Have any of you been watching Torchwood: Miracle Day? I know there are some Doctor Who fans lurking around Crushable, but Torchwood has generally had a smaller American audience than its parent show, so I’m curious about who out there in Crushable Land also follow the adventures of the one and only Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). I plugged Miracle Day in 8 New Summer TV Shows to Watch Out For back in June, though, because this year, Torchwood has moved away from Britain and the BBC and found a home in America on Starz on Fridays at 10pm. At the time, I noted that we had no idea what to actually expect from the story, but hey, it’s Torchwood, so it’ll probably have aliens in it. Well, we’re about four episodes into this season, and though we haven’t seen any aliens yet, I can safely say that Miracle Day is by far the scariest thing I have ever seen. Here’s the thing: We get a lot of end-of-the-world stories in the sci-fi and action genres, but the end of the world isn’t actually the worst thing that could happen. What could be worse than the end of the world, you ask? Miracle Day could. That’s what. And here’s why.
A little background first: While Doctor Who is a kids’ show that still manages to appeal adults, Torchwood probably isn’t something you want your favorite five-year-old watching. It made sure to declare itself as such early on; the second episode of the first season dealt with a purple alien gas that took on a host and then killed its victims through sex (and no, I didn’t just make that up. Really). Torchwood probably best described as The X-Files’ cooler, younger, sibling with an inexplicable Welsh accent. It always had a sense of humor about it, but as the show went on, it got more serious; it wasn’t shy about killing canon characters, and its third season, a five-part mini-series called Children of Earth, was one of the greatest pieces of television I’ve ever seen. The show’s fate was somewhat up in the air after that season; it wasn’t the show was doing badly– on the contrary, its viewing figures had never been better– but no one was really sure if they were going to keep doing it for whatever reason. Eventually, though, news hit that Torchwood was coming to America in 2011, and the world rejoiced. Or at least, the British sci-fi telly-loving part of the world did.
Russell T. Davies, the man responsible for both the 2005 revival of Doctor Who and the subsequent creation of Torchwood, kept the lid very firmly on Miracle Day until it started airing– and it’s probably a good thing that he did, because the premise hit home that much stronger once we were finally allowed to see what it was. For the curious, here’s what’s been going on (no spoilers except for what you find out in the first five minutes of the first episode): One day on Earth, no one dies. Not one single person. And then it happens again the next day. And the next. And the next. And the next. Pretty soon, it becomes clear that no one on Earth is dying, and that’s why that first day is called Miracle Day. But don’t be fooled by its name, because Miracle Day is not a good thing. It’s the worst thing that could possibly have happened to us.
Why? Because when I say no one is dying, I MEAN no one. Dying of old age, or illness, or trauma– none of that happens anymore. People who are so old they shouldn’t go on, do, in great pain the entire time. Terminally ill people aren’t terminal anymore, but they, too, are forever in pain. People who have been burnt beyond recognition, or have had their heads hacked off in freak accidents– none of them will die. The burnt ones will continue to be burnt, their cells will not regenerate, and they will feel as if they are on fire until the end of time. Just because a person has lost their head doesn’t mean they’ve lost their life– not anymore– and those people, too, will feel the unspeakable pain of having been beheaded forever. Furthermore, there’s normally an exchange that would happen: Each day, a certain statistic of people would die, and a certain statistic of people would be born. Now, they’re still being born, but they’re not dying– which means that the world will soon be overrun with humans it has no space to hold. We will consume faster than we can replenish. The justice system will collapse; the definitions that the legal world has run on will cease to have meaning. There will be no argument over capital punishment anymore, but the jails will quickly fill up. What are we to do with criminals then? Criminals like Oswald Dane (Bill Pullman), the man who raped and murdered a child without remorse and were set to be executed by legal injection– how are we to stop them from hurting people again, and again, and again? Perhaps most important, though, is this: Within four months, the world’s food supply will run out. People who are starving to death? You’ve got it: They’ll continue to starve, but they won’t die. They’ll just starve forever. It’s not the end of the world. It’s the anti-end of the world, and it’s much, much worse. And no one– not the American government, not any other government, not one single person– will be equipped to deal with it.
And THAT, my friends, is true horror. The end of the world is scary, but it isn’t horror, because once it ends, it just ends (after that meteor hits and existence is blinked out, you’re not really going to care much about it anymore). Serial killers in hockey masks aren’t horror either. Neither are strange European hostels that kidnap its travelers and sell them to torture addicts. Ghosts aren’t horror, ghouls aren’t horror, and demons, devils, and vampires aren’t horror. But this world imagined in Miracle Day? That is by far the most horrifying thing I could imagine, because there is no end to the pain that the entirety of humanity will suffer.
What do you think, Gentle Readers?
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