Torchwood: “Rendition”

As Miracle Day continues, Oswald Danes takes to the airwaves, a mysterious red-haired woman plots, and the CIA brings Torchwood to America—but those who want them dead have a very long reach….

Title: “Rendition”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Bill Gierhart
Written by Russel T. Davis, Doris Egan
John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness
Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper
Mekhi Phifer as Rex Matheson
Bill Pullman as Oswald Danes
Alexa Havins as Esther Drummond
Arlene Tur as Dr. Vera Juarez
Dichen Lachman as Lynn
Kai Owen as Rhys Williams
Lauren Ambrose as Jilly Kitzinger, the Mysterious Ginger
Marina Benedict as Charlotte Willis
Amy Benedict as Bridget Howe
Additional cast and crew information may be found here.

Premise

Agent Matheson fails to endear himself to Captain Jack, Gwen Cooper, or the audience as he hamhandedly forces the remnants of Torchwood to come to the United States. Things change when he realizes the forces who want Jack dead aren’t too happy with him, and they’ve infiltrated the CIA. As our band of heroes gradually assembles, the world deals with the crises brought about by Miracle Day, Oswald Danes reaches out on television, and Jilly Kitzinger noses around various characters.

High Points

1. The Mythbusteresque/ Apollo 13ish effort to save Jack’s life had the right blend of tones to really work. A lesser show would have had some Wes Whiz kid-type McGyver together the solution in a few moments. They needed an e-conference with a team of doctors and frantic efforts by the cast to make it work. I like it when SF shows use real-ish science.

2. “I’m Welsh!”1

Low Point

I accept when SF tv uses made-up science, speculative science, and highly dubious science, but I hate it when they use Urban Legend science. Captain Jack can postulate morphogenic fields, because they make a very handy plot device that allows them to tell this story, and anyway we cannot disprove their existence. He does not need to posit them with reference to the widely-believed but discredited Hundred Monkey Hypothesis. Petty on my part, and someone is bound to say, “maybe 100 Monkeys is real in the Torchwood universe”– but it was entirely unnecessary, and smacks of a writer who didn’t bother to do proper research.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 We see very little this week that’s terribly original. The heroes meet, but don’t get along. They realize they have a common enemy. They use brains and brawn to escape… but now, they must overcome their differences and escape their adversaries, so they can work outside the system to ensure the system survives!

Never mind. They’re doing it quite well, and that’s what matters.

Effects: 5/6

Story: 5/6

Acting: 5/6. The acting varies, but generally holds up. Bill Pullman gives us an Oswald Danes who is creepy, fascinating, and believable. My main concern is some needless over-the-top acting. I’m not talking about Pullman on the tv show, nor Barrowman dealing with the remedy; I’m inclined to think people might be that wildly emotional under those particular circumstances. Lachman plays Lynn so shadily and suspiciously, she might as well be wearing a t-shirt that says “Judas” or perhaps a fake mole’s nose (or a nose mole). They didn’t need to telegraph her role quite so clearly.

Emotional Response: 5/6. It’s not as strong as last week’s, but I give them credit for keeping us interested in an episode that mainly concerns a few people sitting on an airplane.

Production: 6/6.

Overall: 6/6 The show gives us fun character interaction and promises conspiracy-thriller-sf action, but it also touches on very real issues. Miracle Day amplifies our concerns about global population growth, the effects of an aging population on a strained health care system, and even the rise of China as an economic power. Torchwood is fiction, but the real world in which we eventually die will be radically unlike the one in which we now live.

In total, “Rendition” receives 34/42

1. This true story from my younger days perhaps gives me a special fondness for that moment, and I suspect people who actually are Welsh loved it even more.

Anyone Welsh here?

17 replies on “Torchwood: “Rendition””

  1. hikaricore says:

    I think it could have done without broken neck bitch up and walking around… sure people aren’t dying, but having your spinal column snapped is probably still going to impair your basic movement abilities… I sure enough laughed at it, but it was a fairly desperate laugh.

    • zocalo says:

      Agreed. Very cheesy, and should be on the list of low points, or at least get a mention in the “lack of originality” section, IMHO.

      Then again, it could become a key plot point depending on the nature of the Miracle Day effect; to what extent can the injured actually heal post-Miracle Day? Presumably broken bones still knit, blood clots and flesh re-grows, etc., but how far does it go? Can Rex heal enough from his impaling or Danes flush the toxins from his system to survive once the Miracle Day effect is (presumably) negated?

      There was some background chatter in the various conferences to this effect, but just snatches of talk out of context to me – anyone know enough about biology to clue us in as to what it means?

  2. Bryan Price says:

    I think the morphogenic stuff actually has something to do with the plot. In interviews before this even started, they were making a point that, whatever happened, it happened simultaneously throughout the world, it wasn’t spread like a virus or anything of the sort.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      “Morphogenic fields” (never mind whether they really exist) would make a lot of sense of this plot. I only objected to them gratuitously tacking on a bit of widely-believed and misleading pseudoscience to the concept. Let’s face it; a show like Torchwood wouldn’t get very far without using some exotic, implausible, and just plain made-up stuff. I only ask that they not use any more fabricatium than necessary, and that they not throw in stuff that’s not merely invented, but simply wrong.

