Torchwood: Children of Earth: Day One Review

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In brief:  Zoom. BOOM.

In depth:

Torchwood is back.

After an undisclosed period of time after the deaths of Owen and Toshiko, life in Cardiff goes on as, well, normal. That said, I did have to have a quiet chuckle to myself when, after the opening credits sprawled, in big letters at the bottom of the screen came “CARDIFF”. It’s just not something you see everyday”¦ sorry”¦

What we have had presented this evening though was a fine hour of entertainment. We are pulled quickly into the story through the opening sequence, nicely shot at night and with just enough hints at possible later storylines, like the one child hanging slightly back for example”¦

And then I think it takes, what, 2 minutes into the episode itself before we see exactly what’s been touted in all the trailers for the last month or so. Children, our children, stopping whatever they are doing and just being motionless. Speechless.

Except that great big evil tease of a man Russell T. Davies knows that that’s what we’re waiting for, so instead of the alien speech from these kids, after 30 seconds of nothing, it’s back to normal as if they were just mucking around.

Damn you, Russell. Now I have to watch.

And I’m going to forego any more explicit spoilers here, sorry. Except suffice to say that the first 40 minutes set up some very nice groundwork for the next 4 episodes, and then the last 20 minutes is just, well, excitement/run/boom. I really hope the momentum can be kept up and every last ounce of possibility can be extracted for good use!

What I will also say is that the last hour of television was a tightly scripted, well-directed and fine performances from all around. There’s drama and tension and some absolutely delightful family fun scenes for Ianto, which balance nicely against Jack’s more tense family life”¦ From potentially morally bankrupt government department heads to perhaps slightly too inquisitive for their own future good secretaries, and good natured doctors to charismatic Jack”¦ I was involved. And speaking as person who finds the character of Captain Jack sorely lacking without somekind of authority figure weighing him down”¦ that means something! I’ve always seen his character as more of a support than a leading man, that when thrust into that position, he overcompensates. He seems much more toned down here while still retaining that essential”¦ Jack-ness.

I like it.

In fact character seems to be the key here. I don’t think there wasn’t a single character with prominent screen time, that wasn’t given a moment to be fully emotionally human. Even the government shady figure, Frobisher, who we are not supposed to like”¦ he is terrified for his kids. 

I’d like to take quick moment here to single out Paul Copley for some particular praise. I was alternately scared, endeared and sympathetic to his character. Some very nice writing with some damn fine acting building a superb performance. 

I do wonder if it’s perhaps the scale of the story that has helped Torchwood with this particular outing. As the story whips from 40 years ago to the present day, from Cardiff, to London, there’s a sense of development and progress. The story just feels bigger and I think it makes the Torchwood concept stronger because of that.

I think most people will love the cliff-hanger ending, which, is nice and action-ey and proper chocka with explosions, but for me it was more of the emotional (and completely unforeseen but makes perfect sense given the way the government officials have been talking so negatively about Torchwood) plot twist that occurs near the end of the program that won me over.

In fact I was so impressed by the twist that I remember looking down at the time to see if that was the end and the cliff-hanger moment.

Torchwood has had a tough old time of it, being the spin off from nuWho, and expectations were high for series one. I remember being thoroughly shoved out of episode one by the mention of the dreaded F word within the first 5 minutes. I could not get back into the show for a while after that. It might sound silly, but for me it felt so much like the show was attempting to say “WE ARE MORE GROWN UP THAN DOCTOR WHO. LISTEN TO US BE ALL TRUE TO LIFE.”

It didn’t need that. You just need sensible, appropriate story-telling. There’s a nice small moment in the episode where Gwen is talking to a possible new member of the team, a young doctor. He reveals that, since the first public appearance and following awareness of extraterrestrial life 4 years in the Whoniverse, the suicide rates have actually doubled.

There’s also the concept of Jack’s immortality. In Doctor Who, it’s more of a wondrous marvel but here we can see that it can also be a curse. Remember Jack’s family life I mentioned? Since he’s immortal, he will constantly be seeing people he comes to care for and love having to die. And he will always look the same to them. How painful must that be for both sides.

Now in the parent show, Doctor Who, these themes would never be appropriate. Not in a million years to the blunt extent at which they are offered here. At its heart, Doctor Who is about great and noble deeds being done against all odds, the joy and wonder and excitement from infinite possibilities throughout the cosmos”¦

Torchwood though, is closer to home and it can handle those more disturbing elements. Not necessarily darker, just subversive and negative. Like say, some kind of government conspiracy cover up for events that while they may have been alien in origin, were resolved by entirely self-serving human interests.

Not sure yet. The jury is still out, and this episode has proved already that appearances are most deceiving”¦ stopping with that thought.

Intelligent, witty, topical, self-aware, and human.

Most importantly, it seems that Torchwood has found and now firmly planted its feet. 

Here we go. A nice, well deserved 4 out of 5 Torchwood company cars being stolen by Cardiff teenagers. Despite triple deadlocks. 

Keep it up! Please!

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