Torchwood: Children of Earth Review

Posted: July 18, 2009 in Review
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Torchwood – Children of Earth Review

Day One:

The majority of Day One is spent setting up the plot for the rest of the week – every child across the world is stopping and screaming and carrying a dire warning at the same time – and it’s all timed around England. Meanwhile, the government are trying to cover their tracks and a new girl in the Downing Street offices sits down at a desk, staring at the computer.

Day One is off to a rocky start because of one small problem – Torchwood is still utterly rubbish. Everyone in Cardiff (the most glamorous location for a secret government base) still knows that this top secret, above the law, beyond the UN outfit exists and that they are based in the city. The Torchwood staff is still only three strong, having killed off the other two in the last series. Ianto is still crap, Gwen still spouts awful exposition and Captain Jack Harkness (creator Russell T Davis’ very own Mary Sue) keeps on dying and resurrecting.

What’s painful is that the whole hour feels like padding. Jack visits his daughter and nothing happens. Ianto visits his sister and nothing happens. New Girl looks at computer screen (really? You can do that in Downing Street all day and nothing bad will happen to you?) and, most offensively, Peter Capaldi has absolutely nothing to do – for Christ’s sake, this man was Malcolm Tucker, the best fake politician in British television history!

It’s also completely predictable, from the old guy who was abducted before, to the hospital doctor trying to break into Torchwood before being gunned down – seriously, how was he planning on getting inside when the meeting was pure chance?

Predictions for the week: if the New Girl can stop staring at her screen long enough, she’ll either die or become a new cast member, Peter Capaldi’s character will die, Jack will be given the chance to kill the evil SAS woman and turn it down, only for her to die some other way and Gwen will either not have her baby or be written out of the show for a season.

Crushingly disappointing.

1 star

Day Two

Day Two gets off to a bizarre start as Gwen suddenly has the ability to do unarmed combat with black ops troops (who can’t withstand vague torture threats) and Ianto gains the ability to outrun sniper bullets. Elsewhere, Jack grows a new body, having been blown to pieces by a bomb planted in his chest (?) and spends the episode not really in it much. Meanwhile New Girl Lois manages to get access to, and betray, the government’s inner most secrets to Torchwood’s survivors on only her second day in the job and Gwen’s stupid fat annoying ‘comedy’ husband Rhys makes a variety of animal grunts.

The main time of this episode is given to Gwen and Ianto trying to track down Jack, who turns out to have been imprisoned in concrete in the most sexual Carbonite rip-off ever, with the bulk of the rest of the episode going to the government, represented by self-confessed middle-man John (Capaldi) trying to figure out what the glass chamber filled with gas is that they’ve been instructed to build.

The episode is filler, nothing more, nothing less. It was said on Day One that the aliens would be here on Day Three, so this is just meandering padding to get to the good stuff – assuming there is some kind of quality control on Torchwood. The very idea that black ops could be foiled by two Welsh morons posing as undertakers and accidentally let the very people they’re after into their base is completely insulting.

More to the point – how the hell do Gwen and co manage to escape? They drive a JCB crane slowly down a country path and set a truck on fire behind them. With the tens of jeeps to hand and the acres of open space, it’s not like the SAS wouldn’t catch and murder them all in a heartbeat.

And what’s going on with the blatantly evil scientist? Did nobody watch him breathe on the glass in a sinister way, or catch any of his many dark looks to middle distance?

Another point of contention – are there actually lorries that drive from Cardiff to London carrying nothing but potatoes and straw bales? The answer is, no, it’s just badly researched and written.

All in all, the most absurd, stupid and pointless episode of the series so far – let’s hope that the next three hours have some pace to them.

0 stars

Day Three

So the pace comes in to play as the aliens finally turn up in the top floor of the Mi5 building in London. John manages to convince the aliens to keep quiet about their previous visit as Torchwood resurrect their old 1990’s base in London and manage to furnish it with only fifteen pounds. Elsewhere, Lois sits in on an alien diplomatic meeting on her third day at work and nobody bats an eyelid.

The entire point of Day Three is the conversation with the alien, which is fairly decent, despite the fact that it runs like this:

JOHN: I am here to represent the planet earth. Is this okay?
(Unbearably long pause.)

The entire conversation takes up the second half of the episode – thirty minutes of uncomfortable pauses and monosyllabic replies from the Independence Day rip-off obscured-by-gas-behind-glass alien.

