The Gathering

 

Torchwood: 62 Days Later

Can't stop (not) making sense

 

Never Mind the Physics. Image manipulation by Geoffrey Dow.
Image manipulation by Geoffrey Dow..

Last week, an anonymous commentator defended Torchwood: Miracle Day by asserting that I "know nothing of camp."

I replied with impatient but not especially scathing sarcasm. What I should have said was, Bollocks, I understand camp just fine!

Deliberate camp follows a genre formula, but winks at its audience as it does so, playing the conventions for laughs instead of dramatic tension. It shares jokes with the audience, it doesn't play jokes on it.

The first two Torchwood series trod a remarkable middle ground between camp and action/adventure, throwing in relatively complex character interactions and development and even social commentary and satire for good measure.

When successful, Russell T Davies' marriage of Doctor Who juvenilia with the sex, blood and angst made of Torchwood a complex dance of knowing laughs, genuine thrills and full-on pathos.

This time around, Torchwood: Miracle Day has not stooped to deliberate camp since Gwen clutched her ear-muffed infant in one hand while returning fire at a black helicopter with the other. Like Children of Earth before it, it is clear we are meant to take Miracle Day seriously.

The blatant analogies to Nazi Germany, the digs at Tea Partiers and the pharmaceutical industry, the portrayal of governments and corporations as mendacious predators awaiting their chance to bring down upon the world a new reign of fascism, all signify a deadly earnest warning about the monsters lurking at the heart of the real world.

But as better writers than Davies have proven before to their cost, earnestness seldom makes for good fiction; the reverse is more often the case.

Wha' happened?

Where Episode Eight started where number Seven left off, Episode Nine is a classic cliff-hanger's cheat, opening with the words, "Two Months Later".

Two months later, Gwen is holed up with her family. Two months later, Jack too is the UK, being ministered to by Esther. And two months later, so is Oswald Danes.

Two months later, Rex plays prodigal agent at CIA headquarters, where Pink Floyd's Evil Blonde minion frustrates the investigation at every turn.

And two months later, the world is in the grip of "Day 61 of the Great Depression," as if an international society of economists distinguishes recessions from depressions the way meteorologists categorize tropical storms.

So much for being taken seriously, Mr. Davies.

Gwen now spends her time in hiding loudly smashing vehicles into drug stores, sexily removing her balaclava in the streets and proceeding to stealing drugs with un-gloved hands, a nouveau Robin Hood, spreading pain-killers to the poor.

Meanwhile, the police know who she is, but somehow haven't linked her to the break-ins. Rather, they suspect her of harbouring Dear Old Dad, as we know, a Category One meant for the ovens. Thus are we subject to two — possibly three — police raids before the cops at last locate the secret annexe in which Dear Old Dad lies comatose.

Speaking of verisimilitude (ah ha ha ha), when they do find him, both Jack and Oswald (World's Most Wanted Man) Danes are also present. But apparently this is a most inept dictatorship, for not only do the police not arrest those found harbouring fugitives, they don't bother even to identify or question them. Lucky break for Oswald Danes, if not for Dear old Dad.

Oh yes, Oswald Danes. Last week we (and he) learned that a new Category, Category Zero, was in the works for people like him. (Never mind that Danes hasn't committed any crimes since he was "legally" released at the start of the series, or that he was much loved among a sizable portion of the public.)

In a panic, Danes went on the run only minutes before he was slated to address a crowd of thousands at a rally staged by PhiCorp. (With one episode left, it's clear the PhiCorp subplots will never be explained, any more than will Danes' own bizarre 15 minutes of fame.)

Whatever. Danes' sole dramatic purpose in Episode Nine is to bring to Jack and Gwen Jilly Kitzinger's laptop, which he for some reason stole after he bloodied her mouth last week. (Also, Jack arranged for Oswald's escape from America. Don't ask.)

Sweet, sweet antipodes!

