Series: Torchwood: Miracle Day
"Death is not an option."Torchwood: Miracle Day
is the fourth series of Torchwood
, which began airing on Starz on July 8, 2011. It's a ten-part miniseries, similar to Children of Earth
in tone. The storyline is a BBC
America / Starz co-production that's set in both Britain and America.Miracle Day
takes place two years after the traumatic events of Children of Earth
. People on Earth have very suddenly stopped dying, mystifying experts and straining the Earth's resources. This is Played for Drama
, as every single realistic result of unending death is explored: people trapped in explosions remain conscious and in horrifying agony forever, both normal hospital procedures and the entire legal system need to be revised within days, the normal 50% in-utero mortality rate of severely disfigured fetuses is no longer in effect, and the undeath is soon found to be Age Without Youth
Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman
) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles
), the last members of the Torchwood team, reunite. They're forced to go to America, where they are helped by CIA secret agents Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer
) and Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins), as well as others sympathetic to their cause. Things quickly get complicated when Jack realises that he's been stripped of his own immortality and healing powers in the process.
The series is Darker and Edgier
, Bloodier and Gorier
and Hotter and Sexier
had ever been before. Although it still retains its Camp
elements, Miracle Day
is largely serious, with a strong focus on Medical Horror
and Body Horror
In a bit of a role reversal from previous airing schedules of both Doctor Who
, The American channel Starz aired the episodes first and then aired in Britain a week later (with Canada and Australia airing them in-between).
For an episode guide, see Torchwood
's Recap page
Tropes in Miracle Day
- Actor Allusion: Matheson is gleeful at the beginning over someone named "Reynolds" retiring due to his wife's sickness. Mekhi Phifer played Ben Reynolds in Lie to Me.
- Age Without Youth: And the myth of Tithonus is explicitly mentioned. The human race has a very unpleasant future ahead of it.
- And I Must Scream: Goes hand in hand with Fate Worse Than Death below. In a world where people can't die, paralyzing injuries just got a whole lot worse.
- In a perhaps more literal example of this, an assassin gets shot right in the throat. Right before he was about to reveal his employer, too.
- And Starring: For Bill Pullman.
- Anyone Can Die: Proudly retains this trait.
- Some of them like Rex do it thrice.
- This trope is especially impressive given that part of the premise is that no one can die.
- Arc Words: "We Are Everywhere, we are no one."
- "Nobody dies anymore" pops up a lot as well.
- Artistic License – Economics: Connected to Writers Cannot Do Math below, four months is far too fast for global recession to settle in due to mounting pension payments with nobody dying. Consider also that the most economically influential countries already have low death rate, so the Miracle would have the least impact there.
- That said,there are other factors involved that could affect the economy, such as the declaration of martial law and people looting or buying up all the painkillers.
- Artistic License – Geography: "Technically it's another city; PhiCorp is in Los Angeles and we're in Venice." Nope; Venice is part of Los Angeles.
- Badass Bureaucrat: As of episode nine, Esther's skills at intelligence analysis qualify as this.
- Bastardly Speech: Danes' speeches are actually quite inspirational — it's just a pity they're coming from a Dark Messiah.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Rex and Vera's relationship would be a textbook example.
- Big Bad: The Three Families.
- Big "NO!": Rex after Esther is shot in the final episode. Gwen also gives a variant later in the same episode when Rex is shot.
- Bittersweet Ending: Despite the Families surviving to plot another day, the world is back to normal after the nightmare that was the miracle, Torchwood is back, The Mole was shot to death and rather than die Rex is now immortal, though only time will tell if that's a good thing or not. But Esther and Vera are dead, along with Gwen's dad.
- Blessed with Suck: The whole world.
- Body Horror: Oh my. The first episode alone has a suicide bomber still alive after the attempt, his flesh cooked off, organs destroyed, and barely a few strands of muscle holding his head to his body... which they cut off! It still doesn't kill him.
- Book Ends: Oswald Danes dies.
- And in a smaller example, both the first and last episodes involve, at some point, a suicide bomber — the Mook assassin in "The New World" and Oswald in "The Blood Line".
