“I’m a doctor, not a chemist.“
If the first episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day was spent establishing the show for the potential new audience that its US exposure has been attracting, then this second focuses more on shuffling the relevant parts of the plot into place. As such, it’s not a great deal quicker than the series opener, but it’s still got plenty in the proverbial tank.
It picks up directly from the end of The New World, with Jack and Eve being taken, not willingly, to the US. They’re transported under the orders and in the company of Mekhi Phifer’s Rex Matheson, and while they’re in transit, Miracle Day beefs up some other foundation elements of the show.
Chief amongst them is the character of Oswald Danes, played by Bill Pullman. Doris Egan’s script takes some time out to round the character a little. And this is crucial, really, for Torchwood: Miracle Day to work. It’d be easy to ship in a pantomime villain, but Bill Pullman’s character is more than that. And as Danes becomes more three dimensional, so do people’s reactions to him. We don’t get much of him in this episode, but what we do get really matters.
This, then, also gives the show the chance to bring in one of a few of the new characters that the episode introduces. Jilly Kitzinger, who we sense will be important to Oswald’s story, is played by Lauren Ambrose, of Six Feet Under fame. She doesn’t get much screen time in this week’s episode either, but expect that to change in the week’s ahead. She’s on good form here.
One new face who does get more time is Wayne Knight. Knight is firmly on the side of the American authorities, and gets to play with technology quite a lot. Dennis Nedry would be proud.
As you might have guessed, while the episode does touch on the broader ramifications of the show’s overarching story, it’s main focus is on giving characters a bit more weight. So, we get more of the excellent Alexa Havins as Esther Drummond. And Rex Matheson too, while continuing to bang out decent one-liners, is given plenty to think about.
But the stars here remain John Barrowman and Eve Myles. They continue to be the glue that holds the front of camera side of Torchwood together. Rendition occasionally plays like a blockbuster movie, with shouting, loud music and quick edits. But it’s rarely better than when Captain Jack and Gwen take to the screen.
We’re deliberately being quite vague on the story elements, as you’d expect in a spoiler-free review. But that’s also, in thie case, because the main plot doesn’t actually drive forward too much here. Showrunner Russell T Davies is too savvy to provide lots of foundation and no here-and-now action to enjoy, but this second episode still balances more in favour of scene-setting.
That’s not a problem, in fairness, as there’s a lot of drama to build up to, and that takes work. Yet, it’s taking Miracle Day a little longer to steady itself than Children Of Earth did, a by-product of the scale and pace of the story it’s looking to tell.
It’s definitely worth sticking with, and Doris Egan ably demonstrates that she knows how to put a good script together. But, with next week’s instalment, we look forward to things really starting to escalate a little more…
Read more about Torchwood: Miracle Day here.