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The Categories of Life was the fifth episode of Series 4 of Torchwood. It was written by Jane Espenson, and directed by Guy Ferland. It saw the creation of the categories of life to work around the loss of death, and also featured the demise of Vera Juarez.


Torchwood goes undercover and discovers the terrible truth behind the miracle.


In City Hall, Washington D.C., Vera Juarez is told the medical panels are over and a report was submitted by the Health and Human Services Secretary directly to Congress. The categories of life have been unanimously approved for enactment. There are three categories for the living, since no one dies. Horrified at what the legislation may mandate, Vera calls Rex Matheson to join the covert investigation Torchwood and he are making.

Gwen Cooper returns to the United Kingdom under the alias of Yvonne Pallister. She finds her father has been taken to an overflow camp. Rhys Williams meets her, disguised as her driver. Her mother has prepared for Gwen's arrival and found her father at the Cowbridge Camp, a formerly derelict army barracks, closed down in 1996 — now an overflow camp for patients in South Wales. The next day Gwen travels with Andy Davidson to Cowbridge. Andy remarks that though the system is "bloody chaos, at least it works", relieving the pressure on geriatrics and other hospital departments. Gwen asks, "Who's paying for all this? PhiCorp. You got health care being run by private business and believe me, that's just the start of your problems."

Gwen heads to admin, demanding the release of her father. A military officer suggests she fill in a claims form. Andy supports her by fabricating a story about her father being removed under police authority. Told the camp is not under the Welsh police, she is handed a package titled "Overflow Camp Health Care Provider Framework". Gwen turns this over to see PhiCorp's logo. Under threat of arrest, Gwen, Andy and Rhys leave Cowbridge. Gwen, infuriated at the red tape stopping her after everything she's done with Torchwood Three, tells Rhys, "We're gonna break in here, we're gonna find my father and we're gonna get him out — tonight."

In Venice Beach, California, Esther Drummond confides in Jack Harkness about her insecurities at being "useless" to the team. She mentions the death of her mother in 2003 and asks Jack about his mother. He replies vaguely. As Esther asks Jack where he's from, they receive text messages from Rex. They meet Rex and are introduced to Vera. Vera mentions she was lucky to catch a flight because most of them were full. There's a Miracle Rally later that night.

Back at the makeshift Torchwood "hub", Vera tells off Rex and explains she flew across the country to support her patients who are now being held against their will in the overflow camps. They smile and kiss.

Reconvening with Jack and Esther, Vera asks, "Am I Torchwood now?". Jack replies, "Welcome aboard". The group, including Gwen via video conference, clarify how the categories of life work. Category one is anyone without brain function or who would have ordinarily died; category three is people with no injuries; category two is everyone in between — people alive and functioning with an illness/injury that will persist, but won't die. Rex notes the categories are arbitrary — he himself was a category "one", but has become a "two".

They discuss who is behind PhiCorp. Rex thinks there is more going on behind the pharmaceutical company. Esther points out the consistent presence of modules at every overflow camp based on building specs she collected from Jilly Kitzinger's desktop. These modules are buildings seen in all the camp plans, but they are sealed off and hidden from view — only revealed in undoctored satellite photographs. Esther lets Gwen know that these modules also exist overseas in the overflow camp in Wales.

Gwen and Vera wonder if these modules are for vivisection. Esther thinks this would explain the rush to strip category ones of their rights. Jack and the team agree they need to infiltrate the camps and find out. Gwen will go on a night shift at Cowbridge as "Nurse Pallister". Esther will join the clerical staff and do paperwork on the module at San Pedro. Vera will join Esther at San Pedro as a medical inspector. Rex argues he will get to the heart of the module due to his sustained injury from a pole running through his chest, which allows him to be taken to San Pedro posing as a patient. Jack (a fragile mortal man according to Esther) is left behind. Jack decides to go to the Miracle Rally in Los Angeles.

