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Torchwood: Children Of Earth

From The Crow Road to Children Of Earth, then, which as it turns out is a very natural shift. Something of a contraversial serial amongst Torchwood fans, this one, and I know there's a good argument that it's derivative, but nonetheless there's a lot to recommend it. It's got a bloody good cast, for one thing. Our new Doctor is oiliness personified as ever-so-slightly-creepy civil servant John Frobisher. Nicholas Farrell is brilliant as the spectacularly contemptible UK Prime Minister. Susan Brown, as Frobisher's right arm, bristles with cold efficiency and determination, ready to do whatever's necessary at a moment's notice. All in all, it's a hell of a fine series. Still not entirely sure that it's what I want from Torchwood, though. Good it most certainly is. The show that I fell in love with, it most certainly isn't.

Nevertheless, it is good. Five episodes make for a short series, but it's hard to argue when it's the exact right length for the story being told - something that I definitely couldn't say for Miracle Day. I love how the story unfolds, too. Episode one sets everything up nicely. And look! Ianto's got a family suddenly, and something to do besides make coffee. Blimey. If only they'd given him that two series back, I might have felt something more when he died. Poor Ianto. Still, before his grand exit, he gets one of the best moments in Torchwood history. Rarely have I been happier watching TV than when he smashes through that wall in episode two, and makes off with Jack's whole damn prison cell in his forklift. For a moment there, with the music going, and a proper, punch-the-air vibe underway, it feels like proper Torchwood. Because, no matter how much this series impresses me, it's still not my Torchwood. That was the one with a Metropolis-flavoured cyborg wrestling a pterosaur, with a giant demon roaming the streets of Cardiff, and with metal gauntlets that resurrect the dead.

But this is series three, not one or two, and it has its own triumphs. There's an absolutely glorious scene in episode four, when the UK government gathers for an emergency session, and discuss damage limitation - for themselves, rather than for the country. And it's all so polite and smooth, and so perfectly ordered, without a hair out of place, or a tie askew, or a courtesy forgotten. They discuss handing over 10% of the world's children to an unknown alien race in just the same way that they might discuss any item on a regular day's agenda. Capaldi and Farrell are particularly good here, as the government chooses its 10%. It's Frobisher's job to think on his feet and smooth the governmnt's path. As everything begins to unravel, he's still doing just that. He's a ghastly, ruthless man, and yet somehow not entirely unsympathetic. The same certainly can't be said for the Prime Minister, sitting in the middle of it all, growing ever more spineless, still determined to save his career even at the last. Why don't I see more of Nicholas Farrell on TV? Before this, I don't think I had seen him since the glorious Sex, Chips & Rock 'n' Roll back in '99, but he really is terrific.

And then we come to the twin moments that broke the internet back in 2009. Ianto's death at the end of episode four is nicely done, but it's a sad fact that any sorrow I feel is for the show of old, and not for Ianto himself. It's the last, sorry death knell for the old team, with their dimension-hopping aeroplanes and creepy caretakers, their Weevils and pterosaurs and time-travelling dance hall. It's also true that I mourn for the Hub far more than I do for him. It's not that I think Gareth David Lloyd did a bad job. He didn't. It's just that nobody ever gave him anything to work with. Ianto was never a character; not until the end. He may have been the wish fulfilment of a chunk of fandom, but he never got the chance to be a real person until the last few days of his life.

And finally there's Jack, sacrificing his grandson, and any chance that he'll ever have of a relationship with his daughter, in order to save the world. It's clear that, if they get what they want, the 456 will be back. Jack isn't just fighting to save 10% of 2009's children, he's fighting to save every other child as well, that ever will be. Letting Steven die doesn't make him less of a hero, it makes him more of one, because he has no other choice. Time is running out, the machinations of a hundred neatly dressed politicians have backed him into this corner, and he has to save the world. Because who else can? It's horrible and necessary, and the only possible answer, and comes just as Jack's daughter is finally coming around to the idea of letting him properly into her life. And anybody who thinks that the Doctor wouldn't have done the same thing needs to take a closer look at the man who wouldn't consider saving Adric, or who happily put his own grand-daughter at risk, just because he wanted to explore Skaro. This has never been Star Trek, for which I'm extremely grateful.

This is good. It's nice when they get an actor with a past to play the Doctor. I get to watch awesome stuff to mark the occasion. More of this in future please, BBC. And by the time the role next comes up for casting, I shall probably be just about ready to watch Neverwhere again. Just saying.

(That was a blatant "Paterson Joseph for #13" hint, by the way, just in case I wasn't being quite blindingly unsubtle enough. Just checking).

Comments

( 2 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
eandh99
Aug. 28th, 2013 02:22 am (UTC)
Oh man, I do loathe Children of Earth. Not the Capaldi/Farrell/Brown part - that would make a good 3-part series, though it is both too much like Quatermass and way too predictable, here come the plot anvils. But shoe-horning Torchwood into that dark, political dystopia didn't work for me, and now that what we suspected at the time turned out to be true - that this was a way for RTD and Julie Gardner to burn down the Cardiff version of Torchwood in order to sell the husk to the Americans - it's even more infuriating.

But the performances were brilliant - some of the best work Barrowman's ever done, and Capaldi was outstanding.
swordznsorcery
Aug. 28th, 2013 08:17 pm (UTC)
I don't mind TW being shoehorned in; it's quite nice to see the team deal with something so much darker than usual. I do tend to compartmentalise it a bit, though. There's "proper" TW, and then there's this. Two completely different shows, really.

Must have a rewatch of the real thing sometime soon. I miss the Hub and the Weevils.
( 2 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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