides, one is hard-pressed to find anything to say good things about here, you know?

I think there was something said about some of the cops checking the perimeter...

Maybe, but all I noticed was someone off-screen saying the meat-wagon was on its way. In any event, I don't buy it.

I felt like it should have been episode two

Yes, exactly. Personally, I'd have spread the two timelines over the first two or three episodes (depending on whether we're going with five or ten in this thought experiement), and gradually pulling the threads together so that, maybe, the audience could have had the chance to figure it out rather than having exverything explained out of the blue in episode seven.

holy crucifix, batman, you

holy crucifix, batman, you hit the bloody stigmata nail/s on the head/s re. every catholic cliche being resurrected and flogged over and over again in this episode; yes, more torchwood than any of the other starz eps to date, easily the best of this series, and still maddening. one more blood and guts scene, and i'ma start a riot up in here, or go back to rewatching firefly. this is what one gets, i suppose, from a network with a Z at the end of its name. suckz, don't it?

Suckz? It do indeed

Suddenly I'm very afraid of what he's going to do with the remains of Sarah Jane Smith. Davies has always had a weakness for turning his figures into gods and demi-gods and he must have been tempted, if only during post-production, to give Sladen's character some kind of ludicrous apotheosis.

(Damn it, I really want to like something in the Whoniverse this year besides The Doctor's Wife!

I'm in Mexico, so I haven't

I'm in Mexico, so I haven't seen it yet. But I CAN'T WAIT. This sounds like the biggest shitpile in the history of bollocks and I am going to enjoy hating it. So far I've agreed with everything you've written about MD (weirdly enough) and I doubt this will be the big exception.

I really wish there was a

I really wish there was a "like" button on here for this comment. :)

I live in México too, and

I live in México too, and have been watching the series by downloading It in taringa

Oh, I'm sure I could download

Oh, I'm sure I could download it. But I'm staying in a social justice centre with shitty internet service and I don't want to slow down everyone's connection.

I doubt it too

I am going to enjoy hating it

Probably. Just watch out you don't nod off — not that you'll miss much.

And of course, I know you're in Mexico. I read your posts wherever you are. (And I'm looking forward to the movie, too.)

HOT DAMN Okay, I liked the


Okay, I liked the flashbacks and Angelo was cool. I think I would rather watch a TV show about Angelo being a guilty gay Catholic gin runner than the show we're all watching. Though I could use a little more consistency in the actor's accent and a lot less soft-focus in the sexin'.

Are they really going to make the poor immigrant gay guy the Big Bad, though? While insisting that Jack and Gwen's love is true and pure? RTD YOU ARE THE MOST PROGRESSIVE.

That black guy in 1928-era Pink Floyd better be a time traveller or an alien or something. Also got to love the gender and ethnic diversity amongst the immigrant peasant mob who all of a sudden all spoke English and understood each other.

Also why is Gwen suddenly bitter and dumb and can't think her way out of a problem? I realize she tends towards the impulsive but they didn't need to give her a lobotomy. She couldn't possibly think of a solution that didn't involve giving the bad guys exactly what they asked for? I know, I know, it must be Mommy Hormones. I wanted to reach into my screen, give her a good shake, and plop her back on that motorcycle to be badass again.

I did enjoy the two hot guys having sex and I guess the torture was hot if you are into that sort of thing. I'd credit Jane Espenson for this episode being better than the other ones but I still don't want to accept that someone responsible for some of my favourite TV ever had anything to do with this shitpile of a show.


If everyone you know is jumping off a cliff ...

I think Gwen is suffering from post-Blowing Shit the Fuck Up syndrome, which has reduced her IQ by about 50 points, to match that of her team-mates (not to mention their enemies). Or maybe it's just That Time of the Month.

The sex was alright and if it had been lesbians I'd probably go so far as to say it was hot, but what I really want is to see Newman come back (if not cum back).

Oh never mind ...

New episode tonight, Sabs!

As a reader of the competent

As a reader of the competent fanfic, I've got to agree with xtricks' post. Yeah, there's fanfic out there that's at the Category 1 level of MD, but a lot of it is far, far better than anything officially produced with the TW label on it. It's really nice to know that it's official and out on the table that the writers are pulling this show out of their collective asses and have no clue as to Jack's timeline; that will cut down on a lot of migraine-inducing brain spasms on the part of the viewers. However, as a (not CIA or security-based) professional analyst myself, I do have to wonder "Why the hell do they not have a timeline clue (or many other clues)?" After all their talk of working together in the writers room and breaking the story together...what were they thinking?

