“Torchwood: Dead of Night” Review

After the two transatlantic set up episodes which have deftly interwoven the storylines of our principle characters, episode three spends the first fifteen minutes hunkering down with our new Torchwood team (to the exclusion of Danes, Kitzinger & Juarez). Just like when Gwen, Jack and Ianto were reunited in London in episode three of Children of Earth. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a dynamic in the team to carry this yet. Indeed, it seems only to bring out the sullenness and self-pity in Rex and Esther who have, up to now, proved entertaining and sympathetic characters (respectively). For the first time this claustrophobic narrowing made me want to see more of the global reactions to the “Miracle”. Up to now I’d been happy to see the reactions through the prism of television news, CIA intelligence reports and the growing chaos in the hospital ER. To understand why our heroes are cowering in their hovel, we need to see who’s hunting them. Instead there’s a rushed sequence where Rex trusts and is betrayed by an unseen mentor, a sequence told through an overheard telephone conversation and an overlooked police raid. It’s as if the plot is on fast forward, but it’s not clear why: it could have been a dramatic event, or it could have been left out entirely.

The plot lurches forward, too, with a non-too subtle expose of Kitzinger’s employers, the pharmaceutical outfit Phicorp. Kitzinger meanwhile remains great value, and I’m still enjoying Juarez’s character. Have I mentioned how awesome Gwen has been yet? She’s still very, very awesome. Compared to the usual Doctor Who/Torchwood we have a particularly high number of strong female characters in Miracle Day.

I did note that Murray Gold’s score has departed further and further from the more familiar Doctor Who/Torchwood sound and has become more bluesy and… well, American.

Again there are continuity references for the Doctor Who fans (“bigger on the inside”) with the Gwen’s lie about the contact lenses being “isomorphic” reflecting the TARDIS’ sometime isomorphic controls (it can only be flown by the Doctor, except when someone else flies it). There are references too for long time viewers of Torchwood with an overt reference to Ianto. This episode is written by another writer of some pedigree, Jane Espenson (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica), who clearly also shares an affection for Torchwood past. The telephone conversation between Jack and Gwen is beautifully written, too, perfectly capturing the intimacy between them (“your turn to talk”).

I enjoyed the episode more and more as it went on, building towards the satisfying confrontation between Jack and Danes. Once again, there was so much resonance with Children of Earth (“the life of a child”) that I wondered if this was something new viewers would need to pick up on, or if it was just an acknowledgement of the terrible, powerful, harrowing climax of that series. There are still very few clues as to the direction Miracle Day is going in, but I’m still enjoying the ride.

I’m guessing the 10 seconds cut from the UK version (which I haven’t seen) occurred around the 28′ mark, though it’s a long sequence and I’m not sure how much difference 10″ can have made…

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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