Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day 4.01: The New World

By Heather S. Vina

[spoilers ahead]

Written By: Russell T. Davies

Recap: The episode opens with the execution of Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) in Jacksonville, KY. Oswald is a former schoolteacher who is being put to death by lethal injection for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. His defense when he was caught? “She should have run faster.” This sets him up as one of the “villains” of the show fairly quickly and definitively.

He ignores the chance to give any final words and stares meanly at a crying woman in the theater who is watching him being strapped in. He’s given the lethal injection, but instead of dying, he starts to gag, gasp, and spasm over the drugs in his system. The doctors and guards rush in to hold him down.

On a dark and rainy road, CIA agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) is on the phone with his colleague, CIA watch analyst Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins). He’s more interested in talking about a promotion he thinks he might get than anything else, but back at the agency, Esther is distracted by the word “Torchwood”. Seems it’s been emailed to every East Coast section chief in the agency, completely bypassing any security in the systems. Everyone around the office is concentrating on it, trying to find out what it is. While Esther’s on the phone with Rex, the computer systems suddenly shut down and everything is wiped from the system. Rex tells her to focus on his potential promotion instead of Torchwood, and as he does, a truck in front of him stops suddenly, causing metal piping to come flying through Rex’s car window, pinning him to the seat.

Back in Cardiff, Wales, Gwen Cooper (Eva Myles) sits up in bed, woken up by a nightmare. When her husband Rhys (Kai Owen) asks her what it was about, she tells him it was what it always is: Torchwood.

Credits.

Rex is brought into a hospital, in bad shape, Esther right behind him. She’s distraught, but she overhears the doctors there commenting that Rex is the second patient of the night that just “wouldn’t die.”

In the middle of nowhere at Gwen and Rhys’ place, Gwen is suspicious when a helicopter flies overhead. Rhys tries to calm her down by telling her that it’s just tourists, but she remains wary. Inside, Rhys is disturbed when he hears Gwen telling their baby daughter Anwen (an adorable baby!) about a story of her days in Torchwood. Rhys tells her to stop it, making it clear that he doesn’t like reminders of her days with Torchwood. They’re interrupted by a knock on the door and both react by pulling guns out of two fully stocked closets. Gwen chases off the harmless-appearing people who claim to be stopping for directions to town. She’s disturbed by the fact that she could have shot them and Rhys reassures her that there’s no more Torchwood; those days are gone. She smiles and nods.

Maybe those days aren’t as long gone as Rhys would like to believe, though, as beyond the house, we see the visitors give each other a crafty and knowing look.

Back in Washington DC, the surgeon who operated on Rex, Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) reassures Esther that Rex survived the surgery. Dr. Juarez explains to Esther about how the hospital has not had any deaths in 24 hours. And it’s not just her hospital but hospitals in Chicago, Cedar Brooks and London. She calls it “one lucky day”, but it’s clear that she finds it to be a bit disturbing.

According to the news, the lack of deaths appears to be everywhere, all over the United States. Not one person has died. It’s being called “Miracle Day”.

In prison where Oswald is incarcerated, Alexander Peterson – a representative of the Governor’s Office – comes to visit him. He’s there to offer the Governor’s “condolences” on what happened to Oswald, but Oswald is having none of it. He tells Alexander to tell the Governor that if he’s not released, he will have his battalion of lawyers sue the Governor. His sentence was carried out, he was put to death, and it’s not his fault that all death stopped and he didn’t die. He quotes amendments to Alexander and succeeds in scaring him back to the Governor.

At the CIA, Esther asks a colleague if there has been any more information discovered about Torchwood, but she’s informed that, on the orders of their boss Brian Friedkin, it’s been shut down. Besides, her colleague says, with everything going on, it’s not on the top of anyone’s list anymore.

It’s still on Esther’s list, however, as she goes to consult with another colleague, Noah Vickers (Paul James). He tells her that the whole thing is like nothing he’s ever seen before: Every instance of the word ‘Torchwood’ has vanished.  When you search for the word ‘Torchwood’, you get zero results. He tells her that all of the hard copy on Torchwood has gone to Friedkin and Noah was told that it was “classified under the 456 regulations.” He was also warned to stay away, as anyone who worked for Torchwood was killed in action at a young age.

In the hospital, Rex is despondent and in a huge amount of physical pain. Listening to the news, he starts flipping out and crying over the lack of death. Later, he asks Dr. Juarez how he survived and she tells him that she doesn’t know. He’s concerned with the fact that he’s in so much pain and wants to know if he will heal, or of this pain will just go on forever. Dr. Juarez tries to reassure him that maybe he didn’t really die, or maybe this “miracle” gave her enough time to fix the damage done to him and he will be fine. He wants to know what happens to him if this “miracle” stops; will he die? She has no answer for him.