      • Jethro says:

        Sometimes you have to use not-complete-truth examples in order to explain really important stuff to idiots. Now when I do it I usually prefix it with “This is an urban legend, but…” However, Jack might’ve felt that he was pressed for time and that the CIA/Whatever agents were not worth the effort.

        That help? (;

  3. Jethro says:

    I didn’t really have a high-point for this episode. But mostly because it was just overall good.

    The 100 monkey thing is maybe a bit silly, but no more so than the whole “people can have conversations in normal tones on a friggin plane”. PLANES ARE SUPER LOUD!

    I’m also wondering where they’re going with what’s his name, the paedophile whatsit. Was that real remorse or not? Is he going to end up redeeming himself? Which, if tvtropes.com has taught us anything, would mean that he has to die somehow?

    • zocalo says:

      Why restrict yourself to just “death” when we’ve already been shown a fate that is definitely much worse – being blown apart, decapitated and yet still alive… The only question is whether he gets to chose his fate as a means of redemption or gets it forced upon him.

      Then again, he’s a pretty shrewd character. He figured out the need to stockpile food and the harsh reality of his situation pretty quick, and he wouldn’t be the first anti-hero to end up atoning for past sins by fighting for the good guys – perhaps he ends up joining Torchwood.

      • Jethro says:

        I’m pretty sure that at the end of the series Everything Will Go Back To Normal. Whether that means that everyone who “died” will snap back into that like a rubber-band or people get a new lease of life remains to be seen.

        I agree that the Heroic Sacrifice could technically happen the way you describe, but I’d be very surprised if it happens that way for dramatic purposes.

    • Kiersten says:

      The inside of planes aren’t loud…

      I guess I’m confused?

      • Jethro says:

        I get that a lot (;

        Insides of planes aren’t loud? I’ve yet to be on a plane where you can have a normal conversation, in normal conversation volumes, with anyone more than 5 inches away from you.

        • Kiersten says:

          Commercial airlines?
          I’ve traveled over seas a few times and where you could hear a bit of the engines, it wasn’t that bad. I went on a trip with a group of college kids and we were able to speak to each other easily, across the aisle, up and down the side of the plane.
          Perhaps you were on older / cheaper airlines?

          And then, if you are in first class, which, by the seats, I would guess they were, they are a long way away from the engines which would make the noise even less of an issue.

          Anyone else have any experiences to share?

          • Rabit says:

            I’ve played D&D on a commercial, continental plane, and we were right next to the engines. (We made jokes to the attendants about seeing rivets coming off… They didn’t find it very funny, but hey, can’t control other peoples’ sense of humor.)

            I’ve also had extensive conversations on an international flight (really, what else are you going to do – there’s only so many movies to watch flying to the other side of the world).

            Haven’t seen the episode, yet, though. :-)

          • Jethro says:

            I’ve flown on 707s,so I know what the old planes were like! I’m not saying current planes aren’t better. However, I’ve been in quite a few modern planes. And yeah, 1st class on like a 747-800 WAS quieter, but that’s a whole ‘nother deck. I’ve been in the cockpits of a lot of planes and even there it was kinda loud. Anywhere in the middle, you have to raise your voice.

            I’m not saying you can’t have a conversation, just not in normal tones like they did on the show. It’s a pet peeve in the same way that noise in space is a pet peeve – I realise it’s done because a show where every other sentence is “WHAT???” would NOT be very good (;

            It’s one of those things that I don’t expect to annoy anyone but me.

            BTW, quietest flight I’ve ever been on was a 747 that was retrofitted as a cargo plane. Most fun flight too. Also crazy-ass longest, I was on that thing for over 24 hours…

          • JD DeLuzio says:

            It’s a convention of film and television– background noise is never what it would be in real life. It’s one reason why about 75% of the audio in most major Hollywood movies is rerecorded later. It’s why filming a scene like this on no-budget requires the extras to not talk at all for most of the scene.

            The plane situation doesn’t bother me. Unless you’re doing, say, a comic scene, you cannot have the actors shouting and (as mentioned) asking “what?”

            And they were in front of the wings/engines. Always quieter there.

            What about that Oswald Dane fella? Jack’s mortality?

            I’m inclined to agree with Jethro– if Oswald redeems himself, it will be, tropally,* at the cost of his life.

            And who or what is after Torchwood? Because we have some powerful conspiracy-theory-type mystery Black Hats in this season.

            *Not actually a word.

          • Kiersten says:

            Sorry that you had such experiences on planes.

            I went ahead and polled some friends on my FB page and they also have not had any difficulty speaking in normal tones on an airplane.

            *huggles*
            Isn’t technology wonderful? :)

          • TheYellowLantern says:

            JD, there’s an extra in that clasroom scene who looks to be a Deltan. Ilia’s younger sister???

          • JD DeLuzio says:

            I guess we’ll call this the secondary issues thread!

            The girl in question did some art/prop work on the film, and was an extra. She shaved her head as part of a cancer fundraiser.

            But I like the idea of an alien extra better.

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