Nurse Pallister and Rhys enter Cowbridge. Gwen finds her father, Geraint. She explains it's not safe for him to stay. He needs to get out as quickly as possible. Just as they reach Rhys' truck, he collapses from what appears to be another heart attack. Gwen calls for help. She is horrified to find out that he is now being labelled a category one because he went unconscious.

In San Pedro, Esther recategorises Rex as a category one in the computer system. She gives Rex a video camera to record footage of what he sees while he is moved to the module where category one patients are kept. Vera is taken to camp supervisor Colin Maloney. Vera insists she be taken to the module. Maloney decides to bring her to see patients first. At first, Vera is impressed by category twos being seen every hour.

Rex is taken to the module. Inside, he gets up in the dark. Patients sit on racks like objects. Rex feels the walls and thinks they may be ceramic. He finds it strange, cold, and similar to a refrigeration unit. He steps outside.

Vera gets off Maloney's golf cart tour to check out a building. Maloney tries to stop her. She sees patients without insurance left unattended, in filth, some labelled category one when they are still perfectly conscious. Vera, in a rage, says the system will never work because of men like Maloney who see healthcare as a business and she will prosecute him. The situation escalates and in a panic Maloney disarms a military officer and shoots Vera twice. Maloney drives Vera to the module and puts her in one of the cold units where Rex was previously dropped off. At the same time Rex notices that the module is small — only three units. There is no way all category one patients could be accommodated. As Vera begins crying over her injuries, left in the dark, Maloney is shown switching "on" the module she is in — releasing gas and flames inside. He trembles and sobs with remorse.

In Cowbridge, Rhys finishes his undercover "job" driving "burn victims" to the module. It registers with Gwen that the module houses ovens to burn category ones. She sees smoke piping up from one of the units. In San Pedro, Rex catches sight of Vera inside one of the modules as the interior is engulfed by flames and he desperately shouts her name, trying to open the door. Rex cries as he films the fire, while Esther's call to Vera fails as her phone is destroyed in the oven. Gwen notices the modules in the Wales camp with terror, now aware that the black smoke billowing out of its smokestacks is being cast off from the murdered. And Oswald Danes is being hailed with rapturous cheers.



General production staff

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Make-up and prosthetics

General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


UK crew
General production staff
Camera, lighting and sound departments





Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

The Starz broadcast carried a final credit of "Originally Developed and Produced by BBC Cymru Wales". The BBC One broadcast says, instead, "BBC Worldwide Productions for BBC Cymru Wales and STARZ Originals".  In the Starz credits, Julie Scott is mis-identified as the production designer when clearly she is the production executive. Ed Thomas is obviously the sole UK production designer.



  • A report on the findings of the panels has been sent to Congress. The HHS Secretary took it directly to the President.
  • Three categories of life have been determined. They are being rolled out across America and Europe.
  • The United Nations sanctions the new category system.
  • Overflow camps have been set up for Category Ones and Category Twos.
  • The category scheme is also underway in the United Kingdom, where the Prime Minister declares it a new age of care and compassion.
  • A newspaper article on Mary's wall says that Welsh MPs could be told they can't vote for England.
  • Esther gets in-doctored photos of the San Pedro Camp from NORAD.
  • At the Miracle Rally, the Vice President will introduce the President who will speak live from the Oval Office.


