As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of Doctor Who. The storylines are surreal, the characters are fascinating, and the science is made up. Everything about it is great. But what I love the most about the Doctor Who franchise is that we get more, in Torchwood.
Torchwood premiered back in 2006, not long after the Season 2 finale of Doctor Who. The plot of Torchwood surrounds the Torchwood Institute, who investigate extraterrestrial phenomenon on Earth, and was formed in 1879 by Queen Victoria, which was, oddly enough, featured in the Season 2 finale of Doctor Who. That’s right, it’s a direct spin-off, they take place in the same universe, and they have had a few crossovers, which has been interesting. Doctor Who tends to have a lighthearted nature sprinkled with dramatic moments. Torchwood, on the other hand, has a dramatic nature sprinkled with lighthearted moments. The crossovers tend to gloss over these differences. But it is interesting seeing the characters of Torchwood in a different light. Though I particularly love it when Jack says “Hi” to someone and The Doctor scolds him for flirting.
But that’s not really what I want to talk about. Not specifically. What I really wanted to talk about was what Torchwood has done lately. After two years of typical Monster-of-the-Week stories, the third season of Torchwood was significantly different, a five-part miniseries regarding a single story. This was mostly because that season was significantly cut down from 13 to five episodes. They wanted Torchwood to remain awesome in spite of the cutbacks, and a major world-changing threat that would unfold over five episodes was the best way. Honestly I don’t think they could have done any better.
Children of Earth was, to put it simply, a masterpiece of science fiction. It begins with every child on Earth suddenly undergoing some kind of trance, simultaneously, and chanting “We are coming.” The whole story is about an alien species who tries to hold the Earth hostage. Their demands? 10% of all Earth’s children. The story expands to involve an old cover-up by the British government, and Torchwood going on the run.
It’s those kinds of stories, the world-changing stories, that always blow my mind, Because it’s not just about a single event, it’s about how a single event affects the entire human race, and many stories have used this idea. Torchwood: Children of Earth, Children of Men, so many episodes of Doctor Who, FlashForward, and Torchwood: Miracle Day.
Ah, Miracle Day! The new series of Torchwood. The premise is simple: for one day no one dies, and then another day, and then another. The human race has become immortal, and no one knows why. But it’s a flawed immortality, they still heal like normal, at the normal speed, and some injuries, no one can heal from.
Yeah, like that. Hospices and ICUs, which normally have turnover due to their patients dying, don’t. They continue to get an influx of patients, but no outflow…or less outflow. Which means they run out of space. What used to be fatal injuries, people now survive, in excruciating pain, meaning an increase in the use of painkillers. Infections which used to be fatal, aren’t, meaning we continue to fight them with antibiotics, and any student of biology knows, this is not good. Drug resistant bacteria would eventually be everywhere, and nearly impossible to fight. Then there are births, and what used to be fatal genetic mistakes are suddenly viable, causing babies to be born in excruciating pain, or as one character put it: “We’re talking brain outside the skull, no skin, no face, suffering.”
Next is the legal system. Murder and attempted murder no longer exists according to the letter of the law because no one can die, technically, but brain damage can still happen, and as anyone knows, severe brain damage, means you might as well be dead. One of the first messed up things to happen regarding the new law is one man, who’s a child rapist, gets released from prison after his execution doesn’t take. His sentence was “carried out successfully,” but he didn’t actually die, because no one can die, and because of double jeopardy laws, he can’t serve the same sentence twice. So he’s released.
The entire system is messed up. One might think a world where no one dies would be a good thing, not so much, and I haven’t even talked about resources. Unless immortality is accompanied by sterility (which it isn’t in this case), a population boom would occur. Food, water, shelter, would all become extremely valuable commodities. People are worried about overpopulation now (I think it’s a little alarmist, but that’s beside the point). Imagine what would happen on Miracle Day.
It causes a complete societal turnover. Which forms the foundation of this new season. On top of this, we got the main plot. The rebuilding of Torchwood, after it collapsed during Children of Earth, and the overarching conspiracy that orchestrated the Miracle. We still don’t know the details, all we know is PhiCorp, a major pharmaceutical company, is part of it, or at least had prior knowledge, which is the same thing if you ask me; a group of three families are orchestrating the whole thing; and part of their master plan involves a series of “Overflow camps” across the world, built to handle the extra patients within the health-care system…or at least that’s what they are telling everyone at first.
That’s not a whole lot of information. We still don’t know why. Why make every man, woman and child on planet Earth immortal? What exactly would they have to gain? Money? As I said, healthcare is more in demand now, then ever. But there are much easier ways of making money. So there is definitely something bigger going on. Which is certainly keeping me interested.
We have two episodes left, which is typically when things start winding down. But in this case, it seems like things are winding up. Still a lot of unanswered questions, and we only have two episodes to answer them. But that’s not the interesting part…the interesting part is how we got this far.
