Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Torchwood: Miracle Day continues on BBC One with its third episode aired last thursday. One week behind US cable premium channel Starz, which co-produces this fourth iteration of Torchwood with BBC Worldwide Productions. Dead Of Night is written by American writer and producer Jane Espenson (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Warehouse 13).

« And the next, and the next, and the next... »

Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) asks his boss Brian Friedkin (Wayne Knight) why he was set up and by whom. The investigation leads the CIA agent, his analyst colleague Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) to a warehouse where they find a massive stockpile of pain killers from pharmaceutical company Phicorp. Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) does the media circuit and accepts the offer of Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose). The PR guru also invites Dr.Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) at Phicorp. And a cult called The Soulless has emerged following the miracle.

« Corporation corridors, help me find an open door.
Believe in me, I'll play your game.
Please don't ignore me or my name. » (Murray Head)

Jane Espenson's Dead Of Night is an aknowledgement that anything right after Rendition would pass for the quintessence of sobriety (« That woman in the airport. ») Original Torchwood characters and American newbies begin to act as a team and Rex puts his Axel Foley mode on pause to behave like the disavowed CIA agent he's meant to be (« Don't go deaf. ») Gwen is the leader of the gang, as there's no trace of the dashing Captain Jack from past Torchwood series - or even Doctor Who - in the fourth series of Russell T. Davies's creation. Jack even abandons field work to satisfy a "mortal need". And "Miss Translation" Esther shows signs of fragility, which is always better than inconsequence in term of narration.

Miracle Day borrows from the Great Book of US television conspiracies. After the CIA in the previous episode, it's now the big corporations and Torchwood's Virtucon is called Phicorp. The forces behind the pharma firm have been "there for decades", they're "everywhere", they know "everything" and they were ready for the miracle (the truth is out there, etc...) They own Warehouse 14, bigger on the inside, and now they own Oswald Danes too. Because we all know a pedophile and murderer is the ideal choice for a spokesperson in those Twitter days. His perception by the public is quite confused, like the treatment of the character by the writers. How are we supposed to react when the man is beaten up by uniformed cops?

« But you see. Beauty of this miracle is... If I shoot you just right maybe you might live an agony for, who knows how long? Maybe a thousand years. »

Well, it's all part of the big baddie and RTD's joint 10-episode masterplan. Only The Lady in Red, aka Jilly Drescher, seems to know the nature of the game but it is unclear if she's a "woman of wealth and taste" or just a lackey. If Dead Of Night doesn't bring the wonders expected by many, at least it's a proper patch to the Shark's Week blooper compilation preceding it. If only Miracle Day didn't abuse of news bulletins or medical panel scenes as ellipsis and if only the talents of Wayne Knight and Bill Pullman were better used. Speaking of talent, the preacher on TV is played by wonderful American veteran actor George Murdock.

Torchwood's first two series were about bizarre alien things happening, the way the flamboyant Jack Harkness and his team dealt with them, and how it affected the characters and their relationships. Children of Earth, was the brilliant encounter of Quatermass with Spooks. For the moment Torchwood: Miracle Day looks less like its sci-fi predecessors and more like the tale of a very long agony. But thank Heaven this one will not last a thousand years. Three down, seven to go...

Dead Of Night is directed by Billy Gierhart.


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