Doctor Who #824: Children of Earth Day Three

"Ianto, the world could be ending." "The world's always ending."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jul.8 2009.

IN THIS ONE... Lois brings contact lens cameras into the 456's room during their negotiations for 10% of our children. Torchwood Hub2 is unveiled.

REVIEW: After the intense action of the last episode, the team needs to reset and the audience may well be relieved for the break. So the gang goes criminal, perpetrates some minor cons and thefts, pulls Clem (the old man who wasn't taken and thus remembers the 1965 incident) out of the clink, baptizes an old warehouse and stocks up on food, laptops, toilet paper and Army Surplus coats. When it comes to Torchwood itself, the plot is very much concerned with setting up what is to come - Jack's family getting taken by the government, Lois getting roped into becoming the team's eyes inside MI-5 (her spying efforts are responsible for much of the suspense on Day Three), and in retrospect, telegraphing Ianto's demise (there's another conversation about his dying, though he imagines of old age).

Over at Whitehall, there's a fair bit of realpolitik going on, as the UK's PM uses the U.S.' anger at being kept out of the loop to distance himself from the 456, and thus, Britain's secret 1965 deal with them, leaving diplomatic efforts to the middle men, specifically, Frobisher. It's a personal sacrifice that puts him exactly where he wants to be, politically, and for the Whoniverse, a rare example of politics being done right. In Frobisher's application of first contact protocols, we might see an inkling of what Peter Capaldi might do with the Doctor's role, a mixture of deep apprehension, deadly earnestness and strength in the way he gives the 456 our terms.

Not that the 456 will necessarily agree to them. These monsters are designed to be utterly creepy and disgusting, as they should be as metaphors for child abductors. They take their time communicating their intent, excrete noxious liquids, and skulk around in a foggy tank where we can't quite grasp their form. Between this, the way they use children as messengers, and the dramatic way they arrive on Earth, the 456 are all about creating anxiety. So though the episode doesn't have the driving action of its predecessors, the request for 10% of the world's children makes for a perfectly shocking climax, especially after almost an hour of people basically looking out for themselves. As for the reveal that Jack was the one who, in 1965, gave a dozen children to the 456, the surprising thing is that he wasn't trying to cover it up earlier, just sincerely didn't recognize the names of his now-dead confederates. Giving (or in the case of his little brother Gray, losing) children to the enemy is the them of Jack's life, it seems, and it's weighing heavier and heavier on him.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The lull in the middle, though it's hardly bad TV.

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