Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Of Torchwood: Children of Earth

This new season of Torchwood, is very much in line with what is becoming known in Britain as 'event television', wherein we get five episodes, one shown every wweek night, and Torchwood seems just the show to do this with. It could have been incredibly interesting to follow people as they react to an alien invasion. Some amazing action sequences as the humans fight back agains the opressors. However the show doesnt go this route and instead makes a far more political agenda, focusing on the government's reaction and how they will do anyting to satiate the 456 and cover up previous goings on from 1965. Whilst this is all actually very interesting and at some points quite bleak (the government offering the 456 all the children asylum seekers and then later all underachieving school children) it defintiely isn't Torchwood. In fact the Torchwood are given more or less a back seat to the politcal dealings. Most of the time they're running away or sat starring at computer screens, something many people will say is 'boring' and whilst I wouldn't go that far, it definitely isn't what I expected from Torcwhood.

Obviously we also have the big reason as to why the 456 want children. After they took 12 children in 1965 (which Captain Jack was a part of and is the reason why he is blown up at the end of episode 1) there should have been no reason for them to come back. But back they've come and this time they want 10% of the worlds population of children (surprisingly good at maths as well because they work out 10% of them in every country in the world). The reason of course is that the 456 are getting high off of the children and in fact leads us onto the adult content for this season of Torchwood, we've had sex monsters so now we might as well have intergalactic druggies.

The other part of the story that is brought on by the 1965 incident (not including the politcal plotline of the Americans losing complete faith in our government) is the Clement McDonald character and how he ties in with the eventual conclusion. Whilst at first seeming to be an easy to introduce a pregnacy storyline for Gwen, we eventually find out he is 'The Remnant' and is the only thing that can kill the 456 due to his links to them. Of course after he is killed (The 456 send of a signal causing his brain to explode) we find out it isn't the only way to destroy the aliens as Captain Jack goes on to kill his grandson for the greater good by sending feedback, through his grandson to the 456, killing his grandson in the process. Of course this leads to Jack's disillusionment even more, especially following another death which is what causes his decision at the end of the season. However the image of the mother clutching her dead sons body with blood all over his face is yet another dark moment that Torchwood can add to their ever growing list.

Now to move onto big spoiler territory. For a series where the aliens spend all their time in a box they still manage to kill some people, including some of the Torchwood team. Which obviously leads to biggest moment, in that Ianto is now dead. This literally came as a massive shock to me. I didn't think they'd actually do it, but at the end of Day 4 Ianto gets poisoned and isn't credited throughout Day 5, so yup look likes Ianto has definitely left the show. Boy Torchwood get through employees quickly. Also again they've destroyed yet another happy romance on the show and this only comes four episodes after the last cull of the main cast on the show, showing Russell T. Davies does have balls....when he isn't working on Doctor Who. I just wish that the deaths were a bit further apart rather than being so close together, especially compared to Doctor Who where every single main character is still alive, even in parallel universes or with the potential for brain explosions.

To follow this we then have the wild card move of Captain Jack going off into space. Just a comment, but seriously he literally takes off like a Power Ranger, same special effect and all! I had flashbacks to being five. Obviously John Barrowman is in the last two specials of Doctor Who this year, but we can't really say where they land timelinewise so we don't really know if this in fact the end for Torchwood. Looking at the ratings I wouldn't say it is but there is definite finality to this season in the fact that we only have main character left on the show (Gwen) and the most charismatic actor on the show has gone into space and could assumedly become the Face of Boe and finish off the time loop. No need for Season 4, we could end here. But do we really want to?

Well to be honest I'm not entirely sure. Torchwood has always been a lot weaker than Doctor Who, I've consistently enjoyed Torchwood but it always feels like it loses some of the magic. John Barrowman is still great, in fact most of the cast is great, but something is lacking and honestly it's the magic that The Doctor brings to the universe. The frequent references to The Doctor throughout the special are actually welcome because you honestly want David Tennant to just show up and save the day. The show has a load of great actors and story ideas but it just lacks in some of the final product. John Barrowman is just more to watch in Doctor Who than Torchwood and Torchwood is literally Doctor Who without the Doctor but with swearing and sex. It's the same reason Sarah Jane Adventures doesn't pop in the same way (hopefully to change with David Tennant's appearance this year). But still Torchwood can churn out some great stories (which this is) that sadly aren't always as good as the best of Doctor Who.

I must give massive props to one scene from Day 5 though wherein John Frobisher is told that his children are to be given to the 456 and then we get a scene, narrated by his assistant saying how much of a great man he is, walks up the stars with a gun behind is back, walks into their room where they're having fun with their mother. The door closes and we hear three gunshots, followed by a pause and then the fourth shot. It's amazingly dark and is a testament to Russel T. Davies resilience as a writer, I just wish he was able to stuff like this more often. Maybe not as dark in Doctor Who, but still showing that life isn't always fantastic, he's done it before but quite often he brings things back to the status quo rather than actually staying in the dark place. This is one of the areas that Torchwood is better at, but sadly it is just one of the few.

Overall Torchwood: Children of Earth is great. It isn't superb but it is definitely the bleakest and possibly smartest thing to come from British television in quite a while. Whilst some will get bored with the fact there is very little action throughout, I have to say the set-up is quite often exceedingly interesting and helps build into the story. Also luckily the ending isn't as jarring as previous Doctor Who finales. However the fact that this is literally one five hour long episode, I would have been pissed if it had been a deus ex machina ending. Torchwood: Children of Earth is definitely a very enjoyable series, but compared to Doctor Who it still lacks some of the pop that makes that one of the best shows on television. Luckily some darker moments, great acting (John Barrowman and Peter Capaldi) and some actual twists (seriously they killed Ianto!) make this season immensely enjoyable, just not as great as it's older brother.

However I will concede that whilst it is completely unlike Season 1 and 2 it is probably the best of overall season, with the most interesting story and character moments. Good acting all around and probably the smartest writing the show has produced. Whilst individual episodes of the show are possibly better (such as Adrift), Children of Earth offers the most consistant season of the show, by far the most adult and bleakest story the show has told. With this season Torchwood found a leaping point from which I only hope it can leap off onto bigger and better things, I just hope that this isn't the last story for Jack and the team


*Just a small note, still no clue why the 456 was vomiting everywhere. Probably just missed an explanation in my marathon viewing last night. Still really odd and kind of not scary due to the gunge sound effect they used EVERY time it happened.

**I do realise that this review is extremely different from where it started, but my opinion of this Season just keeps improving, which only the opposite can be said for Transformers 2 which I believe now sits at around a 3/10 in my mind.


Euan said...

"wherein we get five episodes shown every night" - fundamental counting fail.

"Torchwood: Children of Men" - not far off, I suppose.

IMO it started great but got shit at the end.

Nquoid said...

Yes, that is a counting fail but I wrote this at like 11 on Tuesday (after binge watching Days 2-5) so it can be expected. Also the fact that I watched all of it at once, I didn't really see a decline in a quality, it was just one massive episode.

And well the children of men is the series' own fault for being named similarly to one of the best movies of the last few years