Torchwood: Children of Earth
There's one thing I always meant to ask Jack. Back in the old days. I wanted to know about that Doctor of his. The man who appears out of nowhere and saves the world. Except sometimes he doesn't. All those times in history when there was no sign of him, I wanted to know why not. But I don't need to ask any more. I know the answer now. Sometimes the Doctor must look at this planet and turn away in shame.
In all honesty, I was trying to avoid writing about Torchwood: Children of Earth, but for totally selfish reasons. The company I work for came rather close to doing the online outreach (Twitter, Facebook, etc) to help build momentum for the show. However, things happened - no real drama to speak of, just a bit of mishaps that took it away from us. The fact that Series Three of Torchwood - which had the highest ratings ever for BBC America - shows that it didn't need a lot of strong, online content (but it helped). It's also like I have never written about the show in the past, but I felt a little tentative about watching it.
Instead, I'm feeling pretty glad that I caught it via DVD, because it outclasses the finale of BSG as one of the strongest pieces of written drama - science fiction or otherwise. Torchwood: Children of Earth works as a stand-alone piece of television drama. Taking its cue from British science fiction novelists like John Wyndham (who wrote a book with a similar plot called The Midwich Cuckoos, filmed as Village of the Damned) and Nigel Kneale (creator of Bernard Quatermass, and no slouch in the drama department), Children of Earth provides five hours of intense, gripping drama, focusing on an alien invasion of a different kind.
In all honesty, most of Torchwood: Children of Earth plays like a sharp political thriller, focusing as much on the people making grand decisions as on the Torchwood Three team. (Think House of Cards with aliens). . The premise is simple: a group of children are taken to a bright light in the middle of Scotland in 1965 (which is a nice, clever idea since the Doctor at this time was away from Earth) as a "gift" to the 456, a species known only by the wavelength used to communicate with them. Flash-forward to the present day,and all the children of the world stop. Stand still. Of course, the Torchwood team - Captain Jack, Ianto, and Gwen - are all slightly demoralized by the events which happened at the end of Series Two (no spoilers here!), and eventually, rather than find themselves saving the world...they're on the run, seeking to save themselves from a government run amok, attempting to hide a deep, dark secret from that encounter in Scotland forty-four years ago.
One of the difficult things in writing about Torchwood: Children of Earth is discussing the plot - and themes - without spoiling the excitement for those who haven't seen it yet. (Sorry, no if-you-don't-want-spoilers-stay-off-the-Internet attitude here). However, it contains many of the qualities - the action, sharp writing, and adult attitude - that one would expect to see in Torchwood. There are two situations that (emotionally, at least), will hit you straight in the gut (like Gwen's Episode 5 soliloquy - quoted above). There are two genuinely creepy moments - when you learn what the 456 desire, and then the 456's reason for desiring it. However, beneath the obvious drama are some series, adult (as in "grown-up and mature") themes are explored - themes around families and how we value them. How our past acts can haunt us, and how the consequences of our acts can play out unexpectedly. On a political level, how "middle men" can find themselves at the fulcrum of morally ambiguous decisions, and how those in power often lose sight of how their decisions impact on those who elected them....all of this written in an intelligent, well-written package. In fact, the episode can serve equally as a series finale....as well as a creative way to set up for a possible series 4.
Last month, I had written about how Russell T. Davies had successfully revived Doctor Who, and how that success translated into how presently, the current buzz about Who is Davies' leaving the show, and Stephen Moffatt taking over. Torchwood has always felt more as if Davies was writing "from the heart", having a much stronger emotional core and sense of purpose than its parent series. Whether there is more Torchwood after Children of Earth remains to be seen. However, Davies has given us a really strong piece of televised science fiction, and seeing it is not only highly recommended...but mandatory.
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Thanks, and keep watching!
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