Doctor Who #822: Children of Earth Day One

"We are coming. We are coming. We are coming... back."
TECHNICAL SPECS: All five episodes of Torchwood: Children of Earth are available as a DVD set. First aired Jul.6 2009.

IN THIS ONE... Children are being used as the medium for an alien message. A government agent almost infiltrates Torchwood. The Hub is destroyed. First appearance of Lois Habiba, and Peter Capaldi as Frobisher (no, not the shapeshifting penguin).

REVIEW: Children of Earth as a whole is pretty remarkable. Torchwood has always had tonal problems, and I'm well sick of Russell T Davies' style over on Doctor Who, and yet... This is what Torchwood should have been like along. The longer format (a five-part story) gives the story room to breathe, introduce new characters, cater to established ones, give us a sense of what's happening in the political realm, and overall, actually creating a slice of the Whoniverse that's realistic, dark and gritty. The fact that it aired on five consecutive nights is just gravy on whatever you put gravy on over there in the UK. Children of Earth is a tense sf thriller about aliens who want our children and may already have had a taste, and involving kids provides the necessary creep factor. This is a story about families under threat, first and foremost, and Day One does a good job of, yes, showing the children as tools/victims of the "456", but also the terrorized parents' point of view. And because of this, the Torchwood team are provided with families. Ianto has a sister and a niece, as common as he is posh. Jack has a secret daughter and grandson. And Gwen discovers she's pregnant, and must bring a child of her own into this world. Great additions all.

Speaking of additions, Owen and Tosh need to be replaced, or so the episode leads us to believe. Lois Habiba, the noisy IT girl at the Home Office, looks to be Torchwood material, but could just end up getting tangled in the plot as an innocent bystander. Rupesh, the doctor, seems an obvious fit, but we find out he's a plant, there to infiltrate the team and ending up dead when a kill order for Jack is handed down (via spooky "blank page"). Replacing team members is the kind of thing you do when you're working towards restoring some status quo, but Children of Earth isn't about that, something you realize when the villains manage to blow up the Hub thanks to a bomb sewn inside Jack's abdomen. An opponent prone to death-induced blackouts can give you a surprising advantage. RTD has literally blown up the status quo and there's no way to know where it's going to go from here. And that's really exciting.

At the same time, he hasn't forgotten to advance the characters' personal stories, for which we can be equally grateful. Gwen kissing a picture of her dead teammates, and in true Welsh fashion, dreading having to cross over to England. Rhys shopping for a house, alone of course. Jack's secret family and his daughter seeing right through his ploy to experiment on her son. Ruthless and pragmatic, that one. At least he's not trying to give the boy up to the fairies (but hold that thought). And Ianto, now in firm couplehood with Jack, questioning the situation and his sexuality. He's not comfortable with the labels that come with this relationship, doesn't identify as gay, and yet is in love with a man. (We had a joke around the house after Children of Earth about not being gay but still letting Captain Jack having his way with us. Gay agenda fulfilled, Mr. Davies.) His family take it in the best possible way, that is to say, they don't care, but embarrass him at every turn, like family should. Where WERE these guys for the first two seasons? Even Martha gets a mention, unavailable because she's on her honeymoon (the truth of that will surprise and perhaps dismay you), and Colonel Mace too (more of a joke; he's been sent to Vancouver where I'm sure UNIT has nothing to do, probably because of an embarrassing inter-office affair). All told, we're off to a great start.

REWATCHABILITY: High
- A tense thriller with scenes out of the original House of Cards, that serves our favorite characters well while also introducing a slew of new ones. Torchwood has found its sweet spot.

7 comments:

CiB said...

"All hail Frobisher! All hail the big talking civil servant!"

... doesn't have the same ring to it.

I agree that this is Torchwood, not only at it's best but also at it's potential. In some ways it's a shame this was ever made, as it made Miracle Day look a lot worse than it actually is...

Siskoid said...

Miracle Day is bloated American-style. It needed to be half as long.

Martin Léger said...

I googled Frobisher. Amazing. http://static1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20101217222851/tardis/images/7/73/Frobisher_and_the_Doc.jpg

Shining Knight said...

The gravy goes on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Randal said...

My understanding is, much like the American South, gravy goes on everything.

Bill Doughty said...

Children of Earth - brilliant television that I don't know I'll ever be able to watch again. Just gutting stuff.

Siskoid said...

Marty: You're welcome.

Sir Justin: Not as bad as I thought.

Bill: It's my third time at least, possibly fourth.

 

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