Torchwood: Miracle Day- Episode 5

Watching Miracle Day, you’re inevitably left with the overriding feeling that people aren’t very nice. If they’re not paedophiles like cult leader Oswald Danes, they’re sexist, evil, toothy types running a pseudo concentration camp; murderers or Phil Collins fans: or possibly a combination of all three.

Yes, last night’s Torchwood was a bleak affair, although there was at least a sense the plot was starting to move forward at a slightly quicker pace than ‘elderly woman with a zimmer frame’, as in previous weeks. The Phicorp authorised overflow camps for the undying mentioned in last week’s episode were always going to have a sinister side, but the revelation that they’re actually processing centres that ‘process’ unconscious, living humans into piles of sticky ash was perhaps the most chilling discovery to date.

The situation hasn’t changed: the human race still can’t die. Or possibly ‘won’t die’. Who knows: maybe it’s all called by laziness, These unwell layabouts would much rather be lying around on a grubby concentration camp floor all day, weakly calling out for water than do the decent thing and pass on to the Other Side.

Taking things at face value, it seems Phicorp have set up the camps as a ‘final solution’ to the problem of people continuing to take up valuable cubic square footage even though they’re no longer contributing to society. To decide who goes into the ‘modules’, the world governments have come up with so called ‘categories of life’. If people display less mental activity than, say, the average Big Brother fan they’re categorised as ‘One’, meaning ‘tonight’s roast dinner’. They’re tagged for the oven with a red peg rather than, say, an electronic tag or barcode: clearly whichever alien threat are behind this are slightly less high tech than the average branch of Radio Rentals.

Category two patients are the walking wounded: people who can still hold a decent dinner party conversation about recent political developments but who might also be leaking jets of blood into the canapés from a missing arm as they reach for their wine.

Category three patients are, well…the well. They don’t get to go to the fun and exciting new summer camps for the hard of breathing. But surely an opportunity has been missed there: what about Category 1.5?  ‘People who genuinely enjoy trance music or the novels of Dan Brown.’

While Rex, Esther and Dr. Vera Juarez are snooping about undercover at a shiny Californian overflow centre, Gwen and Rhys infiltrate the decidedly more Butlin’s-esque Welsh version in a bid to find her father and liberate him from the nasty doctors.

The shift of some of the action back to Cardiff came as a bit of a shock to the system after spending the past few weeks in the glamorous U.S. of A: all white teeth, sunshine, tans and glitzy PR types. It felt almost as incongruous as inserting a scene where the cast of Glee visit the ‘caff’ in Walford to do a song and dance routine about chips coordinated by Ian Beale.

The themes of overpopulation, of how we treat ‘undesirable’ elements of society, the dangers of group mentality and the dehumanisation of the unwell have definitely lifted Miracle Day above the ranks of typical big budget sci-fi. Perhaps the bar for more complex and thought provoking extra planetary TV was set in recent years by Battlestar Galactica with its complex exploration of the role of politics and morality in war. If so, hopefully this trend will continue as it’s certainly good for ‘geeks’ to be able to boast that their genre of choice is slightly more deep than just ‘we like it ‘cause bangy bangy things go shooty in space with monsters’.

We’re still no closer to understanding who, or what, is behind Phicorp. You could just about believe that ‘Big Pharma’ would do something as callous as setting up human disposal systems for a profit (if you’re a cynical telly writer, that is), however it does seem to go deeper than simple corporate amorality. Please, come on writers: show us some nasty space monsters soon. It’ll make us feel less bad about ourselves as a species.

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

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