Torchwood: The Categories of Life

It has often been said that “Capitalism Thrives on Crisis” you only have to see the increase of production and consumption during a war to realise the truth of this.  In our modern globalised, complex, rapidly changing world, Governments seem unable to cope without reference to the multinationals, and indeed it is assumed that their wellbeing is our wellbeing.

Dr Sian Sullivan puts the relationship between crisis and capitalism rather well, “This is its engine of innovation and creativity. As with the Kafkaesque derivatives markets that in part have pushed the international finance market into such recent toxicity, capitalism makes a virtue of crisis. If the risk of loss or hazard can be priced, and this financial value captured via trade and speculation, then economic growth – the unassailable good of capitalist ‘culture’ – will be maintained, to the presumed benefit of everyone.

Capitalism goes hand in hand with, in fact depends on, consumerist “growth” and this in turn is what has helped create the crises that we are experiencing now. Indeed the looting of the last few days must be partly the result of decades of consumerist brainwashing. Unregulated consumerism if you will? Our society is built on acquiring things as cheaply as possible and all other values seem to have been subordinated. When Vera Juarez berates Colin Malony, the man administrating one of the overflow camps, for the inhumane conditions that conscious Category 1 patients are suffering is immediate defense is, “…I came in under budget!”

But as the Torchwood – Miracle Day series unfolds we see it suggested that, not only does Capitalism thrive on crisis, it positively (or should that actually be negatively) promotes them.  PhiCorp, like some dry rot fungus, has tendrils permeating and feeding every level of the crises; implementing a plan that has obviously been established well in advance. Those secret modules weren’t just put up overnight. All of this corresponds unsettling to what William Bowles suggests, that, “… capitalism thrives on crisis, how else can it justify the impoverishment of its populations, both material and spiritual, and the rest of the planet unless it uses/creates a crisis of one kind or another as a justification for the use of force and extermination?”

Categories of Life is a tour de force of writing by Jane Espenson (coming from a background of writing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer ) and direction Guy Ferland and reaches the final solution of what to do with the undead that has been hinted at in previous episodes. While the charismatic Oswald Danes (reminiscent of Adolf Hitler) makes a speech to a rapturous crowd describing the post-miracle human beings as “Angels” the incinerators in the camps are turned on suggesting the very opposite. The series hardly needs any alien monsters, humanity is monstrous enough, but this is Torchwood and there have to be aliens in Torchwood. Besides, something like the miracle would be beyond even a powerful organisation like Phicorp, wouldn’t it?

Written by Peter Grehan

One comment

    Frank Sable

    August 13, 2011

    I think that having Vera Juarez, one of the main characters, burn in the incinerator made all the more powerful and personal. If it had been just a lot of anonymous unconscious people we would have been able to tune it out the way we do when we see disasters or famines on the telly.

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