Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 10

The Blood Line


So, that’s that then. All those answers we’d been working towards for the past 9 episodes, in the end, boiled down to “What is it?” “I don’t know.” As our heroes finally reached the planet straddling pink lined cleft that was The Blessing (already likened elsewhere to a ‘planetary vagina’), you couldn’t help feeling a real sense of anticlimax. Not since the end of Lost have I felt an ending to be so unsatisfactory, though at least with Lost we had six years of involvement with likeable characters to sew up, making up for the lack of resolution to the actual mysteries.

Not that this should be particularly surprising. As I’ve mentioned before, Russell T Davies seems to have a real problem with writing satisfactory endings. It’s the hallmark of a writer who cut his teeth working on neverending soap operas, I suppose; he does characters, dialogue and ongoing plotting very well, but when it comes to wrapping things up, he’s more often than not written himself into a corner. Hence the frequent ‘Davies ex machina’ endings to various Doctor Who seasons, in which, basically, magic is used to extricate our heroes from the insoluble; or even the endings to both series of Queer as Folk – one ends with numerous unresolved storylines, the other with the heroes inexplicably jetting off to the US in a flying Jeep.

It’s also, perhaps, another indicator of how much this series of Torchwood has tried to be like The X Files, a series not renowned for its episodes’ satisfying resolutions. “I know it probably doesn’t have the sense of closure you’re looking for,”says a weary Dana Scully to author Jose Chung in Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’, “but it has more than some of our other cases.” Even by season 3, The X Files had established this trope well enough to be self-referentially mocking about it; Torchwood, sadly, does not have that luxury, and as a result, you’re just left gaping at the screen, saying “But… but…”

To be fair, the episode did entertain if not actually thrill. There was some good character stuff, hardly surprising in a script co-written by Russell T Davies and Jane Espenson; the subplot of Gwen making peace with her dad’s inevitable death was very sensitively handled, and a well-played scene between John Barrowman and Bill Pullman gave real insight into the characters of Captain Jack and Oswald Danes. That scene, in which Jack expressed his admiration for how magnificent humanity would become in the future then gave Oswald a Total Perspective Vortex moment by showing him how small he’d made his life, also served to defuse one of the show’s very real contradictions. If Jack is from the future, surely everything’s bound to turn out ok; after all, he’s seen it. ‘Borrowing’ from 1976 Doctor Who story Pyramids of Mars, the script then has Jack explain that, “the future can be changed. It’s being written right now.” As good an explanation of the paradox as we could hope for, and certainly better than many of the other ‘explanations’ we got this week.

Indeed, nods to Doctor Who were all over the place this week. Perhaps recognising that, given Torchwood is set in the Whoniverse, fanboys would immediately rush to the internet to query how come The Blessing hasn’t intersected with all those other things we know to be lurking beneath the Earth, Russell had Captain Jack specifically mention both the Silurians and the Racnoss as he speculated on what The Blessing could be. A nice moment, to be sure, though some concrete explanation of what it was rather than sub-X Files waffle would have been nicer. Later, Jack referred to the Blessing sites having been sealed up by UNIT; that was another nice nod. Less nice was an unwelcome return of what Russell presumably believes to be much-loved catchphrases from his time on Who. As Rex is shot, Jack gets a chance to annoy like Tennant by saying, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”. Followed immediately, as Rex wakes up, by Russell’s default season ending line – “What? What? WHAT?” I think I could have lived without hearing that one again.

But I could have lived with some credible resolution to the plot(s). Ok, so, The Families were trying to gain control of the world by using The Blessing to control when people live or die at their whim. All right, I’ll buy that. Except that, given the century spanning conspiracy we’ve already seen and the pseudo religious fanaticism displayed by The Families’ many catspaws in positions of power, they basically already do control the world. Do they just want more publicity about it? Also, if this is “phase one”, or a “trial run” as Mormon-missionary guy explains to Jilly later, just what are they planning for an encore?  All right, I’ll grant you that this may be a teaser for a subplot in a later series (which may not be entirely welcome given the general reception of this one), but having massively shaken up a world they effectively already control and seemingly virtually own, it’s hard to see what more The Families are hoping for. After all, once you’ve got immortality, everything else falls into place, given time; what else could you need?