Stuck for ways for Torchwood to get inside the meeting, Russell T has invented the most bizarre technology in the show’s history – contact lenses that not only send a live feed to a computer, but can read the lips of everyone it sees and also receives text messages.

This technology is revealed straight after Torchwood head to their new base – an old warehouse in London without any kind of furnishings. Naturally, the team decide that the most sensible thing to do is to go all Hustle and steal absolutely everything they would ever need, including laptops, sports cars, sofas and ovens.

Most ridiculous moment in the episode goes to Gwen’s ability to walk around the CCTV-covered city of London without getting stopped, up to and including walking into a police station to retrieve the man who was abducted forty years ago. It feels like the writers weren’t writing with any kind of speed or pacing – when fugitives go underground to fight the government, surely it should be thrilling? Instead we have here a fat Welshman cooking beans while Ianto and Jack consider bunking off from their duties to have a quick shag.

The climax is a mild improvement from the last two, with the aliens revealing that they are here for ten percent of all the kids and the abduction survivor confirms that Jack let the aliens abduct the children in the sixties.

It is marginally better than the first episode, if only for the mental image of Jack nicking an oven and running down the street with it.

2 stars

Day Four

With the alien having issued the threat that it wants ten percent of Earth’s children, the important task at hand is not to fight it or send the kids underground, but to discuss the issue at length around a table. Meanwhile, Torchwood finally get their arses in gear and plan to confront the alien and have a go at it.

Once the many flashbacks of Jack sending children to the aliens is over, the episode manages to get some resemblance of pace, largely thanks to the fact that the story is reaching its climactic stages.

The best part of this episode – though admittedly far too long – come when the government discuss the best way to give the aliens the children. Female Minister #1 gives a cracking speech that far exceeds anything to have happened so far in the series. Not only does it manage to convey character, but it’s also completely logical, well thought out and engaging, something that happens far too infrequently in Torchwood.

Another actually quite decent part of the episode comes when it is made perfectly clear by a camera inside the gas chamber that we shall never see the alien in its entirety. This can only be a good thing, although the shot of the still-alive 1960’s child hooked into it is a bit daft as it reveals too much about the beast.

Once the nitty-gritty of the government’s plan to give up without a fight is out of the way, Jack and the rest of Torchwood finally decide to take some action. This involves calling on the help of their stooge on the inside, Lois, who is still wearing the most advanced piece of eyewear to ever be invented.

Unfortunately, Jack’s plan is total crap. It involves getting into the building and telling the alien to push off without any idea what might happen next. What actually happens next is brilliant – the alien somehow gains control of the Mi5 building and gasses everyone inside, including the workers, Jack and even Ianto, who finally bites the big one, as does the previous abduction survivor – loud noise and old people do not mix.

It’s moments like this that almost convince you that there is some kind of quality control Torchwood. The fact that it is so obvious that Ianto is a useless character has not gone unnoticed and now he has finally gone the way of Owen and Asian Stereotype.

While it is a mystery as to how the alien got hold of the air supply for the building, it is an even bigger one as to how the blatantly evil old guy survived being in the gas for as long as everyone else before he put on the radiation suit.

Is it supposed to be dramatic that Mi5 all died? There are other things worth caring more about, like the fact that Mi5 were involved in July 7th.

Easily the best of the series – although that’s like saying that prostrate cancer is better than eye cancer.

3 stars

Day Five

So this is it. After four hours of incredibly ropey and unnecessarily over-padded build up, this is where Children of Earth comes to its glorious end…

And it’s nowhere near satisfying. Frankly, after all the teasing, all the waiting, all the poor writing and plot holes, this is nothing short of a disastrous let-down.

Jack spends most of the episode in a prison cell doing nothing of purpose (because otherwise he might figure it all out too soon), while Lois sits opposite and waits for judgement day – she features in one scene and a flashback. Pointless.

Meanwhile, Gwen and Rhys are taken back to Wales to spend the episode hiding in a barn with a load of Chav estate kids and John makes the ultimate sacrifice – just kidding, it’s not noble at all.

The PM’s dastardly plan to give the aliens exactly what they want without a struggle has a small kink in it when he informs John that his kids are going to be taken – apparently it will make the government look like victims too. His response, instead of going into hiding, blowing the whole thing wide open, killing the PM or any of the other options available, is to withdraw the government issue pistol and do his whole family in. Makes sense.

The biggest problem with the episode – nay, the series – is that it has Russell T Davis’ grubby fingerprints all over it. All the plot elements that have taken four tedious hours to build up are completely forgotten, presumably because, as with all his scripts, the episode was written just hours before deadline and is a first draft.

