456 Classification - Sensitive Information Revealed
Well now, I can see this episode being perhaps the most divisive of the series so far. However for my money, I'd peg it as perhaps the best chapter of Miracle Day so far. For a kick-off, I'm not sitting here with a list of niggles as long as the Fourth Doctor's scarf and wasn't shouting at the telly by the time the credits rolled... which was an exceeding pleasant surprise after the the last few weeks.
For rather than a protected run-about revolving around the handing over of Jack to the mysterious Triangle, what we got was basically a flashback episode. While Gwen drives Jack to the hand-over, we get to see what the immortal Captain was up to in the late 1920s. And at first, this seems like yet another ruse by the writing crew to pussyfoot around the Miracle storyline.
Let's face it, much of this series has dithered around its big storyline, generally failing to explore the concept and consistently focusing on the wrong areas of the story. And on reflection, it has reminded me of that old trick employed by students everywhere when faced with a 2000 word essay on a subject they know less than 500 about - namely 'write down absolutely anything to expand what little you do know to an acceptable length'.
And so, at first the returns to days past which make up the bulk of the running time, appear to be the latest trick employed to pad out the under-developed Miracle storyline for another episode, an ill-timed sidestep away from the main plot.
However as this week's instalment unfolds, it becomes clear that what we are seeing is not actually just a late-in-the-day character study of Jack. For although Immortal Sins does fulfil this function, finally bringing the much side-lined Jack into the spotlight, the second half of the episode reveals that what is unfolding onscreen is really the origins of the Miracle.
Now as I said, I reckon this episode will prove to be somewhat divisive. Undoubtedly the 'gay agenda' brigade will be up in arms over the explicit relationship that develops between the '20s Jack and Angelo Colossanto (Daniele Favilli). So whereas I can understand the concerns over the portrayal of sex in its parent show Doctor Who, which is aimed at a family audience, and I can appreciate that some parents don't want a Saturday tea-time slice of scifi raising awkward and embarrassing questions from their little ones, Torchwood is made for adults. And hence to those 'gay agenda' people I say 'oh get over it!'.
However other folks may have be levelling what is rapidly becoming a standard accusation for every episode in the series - 'all of this could have been done in half the time'. Now unlike the previous episode Dead of Night whose graphic scenes felt tacked on to up the 'mature' content levels, the sex in Immortal Sins was relevant to the plot. Furthermore the emotional, social and dramatic aspects of the Jack/Angelo relationship were properly explored and discussed, but more importantly it turns out to be the source of the Miracle. And I have to say it was very refreshing to find Miracle Day at last treating a subject in-depth and with intelligence.
Of course, in doing so Immortal Sins is looking very much like the odd man out in the run so far. However ironically it was the episode that most felt like old Torchwood. And that's not just because we got references to the Doctor Who universe, a space monster and having Jack to the fore, allowing Barrowman to do some proper acting rather than being relegated to hollow action man and camp quip modes. While all these elements helped, what made this outing feel like a return to the show's past successes was the sense of magic and darkness that it brought to its intelligent explorations of its themes, something Torchwood has been sorely lacking in this series.
However I am not confident that the strength of this episode signals that they've saved the best for last and the remaining episodes are going to match it. Rather giving the meandering that has passed for series structure so far, I rather think the opposite is more likely. Basically the previous instalments have neither created an effective narrative or laid the foundations for a high octane climax. To put it bluntly, the storyline of Miracle Day is just plain broken - the road leading up to this point has been too pitted with plot holes to convince me that the story can pull its threads together in a merely effective way, let alone a satisfying one. And even if the remainder of the series is solid gold, it will still be tarnished by the botched first two thirds.
And I can't help wondering whether this episode which finally reveals Captain Jack's character properly is coming far too late for those viewers who aren't familiar with his history and origins in Doctor Who. Certainly this series has been content with rather lazily throwing in the odd reference to his long life span, and largely keeping Jack in the background. So while this episode sets up the background and genesis of the Miracle, the preceding episodes haven't really been working to build up to the reveals in this one.
Plus considering that it is looking increasingly likely that this whole Miracle business is just a massive ploy to get Jack, I can't help feeling the storyline has completely muffed its focus throughout. I suspect I won't be alone in feeling somewhat cheated if the grand scifi concept of nobody dying is just window dressing for the tale of a spurned lover. Not to mention the fact that making everybody on the damn planet immortal is one helluva long way to go about getting hold of one man. So I'm sincerely hoping that there's more to the Miracle scheme than just an overly elaborate global game of bloody Mouse Trap!
So then while I really enjoyed Immortal Sins, I tend to think it may well be a blip. For while it told it own story well and delivered a very good episode, it's not enough to fix the problems in the series' narrative which I am increasingly convinced has not focused on the elements the audience finds most interesting and is heading in entirely the wrong direction.
JIM MOON, 25th August 2011