I have to admit that I thought it was a very refreshing change to see Esther and Rex mounting the rescue effort. I assume there won't be a competent explanation of they managed to get authorization to direct the Welsh SWAT team rescue while they're assumably still personae non grata with the CIA (a competent fanfic writer would remember the bank deposits from China, but maybe the scriptwriters didn't?); where they got the spiffy TW SUV from (did Andy find it finally and ship it to LA for their use?); and how they managed to surreptitiously insert themselves into the target area (with limited access routes) without anyone noticing. (Maybe the BigBad sent GPS coordinates to Gwen's contacts and she programmed them into her rental car GPS and Esther was able to hack that?)

Now, why Gwen couldn't write a note asking letting the others know what was going on when she returned from Wales, I don't know. (You know, Gwen, if you're not looking at something, the BigBads can't see it, stupid! You could have written a note saying that the BigBads called you and told you to put in your contacts so they could type at you that they had your family, without giving you any proof of that - maybe your family was smart enough to ditch their GPS trackable phones. Why the BigBad couldn't tell you that over the phone, I also don't know. Maybe it was so we could watch you put you contacts in...again...and watch you jump back when you saw someone typing words at you.) I was really surprised that RTD allowed anyone to write anything that intimated that his Saint Gwen the Perfect...isn't, and hasn't been since before she joined TW.

I'm with you, ed - in ep 1, Angelo could have called and asked Jack to meet him. MD could have been taken care of in 45 minutes. Teh stupid, it still burnzzzzzz. And look! We still have three more episodes before the solution will come out of left field (or Jack's ass) in the last 30 minutes of the final ep!

Timeline in doubt?

"Why the hell do they not have a timeline clue (or many other clues)?"

That's one objection I don't share: the timeline seems pretty clear to me (I think). The present is post-COE, while that set in the 1920s is post-The Parting of the Ways. Remember that Jack wound up in the 1800s and had to live it forward. Or did I miss something that screws that simple reading up?

(You know, Gwen, if you're not looking at something, the BigBads can't see it, stupid!

Series in a nutshell, right there.

Timeline in doubt?

Espenson claimed Jack in 1927 is pre-CoE. Why do fans scratch their heads at Jack's timeline? Let's see: in 1927, Jack wanders around in his RAF coat already, he behaves more like the Torchwood Cardiff leader rather than a rougher younger version, he operates across the pond from his place of employment, he knows exactly what happens and when in the following years, and most important of all, he knows precisely how he became immortal. 'Time itself' changed him into a 'fixed point'? It's a giant milestone in Jack's personal history: that he only learns this from the Tenth Doctor in 'Utipia'. Thus decisively suggesting a post-TYTNW Jack.

My best guess is the 'Exit Wounds' Jack, dug up by Torchwood in 1901 and not immediately cryo-frozen but used for missions abroad instead, while an earlier version worked closer to home in the UK. I think this one ties up all the plentiful inconsistencies with flashback!Jack rather neatly, except for only one line where Jack claims to never have returned for anyone before like he did for Angelo. But since it's the only bit that doesn't quite fit that I can think of, I personally am taking this 'Exit Wounds' Jack theory on board until/unless this is addressed in the next episodes.

@Charie: "My best guess is

@Charie: "My best guess is the 'Exit Wounds' Jack, dug up by Torchwood in 1901 and not immediately cryo-frozen but used for missions abroad instead,"

I dismissed this possibility because when Jack was unfrozen in Exit Wounds, he was all dirt-smudged from being buried 1900 years, and I wouldn't have expected him to re-smudge himself and his coat if he were refrozen.

But, heck, we've been given carte blanche to make things fit however we want now, so have at it! ;)

flashback's timeline

And I can't consider 'he looked dirty' as a serious argument! =) Could have dusted up for any reason. Why didn't he take at least shower before getting into the freezer, anyway? That whole buried-under-Cardiff plotline is quite iffy overall...

