Doctor Who #825: Children of Earth Day Four

"The man who sent me and my friends to die can't die himself."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jul.9 2009.

IN THIS ONE... The plans for giving 10% of the world's children to the 456 are drawn and Torchwood tries and fails to stand up to the aliens. Ianto pays the ultimate price.

REVIEW: Obviously, we're following the Torchwood team in this time of crisis, and watching the show as SF fans, so it's all the more remarkable that very best drama in the episode is the politicians' pragmatic discussion of how to select the UK's 10% of children to be given to the 456. Immigrants are obviously earmarked, the participants families spared, and finally the scholastic elite given a pass over the remedial. We're talking about government policy waging war on the poor, as opposed to poverty, very real social concerns. And if the entire conversation doesn't make you apprehensive... It's real case of "what would you do?", an impossible choice these people nevertheless make, and in the real world, Jack's touted philosophy may well be empty of all sense. Some of the politicians around the table are motivated by selfishness to be sure, but when your kids are on the line, wouldn't you use your power to save them? And what if it cost the lives of other people's children? And what of the 456's argument that we're not willing to make this sacrifice, yet accept the child mortality rate, a child dying every 3 seconds? We're meant to feel uneasy. The real horror is that we might agree with some of the arguments put forward.

For once - and this is rare in RTD-penned stories - the karmic balance is maintained. There must be a cost for making these cold-hearted decisions, a price not paid with children (as yet), but with adult lives. By trying to stop it, Lois and the Torchwood team cause the deaths of everyone in Thames House (a rather unprofessional bunch of MI-5 personnel, given the way they try to break quarantine), and Ianto is killed (Clem too). Jack must pay for sending a dozen kids to a fate worse than death (getting Toclofaned into some sort of disturbing symbiotic relationship with the aliens) 44 years before, and (spoiler) he's not done paying. Ianto's death didn't take the stuffing out of me the way Owen's and Toshiko's did, nor does it today. It's a big loss, don't get me wrong. I loved his dry, sarcastic wit, and he was definitely the most improved member from Season 1 to 2. The moment itself, however... He's just too needy, more concerned with Jack forgetting him than his own distress, and Jack too numb and distant to tell him how he feels. Gwen's reaction is more affecting, but she always did have that empathic link to the audience. But Ianto's right. Dying today or dying 50 years from now, would it really make a difference to immortal Jack?

Bottom line, though Torchwood did all the heroic stuff they needed to - Gwen cool and collected when the black ops squad shows up (as planned! ha!) at the Hub2, the government cowed into submission by their recorded secrets, the big Doctor Who speeches to the 456 - the team still fails abominably. People die who wouldn't have died before and we're no closer to saving the 10%. And thanks to Ianto's sister, we WILL be able to follow and FEEL the threat to that 10%. She lives in a poorer neighborhood and is running a makeshift daycare. Seems like at least some of the target children will be in her house when the G-men come, stand-ins for what's happening worldwide. Everything that seemed like texture at first, now looks integral to the plot and our emotional connection to it.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Riveting, riveting stuff, with consequences for the franchise's future.



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