It turns out there are two Blessings, which Rhys realizes in one of the silliest leaps of deductive reasoning in the history of television.

"Opposite sides of the world," Rhys says. "Quite literally, opposite sides of the Earth, yeah, yeah? So, whatever's goin' on, there's gotta be somethin' connecting them."

"Are you kidding me?" Gwen asks, "is that right?"

Esther plays with a computer map and draws a straight line between the two cities. "They're antipodes," she proclaims, as violins swell in the background. "They're the antipodes of each other."

"Two massive population centres, balanced on either side of the planet." Captain Jack bites off every word with a Captain Kirk-like intensity. This is IMPORTANT folks! If we don't get that yet, Oswald Danes makes sure we do.

"As the old saying goes, count your blessings. 'Cause it turns out. There's. Two of them."

Gwen asks what it all means but Esther is way ahead of her. "Look at the PhiCorp logo. She displays logo and schematic
showing the link between Shanghai and Buenos Aires. (Hint: The PhiCorp logo has a circle with a straight line running through it.)

Genius!

This blood is made for walkin'

Proof at last, proof at last. Thank god all mighty, there's proof at last! The logo and the computer model are <em />vaguely similar!
Proof at last, proof at last! Thank god almighty, there is proof at last!

Our intrepid band of Tintins realize that if they are to uncover the cause of The Miracle, they must find their way to Shanghai and Buenos Aires! Jack and Gwen (and Oswald! But never mind why) take the Mysterious East, Esther (to be joined by Rex) the Swarthy South.

Once in South America, Rex and Esther realize (a) that Buenos Aires is a very big city and (b) that they haven't a clue what it is they are looking for. It's not like there is literally a Gigantic Hole Running Through the Centre of the Earth, is it?

Ha ha ha. Of course not. That would be physically impossible.

Speaking of which, in Shanghai, Jack's blood has taken on a life of its own. Oswald points out a drop of it crawling across the floor with all the determination of an ant late for the world's sloppiest picnic.

Taking her turns as the Clever One, Gwen intones, "It's your blood. No wonder it's killing you. I think, I think it's showing us the way. It's The Blessing, it's somewhere over there. And I think, whatever it is, it's calling you, Jack."

Our girl in Shanghai

But what about our Jilly? I hear you cry!

Turns out that our Miss Jilly is also in Shanghai, there under an assumed name by way of Tall Handsome Man.

She enters the alley the Chinese Guy saw before jumping off a 47th floor way back in The Middle Men. (What? You don't remember the Chinese Guy? No great loss.) Jilly is told that when people "look upon" The Blessing, they also look into themselves and that, sometimes, they don't much like what they see.

Turns out that The Blessing doesn't kill Our Jilly though. Our Jilly likes what she sees quite a lot, thank you, and she smiles a smug and evil smile as she gazes out upon The Blessing.

The vaginal glory of The Blessing.
The vaginal glory of The Blessing.

About that Blessing. Whatever it is, it looks like a rough-cut mine shaft painted vaginal pink, with a whirlwind swirling bits of paper around and around in the middle of it. (Clearly Episode One's exploding helicopter pretty much took care of the extra money STARZ pumped into this travesty. But I digress.)

How deep does it go? Jilly wonders. If you remember Esther's schematic (above left), you've guessed the answer. The Blessing is literally a Gigantic Hole Running Through the Centre of the Earth!

So much for plate tectonics.

So much for the dynamo model of the planet Earth. So much for its solid (and possibly crystalline) inner core. So much for differing rates of rotation. So much even for seismography.

And so much for what little remains of this viewer's patience.

Torchwood: Miracle Day, isn't "camp". Torchwood: Miracle Day is just very bad writing flowering from a fetid pile of even worse plotting. I have no doubt at all that next week's final episode will only be more of the same.

Return to the "Miracle Day" index and overview.