Episode one, we are introduced to Rex Matheson, an up and coming CIA agent, who is talking on his hands free cell phone to fellow agent, Esther Drummond, when he rear ends a truck and gets a piece of rebar straight through his heart. Surprisingly, he survives, along with everyone else who should have died, and begins investigating why. He connects the Miracle to Torchwood and begins by tracking down Gwen Cooper, who has been in hiding in Wales since last season, where they are joined by the only other surviving member of Torchwood, Jack Harkness, as they fight off a mysterious helicopter that begins shooting at them. This episode does little more than set the scene. It really should have simply been part of a two-part season premiere with episode two. Where Torchwood is being extradited to the United States and on the flight over the duo begin talking with Matheson and share the information they have regarding the Miracle. Matheson is intrigued. Then things get interesting, as Jack is poisoned. Now it’s true that almost every human can’t die. But Jack isn’t an ordinary human…he’s normally immortal. The man who can’t die, over 100 years old and still appearing in his 40s. This is the weird thing, because now, thanks to the Miracle, he can die.
When I first heard that, my thought was this whole thing is an elaborate plot to assassinate Jack Harkness. But then it was pointed out on the show that this could just be a coincidence. If you ask me, the writers could be doing this to do either one of three things: set it up as part of the overarching conspiracy, use it as way to kill off Jack at the end of this season, or as cheap dramatic tension to make us think they are going to kill him off at the end of this season. I’d prefer they killed him off. It’s quite boring having a character who can survive anything, because you know no matter what happens, he won’t die. Even if a bomb goes off in his chest, he’s still breathing. Not much drama is there?
The same thing is kinda happening with regards to Doctor Who. Part of the overarching plot this season is, the Doctor will die. It’s a fixed point, it’s going to happen, it can’t be rewritten. But it’s undermined by the fact that Matt Smith signed up for another season. So no real drama, because we know he’ll find a way out of it. Of course I try to pretend…it’s getting harder.
Anyway, that and I’m sick of Jack. I find him a bit annoying.
Next the following three episodes built on the conspiracy, and they all had one thing in common, they all had an ending that creeped me the fuck out. The third episode ended with Oswald Danes, a character who was executed during the Miracle, so he survived, for raping and murdering a little girl. He describes how much he enjoyed killing her. The dirt still has not come off.
Then the fourth episode ended with a small town mayor and member of the Tea Party (Woah! Way to be topical Torchwood), who was leading a campaign to segregate those who should have died during the Miracle, getting kidnapped by the masterminds of this whole lollapalooza, and bound and gagged in a car as it’s being crushed. Out pops a cube of scrap metal, the camera zooms in, passing through the nooks and crannies in the metal, and all we see is her eye, darting around, surrounded by car parts. She survived, but what kind of survival? A shit one. Who knows if she can even think properly. Likely in constant pain. I don’t even like thinking about it. Thank you internet, because I had to recall that. But what was interesting about that scene was when the conspirators left her a message: “The families will rise.” My thought: “And Silence will fall.” But I’m pretty sure we won’t see any major crossovers between Doctor Who and Torchwood for a while. Though I would appreciate it if Rory and Amy mentioned the Miracle during this season of Doctor Who…at least acknowledged it happened.
Moving on, then there’s the fifth episode, where things really took off. It is revealed there are now three “categories of life” since no one dies anymore. Those who are perfectly healthy (Cat3); those who are sick and have an illness or injury that will persist but not kill (Cat2); and those who might as well be dead, should be dead, have no brain function, etc. (Cat1). It’s sick to treat healthcare like you’re a data entry clerk. Not only that, life can’t be categorised like that. In the première, Matheson was a Category One, but as he was treated for his injuries, is now a Category Two. Unfortunately this whole episode is about how they treat the Category twos and ones. They throw them into the Overflow camps and let them rot. Unless you’re a Category One, then they throw you into an incinerator. AHAHAHA! Now you’re paying attention. These people aren’t dead…okay, they might be brain-dead. But they’re not actually dead. Things get worse, because I didn’t tell you what creeped me out about this episode yet. As one of the main characters, Vera Juarez, is doing an inspection of the Overflow Camps, she confronts the administrator over the terrible job he’s doing. She’s a bit manic during this sequence, threatening him with jail time, which is probably appropriate, but he responds by shooting her…twice. In the leg and in the hand. The motherfucking hand! That’s fucking sick! Then, he caps it off by…you know where this is going…throwing her into an incinerator. Alive and breathing and conscious. She is one of the first deaths since the Miracle. Of course several fans have said they think she might have survived in some form. Fuck you, she’s dead! ‘Aight!?
This scene gave me chills, because she could have lived forever, that’s why it’s so tragic. Penn Jillette once talked about this.
If my cat dies, I cry but eventually get over it, because I knew she was going to die eventually anyway. She’s fine now, and sleeping but…anyway. If I had an immortal jellyfish, and it died, I’d feel like a heel, because that thing could have lived forever, and I killed it. I’m such a fuck up. No one was supposed to die, and she did. It’s beyond tragic. Of course thankfully it’s fictional.
The next two episodes did a great job of wrapping up the whole Overflow Camp plot, and then expanding on the conspiracy. They got back to business, as we learned that PhiCorp was a small player in a bigger game, and the whole plot goes back to 1927, and is directly connected to Jack Harkness. A former boyfriend of Jack knows the details, but he dies in the eighth episode, by using a null field, which counteracts the Miracle. Why he decided to kill himself? We still don’t know. Possibly to send Jack a message.
All I can tell is the final episodes are going to be a doozy. It’s exciting to say the least.