Back in Wales, Gwen’s old police partner, Sgt. Andy Davidson (Tom Price), calls her with a coded message, telling her that her father is in the hospital. Despite Rhys’ misgivings, Gwen packs up her family to go see her dad.

Over in America, it’s night and Esther is trying to track down hard copies of anything related to Torchwood. Friedkin’s office took everything, but she combs through the boxes in the archives and tries to find something that they missed. She manages to find a folder that has pictures of Jack and Gwen in it, but is interrupted by someone arriving at the end of the hall. Looking up – with a picture of Jack in her hand – she finds the man himself (John Barrowman) standing right in front of her. He tells her to come with him, but instead, she takes off running in the opposite direction.

Esther manages to make it back to the front desk, where she’s horrified to find the desk manager shot in the heart, gasping for breath. Jack saves her from the man’s shooter, who sets off a bomb strapped to his body before Jack can interrogate him. Jack manages to save both himself and Esther by throwing them out a window, where they land in a fountain.

Esther’s in shock, but Jack reassures her that the man wanted Jack dead, not her, though he doesn’t know why. He hands her a bottle of water and she explains to him that she feels guilty about Rex’s accident, wondering if the fact that he crashed his car while she was telling him about Torchwood means something. He tells her that Torchwood no longer exists. When she questions him on the fact that there were pictures in the file of a man that looked exactly like him from the 1920s and 30s, he agrees with her that it “must be” his father. Jack is distracted by the fact that he hurt his arm and it hasn’t healed yet like it should.

He explains to her about Torchwood: “The Torchwood Institute was set up by the British Royal Family in 1879 to defend the realm of Great Britain by investigating the unusual, the strange. And the alien.” Esther is shocked when she realizes that, by “alien”, he means “extraterrestrial”. He tells her that this is the kind of thing that Torchwood used to investigate. Esther asks him about Gwen. He admits that she’s still alive and he’s determined to keep her safe by making sure that Torchwood stays “dead and buried.”

The original email about Torchwood wasn’t from Jack, but it’s what got him out of hiding. He’s the one who initiated the malware program to wipe out all references to Torchwood. He’s been destroying all hard copies, as well, and using something called “retcon”. He prods Esther to ask him about retcon. When she does, he explains to her that retcon is a smart drug, using selective amnesia to wipe out certain things in the human mind, and he just used it on Esther (in the bottle of water he gave her). He tells her that she won’t remember a thing, right before she collapses in his arms.

Interestingly enough, this is the same think that he did to Gwen (1.01, “Everything Changes”) when he first met her: He let her in on his secrets, and then drugged her so that she would forget everything and go back to her normal life. Gwen managed to break free from the amnesia when certain things began reminding her of what she had discovered, but, according to Jack, that was unusual. We’ll have to see if Esther manages to do the same thing.

Rex is on the phone with Dr. Juarez. He tells her that the fire at the archives is a “gift”. She can discover if anyone died in it. She tells him that he’s not the only one who has thought of that. She then tells him to “check the Ringmain” when he starts asking her more questions.

On her way to the morgue, she’s joined by a few military men, and Jack, who is pretending to be FBI. Rex discovers that Juarez’s clue was about the internal hospital security cameras. He manages to hack into the system, and watches everything that happens.

In the morgue, Professor Victor Luis Santini is supervising the investigation into the wellbeing of the man who set off the bomb. Burned to the bones, the man is still alive. At Jack’s suggestion – and despite Dr. Juarez’s objections – Santini attempts to remove the man’s head to see if he will stay alive. He cuts the last remaining threads that connect the head to the torso. To everyone’s horror, the head appears to remain alive.

I have to say this was a pretty horrific and gross scene. I didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the man – since he was the one who did that to himself, and he was quite willing to do that to Jack and Esther, as well – but still…Talk about inhumane.

Santini is horrified and tells Dr Juarez that he doesn’t believe that this is a virus or evolution. He believes that this was deliberate and that it’s beyond the capabilities of humans. He concludes that it has to be alien.

Gwen, Rhys and their daughter make it to the hospital, where they are shocked to hear the news of “Miracle Day” from Andy. Gwen is reunited with her parents. While she’s happy to see them both and grateful that her dad is okay, there appears to be some friction between her and her mom.

Later, she and Andy start looking at the articles and reports of what is going on. He points out to her that reports have it that, with no deaths and the birth rate continuing to rise, the human race will overwhelm the planet in four months. Society will collapse as they run out of food. Rhys is angry and frustrated when he sees her becoming tempted to start investigating it, as she did in the old days with Torchwood. After pointing out that maybe this means that their little girl will never die, he convinces her to return home.