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Most entertaining review yet. I think the show has moved into the unintentionally hilarious now. Lets see... According to the grey suit lady the families don't actually know what the blessing is or how it works but they dug it up anyway; Rex is off on a super secret mission, but has to sign out a briefcase in the normal way 'cause you've got to have all the paperwork in order; commercial airlines are still working; governments spend considerable resources and manpower hunting down comatose people, I could go on, and on, and on like the show itself, but I think I'll go do something a little more exciting. Conjugating Latin verbs should do it.

Who does the bloke watching Gwen work for? What is Danes' motivation in all this? Why is he better at online tracking than CIA analysts? Is there any point to any of the things we have seen in the past weeks? Stay tuned. Personally, I'll be very disappointed if we don't get to see Jack's blood try to escape out of his body.

This Blood is made for Crawlin'

Speaking of which, in Shanghai, Jack's blood has taken on a life of its own. Oswald points out a drop of it crawling across the floor with all the determination of an ant late for the world's sloppiest picnic

Watching Jack's blood crawl rapidly across the floor made me wonder why a.) Jack wasn't smushed up against the wall closest to the Blessing, b.) Jack wasn't completed bled-out due to his now-not-healed-at-all-after-two-months gunshot wound, and c.) why Rex isn't being dragged through the airport and all of Buenos Aires by the case full of Jack's blood.

I'll watch the final episode, but only because I'm a completist. I can't believe how terribly-written this show has been. Even "But a giant talking vagina would redeem quite a lot. Especially if it says, "So, we meet again at last, Captain Jack. But this time, the advantage is mine!" (while it *would* be rather amusing), can't redeem it for me.

This is RTD. He just likes

This is RTD. He just likes to manipulate and play with his audience. I don't think he knows how to actually tell a coherent, interesting story. Everything I've read about Miracle Disaster makes me gladder I'm not watching. I just like to read about it. LOL

Re: This is RTD. He just likes

I wouldn't be spending so much time talking about - or even watching - Torchwood if I agree with you.

Davies has written and overseen some excellent television, which is why I am so awfully disappointed by all this.

Oh yes--you hit the nail on

Oh yes--you hit the nail on the head--this is not camp it is bordeline farce and not in a good way.Niether is it grim dark because you need some sense of credibility to reach the darkside and so far this has been sadly lacking.Niether is it social commentary with its over simplistic bias--and thats the problem basically it is nothing but second class entertaintment with a few charactors we liked-or at least we use to-even Rhys was wearing thin in this ep.So yes it gets a bit more exciting in the last 2 eps-(i am being kind here it) --and there have been a few spolier rumours leaked to pull in the viewers but it is still not worthy of the Torchwood franchise.

Re: Oh yes--you hit the nail on

Honestly, I think "second class" is being far too kind. This edition of Torchwood is inexplicably terrible.

The problem with Torchwoods

The problem with Torchwoods writers is that they seem to proud to use google. Seriously the whole Miracle Day plot is one big hole. Already, without Miracle Day, almost twice as many people are born each day then die. If Miracle Day can lead to huge trouble within months and we all should be screwed with a year or so here in the real world. The only way Miracle Day would have made sense would have been if Jack first comes back to Earth, let's say, 50 years in the future after leaving in CoE and finds out that 2011 "Miracle Day" happened and now the world is at the edge of the apocalypse.Nazi like camps and all. He finds some old time agency pal (bar shag?) and steals his wrist device to travel back in time to stop Miracle Day from HAPPENING.It somehow leaks out to the press. People either don't believe him, or think it's a good thing. Imagine all the people with cancer or HIV facing death soon suddenly with a silver lining of hope. In that we could even have Gwen's father about to die from cancer... or hell, if you're really evil and want drama, make her baby sick. And if you REALLY want your viewers at the edge of their seat on top of it Jack could have found out that some people from Thames House survived, including his lover, and where shipped off by UNIT or the government, but are about to finally die by now, too.

I think in case of Miracle Day, less would have been a lot more. The sad thing is, even kids in third grade could have come up with a better plot then those so called "writers".

