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Review #2899: Torchwood: Miracle Day: Part 2: “Rendition”

Posted on the 17 July 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

Despite the fact that Gwen, Jack, and Rex are stuck on a plane for almost the entire episode, it’s still a noticeable step-up from the premiere. The situation is made more interesting as a major conspiracy is gradually unveiled, and the world is forced to adapt to the increasingly dangerous side-effects and negative consequences of “the miracle”.

Review #2899: Torchwood: Miracle Day: Part 2: “Rendition”

Rex is growing on me a little bit, mainly because I’m enjoying his interactions with Jack and Gwen. I liked Esther better in this episode, primarily thanks to her being more proactive than reactive, but she’s still the weakest link. It’s a bit unfortunate that Rhys had to be removed from the proceedings so quickly, but I suppose it makes the best narrative sense. I like Rhys, but he doesn’t really much to offer as a member of Torchwood, and any attempt to give him a beneficial role would just feel forced. Better to leave him behind to take care of the baby, so Gwen and Jack can do their thing.

Bill Pullman continues to put in an excellent performance as Oswald Danes. His apology scene is damned impressive. This is a man who has shown clear sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies, and yet his show of remorse is so convincing that, for a moment, I was forced to seriously consider the possibility that he was being genuine. Considering how dramatically Oswald has shifted from remorseless (“she shoulda run faster”) to remorseful, it seems unlikely that this is for real. But the writing and acting does manage to nicely place it in an ambiguous zone where it could potentially go either way.

PR representative Jilly Kitzinger is a bit of an abrasive personality, but one gets the sense that this is an intentional creative choice. It’s still a complete mystery how her and Oswald Danes will factor into the larger story. Right now, one must assume that their importance will become more important as time progresses.

The “miracle” situation is becoming a lot more complex and, in my opinion, interesting this week, thanks to the introduction of a medical panel dedicated to understanding and combating the problem (which Dr. Vera Juarez has made herself a part). The panel’s first major discovery is that physical aging still occurs. The telomeres at the end of our chromosomes will still shorten as our bodies produce new cells to replace the old ones. And we can still get sick from infectious diseases, which creates another huge problem.

More and more people will become walking disease carriers, spreading microscopic organisms from host to host. Organisms will spread and become resistant to all of our drugs. So no one will die, but it won’t be long before everyone is diseased and in pain, slowly succumbing to more and more age-related diseases as their bodies become frailer and frailer. So even if we could find a way to halt the aging process, and even if we could, it wouldn’t matter.

When being interrogated by Rex, Jack offers up his theory on the miracle. Morphic fields are an existing psuedoscientific concept devised by English scientist Rupert Sheldrake, which seems to have only previously been applied to the Whoverse in a 1993 “Doctor Who” novel that was part of a series that continued the adventures of the seventh Doctor. The idea basically states that the blueprint for an organism’s morphological development (the form/shape it takes) does not originate with the DNA, but with some sort of field that is present in and around all life forms. It works as a kind of database that developing life forms draw from, with DNA acting as more of a receiver for this information.

Apparently, at least according to the “Lucifer Rising” novel, this is why most sapient species in the universe have evolved a roughly humanoid form. The Gallifreyans were the ones to evolve first, and thus established how most future intelligent life forms would evolve. It’s a pretty wild idea, which I don’t buy for a second in real life, but I guess I can accept it as a legitimate addition to this sci-fi universe. Jack seems pretty serious about it being related to the miracle. Someone must have purposefully tapped into it and altered it, resulting in biological changes on a massive scale.

So far, Gwen seems to be the main source of cheesiness in “Miracle Day”. The premiere’s worst moment was her “Torchwood” response to Rex right before she blew the pursuing chopper out of the sky. This time it’s “I’m Welsh” and “Welcome to Torchwood”. The thing is, I like Gwen the rest of the time, but these moments really stand out in the wrong way. Another, more minor weak point of the writing has been the America vs. UK jokes, of which I only noticed one this time. So far, they’ve fallen a bit flat for me.

Murray Gold’s music still adheres to modern scoring conventions, being fairly anonymous spy/thriller music with a constant, rhythmic forward momentum and little thematic identity, but for some reason I didn’t mind it nearly as much this episode. It seemed to compliment things much better here. One of the more musically interesting moments came as Section Chief Brian Friedkin (the always awesome Wayne Knight) contacts his shadowy superiors (currently represented by a spinning triangle), who then order Friedkin to “remove” Jack and Gwen, as well as Rex and Esther for knowing too much about Torchwood.

Speaking of which, let’s think about this conspiracy for a minute. It seems likely that Friedkin and his underlings are rogue elements within the CIA, with Friedkin being directed by an outside authority. And this authority seems to be just as much in the dark about the cause of the miracle as Torchwood is. I’m a bit confused about all of this at present. I’m assuming that a separate entity, responsible for the miracle itself, was also responsible for the initial attempt to expose Torchwood to the world, which Jack immediately stepped in and averted (unless I’m remembering incorrectly). And now some other party, which Friedkin is involved with, is trying to learn more about the incident and keep Torchwood under wraps, which apparently includes killing its leader, Jack. Perhaps more sense can be made of this after another episode or two.

It’s too early to tell for sure, but it’s beginning to look like the premiere may not have been fully indicative of the quality of the rest of the season. The feel is definitely different from the original show. This is a different kind of “Torchwood”. But for what it is, I think it still has plenty of potential to be an entertaining ride. The show is a bit less overtly sci-fi, and not as dark as I’d like. There’s still the issue of new viewers not having enough information about Gwen, Jack, and Torchwood itself. But if you can get over these issues (many of which may still be addressed in future episodes), then we may be in for an interesting ride.

Rating: 8/10

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