SciFi Weekend: Torchwood: Miracle Day & Doctor Who: Let’s Kill Hitler


Torchwood: Miracle Day has now aired in the United States, Canada, and Australia, but will not be airing until Thursday in the U.K. This post does contain Spoilers, although virtually all of the major events in the fist episode where those revealed in reports prior to airing. Far less is known about the following episodes. The first episode primarily served to introduce Torchwood to American audiences who were not familiar with it, introduce some of the new characters known to appear this season, and set up the situation which the story is about. Miracle Day was the first day in which nobody dies, setting up a catastrophe for the planet as the population will explode beyond the numbers we can support. Length of stay will also increase dramatically in critical care units, creating a crisis for the insurance industry.

As with many science fiction stories, it is necessary to accept something which might not appear possible, and this is acceptable as long as the story remains plausible given the acceptance of the facts established in the story. I found it easier to accept the implausibility of a story where nobody dies when characters within the story also discussed how implausible this is, considering the wide variety of situations which might lead to death. Once the premise of the show was accepted, I had more difficulty believing another aspect– that Oswald Danes would be released because of not dying during his scheduled execution. While in a sense he did serve out his sentence, he was also a convicted child killer. Even if a governor was susceptible to bullying by someone such as Danes. any real governor would be far more concerned about the public’s response to releasing someone who killed a twelve year-old and then said, “She shoulda run faster.”

It was not necessary to know anything about Torchwood going into this episode as viewers learned about the organization as the CIA did. Viewers of the previous seasons would appreciate the references to previous seasons such as Jack going by the  name of Dr. Owen Harper, a character from the first two seasons. Seeing how Jack retconned Esther was reminiscent of when Jack once did the same to Gwen in the first episode. The return of PC Andy also provided a little more continuity with the past. Is there a connection between the the 456 regulations mentioned in this episode and the aliens in Children of Earth being known as the 456?

There are many mysteries to be solved beyond the obvious ones of who is preventing people from dying and how they are doing it. Were they the ones who sent out the email message saying “Torchwood” and why was this done? Jack quickly shut this down with malware destroying all mention of Torchwood, but if he really had this capability I would have expected him to use it after Torchwood was destroyed and Gwen went into hiding. While presumably there is some connection between all of this and Torchwood, it is less clear if Oswald Danes’ survival was coincidental or if triggering Miracle Day on the date of his scheduled execution was intentional. While I suspect that Rex Matheson’s automobile accident was no accident, it would have made more sense to try to harm him on a day when he would have stayed dead. It would have also made more sense to fire upon Gwen’s home prior to Miracle Day, but perhaps they thought she would have turned into a blown up blob who could not have gone after them despite remaining alive.

While nobody dies, they can be injured. The immortal Captain Jack Harkness was surprised to find he could now be injured, with the possibility of his death being one twist in the series which was revealed before the first episode aired. Seeing that he could be inured does not necessarily mean he could be killed. A plausible interpretation might be that Jack has become like everyone else, who can be injured but not die. The preview for the second episode shows that this question might be answered next week (video below):

Rex Matheson has some bizarre ideas in this episode, from obsessing over the charges for crossing a bridge to handling the situation by trying to take Jack and Gwen back to the United States by force. If there was reason to believe that there was a connection between Torchwood and the Miracle, it would make more sense to begin investigating this around Cardiff (even without knowing about the rift). It might also have made more sense to try to recruit them to voluntarily work with the CIA unless there was more reason to mistrust the two surviving members of Torchwood.

We saw with Children of Earth that a continuing story has advantages over trying to come up with a new threat to fight every week. We will have to watch over the course of this season how well they continue with this single storyline. Besides answering the basic questions raised, and solving other problems which come up over the next several weeks, I wonder what this will mean for Torchwood in the long run. Will the organization be reestablished in the U.K. or will next season again have Jack and Gwen interacting with others as free agents? Hopefully we will see the return of Torchwood. It makes much less sense to have an ongoing series named Torchwood about survivors of an organization which no longer exists. I also wonder if some of the characters introduced this season will become regulars for future seasons. In the case of Rex Matheson, this might depend upon whether those who are still living because of Miracle Day remain alive at the end. I would expect that those who would have died due to chronic diseases and aging will remain dead, as well as those who remain severely injured when death returns. Rex Matheson could conceivably survive, with Miracle Day having provided him a chance to heal from his wounds in a way which would not normally have been possible.

The cliff hanger after the first half of the season of Doctor Who, set up in A Good Man Goes To War, is to be continued in an episode named Let’s Kill Hitler. A synopsis for the episode has been released: “In the desperate search for Melody Pond, the TARDIS crash lands in 1930s Berlin, bringing the Doctor face to face with the greatest war criminal in the Universe. And Hitler. The Doctor must teach his adversaries that time travel has responsibilities – and in so doing, learns a harsh lesson in the cruellest warfare of all.”

Alex Kingston discussed her role as River Song on BBC Breakfast last week in the video above.