Then there’s the numerous contradictions implicit in the torrents of exposition we were given to explain the nature of The Blessing itself. For a start, there’s the surprisingly laborious means by which our heroes locate it. It’s a neat idea that Jack’s blood rolls towards it (though this presumably means that it has an inherent desire to return humanity to its normal state, despite Jack’s assertion that it’s trying to be kind by granting everyone immortality). But having established that the direction in which the blood rolls must point to The Blessing’s location, why on earth do our heroes than decide the best way to find it is simply to walk in that direction until they encounter something weird? These are supposedly professional intelligence agents (well, Rex keeps telling us that he is, anyway). Have they never heard of triangulation? Simply try the same thing in a different building, plot the two blood rolling directions until they intersect on the map, and hey presto, you’ve got the exact location. Perhaps less dramatically weighty than Gwen’s encounter with the improbably English-fluent old Chinese lady, but so obvious that it made our heroes look a bit silly.

As The Mother and her Buenos Aires counterpart The Cousin (does Russell have something against families in general, or did he just think such cryptic monickers were apropos of the recurring ‘homage’ to The X Files?) defused the tension with their mountains of inconsistent exposition, it became hard to care what was happening. Nonetheless, it became apparent that The Blessing had always been under the Earth (“the most terrestrial threat we’ve ever faced”, Gwen noted sagely), and via the scientifically dubious means of morphic fields had always controlled humanity’s average lifespan. OK, despite the New Age bollocks of morphic fields, I can buy into that within the rules the show has established for itself. But even here, it didn’t have any consistent logic. Given that The Blessing apparently controls the entire population’s lifespans rather than specific individuals, how were The Families planning to achieve the targeted control the Mother referred to? And leaving aside the question of how, despite previous assertions that this was impossible, it used Jack’s blood as a template for immortality, why did The Blessing’s change to humanity affect just him in completely the opposite way, and why was this reversed when humanity became mortal again? No explanations were offered, and by the time it became clear that Rex had caught immortality himself, it was as if Russell had just thrown in the towel as far as contradictions of the show’s internal logic were concerned, and fallen back on “What? What? WHAT?” Let’s be clear about this; I can suspend disbelief in any which way a sci fi or fantasy show demands, providing it’s consistent with the internal logic the show has established for itself. Lost cheated somewhat here by never actually explaining the rules of its universe, but Torchwood clearly has, and retconning them without a damn well-explained reason totally takes the viewer out of the drama.

There was some drama and thrills, but even these were not particularly well-handled. The idea that Rex had used his immortality to absorb all of Jack’s blood, thereby becoming a walking weapon, was a good one (and nicely signalled by Rex’s twinges throughout the episode, as The Blessing tried to drag his new blood towards it). Having established this trump card for our heroes, it was also dramatically rather good that the only way to return humanity to normal was for both Rex and Jack to sacrifice themselves by spewing all their blood towards The Blessing simultaneously. The fact that both were willing to do so (even after Jack’s recent assertion that he still enjoys living and will fight to carry on) was an excellent moment. Unfortunately, it was then totally undermined by the fact that, having made the heroic sacrifice, both were not just ok, but better than ok – immortal, in fact. The hard-hitting, no compromise approach at the end of Children of Earth was totally lacking here; it’s as though, in that show, Jack’s grandson appeared to die but was then shown to be fine. Drama that, in fact, totally pulls its punches.

And then there was Oswald. Bill Pullman was more naturalistic than usual here, but there was no revelation as to why exactly he’d been made out to be so important all the way through the serial’s run. I don’t mind a bit of misdirection, and the dialogue even spelled out earlier how insignificant he really was. But when The Mother dismissively told him that he was an “irrelevant by-product” of The Miracle, again I felt somewhat cheated. After all, if you’re going to have one of your story’s central characters be a murdering paedophile, there’s usually some kind of plot point reason for it, and you’d be expecting to see that at the story’s resolution. What we got here felt, again, like The X Files – and not even good X Files, but the terrible recent movie I Want to Believe, in which Billy Connolly’s psychic priest was, for dramatically spurious reasons, a convicted paedophile. It served no real story purpose there, and neither does it here; in fact it makes one feel a little queasy at having invested so much time in such a nasty character for no particular reason.

