Doctor Who #881: The Categories of Life

"You're thin as a twig! Bet you'd snap easily." "I'm getting there, yeah."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Aug.5 2011.

IN THIS ONE... The Miracle Rally. Gwen tries to get her father out of an overflow camp and fails. Back in California, Vera dies horribly inspecting one such camp.

REVIEW: Episodes 5 and 6 are where the narrative breaks down for me, and that's because they could easily have been collapsed into a single broadcast. A lot of episode 5 is a step forward followed by a step back. We have incident, but we don't have progress. Gwen's thread is the best example. She gets back to Wales, mounts a rescue of her father, and just as they're about to get him on a truck (Rhys' very specific skill set), he has a heart attack and Gwen unwisely chooses to call for help instead of running off with his undying body. They think they're raising the stakes, but they're just pushing the action's climax to the next chapter. Don't get me wrong, I certainly like seeing Gwen and Rhys together again - they have a fun relationship - and her mom giving her the mission is perfect Torchwood - the "amateurish" superspy stuff we were talking about in the previous review.

Back in the States, Jack has a similar experience. He tries to turn Oswald Danes against PhiCorp, but though there's suspense as to which prepared speech's point he'll go along with, he ends up on the evil corporation's side. The sequence isn't as useless as Gwen's because Jack doesn't get a second try, but because it's one of two narrative failures, it feels like our time is being wasted on two fronts. Part of the problem is that I just don't buy the sequence. We've got this Rally where politicians, including the President, are speaking, and POTUS is fine with Oswald addressing the same crowd so long as he's put enough miles between himself and the stadium? And does it really make sense that PhiCorp would use THIS opportunity for a marketing punch, their logo coming up behind Danes in any given context when it's clear there are still a lot of haters out there? It's very weird and not at all believable.

The saving grace is the American cast's investigation of an overflow camp, and Vera's resulting death (is it really anything else?), but even that doesn't quite stand scrutiny. The mission is well done, each player having a crucial role in our discovery of the shocking truth that the camps have ovens to dispose of "Category 1" patients (those who should be dead). Vera's horrible "death" is shocking, but the wrong blow to deal the series. She was the best new character, and after her, it's a big drop. Obviously, we'll be getting away from the medical side of things and still need the secret agents, and killing the better character makes it more effective. I won't dispute that. But is it earned? I'm not sure. To make this happen, the camp administrator needs to be this awful, unstable guy, and Vera needs to foolishly antagonize him and push him to "murder" her. Everything's fine when she's wittily responding to his sexism and threatening manner, but her outrage, while warranted, takes away the intelligence she's shown across the whole of the series. The script is manipulating things and just doesn't ring true.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Vera's death is a real shocker, but aside from that, the episode is padded with pointless incident so Miracle Day can make it to ten episodes.



Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Orville Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine