Doctor Who #883: Immortal Sins

"You're Catholic, right? Do you want to kneel down like that?" "He doesn't hear me." "He doesn't hear you why?" "You know why."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Aug.19 2011.

IN THIS ONE... Jack meets and romances Angelo back in 1927. In the present, Gwen takes him to Angelo to save her family.

REVIEW: Things are starting to look up, and not just because Nana Visitor shows up at the end. Not even because the CIA guys are useful and competent for once (especially Esther!). No, it's because the show is exploring relationships, both old and new, in a mature way. The stuff between Gwen and Jack is particularly hard-hitting, going beyond the usual mama bear scenes we've come to expect from her in Miracle Day. She seems to have a lot of anger for Jack, partly bred from a certain self-loathing. Having become a mother, and tapping into her innate (but lost?) selflessness, she admits her own hubris. Being a part of Torchwood is cool and made her feel important; it has the same insidious charm Jack does. But just as she would sacrifice him to save her family, he would see her dead rather than relinquish his own life. He's finally let go of his death wish. There's a lot of intensity between the two of them, and trust comes and goes in surges. It's very well done, and you've gotta love the quick reconciliation hug they give each other when they know everyone's safe. Hey, it's Torchwood, just another hateful day at the office.

Most of the episode takes place in Prohibition-era New York, however, where Jack makes the acquaintance of a different "companion", an Italian illegal called Angelo. They will become lovers in that context, but though the action takes place almost 90 years ago, it doesn't feel that different from today. Angelo's story must be like a lot of young gay people living in small towns, where there are few opportunities to meet others and little open-mindedness. Jack is the older, more experienced guy in this relationship, and just a little too flippant for Angelo. The younger man still feels guilty because of his upbringing, etc., but is elated too. From Jack's seduction, to his more tender moments in bed, to the challenges of maintaining this relationship when they're clearly not at the place in their lives and self-acceptance, we're shown a realistic romance between two men, which is infrequent enough on television. Is it what I watch Torchwood for? Not really, but it's a strong character interlude that makes you care about Angelo and the 1927 setting.

Because what happens in that setting has a direct bearing on 2011's Miracle Day. Jack taken to be a devil or miracle is something that still seems possible in the 20s, and vials of his blood being taken as holy relics could in fact lead to some form of immortality experiment like the Miracle. We meet three men who shake hands in a special triangle shape, obviously "the Families", though they are denied Jack's body before the end of the flashback sequence. Did they collect enough relics to do something with Jack's power anyway? We'll have to wait and find out. And while it's a complete red herring, the alien parasite meant for FDR Jack is in America to destroy was sent by the Trickster's Brigade. A nice wink to the other Whoniverse shows (now the Trickster's done something in all three), but just a pretext to get him to New York. Or did the Trickster have the last laugh by leading Jack to cause the Miracle?

THEORIES: There's a big continuity mistake in this episode. Jack calls himself a "fixed point", which are the Doctor's words in Utopia. Fine, except Jack won't experience those events for another 80 years, right? After The Parting of the Ways, he presumably went back to the Victorian Age and moved to present-day Torchwood on the slow path. Although here, he does joke about 700 years between his confessions, so I don't know. Still before Utopia, surely. Regardless, Jack's fixed nature may tell us why the Doctor isn't interfering with Miracle Day. If Jack's blood is being used to create the effect, effectively turning everyone into fixed points, then there's nothing a time traveler can really do, and the TARDIS would be avoiding planet Earth like the plague during this time. I surmise none of the Doctor's actions on 2011 Earth occur during the Miracle because of this. They're either before or after. Miracle Day is March 18th, and the Miracle lasts several months, while The Impossible Astronaut is on April 22nd, so it's a hard sell. Probably impossible to reconcile. No one mentions it, not even Rory the nurse? And they keep on not mentioning it even after Rory dies in The Curse of the Black Spot? If there weren't so many Doctor Who references (at least one each episode), we could be talking about two separate continuities. Does Miracle Day happen in the universe that existed before Big Bang 2 only? That would seem a weird but acceptable answer... at least until Captain Jack shows up again in the parent program and mentions Miracle Day!

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Both time frames feature powerful character moments, we're getting closer to the truth of the Miracle, and look, there's even an old-fashioned Torchwood mission in there!

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