Sunday, February 14, 2010

Torchwood: The Children of Earth

The third season of the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood was something of a surprise in that it's only five episodes and only tells one story. At first I thought Children of Earth was just going to be a padded one hour episode, and in terms of plot, it pretty much is. Basically an alien race known to Earth as the 4-5-6, named after the frequency they use to contact us, delivers an ultimatum. Give the 4-5-6 ten percent of our world's children or they will kill everyone on the planet. Pretty standard Doctor Who plot. But this time the Doctor is nowhere to be seen, leaving things up to the remnants of the Torchwood team, who lost two of their members at the end of the second season.
But, what makes this mini series work is that rather than just filling the four or so extra hours needed to defeat the bad guys with mindless action, we get character studies of just about everyone involved, not only the three remaining Torchwood members, but all the supporting characters. In this way, Children of Earth is more like a novel. There's room for characterization here and the writer, director, and actors make good use of it.
Thing is, without the help of the extra-terrestrial Doctor, there are no quick answers to stopping the 4-5-6, leaving the governments of the Earth to make some very cold calculations indeed. It doesn't help that the British government is trying to cover up a dirty secret about the 4-5-6 by killing everyone involved, which includes the un-killable leader of Torchwood Captain Jack Harkness. But even Harkness's Lazarus like abilities are put to a test this time, reminding me of some of the stuff Marvel Comics did with Wolverine a few years ago. What happens when you use a bomb to blow up an indestructible man? It ain't pretty, I can tell you.
The producers of Torchwood take their cast into darker territory than ever in this series and I was impressed that they rarely pulled any punches or backed away from the terrible repercussions that came with the decisions that heroes and villains alike were forced to make.
Anyway, I enjoyed Children of earth, but it did leave me feeling a bit depressed. If you decide to watch it, make sure you have some feel-good DVDs handy afterwards. This ain't a story with happy endings.


johns said...
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Bentochan said...

COE sort of broke my feelings for Torchwood. I still love the first two series, but there are times I don't even want to think about the show at all.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I know just what you mean. It almost seemed as if it wasn't the same show at all. A gutsy move, but I don't know that it was the right one. I miss a lot of the fun from series 1 and 2. It also seemed that it was written as a possible end to the show so perhaps we won't see any more Torchwood, at least in this incarnation.