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“Torchwood: Miracle Day,” “The Categories of Life” Review (SPOILERS)

by on August 8, 2011

All right, Torchwood, we get it; things are bad all over. We’re all on board with you now, thank you. Miracle Day’s fifth episode, “The Categories of Life,” shows that the lowest depth humanity could possibly sink has a subbasement where they cut bunnies in half with butter knives. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

After five episodes, which I’ve more or less enjoyed, mind you, I’ve decided that the series’ creators must have operated under four basic tenets: 1) Raise as many interesting hypothetical points as possible per episode, 2) Every character must have overwhelming naivety and behave as though they never thought anything bad could ever happen and are surprised when it does, 3) Be so cynical and bleak that even Friedrich Nietzsche would say, “All right, you’ve gone too far,” and 4) In the rare moments when nothing fucked-up is happening, fill it with unnecessary silliness. That, my friends, is Torchwood: Miracle Day in a nutshell. But, like I said, I am more or less enjoying the series as a whole, which I guess must mean something is off about me. I’m fine with it.


The episode opens with Gwen arriving back in Wales. Now, I feel the makers of the show missed a golden opportunity to show us, nearly minute-by-minute, what happened to her aboard her very long overseas flight. Episodes one and two show us that there is nothing about traveling places that need be left out. I’ll forever be left wondering if they offered everyone a complimentary full meal or if it was snacks only. And what was the in-flight movie?! Regardless, Gwen arrives back in Wales to attempt to break her father out of one of Phicorp’s mysterious “overflow camps,” for people who are sick, nearly dead, or should-be dead. Rhys meets her at the airport and goes to the trouble of wearing a chauffeur’s uniform only for the twenty seconds before the entire ruse is spoiled by the two of them kissing. Couldn’t he have just been a guy picking up his wife and not a driver behaving incredibly unprofessionally? Upon returning to Gwen’s mom’s house to spend less than a minute with Anwen (who looks like she couldn’t give a shit about anything), Mum shares the intelligence she’s gathered about the camps, culled from the years of MI6 training we didn’t realized she’d received, and we learn that humans have now been broken up into three categories.

The bloody news reports (where, let’s face it, the people they hired to be anchors sound like they’ve never even read the newspaper let alone spent years in broadcasting school) tell us that the category system has been immediately enacted in the UK, would very shortly be implemented in the US, and other countries had begun to follow suit. Though China’s holding off, it seems. Wow, China? They have overpopulation as it is, you’d think they’d be busting a gut to get rid of their sick people, or at the very least their unwanted female children. Too far? I apologize. The three categories are as follows: Category 1 means you’re “alive” because of the miracle but you have no higher brain function, Category 3 means you’re perfectly fine and healthy and haven’t died once, and Category 2 means EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE WHOLE WORLD. If you’re sick at all, you’re Category 2. Surely there needed to be a few more categories. Delineate a little bit. For instance, Category 9 would be when you’re walking funny because you stubbed your toe really hard on the coffee table leg and it hurts to put your shoe on right now.

While Gwen’s doing that bollocks, Dr. Vera Juarez has decided to fly out to Los Angeles (another long flight we didn’t see one second of. Ugh!) to aid Torchwood in their whatever-it-is-they’re-actually-doing. Esther’s convoluted intelligence tells us that there are things called “modules” where they take the Category 1 patients and while they show up on the official map, they’ve been removed from photos, except that Esther found a photo where they do exist. Shouldn’t this have been t’other way around? Shouldn’t they not have been on the map but shown up in photographs? Wouldn’t that have cut out a whole step of Esther having to find a photo where they do actually exist? I don’t presume to tell Jane Espenson how to write, because clearly she’s friggin’ great at it, but all that bit of thing added to the story was an extra 30 seconds of explanation. Just saying. At any rate, they decide they need to break in to one of these facilities and see exactly what’s going on. Rex forces himself to be the obvious choice because he’s an oughta-be-dead with a big, gaping chest wound. Jack calls the ambulance and pretends to be Rex’s very distraught boyfriend, which was funny, and they take Rex off to the overflow camp.

