Recap / Torchwood S 4 E 5 The Categories Of Life

The fifth episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day.

Dr. Juarez learns that medical panels have been cancelled. After all, the problem has been solved: people are in Categories now, thanks in part to her own suggestions. Phicorp will take care of the rest.

Esther's data analysis skills reveal that "Overflow Camps" will be used to house the sick, and that blueprints show additional buildings called Modules. They'll likely be used to quarantine people in "Category 1".

Appalled by growing governmental control over life and death, and by the horrifying hospital conditions all around her, Dr. Vera Juarez travels to California to assist Torchwood. She refuses to officially join, but is glad to be reunited with the group and introduced to Jack (properly this time). Jack suggests that she can just sleep in Rex's room, since they're having sex now anyway. They have a nice little socially awkward moment while Jack wishes he were back in the 51st century.

Those who should have died and are brain-dead are assigned Category 1 status, and those who have persistent injuries/diseases are to be given Category 2 while Category 3 status are normal people who have no or minor injuries. As he survived a fatal injury, Rex argues that he's Category 1. Esther and Dr. Juarez have a short debate and conclude that humans just don't fit into those types of categories, especially since the sustained Miracle is causing Rex's heart wound to heal again already, making him a Category 2 by now. Rex agrees to infiltrate into the nearest Overflow Camp, and Jack calls an ambulance for him (posing as his Camp Gay boyfriend while Rex flips him the bird).

A while later, Jack tries to convince Oswald to use his fame to expose Phicorp's advanced knowledge of the Miracle. Since Oswald is due to appear during the Miracle Day Parade, his rousing speech can be used to change the world forever. Oswald is intrigued by Jack's interest in him, but angry at the second-class treatment he's getting from the media, from Jilly, from the president and from the world in general. He's also extremely scared at going to back to being a regular fugitive, since his life without fame and fortune would be absolute hell.

The others also inflitrate the camp: Esther as an administrative assistant, and Dr. Juarez as a doctor. Esther has no luck, seeing as all the other administrative staff are apathetic at best. Dr. Juarez meets the camp's leader, Colin Maloney, who is the world's worst possible combination of Pointy-Haired Boss, Jerk Ass misogynist and Casanova Wannabe. She manages to get close to Rex and (with Esther's help) change his chart to Category 1, in order to get him into the Module.

Gwen, meanwhile, has used a false passport to take a plane back to Wales. Her mum is taking care of Anwen (and doing some halfway decent investigation on her own). Gwen poses as a nurse and, using Rhys' Harwoods lorry and Andy's police authority, eventually manages to get past the Welsh Overflow Camp's security and close to her father. As they try to sneak him onto the lorry, he suffers another heart attack and is classified as Category 1 when Gwen screams for help. Rhys is forced to head back to work while Gwen stays behind with her dad.

Using her medical panel credentials, Dr. Juarez attempts to inspect the treatment of Category 1 patients and discovers that many conscious people are being assigned Category 1 status, essentially being declared non-living by the government. She threatens to prosecute after she sees the inhumane conditions which conscious Category 1 patients are enduring. Colin Maloney panics and shoots her legs, to the horror of both himself and his accompanying soldier, Ralph Coltrane. To cover up his actions, they transport her to one of the Modules and place her inside.

Rhys casually phones Gwen to say that Phicorp hired his lorry to transport Category 1 people to the "burn unit". For people with burn wounds, he guesses. Gwen deduces that the modules are in fact incinerators, used to burn the Category 1 patients. This is grimly confirmed when, back in the California Overflow Camp, Maloney activates the incinerator on the module containing Dr. Juarez. Rex has escaped, sees it happen but can't free her, and is forced to watch her being burned alive, reluctantly video-recording her agony.

Oswald stumbles onto the stage and has to nervously choose between Jilly's pre-made speech and Jack's hasty draft. He decides to Take a Third Option. His rousing speech does suggest that Phicorp had been preparing for the Miracle, but also sets himself up as Messianic Archetype, declaring the new human race to have become "Angels". He eventually decides to segue into Jilly's key words, and as Phicorp's logo comes up magnificently behind him, Jilly jumps for joy.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Anyone Can Be Reduced To Eternal Agony: Reintroduced at the end of the episode.
  • Dirty Old Man: Colin Maloney, just one of his many flaws.
  • Disturbingly Wrong: Rex discovers cold ceramic walls in the modules and believes this to mean they are refrigeration units designed to store Category 1 humans. Couldn't have gotten it more wrong as he witnesses firsthand that the modules are in fact giant ovens designed to incinerate the would-be-dead.
  • Fantastic Racism: The governments of the world have redefined life in the absence of death. Suffice it to say the result is not kind.
  • Flipping the Bird: Rex shows just how much he likes the schadenfreude of posing as Jack's gay lover with a super pissed expression on his face and his middle finger covertly extended for a special salute of "go fuck yourself".
  • Heel–Face Turn: Subverted. Oswald Danes got set up for this and knocked it down.
    • However, he didn't do exactly what PhiCorp wanted, either, ditching his prepared speech for one he made up on the spot. He even hints that they had knowledge of the miracle before it happened, very subtly breaking the masquerade.
  • Jerkass: Colin Maloney, with a helping of misogynism that would have been cringe-inducing in the 60s and a side dish of shallowness that would put a 12-year-old to shame.
    • Don't forget the casual racism.
    • And the psychopathic tendencies that insist murder is the only option to stay undiscovered by whistler-blowers.
  • Kill It with Fire: The only way to get rid of people who can't die is to destroy the bodies completely.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Massive camps to hold people who have been categorized as unworthy of human rights by the government, where said people are eventually burned alive? Where have we heard this before?
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Gwen's attempt to rescue her father instead exacerbates his heart condition, so the doctors bump him up to Category I.
  • Take a Third Option: Oswald has an audience with both the forces of good and evil (Jack, and Oswald's own PR rep), and is given a speech by both of them. He uses neither by itself.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Maloney freaks out when Vera threatens to expose his attempts to cut corners in the overflow camp, shooting her twice, sticking her body in an oven meant for brain-dead patients, then turning it on while she's still conscious.
    • Oswald Danes showed signs of this, but got better.
  • Wham Episode: Just in case you forgot Torchwood likes unexpected deaths.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Discussed. Jack refers to Torchwood as "freedom fighters", which Vera believes is the same as "terrorists".