- Another one, same character: the first thing we learn about him is that his defence was that the girl he killed should have run faster. His last words are cries to her to "keep running, faster" as he believes he's going to Hell after her.
- Rex survives what should be certain death
- Break the Cutie: Both Esther and Jilly get broken in different ways. Averted somewhat by Gwen, because she was broken way back in Season 1.
- Brought Down to Normal: Jack loses his healing factor and immortality.
- Russell T Davies actually speculated in the episode commentary for "The Blood Line" that the Blessing may have only removed Jack's Healing Factor, and that were he to have died during the Miracle, he would have revived as normal.
- Call Back: Jack directly compares himself to the Doctor, and takes on human companions. He also admits that they 'kill him', just as his role model once said.
- Camera Sniper: Gwen is in Venice Beach, and we see that someone's watching her through the shutter of the camera they're using to photograph her. The shot even pulls back to show the person with the long range lens.
- Chekhov's Gunman: In the first couple of episodes, we meet a few of Esther's CIA Watch coworkers. In Episode 8, one of them is revealed to be a mole for the Families.
- The Conspiracy: The surface is still barely scratched by episode 6
- Continuity Nod:
- The brainworm in the episode 7 flashback is one of the Trickster's Brigade.
- UNIT, the Silurians and the Racnoss also get mentioned at one point or another.
- And, of course, the Doctor.
- Corrupt Bureaucrat: Colin Maloney, the administrator of the Los Angeles overflow camp.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: By the second episode, pharmaceutical companies are already jumping at the chance to take advantage of the "miracle" to flood the market with even more drugs. Turns out that this isn't just exploitation — they knew the miracle was coming, or at the very least were made to prepare for it unknowingly.
- Stuart Owens, a Phicorp bigwig, is notable for being rather helpful and non-antagonistic despite qualifying for this. As he puts it, "I'm not a bad man. I'm not a good man, either. I'm a... middle man."
- He also appears to deeply dislike being used the way he has been, even if it seems to actually be to his benefit and his opposition is very dangerous to him. People like him are not supposed to be mere pawns in other people's games.
- Crapsack World: Following in the footsteps of "Children of Earth".
- Crawl: One of Showrunner Russell T Davies' trademarks. There's a lot of fake news reports, and they all have tickers with one-line stories about the effect of the Miracle.
- Deadpan Snarker: Oswald Danes gets some killer lines off, as does Rex.
- Death Takes a Holiday: The premise
- Determinator: Rex, who spends virtually the entire season with a lethal penetrating wound to his chest.
- Disney Villain Death: One of the Family leaders is thrown into the heart of the Blessing once death comes back. Nobody knows whether that kills you or not, but it's probably not comfortable either way.
- He wasn't thrown into the Blessing; he was thrown over a rail straight down via normal gravity.(Fridge Logic says the Blessing should have been down as well, seeing as it goes through the Earth, but hey).
- Doomed Immoral Victor: Oswald Danes blows himself up to bury the Blessing and kill a Family leader. He still reckons he's going to Hell for his crimes, but views this as a victory because Hell is full of bad little girls...
- Driven to Suicide: Several instances, only it doesn't work anymore. "Rendition" has a talk show host discussing whether the concept of suicide even exists anymore. This hasn't prevented people from trying to get as close as possible, mind you. They call themselves the 45 club, for jumping from the 45th floor or higher figuring it will be a good way to ensure nothing is working anymore.
- In a straight example, Stuart Owens asks a friend to investigate a construction site bought by PhiCorp; he finds The Blessing, which is in a chasm underground between Buenos Aires and Shanghai that causes people to discover their true selves. It drives him to jump from a height guaranteed to render him Category 1.
- Also, there's a lot of talk about people signing up to become Category 1.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Blessing turns out to be a beneficial version of this, living in symbiosis with the human race.
- El Spanish O: Used by Rex when telling his Latina neighbor not to let anyone into his house. "No husbando, no husbando."
