The Middle Men
Torchwood Miracle Day: The Stupid Men
In case the title hasn't given away my thesis, Torchwood: Miracle Day continues to be driven by characters behaving stupidly, by illogical and inconsistent plotting and backgrounds, and by dramatic set-pieces that do nothing to advance the plot.
But especially by characters behaving stupidly.
It's no secret that among Russell T Davies' weaknesses is a tendency to forego logic and internal consistency for the sake of a big emotional moment or dramatic set-piece, but this series shows so little evidence of planning it feels as if the scripts were still being typed up on shooting day.
How else to explain a program structured as a mystery, but whose clues are just handed to the investigators when the plot demands it? How else to explain the continued lack of security on the part of PhyCorp? How else to explain the normality of life on the streets and in the airports? How else to explain that even the way the Miracle works — are they zombies as at the end of the second episode, or unconscious, unmoving bundles of undying cells only? — is unclear?
And how else to explain the stupid, stupid, STUPID behaviour of our heroes?
Last week saw Vera Juarez threaten the man by whom she was trapped, rather than wait to get out in order to tell her story. Her actions were improbably dumb (especially after she'd been shot the first time), but a generous viewer might forgive it; she was a doctor, not a secret agent.
Prior to being captured, Rex attempts an escape. He knocks out a soldier, steals his clothes and tries to brazen his way out of the locked-down Facility.
Asked to identify himself at the gate, our CIA professional is shown to be too dumb to have checked his victim's dog-tags. He doesn't know the man's name.
Rex mumbles, then says he just wants out for a smoke. Ineffective security being a series hallmark, the disembodied voice loses all menace. "Sure man, go ahead."
At which point, Rex walks right into a whole herd of soldiers out for smokes!
Ha ha ha.
But this week, it's Rex who is captured (about which, see sidebar at left). When Carl Maloney explains that he is the Director of the San Pedro Facility, Rex, bound hand and foot, decides he is in a position of strength.
"Look," he says, "just call the police, okay? Go ahead! Call them! Arrest me. Because I wanna make a statement. I'm gonna expose everything that's goin' on here. What you guys are doing to the patients, and what you did to Vera."
Granted Rex doesn't know Carl is directly responsible for Vera's murder, but what kind of secret agent doesn't have a cover story? What kind of agent tells the bad guy in charge, I've got it all on video! Here, take my camera and have a look!
After all these people have been through? Really?
Similarly in Wales, Gwen is still (or yet again?) wandering around a high-security Overflow Camp disguised as an under-employed nurse. She and Rhys finally get Dear Old Dad out of the camp in a stolen truck with the help of a Doctor Patel, whose role is to make the Holocaust parallels absolutely explicit, just in case we haven't picked up on that theme yet.
Gwen send Dear Old Dad off with Rhys, then returns to the camp and happens upon a box or twelve of high explosives (Wait! What?!?) lying about unattended. (Wait! What?!?) She then mines the entire high-security site (Wait! What?!?) and blows it sky high.
Boom! goes the Overflow Camp. Whether she also blows the staff and patients just as high is not revealed; presumably not, but who knows?
Gwen broadcasts the vandalism along with her assertion it was a death camp — Torchwood goes Wikileaks!
Gwen then takes a commercial flight back to the States (in the world according to Russell T Davies, no crisis, no major terrorist attack, nothing will interfere with commercial air travel). She waltzes through customs (again) but as she's heading for the exit, the public address system catches her attention. "Gwen Cooper to the White Courtesy Phone."
What does the highly-trained Torchwood operative, who has just blown up a major British government installation, who is already on the CIA's wanted list ... what does she do?
Why, she takes the call, of course!
Just how stupid are all these people? And just how stupid does Russell T Davies think we must be to take any of this seriously?
Yet it's clear Davies does want Torchwood taken seriously. The references to the Holocaust and the hints that our own corporate and government masters would sell us all down the river in a heartbeat make it all too clear Davies believes our own world is but one crisis away from actual fascism.
Coming only days after much of England was in flames, when the rioters are cavalierly dismissed as thugs and criminals by the privileged and governments muse about cracking down on freedom of speech, Davies' message ought to be especially apt. Pity it is so poorly delivered.
Davies' heart seems to be in the right place, but the brain behind 2009's chillingly credible tale of bureaucratic evil has gone completely AWOL.
With "only" four episodes left to go, it's almost inconceivable anything worthwhile can be salvaged from this mess.