TV Regular readers will know that I tend to be quite circumspect when it comes to posting photographs of myself on this blog. I’m not the most photogenic of people and really I wouldn’t want to inflict my mug on you unless it’s really necessary to the narrative. But after watching the final episode of Torchwood’s Miracle Day and inspired by the previous post about the review process at Zzap! 64, I realised that, since my write-up of episode eight probably textually captures my enmity for the series, a partial visual record of my reaction would be required for week ten.
I only had a shave yesterday. Now look at it. God, I look old. A programme about people who can’t die has physically aged me. Ten weeks ago I looked at least ten years younger. Such narcissism only goes to show that I’m pretty well over this. As a wise man once said, “I went in with low-expectations, and they were met”. If at any other time a writing credit had said “Russell T Davies and Jane Espenson” I’d think a miracle really had happened. But reputationally that’s really rather gone to seed. Rather like my hairline.
The process of watching this series of Torchwood has been rather like meeting an old classmate on Facebook, rekindling that acquaintance even though you weren't really friends at school apart from one amazing week, but enjoying the glimpses of nostalgia for a more innocent time. At a certain point you realise that you're still not friends, that it’ll always be a little bit rubbish but since you also still fancy their sibling, who’s amazing and far cleverer than this bozo ever will be, you can’t help hanging around.
Because really if this hadn’t been Doctor Who related, I would have left weeks ago. Some have. Proper fans I know bailed just after Rendition. The BBC’s been brave in sticking with it, despite the fact the critical reactions been even worse than the last like for like Outcasts and the ratings just as much of disaster. If this hadn’t been a Who spin-off, would it have been shunted to the late night Sunday as well perhaps with double episodes so that it ran out quicker? Imagine the headlines. Instead, there it’s sat on Thursday night sapping our goodwill.
What do you want me to say that I haven’t said already in these past nine weeks? The Blood Line only confirmed that there was barely enough story in Miracle Day to fill two cds of a Big Finish audio, with a resolution which would have been thrown out if it had been proposed for an 80s 6th Doctor story featuring characters with ultimately less depth and purpose than a citizen of Terry Nation’s Dalek Annual. They could have put last week’s “Two months later” caption up after any one of the previous episodes and with some token rewriting, absolutely nothing would have been lost.
It's usually at this point in a Who review that I'd investigate the story seeking other resonances. Well here's one. We've seen The Doctor Dances already. We've seen a big dumb object rewriting the dna of the human race to be kind only to be thwarted at the end by the main character's constitutional make-up. We've seen morphic fields in action too in The End of Time. Putting the two together does not an exciting new story make. Even the irony that just this once everyone dies, doesn't work, because they always do. On Torchwood. And in this episode at their hands.
Bitter? You betcha. But there’s nothing worse than something that’s predictably bad and in which you’re able to predict where that badness will be. Anyone else think Oswald Danes would be much more than a Courier New 12pt honey trap to get an actor like Bill Pullman involved so that he’ll look good in the trailers? So what if his story arc makes no sense, if he initially flirts with being vitally important but ultimately exists to provide some not needed philosophical underpinning to the finale, someone else for Gwen to Welsh at, a walking, talking red herring.
Similarly Jilly Kitzinger, who initially seemed like a most alien, most seductive character also turned out to be included simply to be a satire on what? Right wing politics? I thought their whole bag was the sanctity of life not the choosing of who should die. It’s Sarah Palin after all, who wrongly informed the American people that Obama’s health care bill included a provision for death panels. If this lady in red is a metaphor for anything, it’s what can happen when a writer isn’t sure of the message s/he’s trying to convey. This can't be Anthony Coburn's legacy, can it?
Of course we’re not even offered a valid reason for the existence of The Blessing. We’ve barely been offered a valid reason for the existence of the rest of the series beyond some co-production money. At least Davies has the decency to reference everything that’s been commented about online in the past week in relation to the Silurians, the Rachnoss and whatever else lies beneath though it's symptomatic of this show’s parasitic existence that it can’t reach a climax without mentioning the Doctor again as if to remind us that despite other evidence it’s still supposed to be set in the same Whoniverse.
But those glimpses, oh those glimpses. The warmth between Gwen and the restaurant owner. The decency of her mother in realising it was time for her husband to die. Sergeant Andy’s kindness to a total stranger. Rhys’s tears. As has so often been the case, when Davies returns to the domestic he has the potential to break our hearts. The opening monologue he gives Gwen is one of the most emotive pieces he’s ever written though I don’t know how many of us ever do end up being spoken to as adults by our parents. No coat is ever warm enough.
Did I gasp when Esther was shot? Yes. Mostly because of the brutality. Did I shout, “No …” many times like a demented Vader when it was revealed she’d really died at the end and that we weren’t attending Gwen’s father’s funeral? Again, yes, but for no other reason than because hers was the most expected death. Rex’s shooting was a surprise, as was his resurrection but like the whole “plan B” it quickly turned sour because it meant that there would be another series. Like these two immortals, this is a show which can’t die.
Except, and this is interesting, the British broadcast lacked the final caption that appeared on Starz (and in Australia) indicating that Jack would be back in January 2012. In fact, there was a stuttery edit at the end of the credits before the co-production monstrosity card appeared. Was that just heralding a repeat of the first few series in North America or a genuine new series over there which the BBC haven’t decided when they’re going to show here? Why do I care? Never mind Facebook, this is Brokeback Mountain. “You know friend, this is a god damn bitch of an unsatisfactory situation. ” Yes, that’s the quote.