Oswald’s ‘heroic’ sacrifice, blowing up himself, The Mother and the pit of The Blessing, was not at all unexpected either. It felt dramatically pat that the character had been on a path of redemption all along, so kudos to whichever writer – my money’s on Jane Espenson – managed to make his ’noble gesture’ consistent with his character, as he looked forward to Hell because “that’s where all the bad little girls go”. So a mixed moment there – I always expected something like that to happen at the end, but I didn’t expect that they’d manage to keep Oswald consistently vile even up to his death. It’s one of the episode’s nicer touches that it can make you muse on how bad people may do the best of things for the worst of reasons.

Also dying this week was John De Lancie’s CIA boss Shapiro, which was a shame; if we must have another season, I would have liked him to have been in it. It wasn’t a particularly well-written part, but De Lancie seized on the character handles he was given to charismatically portray a believable and likeable boss figure in (inevitably) the Walter Skinner style. Great death line too; now that I’ve heard Q out of Star Trek say “oh fuck”, my life seems complete. It also seemed consistent with the (actually fairly believable) earlier portrayal of the CIA as some kind of CTU-like department of incompetents who would not only not spot an incredibly shifty mole, but also completely miss that she’d somehow managed to hide an incredibly powerful bomb in the back of a filing cabinet. Sherlock Holmes these guys aren’t, but they’ve been enjoyable in the same way that Jack Bauer’s compatriots were. And at least shifty mole Charlotte eventually got her comeuppance, through the incredibly contrived last minute data transfer to Rex’s phone (it even zoomed in on her name without him having to touch a thing, as though the phone itself was trying desperately hard to increase the tension).

Actually, Esther’s funeral was like some kind of reunion for all the major characters who’d survived. We saw Esther’s sister, who had rather implausibly been given back custody of her children; but it was a measure of how little I cared about that character’s unnecessary subplot that it took me a few moments to even remember who she was. And Rhys was there too, in LA for the first time – storywise anyway. Contrary to my theories last week, I’ve been told that, barring the exterior shots, all the Welsh material was actually filmed in LA too; so Gwen’s frequent and increasingly irritating phone calls home presumably weren’t charged at international rate. Still, more kudos to the production team for making the sets and costumes convincing enough that I actually believed those interiors were in Wales, a feat not many US TV productions would pull off given the depictions of the UK I’ve seen in the past.

I’ve been quite harsh on this episode, harsher in fact than I have on any of the others despite their perceived flaws. That’s simply because, with this being the end of the story, I can no longer live in hope that the flaws will be explained or ironed out later on. Or perhaps I can; the fact that Russell has left story plots hanging and his main villains uncaught and unpunished presumably means that he, or network co-producer Starz, is hoping for another season. Unfortunately, given this season’s lukewarm reception, I’d be surprised if that happened. That’s actually sort of a shame, because despite the numerous flaws in Miracle Day, it’s never been less than entertaining – for me at least. Despite all the holes I’ve picked in this last episode, even that was entertaining even though simultaneously disappointing; though again, I think Russell had written himself into a corner that was impossible to get out of. But it’s worth remembering that many of us weren’t too impressed with Torchwood’s first season either. After that, though, it gradually realised its potential, and possibly could again. Even with a multitude of flaws, there was much to like here, and I’ll post a short review of the series as a whole at some point. For now, though, unfortunately the best I can say is that this finale entertained without actually satisfying.

Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 9


The Gathering

Torchwood: Miracle Day; EP. 9

“61 days into the Great Depression…”

And just like that, in its endgame two episodes, Miracle Day has shifted the narrative speed into hyperdrive. After weeks of ponderously navigating the murky waters of the plot and showing us in painstaking, often tedious detail every aspect of what’s going on, we’ve suddenly leaped forward to “Two Months Later” and in the interim, all sorts of things have been happening.

Firstly, the financial collapse so topically alluded to last week has obviously happened. It occurred to me watching this episode that the references to “the Great Depression” are in voiceover only, as were, if I recall, last week’s radio bulletins about Greece and Ireland defaulting on their national debts. All of which made me wonder whether this was a bit of topicality inserted at a late stage to capitalise on real world events that have happened since production was complete. Either that, or Russell T Davies is clairvoyant…

Be that as it may, the Depression fits very well into the scary new post-Miracle world. It also gives new momentum to the Government sanctioned Holocaust re-enactment of the “overflow camps”. My friend Richard, on his Millennium Dome blog review of episode 5, has expressed scepticism at the speed with which humanity hurtled to this point, which I must say I share. But a financial collapse really does recall the conditions which propitiated the original Holocaust, and this week’s insertion of, effectively, house-searching Gestapo agents was a rather less in your face reference to it than actually showing us the crematoria in action.