The alien – singular because we have no evidence of there ever having been more than one – is killed by reversing the wavelength that killed the old man. It’s the sort of twist that sat well in the original Star Trek, not something you’d expect to see as the payoff to a million-pound primetime show like this.

Hilariously, Jack’s own grandchild is used as the beacon to send the death message, resulting in his death. This would be affecting if we cared one jot about an annoying child with three lines of dialogue in four episodes, but it just isn’t.

There are plot holes all over the place – why does everybody just know, instinctively, that the aliens are gone and that the kids chanting in unison – just like they used to when they were under hostile control – is a good thing this time? Why can the army be taken down by a few yobs from Wales? Where is the pace? The suspense? The thrills?

The bottom line is, the whole series has been a colossal waste of time. It could have been done in fewer episodes, with more energy and action, but instead the writers chose to rip off Charlie Brooker’s far superior Dead Set and the result is this punishment to humanity.

By the end of it, nothing is resolved. All we can hope for is that Jack’s beaming aboard a space craft is the beginning of a much better show, the show that Torchwood should have been all along – The Adventures of Captain Jack Harkness in Time and Space. Like a gay Doctor Who with more adult drama. Give us that, please, and no more of this trash.

1 star

  1. Alex says:

    Right let me add to this shredding of RTD’s COE which i dont particularly disagree with by saying that the plot is a comic book for television; a one-shot or mini-series in the vain of the seminal God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont, in fact Torchwood is a thinly re-imagined Excalibur by the same author – a team of British heroes in a slightly, okay seriously unbelievable Britain; the same titillation is used such as bisexuality, a character who comes back from the dead a lot *cough* wolverine *cough*, I am often surprised by how often RTD and Joss Whedon just outright steal from Claremont’s X-men franchise. Plots, themes, characters, dialogue lifted right off the page.

    Rant over. I found the plot overall okay – aliens in the past took some kids because Jack traded them for a swine flu vaccine = wot a bastard, Ianto took a nose dive cuz a snot monster farted and wiped out MI5 where hed been having a POTC Captain Jack “PAR-LAY” oh and they’re filthy druggies who hook up kids to their ass for “the hit”. Bad snot monsters who seems to headbutt the glass of their environment booth and sneeze or take a shit on it to punctuate their sentences. Suspension of disbelief anyone? Oh course the government’s main concern in the whole alien invasion/diplomatic affair is to cover up giving the kids to aliens in ’65 which they decide to do by blowing up torchwood, which they do by cutting jack open through the aid of a throwaway character raj something, and putting a bomb in his guts (another reference to the X-MEN – it happened to Cyclops in X-men 65, i think) which blows jack to bits – they then scoop up the minced mincer and toss em in a bag where they knit back together, in a fairly cool scene actually, then then concrete him into a cell – fairly logical actually (did something similar happen to wolverine once?) fortunately comedy spackos are on the scene to welsh it up now isnt it boyo? Getting into a secret base guarded by special forces is pretty easy really – cuz they are just lads rather than highly trained specially selected killing implements; as snipers they somehow miss Ianto earlier- who, did anyone notice?, didnt change his clothes or take off his masonry stained jacket after the explosion but walked around looking like…hed been in an explosion and the SFs dont just shoot Gwen and Rhys in the head when they find out they aint undertakers, seriously a double tap would have been completely doable – in fact with the SMGs they had – just flip it over to full auto and pop it round the corner spray and pray will slay in this instance but no Ianto goes ponderously towards the wall in a JCB and takes Jack and very slowly escapes without incident – saving Gwen and her fat bastard, sorry husband with him. They then chuck him off a cliff and you see Jack’s arse.

    Meanwhile a temp in whitehall is given a Home Office priority access code and learns about Torchwood. Now I know you wont believe that and I hope it has better security in real life, but in my experience heads of companies/division wander up and stand next to you while your working and shout EXTREMELY confidential information at your boss 10 feet away, that was within 6 weeks of joining. I could tell you stories, but I’d be investigated.

    The government capitulates without a fight, even though they have UNIT and plans for such things that they have been working on since the FIFTIES and nobody rings the Doctor….On his phone….Which Unit has the number for, and Martha, and Sarah Jane, and Jack….


    But still Jack hooks up his grandson’s brains to… a microwave which cooks his noggin and Jack cries as the alien druggie sneezes out its skull, then dissapears because of it and his MILF daughter has a quick cry and doesnt really react and Jack goes for a space wander. End Scene.

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