- Executive Meddling: Bill Pullman mentioned in an interview that Oswald Danes ended up dying because the lawyers said so. Not that we can blame them, but still.
- Fanservice: No matter your orientation, this show has you covered.
- Fantastic Racism: Since death no longer applies, the world governments have agreed on a new definition of life:
- Category 3: Anyone who is alive and/or would be treatable under normal circumstances.
- Category 2: Anyone who is alive while suffering from persistent injuries/diseases which would otherwise be fatal.
- Category 1: Anyone who appears to be brain-dead or suffering from something which would be immediately fatal. They get stuck in giant ovens for disposal.
- Category 0: The newest category, set up to deal with cases like Danes so they can continue to enforce the death penalty. We never get to see what this entails, however.
- Fate Worse Than Death: In a world without death, this happens a lot.
- The suicide bomber who attacked Jack Harkness ends up a charred but still conscious skeleton.
- Ellis Hartley Monroe gets sent through a car crusher. We get a quick shot of her inside the wreckage. She'll be there a very long time.
- Lyn, a rogue CIA agent in episode 2, gets her neck snapped in such a way that her head is rotated 180 degrees on her body, yet she remains conscious.
- Everyone who is Category 1 gets burned alive. One can only hope such a fate is the exception to the rule.
- In a flashback, pre-Miracle Jack is mistaken for either being Satan or the Messiah, and is repeatedly killed in a variety of ways so people can watch him come back to life.
- Fish out of Water: A fair amount of comedy involves Gwen becoming accustomed to the States and the brief time Rex was in Wales.
- Flat "What.": Everyone's reaction to Rex being immortal at the end of the last episode.
- This is also a Callback to a catchphrase used by the Tenth Doctor many times.
- Foreshadowing: After learning that Category 1 patients are burned alive, Rex states how we all know what comes next; and soon convicted felons, illegal immigrants, or anyone that "We just don't like" will also be incinerated. He's more or less right. Category 0 patients are those that would be facing the death penalty. It's never shown if illegal immigrants will face it; but the long term plan is in fact for the families to use it to kill all those they don't want.
- Friend or Idol Decision: For the Torchwood team, the friend is Esther and the idol is mortality. They choose the idol.
- From Bad to Worse: Pretty much every episode, though all stemming from the same source. It's more accurate to say that the situation hasn't actually changed, just their understanding of how horrifically bad it really is. Then they instituted the Category system, and things genuinely got a lot worse.
- And then there's Episode 8. Not only is the world on the verge of a new Great Depression, but things for the individual characters get a lot worse personally.
- Gayngst: Although Captain Jack Harkness is absolutely devoid of any shame about his sexuality, his boyfriend Angelo suffers from deep-seated religious gayngst due to being raised Catholic in a small Italian town in the early 1900s. With terrible consequences for poor Jack...
- A Giant Symbiotic Vagina Did It: Basically what caused the Miracle.
- A God Am I: The Families have shades of this, especially when they reveal that they plan to use the new political system the Miracle created to take over the world and decide who lives and dies.
- Gorn: About as much as you'd realistically expect to see in a show like this, which is still a not-inconsiderable amount. Strangely enough, it's completely averted in the scene where Dr. Juarez is burnt alive.
- Hollywood Law: Oswald claims that his sentence of lethal injection was carried out, so he'll sue the governor if he is not immediately released. In real life, death sentences are carefully worded. He wouldn't be sentenced to "be given a lethal injection", but to be "put to death" by lethal injection. Thus, no court in the US would take his case seriously. The rule of double jeopardy says you can only be put on trial for a crime once, not killed for it. He also claims that he has fulfilled his death sentence as a result of the mechanism of the execution being carried out; however, there's no law against repeated attempts.
- To be fair, there are several precedents in the UK (at least one case where someone was hanged, taken down as dead, and they weren't quite dead and got released, as well as a few other cases where the trap door repeatedly refused to spring). That said, Russell Davies has clearly never heard of "civil commitment" which is legal for pedophiles in many states. Oswald would also be a registered sex offender, and even if he were released, he'd be legally prevented from contact with children, meaning he couldn't just waltz around hospitals.