Certainly Ian Hughes as Mr Finch looked and acted the part as a modern day Welsh Herr Flick. Actually, it could be said that casting someone who looked – and was dressed – very much as a stereotypical Gestapo man is a bit lazy, but it’s a neat shorthand for who he is and what he’s doing, which is the kind of narrative economy the show’s been sorely in need of during its rather overlength run. With Gwen’s father hidden behind a board in the cellar like a latterday Anne Frank, Finch’s sojourns downstairs were genuinely tense (though I’m sceptical that even Apple can develop a thermographic imaging app for the iPhone). Nonetheless, his callous rejoinder to Gwen’s comment that her dad was still warm – “he’s about to get a whole lot warmer” – was genuinely chilling, in keeping with exactly what you could imagine the real Gestapo saying.

Outside of the UK’s fast development into a police state, though, there was a lot going on here to do with the main plot. Gwen, it seems, has been busy since the CIA deported her from the US last week. In the intervening two months, she’s set herself up as a one-woman ram-raiding black market for Swansea residents scared to go to the doctor for painkillers lest they be classified as category one. Besides doing that, and helping her mother to hide her father from the authorities, she’s also found time to set up some kind of lifeline by which she was able to smuggle Jack and Esther, not to mention (presumably without her actual knowledge) Oswald Danes into the UK.

The narrative economy of this skipping forward of the story not only gives the series a much-needed sense of vigour in the mode of Children of Earth, it also allows for real surprises to be spun in a way that’s generally been lacking this year. I was genuinely surprised when Oswald turned up at the Cooper house in Swansea, precisely because we hadn’t been shown in mind-numbing detail how he got there. One minute he was running away from Jilly, the next time we see him, he’s in Wales! It was noticeable that, as he was hiding his face from the cute young surveillance guy, it might not have been Bill Pullman himself in the exterior shots. But I’m guessing they really did fly him to Wales for those scenes in the Coopers’ kitchen – it would be cheaper to do that than fly the rest of the cast out to LA.

After the rather tokenistic depiction of Wales in recent episodes, it was refreshing to have an entire episode that pretty much centred on the UK. For that, and for the narrative zip this week, I would assume we have to thank Liverpool-born writer John Fay, who scripted the episode of Children of Earth that was most chilling, as remarked on in Richard’s blog entry linked to above – the one that centred on the Cabinet meeting discussing how best to capitulate to the aliens’ demands. As the only Torchwood old hand writing this series except for Russell, he’s given us the episode that most resembles – in tone and style as well as setting – the Torchwood of old.

It does still retain an international flavour, though, and thankfully this week that wasn’t just limited to the US and the UK. Over at CIA HQ in Langley, Rex was hard at work trying to track down paper records of Ablemarch, Costerdane and Frines, while seemingly unaware that Charlotte Willis was busily recreating the shifty actions of every mole ever seen in 24’s CTU – suddenly looking worried, disappearing from her desk to make furtive phone calls, being surprisingly defeatist about the chances of tracking down the relevant information. To give him credit, Rex has at least worked out that there is a mole, but I question his spook credentials that he can’t work out who it is.

Nonetheless, Rex did manage, via a ridiculously convoluted bit of research, to ascertain that one of the Families’ original conspirators had gone to ground in Buenos Aires. As a side note, given the century spanning nature of this conspiracy, it’s ever harder to reconcile it with the Doctor Who universe in which Torchwood is supposedly set; were the Families never inconvenienced by events like Dalek invasions? Still, be that as it may, the Buenos Aires link gave us another country to spin into the web – or perhaps I should say another country for the production team to dress LA up to look like.