  • Vera Juarez joins the Torchwood team.
  • Gwen continues to use the alias "Yvonne Pallister", using her fake passport at UK Border Control.
  • Rhys, dressed a chauffeur, is given the alias "Mr Sloane".
  • Mary Cooper, Gwen's mother, is actively assisting Torchwood to help secure the release of her husband from the overflow camps.
  • Esther's mother died in 2003.
  • In jest, Jack refers to Esther as "Useless Esther".
  • Jack refers to Gwen as "Agent Cooper".
  • Jack refers to the Torchwood team as "freedom fighters".
  • Rhys signs up as a driver and, as "Yvonne", Gwen becomes a nurse.
  • Vera phones Washington and gets overflow camp observer status.
  • Esther refers to Jack as "Category Jack" and "Mortal Man".
  • Jessica MacCauley arrived early from Redlands to attend the Miracle Rally.
  • Oswald is fourth in the Miracle Rally running order and 90 minutes before the President, with the keyword being "Revelation". He was later cut down to 90 seconds.
  • Jilly asks Eugene to confirm Oswald is arriving at gate six.
  • Rachel questions Esther as to what happened to Rosanna.
  • On the phone, Jilly shows anger at Steve who keeps trying to charge her.
  • Maloney says he has a line on Hilary Duff, which he feels good about. Vera initially believes he is talking about Hilary Clinton.
  • Geraint Cooper suffers another heart attack by being moved too soon from his bed and enters a deep coma, warranting his reclassification from Category 2 to Category 1.


Overflow camps[]


  • Hospitals are closing across the south-west of Great Britain due to MRSA.
  • Andy thinks the NHS is going to go bust by the end of the week due to the number of geriatrics and maternity.
  • The dissection of a living person is referred to as a vivisection.
  • Vera thinks that Category One patients might be being used like petri dishes.


  • Torchwood have chases tapping into WikiLeaks, the CIA and the FBI.
  • Maloney has a personalised golf cart, which has a Dixie horn.
  • Rex documents the camp using a camera.
  • Jilly takes a photograph of Jack on her phone.



  • Oswald claims Miracle Day has made humanity transcend into angels. He also believes that the Miracle has forever denied him entry into Heaven by abolishing death and release.

Story notes[]

  • Owen's Theme is heard at the beginning of the episode.
  • Vera's death in this episode is very similar to that of previous Torchwood medic Owen Harper's death in Exit Wounds. Both Owen and Vera were trapped in a state of "immortality", Owen being undead and Vera undying. Both had bullet wounds in their upper torsos. Both were vaporised trying to save other people: Owen was killed by coolant while trying to stop a nuclear meltdown, and Vera by an incinerator while trying to save category one patients. Each had a love interest, also suffering from mortal wounds to the chest, witness their deaths through an electronic device. Toshiko Sato was suffering from a bullet wound to the abdomen and saw the room Owen was in flooded with coolant on a computer monitor, while Rex had a hole in his chest and saw Vera burn through the glass in the door and through his video camera. However, whereas Rex survived his wounds, Toshiko did not, nor was she physically present to see Owen die.


  • UK: 5.17 million (Final BARB ratings)[1]
  • US: 1.05 million

Filming locations[]

to be added

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When Rex starts recording what is happening to the category one patients, the camcorder says it has 54 minutes of recording left and has recorded 83 minutes worth of film. Several minutes later, when Rex is outside the module, he starts filming again. The camcorder has the same amount of film recorded and film left to record.


  • When Vera calls Rex, he triumphantly says he knew she would. (TV: Escape to LA)
  • Esther asks of Jack's mother, but he tells her he has no idea what has happened to her. (TV: Adam)
  • When Rex introduces Vera to Jack, Rex expresses his doubt that he is really "Captain Jack Harkness". (TV: Captain Jack Harkness)
  • MRSA staph infections are mentioned again. (TV: Escape to LA)

Home video releases[]

  • This episode was released worldwide in a box set containing all ten episodes of Torchwood: Miracle Day. In the United Kingdom, it was released on Region 2 DVD and Region Free Blu-ray on 14 November 2011.[2] In Australia, it was released in Region 4 DVD and Region B Blu-Ray on 1 December 2011.[3] In New Zealand, the same sets were released on 7 December 2011.[4] In North America, it was released on Region 1 DVD and Region Free Blu-Ray on 3 April 2012.[5]
  • It was also released in the Series 1-4 boxset (Region 2 release: 14 November 2011.)

External links[]