Back in America, Jack is bedding down in an abandoned apartment building, eating food out of a pan, surrounded by computers with his investigations into this “miracle” on the screens.

Esther wakes up in her bed, with a bruise on her side, and has no idea how she got there. When she makes it back to the office, she’s a bit confused when Noah hands her the last remaining Torchwood file that he managed to get a friend to grab from Friedkin’s office. She looks at it for a second and then puts it in her drawer.

Rex calls Esther, and starts quizzing her on what is going on with the investigation into “Miracle Day”. His curiosity is pricked when she tells him that all of the Torchwood information has gone to Friedkin’s office, but he still doesn’t see the correlation between Miracle Day and Torchwood. However, when she tells him that the email about Torchwood came into the offices at 22:36, he realizes that is the exact time that the last death in the world was reported. Excited, he gets dressed and checks himself out of the hospital – despite the objections of the hospital staff – and orders Esther to book him a plane to the UK. He’s going to go try and find the last remaining member of Torchwood: Gwen Cooper.

Hee! Just a little aside: Esther mentions that UNIT has censored the file on Torchwood. I love that they threw UNIT in there!

On the plane, Rex is on the phone with Esther, getting information on Gwen, when the stewardess tells him that he needs to turn off his phone. He refuses. A minute or two later, a hand reaches out and turns his phone off for him.

Once Rex lands in Heathrow, he gets back on the phone with Esther and they track down Andy. Esther hacks into Andy’s phone calls and realizes that one of phones he called to in the past few days was a cell phone registered to “witness protection”. She traces the coordinates and sends them to Rex. He makes his way to Gwen’s front yard, but collapses before he can do much more than point his gun at her.

Back in America, Oswald Danes is set free, despite massive protests. His failed execution is being called an “Act of God” by a charity called “Freedom and Liberty”, which has forced the Governor’s office to set him free.

Bill Pullman is really excellent in this role, because I find Oswald truly repulsive.

At Gwen’s place, Gwen informs a tied-up Rex that they’re going to leave. After a bit, they will call an ambulance for him, but he had better not follow them. Rex manages to break free from Rhys’ rather flimsy knots. In the middle of his rant about what has been happening to him, a helicopter appears outside the window. Despite Rhys’ reassurances that it’s just a tourist helicopter, Gwen knows better. She shouts to everyone, “Get back!” right before the helicopter launches a rocket through the house.

All three, with Baby Anwen in two, go running and make it to the car, but are pinned down by automatic fire from the helicopter. However, who should save the day but Jack! “Can’t leave you alone for a minute!” he tells Gwen.

Rhys looks unhappy, Gwen is thrilled, and Rex is puzzled, because the man who took his phone away from him on the plane was Jack! “Never annoy me again,” Jack tells him.

The gang manages to escape from the helicopter, when Gwen launches Jack’s rocket launcher at it and takes it down in a big ball of flame. Surely, the people in it aren’t dead, though, right? Since even burnt-to-a-crisp, head-detached-from-body people are still alive? Although, if you are burned to ash, would you still be alive, even then? Hmm….

Back at the site of the former Torchwood headquarters, Gwen discusses getting their hands on some weapons. When Rhys objects, Gwen tells him that they have no choice: They rebuilt the tower, so they have to rebuild Torchwood. However, Jack has something else on his mind right now. He informs Gwen that he isn’t healing. Gwen is shocked and concerned. “The whole world becomes immortal…,” she says.

“…And I’m mortal,” Jack agrees.

I know we’re supposed to believe that Jack is now mortal, purely based on the fact that he isn’t healing, but the truth is, no one on Earth is healing. I know that, for Jack, his immortality was based on the fact that he healed every injury (though he still aged, albeit at a much, much slower pace), but the truth is that they don’t know for sure that Jack is now back to being mortal. It could be that his immortality is just taking on the same form as everyone else’s: no death but no healing powers, either.

But I guess they wouldn’t really want to test it, since it’s pretty final if it turns out he has become mortal, again!

The gang is suddenly interrupted by sirens and police cars, and end up being surrounded. Seems Rex called in reinforcements. Andy reluctantly tells Gwen that there’s nothing that he can do; Rex is in charge now. When they point out that Rex can’t arrest them, as he’s American, Rex informs them that this isn’t an arrest, it’s a “rendition.”

“On behalf of the CIA, under the 456 amendments to U.S. codes 3184, I’m extraditing this so-called Torchwood Team to the United States of America.”

Review: I’ve seen a lot of mixed reactions to this episode across the net, but I found myself excited and interested by it. Granted, a lot of that had to do with having Captain Jack, who is my Number 3 favourite character in the Whoverse (right after the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith) back on my screen! But I also found myself interested in the plotline and what was happening with the characters themselves.