LA was also dressed up to resemble Shanghai, a plot thread which, unlike many others, is actually being followed up. Shanghai, it seems, is part of the “specific geography” referred to earlier in the story. It’s also the location of “the Blessing”, as Jilly discovered when the Families’ hunky young representative dispatched her there with a one-way ticket and a new name. Jilly’s trip is characterised by a series of meetings with mysterious people who drop cryptic hints then tell her that she’ll never see them again – Fay has obviously picked up this trick from John Shiban’s X Files experiences. Finally, Jilly bumps into Frances Fisher – best known as Kate Winslet’s mum in Titanic, fact fans – who’s credited in the cast list as “Mother Colasanto”, implying that Angelo’s family had more to do with everything than we’d previously been led to believe. Apparently still playing Mrs Bukater – well, acting in the same style, anyway – Fisher took Jilly to see the Blessing.

And Gods alone know what it is. It looks like two rotating pink pillars, accompanied by gravity-defying flying bits. The Families may be human, but it’s beginning to look like this is the genuinely extra-terrestrial component of the story. Apparently it’s trying to communicate, and it can drive you mad. It also may run through the centre of the entire planet, like the words in a stick of Blackpool rock; something which Rhys, of all people, figures out with the aid of a conveniently available inflatable globe which shows him that Shanghai and Buenos Aires are precisely opposite each other on the Earth’s surface.

Oswald too has figured out that something odd’s up (to put it mildly) and thanks to him our heroes make a roundabout link to Shanghai. He refers to Jilly’s laptop mentioning ‘”Harry Bosco”, which according to Esther was the name of a CIA agent who routinely misinformed the American public about the Vietnam war by mistranslating Viet Cong transmissions for the US news media. I was intrigued by this, so I googled it (well, it works for Jack), but found no reference to Harry Bosco (if that’s how it’s spelled). I did, however, find reference to just such an alleged CIA project called Operation Mockingbird, set up by Allen Dulles in the 40s and apparently active up till the 90s, which placed CIA operatives in influential positions throughout the media, and may have been responsible for Ronald Reagan’s acting career, among other things. Scary, real-world stuff.

Off our guys pop, then, Rex and Esther to Buenos Aires and Jack, Gwen and Oswald to Shanghai. It’s another telling example of this episode’s narrative economy that we don’t spend an hour showing how they got there; they simply arrive in the scene after they say they’re going, as we can take it as read that they have the means. Esther’s taken many bags of Jack’s blood, which will be handy as we discover that it will roll, like the blood samples in Carpenter’s The Thing, in the general direction of The Blessing. This does give cause for worry about Jack; presumably, if he gets too close to The Blessing, this effect will cause him to get dragged into it!

So it’s finally all coming together. Jilly, the Families, our heroes, Oswald, all are converging on Shanghai to find The Blessing, and presumably, the long-delayed resolution to the plot. I appreciate that Russell T Davies was bound to make this series ten episodes long (and apparently it was originally intended to be even longer!), but the structuring of this episode showed how the story could have worked so much better, like Children of Earth, as a high-octane, cleverly structured five part story rather than the lumbering behemoth we were presented with. Next week, though, it all comes to a head and so Russell’s back for the first time since episode one on scripting duties – albeit with Jane Espenson’s capable help. I’ve carped many times in my Doctor Who reviews about Russell’s inability to write satisfying story endings, but Children of Earth was one of a few occasions when he managed just that. Let’s hope he can pull it off again.

Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 8

End of the Road


It’s exposition week for Torchwood! After last week’s virtually standalone episode which seemed to do little more than touch on the main plot, this week it was answer after answer in an episode which veered from occasional action through character development to mountains of infodumps. Still, at least some answers were finally forthcoming.

Chief expositor was Nana Visitor as Olivia Colasanto – as it turned out, the granddaughter of Jack’s ex Angelo, who this week was found to have lived this long by virtue of a sensible lifestyle and no immortality particularly. While it’s great to see Nana Visitor in anything, Olivia wasn’t given any kind of character as such; her function was simply to spew information as to what was happening, how it had happened, and who did it. This barrage of exposition came so thick and fast in the early part of the episode that my sleep-fogged brain had a hard time taking it all in.

