Torchwood: The terrible truth of ‘Miracle Day’ emerges

Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Television

John Barrowman (Starz)With its fifth episode “Categories of Life” on Friday, Torchwood: Miracle Day reaches its halfway point, and just as its predecessor Children of Earth did the show ceases to be a gripping and sexy sci-fi romp and instead becomes a dark mirror on the evils that men do.

Damn you, Torchwood!

Having traveled cross country in last week’s fourth episode, “Escape to L.A.,” the new team now is split up again but manages to go undercover in “overflow camps” on two continents, where they learn the terrible truth behind the Miracle that ended death on Earth. But the Grim Reaper is about to make a shocking return, for the governments of the world have adopted three “categories of life” to handle the predicament of infinite population — and once you’re categorized, your fate is sealed. Horrors from humanity’s past rear their ugly head again, bringing sinister new meaning to the old term “final solution.”

It’s genuinely depressing watching the chaotic situation unfold, from hospitals full of abandoned children and others who “should have died” to the establishment of the overflow centers, and being forced to conclude that there is a very real warning to be heeded in this fictional tale. (Just watch how our government nearly falls apart trying to balance its checkbook, then imagine them empowered with definition of life and death. Your welcome.) In this leadership vacuum, it’s simultaneously ridiculous and strangely plausible that the one voice for the helpless to arise comes from a convicted pedophile murderer spared the death penalty on Miracle Day (Bill Pullman, in an increasingly masterful performance).

Many questions remain: What is it all for, and who has been planning it? Why the connection to Torchwood and the worldwide email blast containing just that word in the first episode? Who are the hands behind the Miracle, and when and where did they encounter Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) before?

The future of Torchwood may be in doubt as a series, with a fifth outing apparently hinging on Russell T. Davies’ schedule. But its clear this spinoff of Doctor Who has evolved and continues to be a vehicle for high-concept storytelling in its own right. It does what the sci-fi masters of old did: make us ponder the human condition and where it will take us, or we it.

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