The Categories of Life
(Ep5 of Torchwood Miracle Day)
After this fifth episode, the halfway point of the story…
“Am I Torchwood now?” Jack replies to Vera: “Welcome aboard”. The CIA’s Rex and Esther have gone from asking “What is Torchwood?” to being part of Torchwood – with Vera joining them. It’s a coordinated mission for the three of them to infiltrate a California overflow camp (while Jack has own mission, and Gwen splits off to go back to Wales).
“The Categories of Life” of the title are what the overflow camps use to categorise their inhabitants: category 3 being people whose life hasn’t been supernaturally sustained by the Miracle Day, with Category 2 beyond that and Category 1 further beyond. What the exact difference is between Category 2 and 1 seems pretty fuzzy, as a definition – actually though, that’s half the point, as these new Torchwood-ers discovers the camps are sliding people down to Category 1 whatever their actual situation, (with the Category 1s shunted off even more out-of-sight).
Vera’s outrage at this is made clear by her to the camp commandant. Well, not officially a “commandant”, more a bureaucrat but clear parallels are drawn with the concentration camps of WWII. The banality of evil is on show, with camp director Maloney queasily leering tedious treatment of Vera gradually escalating into horrific scenes.
“Well think about it. No NHS” Gwen tells PC Andy – “You’ve got healthcare being run by private business. And believe me, just the start of your problems.” Gwen’s experiencing what the overflow camps are like on the other side of the Atlantic.
Although in many ways it’s the same situation for Rex and Gwen as they both investigate these camps, there’s no one prime mover (like Maloney) that engineered means Gwen is left with the realisation that someone she knows is in danger from the modules. Eve Myles manages to convey Gwen’s rising frustration and panic as she’s confounded not by one particular villain, but the system put in place. Even Rhys unwittingly contributes to the cliffhanger of what will happen to her father.
Maloney’s villainy means that although Rex has masqueraded as a “Category 1” and gains some idea of what the “modules” might be, their use are clarified by Maloney as he watches Vera inside one as it’s put to use, just happening upon that particular module too late to save her.
Meanwhile Jack trying to convince villain Danes to tell the world about the villains of Miracle Day (or so Jack believes), PhiCorp.
Jane Espenson (writer of this episode) has written of how “Episodes five and six were almost a two-parter” and certainly it feels less contained as its own episode, with immediate questions wanting resolution – what will Rex and Gwen do at the two camps now that they now the full horror?
There’s also a ramping up of Oswald Danes’s storyline as he crosses to being a cult figure of the new world after Miracle Day.
The mystery of what’s motivating PhiCorp or the “triangle people” remains.
As the second half of Miracle Day begins, how many of these storylines (Rex and the camp, Gwen and the camp, what it means for the cult of Danes to exist, PhiCorp) will be resolved in what is effectively the “second part” of this almost two-parter?
Quantity-ratings (click here for guide to rating system):
Episode Quality-rating: 4/5
Another Torchwood review on Thursday and the Top 10 Doctor Who monsters countdown continues on Saturday.