Sunday, 12 July 2009

Torchwood: Children Of Earth - Afterthoughts *SPOILERS*

Did anyone here watch Torchwood: Children of Earth last week?

If you didn't you missed some of the best TV to have ever been broadcast on the British airwaves... It was, quite simply, stunning television and a remarkably tense and emotional five evenings for a fan like myself.

First of all I have to point out that as a dedicated fan of both Dr. Who and Torchwood I was mighty p****d to find out last year that in 2009 we'd only get five full episodes of each... Dr. Who being spread accross the year and Torchwood having only a five night run, a miniseries rather than a full quota of episodes. I have to admit now that the choice to do this with Torchwood paid off big time with what was probably the most gripping set of episodes of sci-fi I've ever watched.

Torchwood is the sexually obsessed older sibling of the more child orientated Dr. Who and everyone knows that. In the very first episode there was softcore sex and violence and that theme carried on, growing more intense and crazy right up until the end of the second series. Writer Russell T Davies isn't afraid of offending, he's not afraid of killing off major players, and he's never been afraid of putting Torchwood's characters through Hell to get to where he wants to go with the story, but Jesus Christ did Children of Earth kick all that up a notch.


First of all Russell managed to pull one of the most naturally scary topics from his writing hat and infuse real, chilling terror into it: The abduction of your children...

As a parent of two young girls the main theme of disgusting, ultra-powerful aliens coming down to Earth and demanding 10% of Earth's child population, and then the governments having to bow down and actually action that demand, was sickening and truly scary when you thought about it. Watching the actors portray the emotions that most people would actually feel in that situation was mesmerising. Peter Capaldi's character John Frobisher, as an example, was amazing in this regard and his final scene where he makes the ultimate sacrifice to prevent his family from going through the suffering that lays ahead was gut wrenching and very well executed by director Euros Lyn. Even the scenes where the children are uncontrollably talking for the aliens, counting down their arrival, or all screaming at the end, is chilling but again well done. The question, should you ever want to ask yourself, would be "what would you do in that situation". The worst possible answer that comes back to you from Children of Earth is "There is nothing you can do...".

Apart from the main theme above the way that Lyn presented that actual single alien, in this case the '456' as they're called, was excellent too. All too often do we see silly makeup or floppy rubber suits but here we never got to really see the nemesis that threatened our world. Hidden in a tank full of gaseous mist the only things we got to see were the tip of it's head/s and the child connected to it's body later on (when we find out the 456 want our children as drugs, the chemicals children have inside them stimulate the 456). By doing this for the entire 5 episodes we are on the edge of our seats throughout, being more scared of what we can't see than what we can. Little touches like the occasional green splurges and the delayed answers added to the tension and when the alien finally shows its hand by releasing a deadly virus when p'd off, the audience feels the fear and helplessness that faces those involved.

Now the 456 may have been quite effective but one thing really did shock me, and probably every other viewer watching, and that was the death of Ianto Jones. Yes, unfortunately yet another Torchwood employee popped his clogs and it was a truly emotional moment. All five episodes were pretty emotional and the main cast did a bloody excellent job of conveying that. Even when Jack and the Hub are blown to pieces and you know he'll come back you still feel gutted through the reactions and the acting of Gwen and Ianto, and wonder what's going to happen next. I guess the best word to sum up that theme throughout is "TENSE". There was screaming, running, crying, panic, depression, shock and anger on a scale I've never seen on Torchwood before. It's like they were told this was their absolute final outing and they had to give it their all and go out in a blaze of glory. Granted Torchwood isn't Hollywood level TV, but last week I think we out-shone most of the sci-fi TV the US has to offer anyway.

The inclusion of new characters like Lois Habiba (a potential new Torchwood employee), Jack's daughter and grandson, and even Ianto's sister and her family was very welcome and beefed up the tense and emotional scenes that could have been flatter had they not involved people the main characters were linked to in some way.

Even the way everything was left, after the 456 were defeated, and with only Jack and Gwen remaining from the original team, then Jack running off into deep space supposedly never intending on returning, leaves you wondering just how the Hell they'll continue into a fourth series... if they do at all. If they decided not to this would be a fitting ending for sure!

There were some standout moments in the five episodes and here are just a few of mine in no particular order:

Finding out that Jack has a daughter and grandson.
Jack choosing to sacrifice the life of his own grandson to save 10% of the planet's children.
Gwen finding out she's pregnant.
Finding out the true objective of the 456 was to take children to use them for drugs.
Ianto being killed.
The Hub being blown up and Jack along with it.
Jack reforming his entire body from a bag of minor body parts.
Jack being encased in concrete as an alternative to killing him.
John Frobisher's final extreme act to protect his family.
Bridget Spear's becoming a turncoat.
The amount of times Jack was killed in five episodes.
How much I liked Cush Jumbo's character 'Lois Habiba' (fit too!).
The revelation that Jack was involved in the 1965 child handover to the 456.
PC Andy Davidson choosing to join in the scrap against the army to save the children.
Steven Carter's death and his mother's reaction. (Jack's grandson and daughter)

I would like to point out one minor thing that was a tad naughty: Have you seen the 2007 Thomas Jane movie 'The Mist'? Well if you have you'll notice that there are a couple of similarities between that film and Children of Earth, I think I know where Russell T Davies got his inspiration. Most noticeably the 456 being more scary in the mist where you can't see them (not a direct rip off but obviously the same concept) and the ultimate sacrifice scene where Frobisher kills his family, just like the devastating end to The Mist. OK so he kills himself too where Thomas Jayne doesn't, but you get the idea.

Other than that it was a week of TV well worth watching and I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I personally enjoyed it. Go BBC!!!

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