Among the salient points that I did manage to discern were that Jack isn’t actually responsible for the Miracle – he just gave the rotating triangle people the idea for it, which seems like a bit of a swizz given all the hints dropped previously. And the rotating triangle people now have names – Ablemarch, Costerdane and Frines. Three weird names, to be sure, and a pain to type over and over again, which may be why they’re usually referred to simply as The Families; you can almost hear the capital letters in the dialogue. Angelo wasn’t working with them, because they don’t like the gays. That’s not unusual for people in the late 20s, though it did seem incongruous that their properly contextual homophobia wasn’t matched by any equally period-accurate racism – there weren’t that many rich black people accepted so casually in society at that point. Which, if nothing else, should make them easier to track down, despite the fact that they’ve managed to wipe their names from the entire internet – perhaps with a virus similar to the one Jack used to erase all references to Torchwood.

Esther, listening in with a phone and a laptop, had the fun task of transcribing the infodump while Googling everything that came up in it. She really is turning into this show’s Chloe O’Brian, albeit without the endearing lack of social graces. Unfortunately for her, this meant that she had to endure the indignity of having a gun shoved in her face by Dennis Nedry Friedkin as Wayne Knight made a welcome return. After a succession of single episode guest shots, it’s refreshing when a character actually turns out to be more than a gimmicky cameo, and Knight’s trademark sweating panic was nicely consistent with the out-of-his-depth character we’d seen previously.

This all turned out to be due to a fantastically elaborate scheme by Rex, of all people, a man who hasn’t previously displayed much aptitude for anything beyond surly anger. Apparently his ‘careless’ phone call to express his condolences to Vera’s brother was actually part of a masterplan by which, when the time was right, he would bring Friedkin and his betrayals to book using the magic contact lenses – which begs the question of exactly when he got Gwen to give them to him and why she then seemed so surprised that he was using them. Perhaps Torchwood have lots of them, but if so that was a detail missing from the general flood of exposition. Additionally, the ones Rex was using seem to have a microphone built into them somewhere, as Wayne Knight’s distinctive voice was transmitted to the monitors watched by Jack and co, rather than the usual lipreading software/bland expressionless voice combo.

But we can forgive these little questions about detail and be thankful for the arrival of John De Lancie as CIA head honcho Allen Shapiro. De Lancie toned down the massive excesses of camp we’d come to expect from his years in Star Trek (or perhaps it just seemed that way because he was standing near John Barrowman), but this was still recognisably the guy who played Q in the same room as the woman who played Major Kira, which was kind of cool. It’s just a shame that he immediately bundled her out of the room before they’d had a chance to exchange more than about two lines. Still, Nana Visitor had spewed all the exposition required, and with no further function in the narrative, Olivia was conveniently blown up when Friedkin carried out the rotating triangle people The Families’ last instruction. They’re presumably no more dead than the guy who was blown up in part one, but their exploded state pretty much rules out any question of Visitor and Knight popping up in any future episodes.

The episode did seem a little unbalanced as this brief flurry of action and excitement was over with by about halfway through, at which point we got acres more character development as our heroes cogitated on the mountain of exposition they’d just heard. And took time to catch us all up on the well-being – or not – of their families. The trouble with this is that I don’t really care about them. A little family background for your characters goes a long way – as we saw in Children of Earth, it’s possible to give your heroes families that are only slightly involved in the action, without overloading the narrative to the extent that the thriller keeps pausing to catch us up on the soap opera.

And so it did here. While the revelation that you can ‘volunteer’ for the category 1 burning procedure (along with your children, somewhat improbably) was chilling, I really don’t particularly give two hoots about Esther’s sister, and think far too much time has been spent on her. She’s not a particularly convincing character, and she could have served the same plot functions in about a quarter of the time. Gwen’s morale-boosting chat with Rhys and her mum was nice, but really served no particular purpose other than to remind us that Wales was still there. At least Rex didn’t take time for a heartfelt chat to his dad, though given the general indulgence to script flabbiness of this kind, that was rather a surprise. As it is, if we don’t see Rex’s dad again, I’d say that scene between them in episode four was another bit of unnecessary padding that could have been cut to make this series overall as lean and fast-paced as Children of Earth was.

