A lifetime ago, 2014 was a year without a pandemic. On January 1st of that year, my son and I started a Doctor Who marathon with William Hartnell’s An Unearthly Child. It ran right up until this year, 2020 with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor. That included The Sarah Jane Adventures (and K-9 and Company), Class, and Torchwood. It was an enormous undertaking and together, we’ve seen it ALL. In that entire run, there was only one time I had to jump past a part of an episode: episode 7 of Torchwood’s Miracle Day. That’s a shame when you think about it. My son was 14 at the time and it’s not like we sheltered our boys from things, but some things really are not suited for every age. 14 was probably borderline, but it just felt like a tougher discussion than my wife and I were ready for going through Jack and Angelo’s lovemaking scene. Some might consider it a wrong decision, but it’s the same reason we didn’t show the kids violent horror movies or movies with extreme vulgarity. Any time a movie or television show aims to be gratuitous, it loses something. Violence, blood, nudity, sexuality, vulgarity… they all have their place and not for a moment do I think they should be restricted but gratuity is where it fails. Gratuity takes it to a level that caters to a baser instinct and isn’t really healthy for a young audience. Later in the episode, we have a brutal attack on Jack that I also forwarded through but I did notice this time (watching for the sake of the blog), it wasn’t as bloody as I remembered it. When you consider how many episodes of this and it’s parent series my son and I watched, it’s a shame that some of it had to be skipped because of gratuity. One single episode broke a run of Doctor Who lore that had gone on for decades!
Now barring that, the episode serves one purpose: it gives us the backstory between Jack and Angelo so we can have the big reveal at the end: Star Trek’s Kira Nerys, Nana Visitor, shows up at the end to take Jack to see his old lover, Angelo. This brings us to the second big failure for the episode. These people go through a lot to hold Gwen’s family hostage solely to have her to betray Jack. The entire episode is her driving him to the site of where he will be handed over, during which we are given flashbacks to the 1920’s. But when team Torchwood gain the upper hand in the last few minutes, Kira tells Jack that nothing has changed; he’s still going to come with her so he can find out who is behind it all. Oh yeah? Then why did they go through all the trouble???? Why didn’t they just send a message? “Jack, come to Little Italy, find out what’s really going on, get a new t-shirt, with love, Angelo!” Jack would have gone! The Miracle was still going on so Jack wouldn’t fail to go! What was the need for all the subterfuge? (Well, at least it gave us background, but surely there was a better way!)
That’s not to say the backstory isn’t fun. It’s just pointless really. This wasn’t Captain John Hart from season 2 or any of the array of great villains; it was Jack’s old love interest; the one we had never heard of before. Meh. Sure, there are some fun moments, notably Jack making fun of Gwen’s cultural heritage: “you’re Welsh: you wouldn’t notice if the vowels were missing.” Jane Esperson, the writer of this episode, is clearly a genre fan having written for Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Jessica Jones, Game of Thrones, and plent of other things, so it’s not surprising that she did her research. She gives Jack background with the Doctor who “travels the world with a companion”, so he can invite Angelo to be his companion. She puts Jack into a situation with a parasite where Jack explains that the creature is part of The Trickster’s Brigade, whose plan it is to rewrite the future. These moments are treasures to fans of the series. She even has an attempt to fix the previous writers work of making Jack a strictly gay character; he says “I like lots of things” when watching a beautiful woman. Now that’s more like the Jack we know: he’s open to all; as the Doctor says, he goes out and “dances”. So I credit her… until I look back and find out she wrote episode 3, where Rex didn’t like his jokes “too gay”.
Let’s rewind because this has been an ongoing problem with this season. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having any character be the way they are. That can take on any meaning needed for the story. In this case, it happens to be a focus on Jack being gay. Having just blitzed the incredibly delightful Schitt’s Creek, I can say with certainty that David is the best character in that show (which is a bold claim since everyone in that show is pretty fantastic) and I loved every scene he was in. So I want to be very clear: the issue isn’t making Jack gay. In fact, not only do I not have an issue with that if it was who he was all along, but I don’t think anyone should have to live behind a mask (excluding going out to shops during Covid) because they fear how they will be received by others. Just as much as they have a right to like a different fast food chain or a flavor of ice cream from me, doesn’t make them bad or in some way inferior and they should not ever have to live in fear or with some shadow of inadequacy. The fact that society can make them feel that way is terrible and for that, I am sorry. That’s not the world we fans of Science Fiction and Doctor Who want: we want inclusion and community based on shared interests, regardless of what our preferences are. So it’s not a critique of Jack’s sudden proclivity toward men that bothers me but that the writers stopped paying attention to the lore that was already established and then making it gratuitously forced on the viewer. Episode 7 is pure filler serving only to give us a history that felt contrived, while rewriting the character created in Season 1 of the rebooted Doctor Who. Maybe the last three episodes will make up for some of the mistakes of this one. I’m really counting on a miracle now. ML