Torchwood: Escape to LA


After last week’s rather ‘quick, quick, slow’ episode Escape to L.A. (directed by Billy Gierhart and written by Jim Gray & John Shiban) gets the series back up to full speed and into the fast lane once more. Making the programme exciting did nothing to reduce the continuing analytical extrapolation of the consequences of the basic premise that “nobody dies”. With each episode of this series it becomes clearer that, for human beings, immortality is a horrifying prospect.

Mirroring this quality of science fiction writing is the social commentary that gives us a new perspective on some of the unsavoury social trends of Neoliberalism. To quote Tarak Barkawi, in his article The biggest threat to Western values , “…the ways in which the great professional vocations of the West – lawyers, journalists, academics, doctors – have been co-opted and corrupted by bottom line thinking. Money and “efficiency” are the values by which we stand, not law, truth or health. Students are imagined as “customers”, citizens as “stakeholders”. Professional associations worry about the risk to their bottom line rather than furthering the values they exist to represent.”

All of this seems to echo the conspiratorial machinations of the corporates, media, politicians and health professionals in the series. People and a commodity to be exploited and profited from, either for financial or political gain (which amounts to the same thing really) and we see plenty of this going on in Miracle Day. This is exemplified by P. R. Consultant Jilly Kitzinger happily working for Oswald Danes despite privately reviling him. In particular though it is the example of  Mayor Ellis Hartley Monroe, member of the Tea Party and an example of  what Naomi Wolf would call one of  America’s reactionary feminists starting a campaign called “Dead is Dead”, the stated objective of which is to segregate the undying (whilst no doubt enhancing here own political status). Within this context we see parallels with the sort of persecution of minority groups that allowed the likes of Hitler to rise to power.

To quote Wolf, “…demagogues in the US embrace similar tactics to fuel their rise to visibility and power. They use emotive rhetoric. They often invent shadowy networks of “elite” forces ranged against the ordinary, decent American. They create an “us versus them” scenario. And they ask their listeners to believe that they alone will restore American dignity and articulate the wishes of the unheard.”

Unfortunately for Monroe she is an unnecessary distraction for the shadowy PhiCorp, as they already have their media figurehead in Oswald Danes and so arrange for a fate worse than death for her, crushed in the compactor. A truly horrifying consequence of the curse of immortality. It does leave me wondering, what next?

Written by Peter Grehan

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