When Jack goes back upstairs, he finds that Vera and Esther have decided to go in as well. Vera says she’s “pulled some strings” and that she’s been granted access to the camp as an inspector and Esther’s going to pretend to be a new office worker. Jack doesn’t get to go because he’s very valuable and people will recognize him on sight. He’s his own category, Esther says. Category Jack. I’m really appalled at Esther. Doesn’t she know this is serious? There’s a global crisis happening which may or may not have been started by a nefarious, money-hungry corporation; this is no time to make horribly un-funny not-jokes and smile about them like she’s George Carlin at Carnegie Hall. So what’s Jack supposed to do while everyone else is off going to camps and what not? He’s going to Generic Arena to watch Oswald Danes, who’s set to give a big speech to thousands of people in attendance and millions watching worldwide. And to say the ol’ murderer is nervous is putting it mildly.

The ever-persistent Jilly Kitzinger is having cats about the speech. She demands Oswald say the word “Revelation.” For the love of God, if he doesn’t say “Revelation,” there will be all kinds of irritated looks. Oswald is put off because Jilly keeps handing him a speech to say full of Phicorp rhetoric and he thought he’d just be saying whatever came to him, like some kind of crazy religious zealot. Oh wait! Oswald gets distracted while waiting to go on by Jack who has decided to play everybody’s favorite game, “How Quickly Can You Get To The Other End of A Ridiculously Long Hallway?” Oswald tries to follow him, not realizing Jack is the HQCYGTTOEOARLH champion of the world.

In Wales, Gwen, dressed as a nurse, and Rhys, dressed like Rhys, get into the camp where Father Cooper is being held. Gwen goes in and searches for her Category 2 father. There’s no way I believe that Gwen wouldn’t immediately have been spotted by somebody who said “Hang on, that woman is practically marching around doing nothing.” Hasn’t anybody ever tricked their boss? You always have to look like you’re doing something. People can spot wandering, even forceful wandering, a mile away. But of course, she finds her father who seems to be in good spirits if not good health. Rhys and Gwen covertly move an old man who can barely walk to Rhys’s lorry, or “truck” as we call them here in ‘Merica, but the poor man has another heart attack and Gwen calls for help. Bad move, of course, as her dad is now reclassified as Category 1.

In the American camp, Vera is being shown around by the man in charge, Maloney, the skeeviest human being who isn’t Oswald Danes I’ve ever seen. This guy makes several lewd remarks about her and acts like he could not give less of a shit about all the sick and disfigured people around him. While this is happening, Esther finds a way to forge the paperwork to make Rex a Category 1 so he can see what it’s all about. He gets taken to a module, which is really just a ceramic storage area where people are put on racks, and waits til everyone is gone, then gets up and starts filming it. Vera, meanwhile, uncovers the horrible mistreatment of people under Maloney’s care. He quotes Vera’s own triage method of treating the less sick first and says he’s under budget. She tells Maloney that he’s going to get prosecuted to which Maloney promptly takes the pistol off of Ralph, his completely ineffectual military escort, and shoots Vera in the leg and then the hand. He then forces Ralph to help him take her to the modules and they load her in.

Back at the thing, Jack confronts Oswald and offers him a chance to be a “hero,” and to finally be able to die, if he reads THIS (Jack pulls out another speech) instead of the Phicorp one. Jack’s speech, which I can’t imagine would be very well written, lays out all of Phicorp’s wrongs and all the evidence that Torchwood has uncovered. Oswald seems very unsure of what he will do, even upon going up to the podium. He starts talking and saying how humans have evolved thousands of years ago from animals and now they’ve evolved again to…Angels. Luckily, he’s talking to the most easily-led crowd of all time, because they start cheering and applauding like they have any idea what the fuck he’s talking about. In the end, though, Oswald says “Revelation” and Phicorp saves the day, much to Jack’s chagrin and Jilly’s the opposite of chagrin.

The modules are furnaces and Vera gets cooked alive. Phicorp’s the Nazis. Get it? The world has become Nazi sympathizers, GET IT?!

This show is enjoyable and entertaining but also really dumb and makes me hate human beings. Perhaps I shall become a bird. Next week there’s another episode and in three weeks there’ll be both Torchwood: Miracle Day AND Doctor Who to watch and review. Oh me oh my-oh.

-Kanderson may have lost faith in humanity, but he still has faith that you should follow him on TWITTER