Torchwood: 62 Days Later
Can't stop (not) making sense
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.
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.)
This blood is made for walkin'
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.
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.