Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

"Whichever way you look at it, this situation can only get worse."

I found the first two-thirds of this 10-part epic to be utterly compelling.

One day, people stop dying. They just do. No-one knows why.

The first six episodes then explore the ramifications of this concept in ever more extreme detail. What is death? If still alive, then can a dismembered skeleton still move? Does aging continue? Should hospitals now prioritise treating the healthiest patients first? What consequences will the perpetual taking of antibiotics have? What deterrent can replace the death sentence? How can a war be fought? What becomes of artificially aborted fetuses? Whoops, sorry, my mistake, they back off from that last one.

Each episode is saturated with these worldwide developments, and as the team struggle to find some sort of a pattern to explain events, the stakes just keep on escalating.

That's the great thing about a story with no end in sight yet - week after week our heroes can go up against ever increasing odds. As each episode finished too early for me, I found I was so up for the next one.

Truly, the strength of this series was in the details. How tragic that it's bigger picture was just not up to this.

In recent years, the series' head writer has recycled the same plot several times over. It's usually about a worldwide plague of zombies, resulting in a dystopia through which the main characters are pursued by the government. It ends with one of the main characters operating a machine that handily undoes everything for them, having to kill a relative in the process, and nobody on the planet remembering any of it next series.

Thus, in episode one, as soon as Gwen's father is saved from a heart attack, it's pretty much set in stone how the next nine weeks of zombies are going to play out.

And it's set extensively around hospitals. Of course it is. It's Torchwood.

By episode nine even Rex knows what I'm talking about.

Rex: "I ran the short story through the pattern recognition software identifying key points of similarity of prose styles."

Still, I found those first six weeks - mostly - enthralling. As I say, the range of the whole world's diverse reactions to the situation was breathtaking.

From episode seven however the story shifts its focus onto Jack - an immortal made mortal by Miracle Day - and with it the tale loses its anchor in the world. Padding follows, with Jack and Gwen spending an entire episode being blackmailed into meeting shadowy operatives who then paradoxically turn out to be friendly. An old man who's spent all his years searching for the key to eternal life, nonsensically builds a machine to protect himself from it. When Jack gets shot, they immediately drive him away from the device that can save him. The story is just not holding together any more.

I had been expecting the final episode to open with a character talking to a video camera about how the world had ended. That this didn't happen surprised me, partly because it's another staple of the formula, but mostly because I had accidentally caught a clip of it on the start of the NEXT WEEK trailer at the end of episode 4.

In the final episode, the machine that handily reverses everything turns out to be a part of planet Earth. No explanation is offered for this. Jack's ability to heal himself of any injury turns out to have been the key to the world's immortality, although the population have not been healing like him, just living on. No explanation is offered for this either. And as for how Jack lost his immortality in the first place? Guess.

So much for Everything Changes' retcon of how he had first gained his immortality in The Parting Of The Ways.

The great news though is that the machine itself lives on to be dug out and used again by someone else next week.

Miracle Day is awesome in its execution, has a fantastic cast, and a strong concept driving it, but this doesn't appear to have been inspired by the mystery's solution. There's no way you're telling me that this story's inspiration was the question of what if there were a gigantic machine running through the earth that controlled mankind's biology.

The Americanisation of Torchwood has been very good news for the show, and handled extremely well. This series is loyal to the preceeding three, introduces its new characters well, and rather than simply shifting the action to the US, camoflages it by going global. Torchwood has always wanted to be as good as an American SF show, apparently to the point of selling its soul to achieve this, finally. Now why couldn't you have done that at the start of the first series?

As with the preceding TV season, I'm not expecting a new plot any time soon, but this ride is well worth it, most of the time.

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