- The characters are very clear that he's only temporarily out on a legal technicality that people are already working to resolve, something to do with "acts of God" in the state's constitution. Whether such technicality would really happen is another issue. That said, they wouldn't just release him-he would appeal, and wait in prison until the courts decided on his case, which takes a while. In his case, they would likely stretch it out deliberately too just to prevent this.
- Also applies to the legislative process in the show: In the space of one conversation, you go from hearing that a bunch of reports have been finished and sent to the President and HHS Secretary to the recommendations becoming law at midnight that night without even a hint of enabling legislation having been previously passed?
- The fact that a law was passed is noted in Episode 6, but that still raises the suspicious lack of court challenges to that law.
- Category 0 is brazenly unconstitutional. Putting folks into the ovens conscious would almost assuredly qualify as cruel and unusual punishment, against the Eighth Amendment, not to mention deprivation of "life" without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. However, if they are ruled to be legally dead, and thus not persons under the law, these protections may not apply. It would probably take a ruling by the US Supreme Court though.
- It should be noted that it's strongly implied that the Families are influencing events from the background. It's not unreasonable to suggest they might have been behind the passage of the draconian legislation featured in the episode.
- Hospital Hottie: Dr. Vera Juarez. Walking down hospital corridors with her long legs, perfect hair, low cut dress, and high heels, she looks like a model walking the runway.
- Healing Factor: While Jack becomes mortal after the world turns immortal, it comes into play in "Immortal Sins"' flashbacks. It returns to him at the end; and Rex gains it too.
- Hypocrite: Rex bites Esther's head off for visiting her sister's house and being made by a hitman when he visited his dad while they're in Venice Beach and could have compromised them as well had Esther not already done so. Since nobody knows what Rex did, he can continue acting smug towards Esther without her realizing his hypocrisy. Also, to be fair, Rex is trained in that sort of thing and Ester isn't.
- Idiot Ball: Esther, whilst being chased by the CIA, goes to visit her sister. Since her sister is now a paranoid shut-in and has boarded all her windows up, she phones child services, saying that they are in danger. She is then shocked to find out the children have been taken into foster care. Visiting her sister also leads a hitman to their new hideout, nearly getting Jack and Gwen killed/would-be-killed. She later redeems herself, in spades.
- For a trained CIA agent, Rex sure does spend a lot of time freely giving information to the villains. Including at one point explaining his plans for the Overflow Camp footage to the guy in charge while said guy had him tied up and was clearly emotionally unhinged.
- Of course, if The Families hadn't attempted to kill Gwen and Jack, neither character would have had any clue where to start dealing with The Miracle and The Families would have won. Jack probably wouldn't even be on the planet.
- Just Following Orders: In the overflow camps this seems to be a mantra.
- Karma Houdini: Jilly
- Kill It with Fire: When people won't die even though they should, the obvious response is to utterly incinerate their bodies. Can't be alive if there's nothing left. Or so one would hope. For the moment, it does seem to be working, but then it would be rather hard to question inanimate ash to check if there's a soul still in there.
- Killed Off for Real: Esther, Oswald, Angelo, Shapiro, Geraint, and Vera. Not to mention all of those (excepting Rex) saved by the miracle.
- Kill the Cutie: Poor, poor Esther... But really, of course Torchwood would kill the nice likeable character. After slowly destroying her.
- Kill the Ones You Love: Gwen technically kills her father, Esther and (temporarily) Jack and Rex, as the Families are quick to point out to her.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Jack Harkness, as usual.
- London England Syndrome: Possibly due to it being a US-UK production, both sides of the Atlantic get this treatment.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Discussed and Defied.
Stuart Owens: You think I'm the epitome of evil. The devil in a three-piece suit.
- Manipulative Bastard: Oswald Danes. You can't deny he spends most of his on-screen time manipulating other people to his advantage. Nor can you deny he's a bastard.
- Murder by Cremation
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: basically what every government in the world utilising overflow camps becomes, since Category 1 inmates are sent into 'the module', death chambers where they are incinerated alive.
