The last episode of Torchwood season 2 was a gut wrenching powerhouse that left us weak in the knees and wondering where we would go from here. The answer is: into a dark place. If there’s one thing that resonates with people, it’s targeting children for something scary. This season of Torchwood is going to challenge both the crew and the audience alike. And it’s going to be interesting seeing how they handle a season long story arc. So far, the reduced cast works well for the first episode as it looks like there might be an additional member of the cast soon, but first team Torchwood has to figure out what is happening to the Children of Earth.
The story opens in 1965 in Scotland where it appears a group of children encounter something scary. From there, we flash to the present and from the outset, there’s an epic feel to the story. We are introduced to the key players: Peter Capaldi plays Mr. Frobisher and barring the fact that he loves his children, we can’t tell yet if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. (One might argue that the kill order issued against Captain Jack makes a pretty compelling case for the latter, but we don’t know the reasons yet.) Lois Habiba is a particularly nosy assistant working at the Home Office for Frobisher and Bridget Spears who seems to be Frobisher’s aide. Dekker, played by the infamous Ian Gelder, knows more about what’s going on than we do, but he always seems to be a bad guy so I feel we know where he is going. There are others who are introduced on the periphery, like “Johnson” played by Liz May Brice, who is frightening in her determination. Then there’s the great Paul Copley playing Clement McDonald, the one child from 1965 to escape the opening.
Day One focuses on the buildup. All of the worlds children are speaking in unison: “we are coming”. This is really all that is established but it’s done so with unnerving skill. The children all freeze in the middle of what they are doing, speak their words, and then the go back to their business as if nothing happened. It’s utterly spine chilling. Through this, Jack is targeted for death and a bomb is planted inside him, in the hopes of taking out the remainder of his staff, and the hub itself. (The Hub is believed to be the reason for Jack’s immortality.)
There are some items of interest here. Frost Lynch realty makes an appearance for Rhys to look at a future home. This was the firm we encountered in season one, and may also be fans of Twin Peaks with their Mark Frost/David Lynch name. Gwen refers to the Torchwood hub as a “big science fiction super base”, which was fun. We discover Gwen is 3 weeks pregnant which certainly adds an element of danger to the story. (Will this be a key to their survival in the end? Time will tell!) And we finally learn that Jack has family: a daughter named Alice who asks him to keep his distance and a grandson who thinks Jack is his uncle. Unfortunately, Jack isn’t portrayed as heroic when he shows up to take his grandson for experiments. Alice says no, thankfully. Jack truly has forgotten what it is to be human and that’s a shame.
There is one thing that transcended the show that I found worthy of more screen-time: the idea that we are tiny, insignificant. The acceptance of aliens made people of religious temperament feel that they were nothing. That loss of faith leads to suicide because people see their place in the cosmos as meaningless. I think this needed more time to digest because I don’t see it. I don’t see how our position changes based on other life in the cosmos. We are no bigger or smaller than we were, and the fact that our lives have meaning of any sort is attributed to what we give those lives. I hope the story comes back to this idea sooner or later. As it stands, our significance is, as the Doctor once said, indomitable because we can imagine and we can love.
Anyway, the episode culminates with the children speaking in unison again as the Torchwood hub, complete with Captain Jack Harkness inside, blows sky high. With the recent loss of Tosh and Owen, one more loss would be devastating. The children conclude the episode with one more word added to their terrifying sentence: we are coming back! Well, it’s been a hell of a day! ML
Children Of Earth was my first full viewing of a Torchwood series after my lacking of it for Series 1 and 2. I just thought of taking a chance on it and did so by getting it on iTunes. Day One may have been enough to make us understand why the Doctor doesn’t appear. Because this is clearly one of Earth’s battles, even against evil aliens, where humanity for the sake of its own growth must work out its own solution.
It’s quite a significant difference from any of the UNIT stories for other reasons too. Certainly with Jack proving that the longevity of someone experienced in such things can take its toll on their own moral centre. We’ve seen it happen occasionally to the Doctor. But Jack takes it to a darker level. I saw The Old Guard last night and it enhanced my understanding of how immortality can be a curse that, on one positive note, can make us appreciate even more the blessings of mortality.
Thank you, ML, for starting the Children Of Earth reviews because they will indeed be important for the Junkyard.
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You also make a good point on how discovering ET life, even potentially villainous ET life as in Children Of Earth, should never diminish our cosmic sense of human value. The point of our searching for proof of ET life, from SETI to shows like Ancient Aliens and Earthfiles, is a divine truth that even if we are tiny in some respects, we still universally matter enough for all this cosmic intervention and for all our desires for a better world to count for something.
The Whoniverse has always made Earth feel abundantly significant in that respect and even in the darkest chapters like Children Of Earth, we clearly survive for a reason. This is a very important message that humanity needs more than ever right now and it’s why Children Of Earth’s place on the Junkyard is so timely.
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