So yeah, unless they clear this up in the later eps, carte blanche it is! I'm sticking to 'Exit Wounds', but not too bothered. One thing I count as solid is Jack in 1928 being a post-TYTNW Jack. I regard the plot point of Jack not knowing what happened to him until he met Ten was just too huge on TW and DW to blithely overlook.

There've been theories that Jack in 1927 and 1928 isn't the same Jack, either... I've jotted down a list of weirdness and inconsistencies in the flashback part of the episode, and it's long, contradictory, and potentially brain-breaking. =)

"And I can't consider 'he

"And I can't consider 'he looked dirty' as a serious argument! =)"

It only stuck with me because I was surprised to see the dirt when Jack crawled out of the cryo unit...But if the writers don't care about the timeline, carte blanche certainly makes everything much easier and less brain-hurty! LOL

"while that set in the 1920s

"while that set in the 1920s is post-The Parting of the Ways"

If Jack was using his Vortex Manipulator to travel back in time in his WWII RAF overcoat, he could only have done so after The Year That Never Was, where he was tortured on the Valiant for a year, and before the end of *that* episode of Doctor Who, when the Doctor delivered him back to Cardiff AND broke the time-travel ability of the Vortex Manipulator (since the Vortex Manipulator burned out during Jack's trip from the Gamestation to 1869 Earth.)

Espenson tweeted that this is *after the Doctor re-breaking the VM, and before COE.* (Mind you, she was also tweeting about there being a lot of branching timelines in Torchwood, and that maybe Angelo was on one of those branching timelines - so, basically, she's saying that continuity other than "Jack has an overcoat" and "Jack was immortal" is not being used in MD, and therefore anyone can decide whatever they want about the continuity because the writers didn't bother with it.) It would make a LOT more sense for this to have happened while Jack was waiting for the Doctor, but...that's not when it happens according to the ep's writer.

more on the timeline issue

Yeah, if not for that 'fixed point' comment, the rest of the inconsistencies could have been handwaved with not too many hard feelings. It's just this is so HUGE, I can't imagine this a writer's mistake. Unless, as the above review ponders, MD's not ever been vetted by a person, with a brain. =)

I don't think the flashback would have happened right after TYTNW because I find it way farfetched a notion that a traumatised Jack who'd seen the Earth with all his present-time friends and relatives on it burn for a year would just randomly decide to go adventuring through history. More to the point, Jack uses his and Torchwood's name a bit too carelessly in 1927 not to be genuinly working for them at the time, appearing to be on a proper planned mission. (He would also, presumably, not needed a visa if he had a working teleport on him...)

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building inconsistency should be entertaining for them to explain away. Here's to alternate universes.

Empire State?

I didn't catch that. There was an anachronistic in 1928 completed Chrysler Building in the background of the roof-jump scene, though. But that's just a stupid historical detail mistake, I guess. The mess they've made out of Jack's personal timeline, on the other hand, doesn't fit any consistent explanation without a considerable amount of handwaving and twisting the previous continuity into elaborate pretzels. It's so paradoxical it's like like they've screwed it up on purpose.

Maybe the Trickster's Brigade wasn't just a throwaway comment. Or maybe the writers are part of it!

Oi - don't go insulting the fanfic!

Some of us write more than competent fanfic! In fact, many of us write stories that make sense, have a consistent narrative and even, sometimes, decent characterization.

Which, frankly, is better than most of MD.


...and some of us, if we read fanfic, which we never, ever do, would be here to attest to the serious skills of the wildly imaginative, always delicious xtricks.

Re: Oi - don't go insulting the fanfic!

Point taken.

In truth, what fanfic I've sampled hasn't been at all well-written, but then, I've sampled very little, so I can definitely believe some of it is good, and certainly more consistent than what we've been seeing on television this summer.

Oh, it's like anything else;

Oh, it's like anything else; Stugeon's Law applies. 99% of all fanfic is crap. Here, you can read something that has become famous as the only piece of fanfic Gareth David Lloyd ever mentoned reading:

Re: Oh, it's like anything else;

Thanks for that, it did in fact hold my attention and keep me amused.

I'm still not going to seek out fanfic, but in a world in which the bookstore shelves groan beneath the weight of Star Trek and Star Wars (not to mention Doctor Who) tie-ins, I'm certainly not going to begrudge anyone else taking pleasure from that sort of thing.

Shucks! And here I thought

Shucks! And here I thought we'd get a convert. ;)

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