This review contains spoilers.
9. The Gathering
My theory with Russell T Davies’ tenure on both Doctor Who and Torchwood is that he has a habit of overseeing really very, very good penultimate episodes of his series. The peak of this, I’d suggest, was the stunning fourth episode of Torchwood: Children Of Earth, the instalment that’s still reverberating around the Internet discussion boards a couple of years later.
With The Gathering, though, I felt it was all just a little bit muted. That Torchwood: Miracle Day, at the point where it should be paying off on the weeks of steady build up, was spluttering just a little. I say that appreciating that not everyone out there has warmed to Miracle Day as much as I. The thing is, though, at the point I expected my head to be awash with thoughts of the season finale, at the end of this episode, I just wasn’t really pumped up for it at all.
That’s not to say that The Gathering is a bad episode, because it isn’t. It’s just that it lends some weight to the argument that perhaps the story of Miracle Day might have best fitted a shorter, more concentrated run that the one we’ve got.
The Gathering inevitably busies itself with pulling together many of the threads that have been building up over the eight preceding episodes. It picks up two months after episode eight, and the world isn’t in a great place. We have “institutional murder”, for starters, as the laws have tightened on category one cases. Thus, straight-faced people come knocking at your door, suspecting you of harbouring people you shouldn’t.
The episode itself spreads the work across the full cast of key characters. Gwen is caring for her surely-doomed father, who is being hidden away from the authorities. She’s eventually reunited with Jack, who is being tended to by Esther in Scotland, having being smuggled into the country.
And then Oswald Danes appears. Danes has been an underplayed card throughout Miracle Day for me, and then suddenly, the most notorious man in the world has managed to sneak into Wales. Surely they’d have recognised him at the toll bridge, if nothing else? Nonetheless, he’s got some key information – the name of the man who created the miracle – and Gwen is forced to co-operate with him. Reluctantly, as you might expect.
Elsewhere, the Jilly Kitzinger story continued to pick up pace, as her recruitment to the whims of the three families means a new identity, and all trace of her disappearing from the Internet. We learn, through her, that the three families each took hold of one of politics, media and finance, and I love the fact that they recruited her specifically because “You’re a storyteller”.
In fact, and this might fly in the face of what I’m going to say shortly, she gave me my favourite moment of the episode. “What does The Blessing tell you about yourself?”, she was asked. “That I’m right”, she beamed. I loved that.
I didn’t love The Blessing, though, and this is the recurring problem with a high concept science fiction idea. I always thought that Groundhog Day proved the best template for this, in that it comes up with a central idea, and then doesn’t bother explaining it. As such, you’re left to watch the ramifications, which are usually far, far more interesting that the explanations that tend to be offered.
Given the number of plot strands Miracle Day is juggling, it didn’t really have the same luxury as Groundhog Day, though, and inevitably, the explanation was forthcoming. It was something of an anti-climax for me, even though it was well realised on screen.
Personally, I’m far more interested in the influence of the three families than I am The Blessing, and it’s here where Miracle Day keeps a few chips in its back pocket. I wonder if the threads being set up surrounding them will outlast Miracle Day, and if strands are being put in place for future Torchwood seasons. Appreciating that Russell T Davies has said, right back at the starter, that we’d get a self-contained story in Miracle Day, that doesn’t rule out leaving some additions to the Torchwood legacy. It might be, of course, that the families are wrapped up in the finale. But I hope they’re not.
After all, we’ve still not got to the bottom of just why The Blessing is so interested in Captain Jack, to the point where his blood is being drawn towards it That’s going to take a bit of time to explain. He must be intrinsically linked to it in some way, but how? Also, it’s probably fair to assume that the miracle has to come to an end at some point, and that points the finger of death not just at Gwen’s father, but also at Rex. It’s going to be a busy finale.
That the ending to this episode didn’t have me screaming at the telly, as Russell T Davies-overseen cliffhangers sometimes do, isn’t the problem I had with The Gathering, though. Rather, that I think that Miracle Day has been a far more interesting beast when it’s been posing questions, and dealing with ramifications. Granted, the pacing hasn’t always felt right, but looking back, lots has been crammed in. That said, the ascent has been better than the descent thus far.
Ultimately, I’m not getting the sense of escalation that we had with the startlingly good Children Of Earth, and comparisons to the previous season don’t always do Miracle Day too many favours. I’ll tune into the finale, certainly. But with perhaps a little less urgency that I was expecting, that’s all.