Re: The problem with Torchwoods

You know, I'd quite like to have had the chance to watch your version of the program.

And that's the thing, as quite a few people have pointed out. The premise, while outlandish, has all sorts of neat implications if handled properly.

But apparently that "if" was a deal-breaker this time out.

Never mind all that science...

Never mind the science and geography and the physical impossibility of the giant Jack-Absorbing Vagina running through the middle of the planet - what about the Racnoss and H.G. Clement's giant hole into the centre of the Earth from 'The Runaway Bride'? What about the Siluarians of Classic and New Who?

What about canon?

WILL NOBODY THINK OF THE CANON?

Re: Never mind all that science...

I think it's best to just shut one's eyes and imagine parallel worlds.

The Gathering...

This turns out to be a Highlander crossover, doesn't it? The 456 came from Geist, and literally dug to China looking for the Sanctuary! XD XD XD We always wondered where Immortals came from - turns out it's the giant pink vagina downstairs!

Er, maybe

I'm afraid I don't know Highlander from a vagina running through the centre of the Earth. But I'll take your word for it.

You know how I complained

You know how I complained bitterly a few weeks ago that they were leaning towards making the Big Bad a gay immigrant?

You know what's actually worse?

A gigantic vagina that wants Jack inside of it.

Other than that, I liked this episode. Or maybe my expectations are so low that I can be amused by Q being a dick and Gwen cleaning her pot before braining Oswald with it.

As for camp, it is the show's very rejection of camp that has led to its worsening quality. Torchwood has wholeheartedly embraced the GRIMDARK, and as we all know, GRIMDARK is the opposite of camp. The bit right at the beginning with the exploded suicide bomber struck the right balance for me—it was morbid and disgusting and then they crossed the line with severing its head and it became hilarious. The overflow camps and the ovens are the opposite—they are clearly meant to be serious and if you don't take them seriously, you do not appreciate Great Art (which is always angsty).

The thing is, if they want it to be serious, they need to throw in the sort of scenes we saw in CoE where a whole bunch of difficult moral choices, all of them bad, were being tossed around by characters who one could relate to. That was what made it genuinely horrible for me. I think MD teased at that a bit with the medical panels, but those didn't quite work as satire and the non-Vera characters were all unsympathetic stereotypes, which felt like a cheat. (You could certainly come up with an argument for the categories that is not a bad one, and the playing God counter-argument is weak.) The result is a mess that can't decide whether it's serious political commentary (no) or an exciting action-adventure romp (also no, unfortunately).

I guess what I'm saying is they need to make the giant vagina talk in order to redeem the show for me.

Re: You know how I complained

Or maybe my expectations are so low that I can be amused by Q being a dick and Gwen cleaning her pot before braining Oswald with it.

Yeah, I think that's about right. The thing has gone from confoundingly, shockingly bad to just terrible and that's a huge improvement.

The thing is, if they want it to be serious, they need to throw in the sort of scenes we saw in CoE where a whole bunch of difficult moral choices, all of them bad, were being tossed around by characters who one could relate to. That was what made it genuinely horrible for me.

That's what makes this debacle so strange to me. Davies has proved he can do moral complexity, he's proved he can do camp, he's generally proved he can make decent (and occasionally much better than merely decent) television — so what happened?

This degree of inconsistency is fucking baffling.

But a giant talking vagina would redeem quite a lot. Especially if it says, "So, we meet again at last, Captain Jack. But this time, the advantage is mine!"

But a giant talking vagina

But a giant talking vagina would redeem quite a lot. Especially if it says, "So, we meet again at last, Captain Jack. But this time, the advantage is mine!"

Vaginas get all the best dialogue.

Have you ever come across this:

http://sf-drama.livejournal.com/2084138.html

Re: But a giant talking vagina

I had come across that bit before, but truth to tell, I had something very different in mind when that bit of dialogue came to mind.

 

 

God bless you Gary Larson, wherever you are.

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