- Gwen calls one of the camp doctors out on this, going so far as to tell her not to call herself a doctor anymore, because she doesn't deserve it.
- Not to mention the Families' justifications for taking over the world.
- There's also the fact that they literally break into people's homes to see if they are hiding any Category 1s. This is eerily reminiscent of Nazis breaking into people's homes looking for Jews.
- Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: At first the CIA get in the way, then it looks like the evil pharmaceutical PhiCorp. Only when Jack confronts the COO of PhiCorp, Stuart Owens, it turns out that Owens was actually investigating the Miracle himself and trying to find out which part of his company was involved. He traced it to countless dummy corporations and shadowy business interests, and concluded that PhiCorp was just a small part of a much bigger machine; in effect, "the system" was the enemy, and the people behind the Miracle were masters of manipulating it.
- It's never made clear how three wealthy families were able to attain that much power in the world beyond spending decades insinuating themselves into the top political/financial/media (one family for each) positions and families in the world and working together on trying to become immortal . They're not even mentioned to be using any alien technology..
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Although she's not mentioned by name, the entire Miracle was indirectly caused by Rose resurrecting Jack and making him immortal.
- Jilly practically says this out loud when she points out that the Blessing shows people their true selves, and that Jack and Gwen have just brought along Oswald, a murdering pedophile and armed him with a suicide vest. Fortunately for everyone, Oswald has had plenty of time to reflect on who he is, and so while he finds the experience unpleasant he gets over it pretty quickly.
- Oh, Crap: Rex is now Jack-style immortal
- A more literal example from Shapiro and his CIA buddies when they realise The Mole is Charlotte... and has left them a package.
Shapiro: [stares at computer screen, then looks up to see the bag right next to him.] "Oh fuck!"
- Police Brutality: A more heroic example of this trope than is common. After a pair of police officers help Oswald out of a sticky situation with a pair of angry youth bringing up what a monster Oswald is ("You know why he killed her? You know what he said? She should have run faster."), they seem to help him back onto his feet... only to begin punching him in the gut while delivering witty quips.
Officer #1: "No hits to the face. Gotta keep him pretty for the cameras."
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
Lyn: If you're the best England has to offer, then God help you.
Gwen: I'm Welsh.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Hey, guess what? Death came back."
- Properly Paranoid: Gwen and Rhys while living in the house on the beach.
- Putting the Band Back Together: Well, what's left of the the band, anyway.
- Queer People Are Funny: The banter between Rex and Jack, but especially the tormenting of the steward in episode 2.
- Reality Ensues: The whole premise. Everlasting life for a planet of 5 billion people has terrible consequences.
- Recycled Set: Scenes filmed at Ontario International Airport are set in airports in Los Angeles, Shanghai and Buenos Aires.
- Redemption Equals Death: Averted with Oswald Danes. Sure, he DIES at the end, and takes a leader of the conspirators with him, but that's because he's angry with them for using him and planning to literally incinerate him while alive (and UNABLE TO DIE). Made even worse because he wanted to embrace death so he could continue to molest his victim.
- Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: Jack convinces the other doctors to test this on the completely fried suicide bomber in the pilot, severing the last few strands connecting his head to the rest of him. It doesn't work. Later on, however, trauma sufficient to render someone brain-dead is considered equal to effective death.
- Required Secondary Powers: Horrifically averted. The consequences of immortality without any sort of healing factor are made gruesomely clear early on. It's also established that people continue to age as normal. Even if you manage to avoid all injury and disease for the rest of your life, would it still be worth living by the time you're 1000 years old and considerably more frail than the oldest living human has ever been?
- Separated by a Common Language: Esther annoys Gwen by pointing out the minor differences in American and British vocabulary, like crisps/chips.
- Sequel Hook: Jilly gets an invite to work for the Families directly, the Blue-Eyed Man says they have a Plan B, and Rex is now immortal.
- Simple Score of Sadness: A certain primarily piano-based piece is used for just about every "sad" scene in the series.
