Doctor Who #823: Children of Earth Day Two

"If I can't kill you, I can contain you."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jul.7 2009.

IN THIS ONE... The team escapes Cardiff, Lois and Rhys are drafted, and Jack is sprung from his concrete prison.

REVIEW: Things get more and more desperate and the status quo is well out of the window. The Hub is a hole in the ground (I like that no one knows where Jack's "Lazarus" abilities come from, and think the Hub might have something to do with it; it had to go), Jack is reduced to a few body parts in a plastic bag, and the government is coming after Gwen, Ianto and their loved ones. Children of Earth continues to be about family, so each of the team's are drafted into service - Rhys, Ianto's sister and brother-in-law, and eventually, Jack's secret family. And though these are common folk, the production finds things for them to do, based on their personalities and skill sets. Ianto and his sister share that secret code children who grew up together have. His brother-in-law is just the kind of rowdy loudmouth needed to cause a distraction. And Rhys might as well have been recruited in the team, though not as a tag-along. His trucking skills come in handy in a number of ways, makes a fair undertaker when it's time to infiltrate a government compound, and provides some comic relief in this otherwise intense, serious story. Or at least, his stomach does.

The other recruit is Lois Habiba, who betrays her boss Frobisher to help Torchwood. She's more a Ianto than a Toshiko, but Gwen sees a lot of potential in her. I'd have liked to see what they could have done with the character as a full agent down the line, but alas, this will be her only story. Right now, she's a little wet, but definitely one of the good guys. With her help, they get to Jack, though their plan actually fails.  Ianto, also converging on that location, saves the day with his own truck-driving skills (he's always been versatile) picking the regenerated Jack up without removing him from his concrete block. Structurally, and this is because of the each-episode-a-day conceit, you'd think Jack being encased in cement would be the episode's cliffhanger. It's certainly a shocking POW! moment. But with 15 minutes to go, the climax is the exciting escape. Not a complaint, but it always feels strange to me. The cliffhanger becomes a list of questions about the 456 no one can answer, so on a foreboding, spooky note that makes us forget they've basically stolen a page from Contact.

One of the things I admire about Children of Earth is the texture. It's well plotted and filled with action, but the real discoveries are the human moments peppered throughout. No one is a cipher. The loud brother-in-law is the one to tell his wife that no matter what Ianto may have done, family trumps it. His sister still defending their dad in the middle of all this. The soldier at the gates has an awkward moment when he thinks the undertakers are there for someone he knows. That Corporal flirts with Gwen before realizing she and Rhys are a couple. Frobisher's girls find the whole alien antenna thing amusing, much to his distress. Creepy scientist Dekker seems more amused (or bemused?) by the whole 456 affair, speaking to a measure of amorality. The PM frankly tells Frobisher that he's put him on the front line, where he is meant to fall first. PC Andy makes a welcome appearance too. Of course, there's also a big character moment in there, Gwen telling Rhys she's pregnant, and that's very well played, with as few words as possible... atop crates of potatoes. A great moment among many.

- This one keeps on giving. Gripping stuff.



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