Just as I’d all but given up hope the seventh episode of Torchwood ‘Immortal Sins’ rewards the viewer for their perseverance. With Gwen capturing Jack we flashback to the 1920s and his relationship with an Italian Immigrant Angelo.
It isn’t hard to see why this episode succeeds when the others failed. The Miracle Day was just on the periphery of the action, with the majority of the story taking place in the past. Strange that the central theme of the series would turn out to be the least interesting thing about it.
There was also a tighter focus, will just two story threads. For a second week in a row Oswald Danes is nowhere to be seen (aside from a brief mention on the radio) and it is hard to see how his particular character arc will tie into the larger story at this point.
This felt more like a true Torchwood episode, dealing with fighting aliens with a more adult tone than Doctor Who. Indeed, this was more about Jack’s relationship with Angelo than it was about defending the Earth.
This was a great opportunity to examine Jack’s attitude to relationships. Jack is open about what he likes but Angelo points out that he also cheapens it with his jokes and sly comments.
In re-evaluating his attitude Jack forms more of a bond with Angelo. Over the period of time we see them together it is interesting to see their relationship grow and change, highlighting Jack’s frustration at having to live in ‘unenlightened’ times.
In single episode we have a very strong character arc for both Jack and Angelo. We see Jack trying to recapture some magic by taking on Angelo as a s companion, as Rose was a companion to the Doctor.
Here we see that in letting down his defences he exposes himself to danger, leading to one of the best sequences in the series. Having seen Jack die Angelo kills him again. Each time Jack comes back to life, there are more people waiting to kill him again.
The screen fades to black at each death putting the viewer in the same nightmarish situation, making us dread what will be waiting for Jack when he comes back to life again and again and again.
The horror of the situation, knowing that there will never be a release from pain and the isolation that brings, harks back to the central idea of Miracle Day, a world without death. It does suggest that the initial idea may have been badly executed.
Imagine if Miracle Day had imbued everyone with the same deathless state as Jack. The problem of over population and drained resources would still be an issue but the medical aspect would be gone.
I think it is fair to say that the majority of the episodes so far have focused on the biological repercussions, which have been discussed but rarely shown. If everyone was like Jack the change would not just be physical but social.
If people could do anything and always come back then there would be no fear. People could shot each other with casual abandon, drive at high speed through crowded streets or sky dive without a parachute. In short people would become more violent and careless.
After the initial period of excitement there would be gradual realisation that everyone had to live with the consequences of their actions. People would have to think in the long rather than short term.
It seems to me that there would be more potential in this concept that what has been provided. As it stands the Miracle Day hasn’t be so much about not dying but unending decay and torment.
I dare say that the format of this episode should be adopted should Torchwood return for another series. Captain Jack’s long life opens up a lot of possibilities for a more episodic series, with each episode comparing an event in the present to something that occurred to him in the past.
Esther and Rex had a minimal presence but were used well. I enjoyed the reveal of how they ended up saving Gwen and Jack. It was logical and made good use of their skills. It gave a tantalising glimpse at how a more team oriented Torchwood, one that stays together and watches each others backs, would provide more entertaining viewing.
At last the plot seems to be moving forward. It is surprising how well the enigmatic scene with the three men ‘buying’ Jack works. Just having faces to put to the evil conspiracy makes things much more interesting.
It will be amusing if Jack is partially responsible for Miracle Day. It would mean that Torchwood has once again created the threat it is trying to fight.
One of the break out characters of this series is surely Gwen’s baby. The infant is obviously a Torchwood member in training, not batting an eyelid when a man is shot dead only inches away.
Not everything works. The adventure in the 1920s is very slight, amounting to Jack delivering a huge chunk of exposition before finishing off the threat. It is mere window dressing for the real story.
It does also suggest that Captain Jack is the worst person you’d want in your ultra-secret organisation. He freely tells Angelo not only about Torchwood but advanced technology, alien and the future. All the things that Torchwood has dedicated itself to concealing.
Nana Visitor’s cameo is short-lived and on the basis of the previous episodes I fear we have seen the last of her. A shame to waste another well respected science fiction actor.
These are minor complaints about an otherwise excellent episode. I hope we see more of these more tightly focused and contained stories, giving us a truly adult science fiction.