- Society of Immortals
- Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: At least three occasions in the last episode.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The Lou Reed song "Perfect Day" plays in the teaser trailer over footage of the Earth turning into a bomb.
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Superman Stays out of Gotham: The Doctor's absence doesn't even get a Lampshade Hanging like in Torchwood: Children of Earth this time around. Martha, Mickey or any useful UNIT higher ups that can lend a hand are nowhere to be seen.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The current Torchwood team consists of Jack, Gwen, a cocky male Lancer with a fatal hole in his chest whose main purpose seems to be annoying Jack, and a pretty, non-confrontational female Smart Guy whose main purpose seems to be sitting at a computer desk. Remind me, Owen and Tosh did die, right? The only cosmetic difference is that Rex is the Token Minority.
- Sudden Principled Stand: By Cpl. Coltrane.
- Taking You with Me: Oswald.
- There Are No Global Consequences: Totally averted. Not only has the entire political climate changed, a complete overhaul of the medical care system is in the works since the very definition of life has changed. If anything, the global changes may be happening faster than they would in reality, though it's hard to judge without a real-world example.
- Also, with costs for medical care skyrocketing coupled with having to supply pensions for the immortal, many world governments are starting to go bankrupt, causing a second Great Depression.
- Ironically, there are also global consequences once the Miracle ends, when all the people who should've died since the beginning of the series all die at once. Jack points out that most funeral homes are scheduling at least ten funerals every hour due to the "backlog".
- The series also does not go into the political consequences of the camps and other draconian measures.
- Token Evil Teammate: Oswald Danes, for the last two episodes
- Too Dumb to Live: Noah tells Charlotte that he can find The Mole. She's the mole.
- Translation Style Choices: of a sort, in that everyone, including the Americans, pronounce "PhiCorp" as "PhiCore" as Britishers would do, whereas some Americans would pronounce the final P.
- Translation with an Agenda: The "Harry Bosco" process, which the Families use to help cover up their activities in Shanghai and Buenos Aires.
- UST: Davies says that Captain Jack's "unstated love for Gwen Cooper" brings him back to Earth. Rex comments on it in "Rendition"; Gwen denies it, but Rex doesn't buy that.
- It's pretty well stated in "Immortal Sins" that Jack and Gwen love each other, but that there are things (the safety of Gwen's daughter, Jack's mortality) that, if threatened, they would kill each other for.
- Plus, Jack's speech at Angelo's deathbed makes it pretty clear he still loves Ianto, and isn't over his death at all.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: When the characters are calculating how fast Earth's population is increasing, they count the dead people twice. Explained by SF Debris at 9:05 here.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- A minor plot-line surrounding a new cult that developed after the Miracle, the Soulless, seemingly vanished after the third episode. Though, Sarah, Esther's sister, in "End of the Road" appears to be a believer.
- It would seem likely the Soulless were the starters of the 45 floor club, taking the first chance they could get to end their lives by being made Category 1.
- While Nurse Rory's absence can be explained away by the fact he's never actually met Jack, where the hell are Martha and Mickey? You remember Martha, Torhwood medical contact that surely would have been mentioned in that file the CIA had somewhere and as a doctor would have been pretty involved with the Miracle anyways. They don't even bother to Hand Wave her absence like they did in COE.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Gwen's attempt at an American accent. Jack's opinion: "You are so never doing that accent again."
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: The world's scientists quickly find out that humanity's new immortality only applies to death itself. Injury, disease, aging, pain, and all those other trappings of life are still in full effect. No matter what happens, no matter how debilitating, you simply DO NOT DIE.
- Zombie Apocalypse: The show is focused on problems caused by the living dead, and solutions to those problems. Genre Blindness on this issue was probably enforced to preserve drama and avoid giving viewers an obvious way out of moral dilemmas.
- Category Ones may not chase you, but it's pointed out that living-dead can be a source of plague just as easily as the conventionally dead in other types of natural disasters.
- A prominent character insists a close relative is still alive in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
- Zombie Puke Attack: The 'zombie' people were the ill undead thus, many would throw up regularly for effect in hospital scenes.