Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 6

One of the earliest western philosophers to consider the concept of ‘nothingness’ was the 5th Century BC philosopher Parmenides, a follower of the monist school.

He argued that “nothing” cannot exist.

Clearly Parmenides hadn’t seen last night’s episode of Torchwood, as it was emptier than a packet of crisps left within arm’s reach of James Corden.

At this stage – six episodes into a ten week run – it would surely be logical to expect we would know a bit more about who or what is causing the human race’s sudden immortality and why. But not only were there no answers: nothing seemed to happen. Gwen spent the entire episode running around a holding camp for the terminally motionless in Wales, Rex and Esther did the same in L.A, but no revelations emerged from their investigations – other than the fact that the Welsh version of the concentration camp has incredibly lax security.

Why is it that over in the U.S, Vera Juarez got shot and burnt for not being who she claimed to be, while over in ‘Cowbridge’ the Welsh staff let someone who’s clearly not a nurse hang around in a waiting area repeatedly confronting doctors, attempting to steal her father and threatening to make a complaint about the administrative procedures? It was like watching an episode of Casualty set in Butlins.

If last week’s episode was treading water, yesterday’s instalment couldn’t even be bothered to do that: instead choosing to sink quietly without much fuss. The only spark of hope that the plot might be moving along was the appearance of Winston from Ghostbusters as the Chief Operating Officer of the suspicious, ‘Miracle’ linked company Phicorp: Stuart Owens.

Unfortunately, he soon revealed to Jack that he didn’t have a clue what the role of his company was in the Miracle, in fact he’d been trying to find out himself. One thing’s for certain though: the villains here aren’t Slimer or the Stay-Puft man. If they were, Winston would have busted them.

Earlier in the episode, we saw Owens contact an operative in Shanghai to investigate the fact that his company seemed to have bought a large packet of land in the city a few years before. Sorry, but shouldn’t he have robust administrative systems in place
to prevent people sticking several acres of prime real estate under the ‘tea and coffee’ budget? Tsk.

The operative, after breaking into the mysterious structure, jumps to his death: presumably in horror. It seems logical to assume that he’d witnessed the true scale of the alien scheme behind the recent goings on. Either that or he unwittingly broke into TV shop showing rolling footage of this year’s Celebrity Big Brother. And that was about it for revelations this episode: whatever’s going on behind the scenes, it’s bad. Very bad. Possibly-worse-than-Jedward bad.

But if the Head of Phicorp doesn’t know who’s behind this whole thing, then who the heck does? Owens seems to suggest that nothing is to blame: it’s an endless cycle of nihilism and entropy with paper trails that lead nowhere. If so: it’s an interesting philosophical experiment but it doesn’t exactly make for compelling television.

Assuming that Miracle Day isn’t making complicated admin procedures the bad guy here, it would seem that the problem is actually that Russell T Davies has tried to fit a film-length concept into a ten hour format. In fact, let’s take a moment to reimagine Miracle Day as a movie:

1. Establish that people aren’t dying (15 minutes)
2. Explore some of the consequences of this (30 minutes)
3. Introduce the characters (30 minutes)
4. Chart some of the political reactions to the crisis (45 minutes)
5. Reveal who’s behind the whole thing (probably Daleks) (15 minutes)
6. Get the Ewoks to defeat them (25 minutes).

Total running time: 160 minutes / 2 hours and 40 mins. Or, to give it some perspective: the same length as the most recent Transformers film.

So no wonder this series, despite an excellent underlying concept, feels like ‘butter scraped over too much bread’ – to quote Bilbo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings.

Incidentally, the combined running time of all three Lord of the Rings films: an attempt to film one of the longest, most involved, densely plotted and epic trilogies in recent Western literature – is just over eleven hours.

Given that fact, it becomes clear why some of the ten hour-long instalments of Miracle Day have felt a bit ‘empty’, despite some strong performances by the likes of Bill Pullman and Lauren Ambrose (sadly missing from last night’s episode). One thing’s for sure though: Parmenides wouldn’t have liked it, and it seems unlikely even the most dedicated Torchwood fans will be able to put up with this snail’s pace for much longer.


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

2 Responses to Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 6

  1. It feels more and more like a vehicle for launching a US version of the show, without any Gwen or Jack. Trouble is, as a rather tired imitation of 24, I doubt it’ll get the viewing figures. There’s nowhere near enough SF in this SF.

  2. ladyribenaberet says:

    Totally agree! Where the heck are the aliens? or, indeed, the science: fictional or otherwise?

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