Review of Torchwood ‘The Categories of Life’

Neela Debnath

torchwood 8119 300x276 Review of Torchwood ‘The Categories of Life’SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 5, series 4 of ‘Torchwood’

The dystopian nightmare took a further terrifying twist this week in ‘The Categories of Life’ which was played out in three strands. The first one followed Gwen’s return to Wales to save her ailing father; the second saw the Torchwood team in L.A trying to discover the truth behind the overflow camps; and the third concentrated on Oswald Danes and his ascent to angelhood.

Continuing on the theme of threes, there were three categories of life established under the Emergency Miracle Law which has been enacted across Europe and America to deal with the problem of eternal human life. The categories are as follows:

Category 1: People with no brain function or who normally would have died.

Category 2: People who are alive and functioning with an injury or illness that is going to persist but will not kill them.

Category 3: Ordinary people with no injuries.

‘The Categories of Life’ is a searing satire of the conservative attitudes towards healthcare on both sides of the Atlantic. At one point a news report says that the British Prime Minister has hailed the new legislation as “a new age of care and compassion”, words that viewers in the UK could well imagine David Cameron saying. Are the writers of ‘Torchwood’ taking a subtle dig at the Conservative Party and their reforms upon the NHS at the moment? On the American side of the Atlantic Dr. Vera Juarez finds a room full of Category 2 people who have been left there because they have no insurance. Could this be a criticism of the current healthcare system and the way that people are still falling through the gaps?

Yet the scathingly critical look at humanity did not end there. In scenes that paralleled the holocaust, the sick and the severely injured people who should have died were incinerated. The word ‘holocaust’ itself comes from ancient Greek and means to burn the whole and the way in which the flames consumed the living dead was horrific. By next week the audience will learn of Vera’s fate.

Aside from the satire, ‘The Categories of Law’ had some problems. There was a gaping, rift-size plot hole in that Gwen managed to make it back across the Atlantic undetected. Given that Torchwood has been followed since the start of the series it seemed odd that the ominous figures had stopped pursuing them.

Saying this, it was nice to see that the Cardiff connection had not been completely lost. After all, ‘Torchwood’ was Russell T. Davies’ love letter to the city. In series 1 and 2 there were even superfluous panoramic shots that featured Jack standing on top of a tall building in Cardiff gazing pensively over the skyline, thus showing the Welsh capital to the world.

The other issue was Pullman’s performance, thus far he has given an extraordinary turns as Danes, which at times has veered towards hammy territory but has never entered it. However, this week the line was finally crossed. Danes’ speech at the Miracle rally became clichéd, made even more so by the cheesy uplifting and inspirational music. It was improbable that he could instantaneously win over an angry lynch mob in moments. Danes is a complex and hopefully this sequence was shot earlier on when Pullman was still familiarising himself with the character.

This episode marked the halfway point of series 4 of ‘Torchwood’ for UK viewers and no doubt things can only get darker.

Picture: BBC

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  • Theresa Marshall

    The feedback on the Torchwood forums hasn’t been all that good, it has lost it’s quirky Welshness and been replaced by an American clone disaster film, some of the scenes are pointless and verging on the offensive and Jack has lost his charm.
    Dodgy script writing, slow pacing verging on the somnabulistic and where are the Aliens?

  • MrsBrownatHome

    Well, I must be getting old because I an unable to make head or tail of the whole thing.

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