Living forever. That’s a dream a lot of people have. I have to admit, it’s one I’ve thought of before, as well. But this version of living forever sounds pretty horrific. Unlike Jack’s version of Immortality, the “no death” policy in Miracle Day doesn’t include healing powers. So, whatever you suffer that would have ultimately caused your death, you still suffer under. You just don’t die, ever. When you see someone like that mercenary who blew himself up and ended up as a burned corpse that just wouldn’t end, you can see that there’s a definite dark side to this immortality.

I think that this is going to show out with Rex. He goes from an arrogant, egotistical man who is crowing over how a co-worker’s wife’s potentially fatal cancer might mean he gets a promotion, to a wounded man in deep pain, tormented emotionally by the idea that he might suffer forever. Immortality isn’t a gift for him, not if it means that he never heals from his wounds and the pain goes on forever. It will be interesting to see how the dark side of this continues to play out with him: Will he heal? Or will he just continue to suffer, until the immortality is lifted and he drops dead?

Speaking of a dark side…they haven’t tied Oswald Danes into the main plot, yet, other than having him survive his execution via Miracle Day, but I am sure they will soon. Another dark side of this story, but this time, it’s a child rapist and murderer that society has deemed too evil to live, surviving and potentially thriving. I’m curious to see if the poisons that they pumped into Oswald are still running through his system. Is he in perpetual agony from his injuries, as Rex appears to be?

I’ve never been a fan of Mehki Pfieffer, but he did well in his role as an arrogant CIA jerk, who is forced to his lowest point by what many deem a miracle. His biggest test for me will be in how he handles Jack and Gwen. They are the heroes of the show, so any interactions he has with them will have to be handled delicately for me, or he will cross the line from potential ally to annoyance!

I caught Alexa Havins a few times on All My Children and she never impressed me much. Granted, it was just a few snatches here and there, when someone had the show on at lunch at work. So, it was a pleasant surprise to see her perform well here. She wasn’t amazing, or great, but she managed to make me like Esther. I enjoyed seeing Esther listen to her instincts and pursue the Torchwood angle, even if she was shut down by Jack later on. The only real objection to her that I had was her high heels. I am seriously fed up with these shows putting women in such ridiculously high heels! It makes it even worse when you’re supposed to believe that they can all manage to run and have action scenes, without twisting an ankle and killing themselves.

Moving on to the old Torchwood gang…I’m surprised to say that I actually found myself on the verge of liking Gwen in this episode. She was never one of my favourites in the show and I actually couldn’t stand her in season one. I found her character too much of a Mary Sue in the “She’s so perfect; how did they ever get along without her and how will they ever survive without her now?” writing that they gave her. Plus, the whole “cheats on her boyfriend for no good reason with a lecherous jerk, while harbouring romantic feelings for another man altogether” thing didn’t endear her to me, either.

But I’ve found my annoyance with her has decreased a little bit with every season. And so far this season, I like where she is coming from. She’s a woman of adventure and action, who adores her family and wants to be with them, but also craves the life that she had as a member of Torchwood. She misses Jack and has a deep love for him, but she’s in love with her husband. She’s paranoid and overprotective, but in her case, she has reason to be. So far, she’s resonated with me much more in this one episode than she ever has before. It’s a nice change.

I think my only real complaint with the episode was in regards to Jack: how little of him there was and his immortality being taken away. I can handle the lack of Jack in this episode, since it was setting up his return and the mystery of him, but they need to expand his airtime following this first episode.

And I’m reserving the right to get really irritated by the whole “Jack is now mortal” thing. They made such a big deal out of it in Doctor Who, to the point where the Doctor told Jack that he is a “fixed event in space and time”. Both the Doctor and the TARDIS, herself, had issues with Jack because, to them, he was something wrong: something that would never end and everything ends. And yet, somehow, in some way, Jack’s immortality was taken away from him? The thing that was given to him by Rose manipulating the time matrix and the time stream itself?

I don’t know, but the whys and wherefores of how that could happen are going to have to be pretty big for me to swallow that. I’ll give it a chance, and I’m open to the ride, but I’m a little wary, nonetheless….

Quotes:

Esther: Oh, my God, is he going to die?
Jack: Don’t worry about it. No one dies these days.

Jack: The Torchwood Institute was set up by the British Royal Family in 1879 to defend the realm of Great Britain by investigating the unusual, the strange. And the alien.

About Heather S. Vina

Heather's been a fan of science fiction since she was five years old and developed a crush on Captain Kirk, while watching reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series. A huge Anglophile, she loves reading and watching (and mocking!) TV, but hasn't figured out a way to make a living doing either, yet. But she lives in hope!

Heather S. VinaReview: Torchwood: Miracle Day 4.01: The New World