Friday, 10 July 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth - How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

This review contains specific spoilers. You have been warned.

This week Captain Jack and (smaller) team returned for a new (shorter) series. This is where the shrinkage stops, because this five part story, Children of Earth, was otherwise pretty damn big. Torchwood are swiftly thrown into a conspiracy after an alien incident forty odd years ago comes back to bite Britain on the ass. Jack, Gwen and Ianto, with the happy addition of Rhys must go on the run from the goverment and save the world from bastard aliens, the 456, who want Earth's children. FOR THEIR JUICES!

Reducing the normal twelve episodes to five was a strange move but it's clearly done the trick as no time is wasted moving the story along. From Day One to Day Five, the pace is relentless. That's not to say there isn't the odd moment or two for Ianto to come out to his sister, Gwen to discover she's preggers and Jack to meet his plot-convienient family. These moments add human touches to the story and details that the fans love.

From series one, Torchwood has been looking for its voice and I don't think it's come closer than this. Dark, funny, scary, shocking, emotional - Children of Earth seems to be everything Torchwood has wanted to be since the beginning. It may have achieved each of these things sporadically throughout series one and two but CoE is multi-tasking, and doing it with style. Russel's baby has grown up.

They really play with Jack's immortality, blowing him up from the inside out, having him reconstitute in painfully graphic fashion, and burying him in concrete, and that's just in the first two episodes. It's clear the writing team had sick fun plotting it all.

Besides Jack's ordeal(s) there are plenty more genuinely shocking moments to be had. The horrific moral decisions made by the world leaders - Sacrificing children to a fate worse than death? I'm not a huge fan of kids but even I know that's a bit of a faux pas - and of course, the most unexpected death of Ianto Jones. A beautiful, heart-wrenching scene and a bold move. Three of five main characters killed in two series? It's difficult to see Torchwood continue after the events of Children of Earth.

And that's the problem. It's all fun and games to start with, but by Day Five there are few smiles to be had. The day is saved in the most depressing way possible, Frobisher (brilliantly played by Peter Capaldi), Jack's grandson and Clement McDonald (Paul Copley) die in agony, Ianto is dead and Jack's a broken man. I can't help but think there's no coming back from this. If there is, it won't be the same, and if there isn't, Jesus, what a horrible way to end a show.

I'm a writer, I know good work, and Children of Earth was a great piece of work. I'd love to leave it at that, but the trouble is I'm a fangirl too and my heart is broken. Torchwood died on the 10th of July. It was a painful, brilliant, heroic, devastating death that I wasn't prepared for. Torchwood wasn't supposed to toy with me like this. It wasn't supposed to be this good! And while I loved it, I'm not sure I liked it. Hey, I'm a fangirl. I don't have to make sense to you.

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