The Glass Teat - Serial-reviewing Torchwood: Miracle Day


Doorway to Torchwood

Managing Editor, True North Perspective
Originally published at Edifice Rex Online

An unabashed (if often critical) fan of all things Doctor Who, Geoffrey Dow is writing about Torchwood: Miracle Day each week. Click here to for an overview and links to all the postings.

After a relatively strong third episode, Torchwood: Miracle Day hasn't just fallen back to earth, it's buried itself in a very deep pit. Escape to L.A. is slow-moving and idiot-plotted. It doesn't thrill, seldom amuses and stretches credibility as thin as a gas.

Leading things off, it's Esther's turn to wander off without saying where she's going or when she'll be back. Turns out she's decided to visit her sister, the one we learned last week "can't cope" at the best of times. In a nearly five-minute scene we learn the sister is now not coping by barricading herself and her two kids inside her house. Esther contacts a child services agency — via her cellphone, of course! The call (of course!) is intercepted by the evil Mr. Sunglasses, thus setting in motion this week's plot.

Following credits and a brief montage of news reports — medical crisis continues, drug companies are making lotsa dough, the living dead are suing to get their jobs back and the Tea Party(!) is leading a charge to get the not-dead locked away — our heroes pull up to the curb somewhere in Venice Beach, California. Stepping onto the sidewalk, Rex loudly proclaims, "Last thing we want with a stolen car is getting a ticket."

(Later, Rex will berate everyone for their lack of professionalism and then go off to pay a pointless visit to his (not so) Dear Old Dad.)

Anyway, PhiCorp's headquarters is in Venice Beach and our intrepid (if rather thick) double-brace of heroes are going to storm it and ... do something there. Though just what has escaped me — since none of what happens makes any sense, I don't suppose the specifics really matter.

PhiCorp's security is just as lax this week as it was last, but even more nonsensical. Their key data-centre, protected by the latest biometric security is so important that, "only one man can gain total access, the man who designed it."

Let that sink in for a minute.

That's right. A major multi-national corporation — one engaged in a conspiracy of epic proportions — has entrusted its Absolutely Vital computer centre to a single man.

Is Nicholas Frumkin, PhiCorp's irreplaceable genius, kept under lock and key? Is there a security guard assigned to watch over him while society falls apart? Does he have a pager?

Why no, not at all. Er, no. Not as such. And, probably not.

As his company's plans come to a climax, and as the world's society is falling apart, Nicholas Frumkin is out with his wife and baby daughter, strolling through the California sunshine ...

Fuck it, I can't go on. You'll find more logical plausibility in the average South Park plot than is on evidence in this episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day.

Suffice it to say, Jack and Gwen break into PhiCorp's headquarters, Esther's cell-phone sloppiness lets Mr. Sunglasses catch them and Rex climbs 20 flights of stairs to save the day (yes, the exertion gets his bandages and shirt all bloody again). Since he shoots Mr. Sunglasses in the throat, the Bad Guy can't finish his Triumphant Villain Speech, which leaves Jack and Gwen annoyed by Rex's timing.

Ha ha ha.

End of episode and back, more or less, to square one.

I know, I know: we're supposed to be wondering how PhiCorp knew about the miracle beforehand, why they're so keen on Oswald Danes, what Jilly Kitzinger's game really is and how they all tie into whoever it is that's hiding behind Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album art.

And we're supposed to be admiring the biting satire about the American medical system and the evils of Big Pharma, and maybe wondering whether the White House's silence in the face of the Miracle is a comment on Barack Obama's propensity for studying things to death or just a cynical take on politicians in general.

But since the plot so insults my intelligence and is so emotionally uninvolving, all I'm really wondering is why Vera Juarez fucked Rex Matheson last week, when there was clearly less than zero sexual chemistry between them, and whether next week might treat us to a continuity error that sees Rex's bandage dripping blood from the wrong side of his chest.

Last week I wrote, "Torchwood: Miracle Day is getting better as it goes along." Escape to L.A. makes me not just reconsider, but regret, my rash words. Unlike Russell T Davies, apparently, I care about my reputation.

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