The soap opera part that did work, though, was a genuinely touching scene with Jack finally facing up to his former lover, trying to explain to the comatose Angelo how he felt. It was well-written dialogue – as Jane Espenson co-wrote this episode, I’d say this scene was hers – delivered surprisingly well by John Barrowman. It’s nice to be reminded every once in a while that he can actually be rather a fine actor. His rueful speech to Angelo also featured a fanboy-pleasing reference to Ianto Jones, which seemed also to underline that while Jack may now be several thousand years old, he’s only ever genuinely fallen for these two people. Perhaps behind all the rampant shagging, he’s a man of considerable depth after all…

But the plot kicked back to action as Angelo died. Yes, actually died – as our heroes later discovered, he had a handy bit of alien tech – probably nicked from the ruins of the Torchwood Hub – hidden under his bed, a ‘null field’ generator that neutralised what now seems conclusively to be a ‘morphic field’ used to create the Miracle. Cue Shapiro eagerly wanting to nip it off to CIA HQ for some analysis, and Jack’s now-familiar “humanity isn’t ready for this technology” speech – that part really did feel like the Torchwood of old. I’m not sure the ‘comic’ business about the null field making their conspiring inaudible really worked, mind.

So that part of the plot climaxed with Rex and Esther helping Jack to nick the vital bit of the null field generator, during which Jack was unfortunately shot, and now seems incapable of helping out. It was a curiously static episode in terms of setting, with basically only two locations – our heroes spent the entire time in Angelo’s luxurious mansion, but to enliven the proceedings they were intercut with what Oswald and Jilly were getting up to in, basically, a hotel room and a corridor.

Mind you, it was good to see Oswald and Jilly again after two episodes away. I’ve become inexplicably fond of Bill Pullman’s totally non-naturalistic, oddly mannered performance as Oswald, and he was in fine form this week, his delivery peppered with strangely placed pauses and veering from stuttering unconfidence to sudden outbursts of psychotic rage. It’s still not clear what function in the overall narrative Oswald has – unless it’s as a kind of moral barometer by which to judge everybody else’s actions – but if we have to have unnecessary padding and character moments, at least Oswald and Jilly’s are entertaining.

It was a kind of black comedy as Oswald tried rather improbably to reform himself into a normal human being by means of hiring a prostitute just for her ‘company’, and it was like watching a classic farce waiting for the inevitable moment when that was all going to end in tears. But the comedy went out the window as Oswald finally turned on Jilly, and actually gave her what looked like a really nasty punch in the mouth. It was a bleakly convincing bit of violence that served to underline how truly nasty Oswald is, but also to reinforce Jilly’s ‘ruthless bitch’ persona. She’s not one to be crossed easily, and her ranting threats to Oswald as he walked off had the convincing ring of Piers Morgan threatening someone with a long lens.

Not that she seems likely to make good on her threats though – the not entirely unexpected reappearance of the mysterious, hunky young guy from the Families took her off at a tangent by offering her a job and shooting that nice young CIA agent who was pretending to be her intern. And while our heroes are – sort of – back in the CIA’s good graces, it was hardly a surprise to discover that Friedkin wasn’t The Families’ only CIA mole. With 24 a clear influence on parts of this, that was exactly the kind of ‘twist’ we’d become familiar with after eight increasingly improbable years of following Jack Bauer around.

So, another episode that very much encapsulated Miracle Day’s strengths and weaknesses – some good character development, a bit of action, masses and masses of exposition, but none of it particularly well balanced out, either within the episode or the story overall. Nana Visitor seemed rather wasted as a non-character whose only function was to deliver concentrated information, but John De Lancie was on fine form as Shapiro. And the Oswald/Jilly storyline is still entertaining, but its payoff to the main narrative had better be good to justify so much time having been spent on it over the series as a whole. The conspiracy stuff got a nice real world beat as we discovered that The Families were responsible for the economic collapse of 2008, along with the information that, in Miracle Day world, Greece and Ireland are about to default on their national debts and send the global economy into freefall. Mind you, with current events, this seemed uncomfortably close to reality.

Only two more episodes to go, which may be a relief to some and a shame to others. I’m finding it hard to have strong feelings either way though – this is a generally entertaining and intriguing show, but its script flabbiness and uneven structure have made it far from compulsive viewing. Fortunately, though, tonight sees the return of a show I genuinely do love, even if it is currently causing a similar love/hate reaction among fanboys. Yes, Doctor Who is back tonight! Which means much more writing on this blog as I try to keep up with reviewing that and Torchwood each week. Stay tuned…